Efforts to improve streets for cars, busses and pedestrians were among the topics discussed during the Oct. 9 Tacoma City Council study session. This was the second in a series on the proposed 2019-20 budget.
Public Works Director Kurtis Kingsolver discussed efforts to switch to light emitting diode streetlights. He said this would save $1 million in electricity costs over two years. The time it takes to replace burned out lights can be from eight to 10 weeks. A goal in the next biennium is to reduce this to one to two weeks.
Improving access for pedestrians and bicyclists is a city priority. One goal is to reduce the number of children on foot or bicycles who are hit by cars. The Safe Routes to School program aims to reduce this number by 30 percent by 2025. The budget calls for 23 crossing beacons near nine schools, at a cost of $1 million.
Public Works is working with Pierce Transit to synchronize traffic signals along two of its busiest routes. Route 1, which runs from Tacoma Community College down 6th Avenue to downtown, then Pacific Avenue south to Spanaway, would receive $1.3 million. Route 2, which goes from downtown along South 19th Street to TCC then south on Bridgeport Way to Lakewood, would receive $250,000. Councilmember Ryan Mello said Pierce Transit wants to improve its on-time performance. Synchronizing lights will help with that, he noted.
Councilmember Chris Beale mentioned the yard signs placed around areas where streets have been repaired, letting residents know the work was funded by the streets initiative passed by voters several years ago. “It has been beyond a major success.”
Kingsolver said this has helped cover the cost of hiring more workers to fix streets. “We are heavily reliant on the streets initiative.”
City hall is in line for $2.1 million in tenant improvements in the budget. Kingsolver noted some systems in the Municipal Building have not been upgraded since the city purchased it in the late 1970s. “We have an amazing old building but we need to maintain it,” he observed.