By John Larson – firstname.lastname@example.org
Driving around the Tacoma Mall area can be challenging due to the heavy traffic. But walking or riding a bicycle in the area has its challenges as well.
The Tacoma Mall Neighbors Pedestrian Access Committee organized a day of action on April 25 to raise awareness of the need for improved pedestrian infrastructure in the neighborhood. It was held at the intersection of South 38 Street and South Cedar Street.
Molly Nichols, Tacoma outreach coordinator for Futurewise, has worked with the neighbors on several projects. A community garden at South 40thand Cedar streets is one. With nearly 5,000 residents and 10,000 workers, and large numbers of customers of businesses in the area, there is a need for safety improvements.
Nichols said there is a long-term plan for a new off-ramp from Interstate 5. “That might happen in 10 years if we are lucky,” she remarked. A new street that would loop around the area has also been proposed.
“It is disappointing I do not feel safe walking to most of the nearby amenities due to the lack of crosswalks and sidewalks,” said Nikki Rohloff, a neighborhood resident. “Most of the time I get in my car to drive to the businesses that are literally across the street from where I live. It is a shame.”
“We know residents do not feel safe,” Nichols said. While several major intersections do have streetlights and pedestrian crossing lights, many lack crosswalks. She would like the city to add these, but admitted the process is more complicated than just painting white stripes on pavement.
Francesca Siena, a Lincoln District resident, has worked at Marlene’s Market for 21 years. The business is near the intersection of South 38thand Cedar streets. “We have been witnessing a lot of changes. Some of them good, some not so good.”
While many of their customers drive to Marlene’s, some of them are workers at nearby businesses who walk over for lunch. Their pedestrian access “is far from ideal,” Siena observed.
Some of Marlene’s employees get back and forth to work on foot, by bicycle or bus. When Siena walks from her neighborhood to work, she uses the pedestrian bridge that spans I-5. She said in the evenings it is dark and not very inviting. She has observed hypodermic syringes on the ground.
Siena said the stretch of South 38thbetween Union Avenue and Steele Street is in need of painted crosswalks. At the intersection where she works, Siena observes motorists unsure where they are supposed to stop to allow pedestrians to cross.
Last year the city completed the Tacoma Mall Subarea Plan, which includes improvements for pedestrians. It found that
sidewalks and crosswalk infrastructure is incomplete, with about a quarter of the streets with sidewalks in poor condition with severe cracking or heaving, or currently do not have sidewalks. Only 17 of 151 intersections evaluated have at least one marked sidewalk.
Nichols said cars do not always allow pedestrian to cross a street, even when it is there turn. One woman told her it took her six minutes to cross at South 38thand Steele. Those in wheelchairs or with other mobility issues are especially vulnerable.
Pedestrians were asked to fill out a survey. Between 15 and 20 did so. Nichols said more awareness-raising events will take place this summer.
On a related note, Washington State Department of Transportation and the city of Tacoma held an open house on the subject on the same day at Asia Pacific Cultural Center. An online open house took place from April 18 to May 2.