He'd rather drive through New York City than downtown Kent

What is wrong with the traffic of Kent? It took me 40 minutes to drive 6 miles from my home (just south of Lake Meridian off 144th Avenue Southeast) to downtown Kent. Ridiculous. This has been an ongoing problem for at least the past five years with no progress made.

Today was typical. Lights that change for no apparent reason, lights that remain red long after any cross traffic has moved through the intersection, the railroad gate coming down and remaining down with no train ever coming, the Sounder train stopping at the station to allow people on and off with the gate down for at least three major intersections during that entire stop of approximately four to five minutes. This includes the intersection behind the train (James), the intersection where the train is stopped (Smith- which should be down), and the intersection at Meeker. I’d rather drive through New York City and downtown Seattle than Kent. I’ve lived in both parts of the country, somehow traffic gets through much more quickly. It takes me longer to drive from my home to Interstate 5 than it does from I-5/Kent Des Moines Road to any destination in downtown Seattle.

For work, I have no choice but to put up with the traffic. When it comes to my free time, I’m sad to report that this is not just a weekday problem. While driving my kids to Kent Parks ballgames, traffic is no better, not because of volume, but because the lights are completely inefficient. If the City of Covington ever starts a parks program, I’m afraid it will have tremendously negative impact on the Kent Parks program as it will be more convenient for many to avoid games in downtown. Fortunately, it seems that trains run less often on weekends, but the traffic is still just as bad. So, I can only reason the trains are not the predominant problem.

With respect to the trains, holding up several intersections while people load/unload is ridiculous and needs to be solved. Gate/light malfunctions on what seems like a monthly basis needs to end. I appreciate that the train companies have some favorable rules and rights, but it’s time to get creative. The trains don’t have the right to block traffic due to failure to reasonably resolve equipment malfunctions and embarking procedures. It’s time for the city to use whatever leverage it can find to demand compliance. It may require some real creativity: Is any train property located on city property that gives the city some control? Nuisance? Interference with business expectancy of the city and its merchants? I imagine there are many smarter than I who have spent some time coming up with some theories. Maybe it’s time to let some of those theories loose and see if a solution can be found.

Rather than waste time driving to downtown Kent or the East Hill for shopping, it is much more convenient to drive to other cities. In fact, my wife and I do a major grocery shopping trip around the first of each month at Winco. We’ve found that it is much faster to drive to the Winco in Federal Way than the one in Kent! So, that’s where we go. When it comes to picking a restaurant or a movie, it typically results in a trip to Covington, Auburn or Federal Way. I know from speaking to neighbors and friends they are making the same decisions. Kent Station and downtown Kent are losing out because it’s simply not convenient to head there from the East or West Hill. What a shame and a loss for our local businesses and city revenue. I love Kent and as a partner in a Kent city business, I put up with the hassle more than most of my neighbors and friends.

I know the city is aware of this problem and that there are no easy solutions. But, the job of the city is to solve the tough problems. This is how the city staff and elected officials “earn their keep.” Money is always an issue. However, the city showed how good it is at getting it through its efforts for the ShoWare Center. It’s time to get as excited about solving traffic problems as the city was about the ShoWare Center. If that happens, I have no doubt the results will be just as fantastic as the ShoWare Center has been.

I’m a little cranky after my commute this morning which made me about 20 minutes late for a meeting and was embarrassing. Unfortunately, it’s been too common of a problem for way too long. I’d like to be able to drive home to my family after a long day and not have it take 45 minutes to go six miles.

I hope people keep putting up with the traffic problem and support our local Kent city businesses, the owners and employees deserve it. But the impediment of traffic needs to be resolved. I have full faith the city is capable of finding a solution, or bringing in those that will.

Patrick Hanis

Kent


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