Tuesday, September 16, 2008

The Fate of 600 East?

Friends and Neighbors,

As most of you know, we are facing a very large construction project at the former site of Joaquin elementary. Excavation has begun, and will likely continue for some time. Once completed, an additional 960 beds of student housing will be located there. 960 beds of student housing means a lot of cars, and additional traffic. 500 North, and 560 North will likely bear most of that traffic as students head for University Avenue or 900 East. Which street will serve as the primary north/south route for their daily inflow and outflow? 600 East will be very close to the entrance and exits to the underground parking structure. It has one stop sign at 200 East to slow traffic, but nothing on 400, 300 or 100 North. And of course, 600 East is the street most of our elementary students cross to get to Farrer each day. As a neighborhood, we are concerned about this because of the safety of our children.

A petition was submitted to the City Council and the Mayor requesting that 600 East be closed at its intersection with 500 North. I thank each of you who signed that petition, and especially those of you who worked to circulate it. We followed up that petition with a question for the Mayor and City Staff about what traffic calming measures will be put in place to protect our children. The Mayor, and our City Administrator Wayne Parker requested a technical review of 600 East Traffic Calming Measures from the City's engineering department. The following is the result:

"Ladies and Gentlemen:Recently, we received a petition and request from residents expressing concern with the anticipated traffic impacts of the Joaquin Village student housing complex on 600 East Street from 500 North to Center Street. We asked the City Engineer to review his own data as well as the developer's traffic study in an effort to better quantify the expected impacts to traffic on 600 East. We also invited the City Engineer and his staff to make appropriate recommendations regarding these issues. A copy of his report and recommendations is attached.

In essence, his finding and opinion is that the greatest impact would be primarily on 700 East and 500 North and that the anticipated traffic on 600 East would not exceed the current environmental standard for 600 East. However, as this project advances, it will be important to monitor the actual impacts on 600 East and the surrounding corridors and be prepared if the actual outcomes differ from those projected.We believe that this is a reasoned and appropriate approach given the data available, but in the interest of a comprehensive approach, we will submit both the developer's traffic study and the City Engineer's recommendations to an independent, third party consulting traffic engineer for further review and a third opinion. We will share the outcomes of that review once completed."

So my friends, we shall wait some more to see if our city's administration is going to assist us in this cause. Reading the city engineer's report comes down to a few "facts." First, that Provo City's Transportation Master Plan says streets that include multi-family residential have an environmental capacity not to exceed 4,200 vehicle trips per day. Currently, the traffic volume is far below that, and they don't think it will be above that even with Joaquin Village completed. Also cited by our city engineer, a "prevalent fear concerning the changes and impacts which developments can have on the surrounding neighborhoods."Well, the street may well be "able" to handle the volume, but does that mean it should? I don't believe our children need to be placed at that risk just so "perfect" connectivity can be maintained between 600 East and 500 North. Our neighborhood will need to press on in our efforts. Soon, we will need to finalize plans for the parking permit program. Without it, cars from this development will cover both sides of 600 east for a few blocks south. Please feel free to add your comments and concerns for all to see.

Kurt Peterson
Joaquin Neighborhood Chair