Disability awareness group submits recommendations for local roundabout

Posted 11/26/21

After completing an extensive review of potential pedestrian safety issues for visually impaired residents, a group of disability experts has submitted its recommendations for a planned roundabout at …

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Disability awareness group submits recommendations for local roundabout

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After completing an extensive review of potential pedestrian safety issues for visually impaired residents, a group of disability experts has submitted its recommendations for a planned roundabout at the Kearney Street and Highway 20 intersection.

Listing issues related to daily traffic volume and the difficulty of navigating roundabout crosswalks, the nonprofit group Disability Awareness Starts Here (DASH) has offered city officials a set of ideas to make street crossing safer for visually impaired residents.

The recommendations include additional studies on traffic flow and volume.

For traffic flow, they recommended the city should conduct on-site studies centered on a continuous traffic flow in the planned roundabout from ferry passengers, depending on the time and seasons in the year.

Additionally, the city could conduct another study on the volume count of vehicles at the intersection in 1-minute intervals.

Rectangular rapid flashing beacons, pedestrian-activated signals, “yield to pedestrians” signage, and signage indicating visually impaired pedestrians were all listed as quick fixes, as well.

Considering the somewhat complicated design of roundabout crosswalks, with splitter islands and multiple changes in direction, DASH also submitted ideas for reducing the difficulty of crossing the intersection for pedestrians.

Other ideas include illuminating the planned roundabout intersection to make pedestrians easier to spot, reducing the crossing distance by using a consistent geometric design for each part of the crosswalk, and a cane-detectable edge treatment on the sidewalk so those with impaired vision can find the crosswalk easier.

Members of the nonprofit suggested crosswalks with better visibility, change of direction cues for the crosswalks, and proper lanes for bicyclists to avoid colliding with vehicles or pedestrians.

Although visually impaired residents are the minority of Port Townsend’s population, there is still a sizable portion of people that would be greatly hindered by the new roundabout if measures aren’t taken to improve ease of traversal for citizens with visual disabilities, DASH members said.

Jefferson County has the highest  proportion of residents past the age of 65 of all Washington counties, and based on research from the American Foundation of the Blind, approximately 12 percent of Americans ages 65 to 74 reported vision or hearing loss in 2011.

Building the proposed Kearney Street and Highway 20 roundabout without well organized infrastructure to prevent collisions between pedestrians, vehicles, and bicyclists would not only be a safety hazard, but could cut off visually impaired residents from accessing necessities along the roadway, proponents of added safety features said.

The recommendations came from an intensive walk-through at one roundabout earlier this year by DASH members and others.

DASH and the Jefferson County Council of the Blind conducted a walk across the Highway 20 and Rainier Street intersection on Oct. 29, and they invited engineers and members of the Washington State Department of Transportation and the city’s Public Works department to participate. Blindfolded, the engineers and staff members were able to understand the challenges of crossing the numerous crosswalks and roundabouts across Port Townsend.

Now, DASH is requesting that the Department of Transportation and the city’s Public Works Department take up their recommendations on the planned roundabout. Although there is no perfect solution to the problems brought up by DASH relating to the proposed Kearney Street and Highway 20 roundabout, according to the group, DASH is advocating for visually impaired residents who may struggle with the planned street improvements, with the hope to make pedestrian travel easier for the citizens of Port Townsend.

To read more about DASH’s recommendations for the planned roundabout at the Kearney Street and Highway 20 intersections, or to learn more about the organization, visit dashproject.org.

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