Nancy Lillquist has sought cost-effective solutions

To the Editor:

I am writing to respond to Mr. Steve Zabransky’s recent letter in which he asks if the city’s Seventh Avenue Bicycle Boulevard gets used. Since that project is frequently criticized, I’d like to provide some facts.

People are using the boulevard. The city has installed automated counters (grant funded) for pedestrians and bicyclists throughout the city including one at 7th Avenue and Sampson Street on the bike boulevard. During the second quarter of 2019, 2,754 bicyclists were counted as using the Seventh Avenue Bike Boulevard.

Another theme among critics is that the project is a “waste of money.” City residents spent $28,880 for safety improvements and received funding from a WSDOT pedestrian and bicycle safety grant in the amount of $120,000. The project was half of one percent of the $5.6 million spent on transportation projects in Ellensburg in 2017. No gas tax revenue is spent on bike projects; in fact only two percent of the $5.6 million spent was from Motor Vehicle Fuel Tax revenue. People who drive don’t subsidize people who bike or walk.

Since even a small amount of money could be considered “wasted” if you don’t believe it serves a useful purpose, let’s review why the project was needed. Ellensburg citizens consistently say biking and walking is important to them. According to census data, we have one of the highest rates of biking and walking in the state. Biking is a cheap and healthy alternative to driving, both for residents, and for the City. Streets are expensive! The more trips taken by bike, bus or foot, the less congested the streets, the longer we can wait before needing that expensive signal or left turn lane.

Councilmember Lillquist’s (the target of Mr. Zabransky’s letter) role in the project dates back to the 2008 Ellensburg Nonmotorized Transportation Plan where a committee she chaired recommended University Way be studied to see if there could be a middle turn lane and bike lanes instead of the current four lanes (a road-diet). The study revealed it would be too expensive and soon be congested. Seventh Avenue was a backup plan.

Those barriers in the intersections were an option to keep bikes flowing but stop cars from diverting from University Way onto the local street.

I hope leaders in this county continue working to bring us cost-effective projects that benefit our community’s health.

Nicole Klauss

Ellensburg

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