New Raised Crosswalk May Knock Speedsters Down a Peg

The proposed new crosswalk in Key Center will be the first of its kind in Pierce County. The vertical deflection has been controversial elsewhere.


Throughout all her volunteer efforts, Kathy Lyons has seen the best in the Key Peninsula people. She’s also seen the worst in the Key Peninsula Highway drivers.

Lyons has had trash thrown at her while picking up litter on the side of the highway for Key Pen It Clean. She’s been yelled at while planting flowers near State Route 302 for the KP Beautification Project. And she and fellow KP Council member Susan Mendenhall were almost hit last fall while displaying scarecrows when a speeding truck crashed after illegally passing another car in the turning lane in front of Key IGA.

“I thought, ‘There has to be something we can do about this now,’” Lyons said. “We don’t need to wait until there’s a death.”

Lyons remembered a time when she was in Hansville, a town northeast of Bremerton. There she noticed how a more car-friendly kind of speed bump called a “speed table” was slowing down traffic. She took the idea to Pierce County Councilmember Robyn Denson (D-Dist. 7) who was looking for creative ideas to tackle traffic woes on the KP.

“The residents know where the problems are,” Denson said. “(People like Lyons) drive these roads every day and have personal experiences with this.”

Denson asked the Pierce County Planning and Public Works Department to do a traffic study on the Key Center area and was thrilled when the department proposed two “traffic-calming measures” — adding what is essentially a rumble strip in the middle of each direction of the KP Highway before entering Key Center and building a raised crosswalk. That’s in addition to the county already reducing speeds entering the area from 35 miles per hour down to 30. By design, the three combine to intentionally self-enforce drivers to slow down.

Denson fought to earmark $125,000 in the county budget for the project.

Those doing the speed limit won’t notice much of a difference. For drivers who aren’t paying attention, the new additions “will wake them up,” Denson said, with the rumble buttons acting as a gentle wake-up call and the crosswalk serving as more of a rude awakening.

A raised crosswalk is a lot more forgiving than its speed bump cousin. Though PPW said the crosswalk is still in the design phase, similar raised crosswalks in Seattle are 10-foot-long flat-top asphalt mounds extending the length of the road, rising about six inches to be flush with the height of the sidewalk on each end. On each side, the driving ramps leading up to the flat-top are about six feet long. It will replace the crosswalk between Sound Credit Union and the Key Center Fire Station. The hope is it slows down traffic through Key Center and makes it easier for drivers to see pedestrians.

“The idea is for this area to be a pedestrian-friendly place for the community to gather and feel safe,” Denson said.

One design challenge PPW engineers may have to battle is that this particular crosswalk is near entries to parking lots and does not have curbed sidewalks to rise to. That could create an accessibility issue for those using wheelchairs or strollers.

Another concern is emergency services. According to the City of Seattle Right-of-Way Improvements Manual, traffic calming measures, like a raised crosswalk, are not allowed on emergency response routes near fire stations. The proposed Key Center raised crosswalk is within 20 yards of the KP Fire District headquarters.

KP Fire Public Information Officer Anne Nesbit said the fire district is aware of the crosswalk and that it will “cause rigs to have to slow down for safety reasons; however, the impact will be minimal to response services.”

The rumble buttons could be installed as soon as this month, but construction on the crosswalk likely won’t start until later this year. During construction for both projects, the KP Highway will be reduced to a single lane with flaggers alternating traffic through Key Center. Denson said both projects will be “fairly simple,” but some delays are expected, and alternate routes will be suggested.

Denson credits Lyons for helping get the project off the ground and encouraged anyone else to send her ideas. “Some things are easier to fix than others, but even I don’t know what we can and can’t do until I ask,” Denson said. “So all (people of the Key Peninsula) have to do is ask me.”