Ridgefield planning for "complete streets"

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RIDGEFIELD — Though efficient roadways are important for keeping cities moving, some municipalities in Washington are looking beyond automobiles in order to make their transportation more complete.

In Ridgefield, that push means looking at what kind of infrastructure is going in that lets residents walk and bike throughout the city.

Ridgefield Civil Engineer Bryan Kast presented before city council Oct. 27 with the first update on the recently adopted Complete Streets policy. Council adopted the policy first in September 2015, which was adopted in an effort to pursue grant funding from the state available through the Complete Streets Act.

In an interview, Kast commented that the term “complete streets” might be a bit of a misnomer as the automotive roadway itself was not the focus of the plan. Rather, the focus was on aspects such as bike lanes, sidewalks, multimodal trails and Americans with Disabilities Act-accessible ramps and paths, thereby making the streets complete.

“It’s really just making sure that we have the ability and the means to serve all forms of transportation on our streets,” Kast explained.

In the presentation, Kast listed some of the major increases on infrastructure in the last year. Roughly 4,000 feet of new bicycle and more than 21,500 feet of pedestrian infrastructure was created in Ridgefield in a year along with 47 new curb ramps. Kast said that the predominant driving force for the increases was new development in the city, with Hawk’s Landing, Taverner Ridge phase 7, Bella Noche and Canterbury Trails listed as the major neighborhoods contributing to those numbers.

High-need areas have also been designated based mostly around proximity to schools, in the case of Ridgefield. Kast said that “basically the whole downtown and Hillhurst (Street) corridor” fell into that designation.

That designation warrants pedestrian counts as per the complete streets policy, though that hasn’t taken place as of yet, Kast explained.

Data gathered as part of the policy also included commuter traffic, with the vast majority -- more than 85 percent -- using an automobile with single occupancy (one person going to work in their car/truck/van alone). Carpooling was second with close to eight percent.

Kast said that keeping track of those statistics would allow the city to see if making complete streets had any impact on the way Ridgefield citizens get around.

An interesting statistic brought up in the data was the number of collisions that happened in the city in the period between Oct. 1 2015 and Oct. 20 of this year. In total, 50 collisions happened in the city, with 12 resulting in injuries. Several areas had multiple collisions, with two intersections — Pioneer Street and Fourth Avenue and Pioneer Street at South 56th Place — having three in that time period. None of the incidents resulted in fatalities.

One of the goals of Complete Streets, apart from data collection, is application of a grant from the state’s Transportation Improvement Board (TIB). Grants generally between $250,000 and $500,000 are available for those local governments that have adopted a complete streets policy and have demonstrated “an ethic of planning and building streets that use context sensitive solutions to accommodate all users, including pedestrians, transit users, cyclists, and motorists,” according the the TIB page regarding the program.

Unfortunately, Ridgefield was not one of the municipalities nominated for the grant last month, though Kast was optimistic that in subsequent awards the city can get some of that money.

With the first year of the program completed, Kast said that the major focus was on planning more so than other aspects, looking ahead to incorporating a multimodal network of trails to go along with the more complete streets.

“Really, trying to set the vision of this future multimodal network is what we focused on this year,” Kast said, “as we move on to subsequent years here … not only will it be the footage of sidewalk and bike lanes and everything that the developments (are) doing, but also there will hopefully be some city projects that are adding to those statistics.”

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