Ernie Downes, left, and Sam Hendricks stop along a stretch of 132nd Avenue SE in Kent near where 12-year-old Gabriel Coury was hit and killed by a vehicle in July 2023. STEVE HUNTER, Kent News

Ernie Downes, left, and Sam Hendricks stop along a stretch of 132nd Avenue SE in Kent near where 12-year-old Gabriel Coury was hit and killed by a vehicle in July 2023. STEVE HUNTER, Kent News

Kent neighbors seek pedestrian upgrades along 132nd Avenue SE

Two deaths in 2023 along stretch of road motivate residents to send petition to City Council

With nearby cars going 40 mph and only a narrow shoulder to walk along 132nd Avenue SE in Kent, two neighbors head to the spot where a 12-year-old boy died last summer after a vehicle struck him while riding his scooter.

Neither Sam Hendricks nor Ernie Downes knew Gabriel Coury, who was killed July 11, 2023 near SE 231st Way. They didn’t know Simran Gaut, 17, either. She was killed by a vehicle Jan. 8, 2023 while crossing in the 23300 block of 132nd Avenue SE, just south of the collision with Gabriel.

But the two deaths and an obviously hazardous area to walk influenced both men and 50 other Misty Meadows neighbors to sign a petition to the Kent City Council to improve pedestrian safety along the street.

“I have a 2-year-old and a 5-year-old and the 5-year-old attends Sunrise Elementary up the street,” Hendricks said about his motivation to lead the petition drive during a Jan. 9 interview near the street. “I saw the tragic accident that occurred at 132nd and felt I needed to do something extra with my own kids going to school up there and traveling the street.”

The neighbors want the city to focus on the the stretch of 132nd from SE 240th to SE 228th Place, just south of Sunrise Elementary School, 22300 132nd Ave. SE, which has sidewalks near it.

“We believe that implementing measures such as curbing, a speed bump, or ideally, a full sidewalk would greatly enhance pedestrian safety,” Hendricks said in his letter to the council. “This is not only crucial for the students attending Sunrise in the area but also for the high schoolers I see walking to the bus stop during the early pre-dawn hours.”

City crews installed a please don’t drink and drive sign with Gabriel Coury’s name this summer along the street. King County prosecutors have charged a Maple Valley man with vehicular homicide after he reportedly hit Gabriel at a high rate of speed and while drunk, according to King County Superior Court documents.

“While the addition of a ‘please don’t drink and drive’ sign was a positive improvement after the last fatality, and the ‘school zone speed limit when children are present’ was a welcome addition, these measures fall short of providing real safety and peace of mind for pedestrians,” Hendricks said. “A full sidewalk, for instance, would offer a more comprehensive solution.”

The letter concluded with urging “the city council to take swift action for the sake of the safety of their constituents and the community at large.”

Neighbors simply don’t feel safe walking along 132nd Avenue.

“We have certainly seen it become a street you can’t walk, run or bike on,” said Becky Ledosquet, one of the neighbors who signed the petition. “Dave (her husband) used to bike and run, but he does not feel safe. I crossed it all the time when the kids went to Sunrise, but even the crosswalk seems unsafe now.”

The posted speed limit on the popular north-south route is 35 mph, but few drivers seem to pay attention to that.

“People drive it like it’s a highway,” Ledosquet said. “We get passed on 132nd by people crossing the double yellow line to pass all the time. They all drive it going 40 to 50 mph every day. The number of accidents on 132nd is ridiculous.”

City response

City Public Works Director Chad Bieren told the Kent News several projects are planned to improve pedestrian safety along 132nd Avenue.

“We continue to seek grant funding to improve 132nd Avenue SE, and council accepted a state Transportation Improve Board grant on Dec. 12, 2023 to update the marked crosswalk at 132nd Avenue SE/SE 234th Street with pedestrian-actuated flashing beacons,” Bieren said in a Jan. 8 email.

“We will also widen the shoulder and add curbing along the west side of 132nd Avenue SE from SE 240th Street to the existing sidewalk at SE 228th Street,” Bieren said. “Preliminary estimates for the work place the value at approximately $400,000, and our goal is to have it completed this summer.”

Hendricks appreciates the city is taking steps to help solve the problem.

“A walking path there provides a little bit of comfort but a sidewalk will be ideal,” Hendricks said. “With a curb, it will be helpful to get people from point A to point B.”

Bieren said the city was awarded two grants several years ago from the state Transportation Improvement Board to construct a walking path along 132nd Ave SE between SE 240th and SE 272nd streets. The path was completed in two phases during the summers of 2017 and 2018.

“The existing walking path along 132nd Avenue SE south of SE 240th Street provides a more comfortable experience for users than the shoulder it replaced, and we expect that the proposed upgrades north of SE 240th Street will do the same,” Bieren said.

Ultimately, Bieren said, 132nd Avenue SE will be widened to include sidewalks and bike lanes on both sides of the street, as noted in the city’s Transportation Master Plan.

Under the plan, one project would widen 132nd to three lanes with a buffered or separated bike lane from SE 208th St to SE 228th, fill sidewalk gaps and evaluate a full signalized intersection at 132nd Ave SE/SE 224th

St. The second project would widen the street to three lanes with a bike lane from SE 228th to SE 240th and fill sidewalk gaps.

That work, however, will cost millions of dollars and remains years away.

“The estimated cost of the project is $20 million and there is no set time frame for construction,” Bieren said.


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Ernie Downes and Sam Hendricks walk on a narrow shoulder along 132nd Avenue SE near SE 231st Way. STEVE HUNTER, Kent News

Ernie Downes and Sam Hendricks walk on a narrow shoulder along 132nd Avenue SE near SE 231st Way. STEVE HUNTER, Kent News

A cross marks the spot where Gabriel Coury, 12, was hit and killed by a vehicle on July 11, 2023 along 132nd Avenue SE near SE 231st Way. STEVE HUNTER, Kent News

A cross marks the spot where Gabriel Coury, 12, was hit and killed by a vehicle on July 11, 2023 along 132nd Avenue SE near SE 231st Way. STEVE HUNTER, Kent News

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