Washougal votes to slow traffic on Main Street

New 20-mph limit will go into effect Monday, June 4

Washougal city leaders have approved a plan to reduce the speed limit on Main Street in downtown Washougal.

The Washougal City Council voted 6-0 Tuesday evening to reduce the speed limit from 25 mph to 20 mph between Washougal River Road and 22nd Street, through the city’s downtown core. The new ordinance will go into effect on Monday, June 4.

Washougal City Engineer Rob Charles completed a speed study in 2017. The study showed 85 percent of the motorists were already driving 20 mph.

That study involved placing a traffic counter, with rubber tubes, across the road.

Charles said a reduction in speed between Washougal River Road and 22nd Street is warranted because of the high level of pedestrian activity and narrow width of the road.

He added that he has heard of the recent citywide “20 is Plenty” speed reduction efforts along residential streets in Portland, but said that campaign did not prompt the speed reduction on Main Street in Washougal.

In 2013, Washington Gov. Jay Inslee updated Washingtonians on the Target Zero project’s progress: “In 2000, Washington was the first state in the nation to set a very aggressive goal for ourselves: zero traffic deaths and serious injuries by 2030,” Inslee said in 2013. “Washington traffic fatalities have fallen every year since 2005 — down to 437 in 2012 — still, too many people dying on our roadways.”

To continue the decline toward zero traffic fatalities in Washington, Inslee said the state needed to implement new strategies and focus on areas that were not seeing the same declining trend in fatalities. One such area is the number of pedestrian deaths in the state. According to the Target Zero report released in 2013, pedestrian fatalities in Washington were, “despite numerous engineering improvements and other strategies,” actually rising instead of dropping toward zero.

According to Safe Kids Clark County, a group led by Clark County Public Health that works to prevent childhood injuries, only 1 percent of the more than 600 Washington pedestrian deaths that occurred within the past 10 years were caused by motorists traveling 25 mph or slower.

“Speed kills,” the group states in its literature. “At car speeds under 24 mph, the pedestrian has an 85 to 90 percent survival chance. The higher the speed, the greater the chance that a pedestrian will die.”

Washougal leaders considered the downtown’s unique qualities in their decision.

“Main Street has its own dynamics with the pedestrian-oriented nature of the street, as well as the commercial and retail nature of the street,” Charles said.

Alex Yost, co-owner of OurBar, a cafe in downtown Washougal, said the Camas-Washougal Rotary Club has expressed an interest in partnering with Washougal Round Table, a citizens group, to design and produce crossing flags for downtown Washougal crosswalks.

There is no timeline yet to install the crossing flags.

“The new project idea would increase awareness, encourage safety for pedestrians and support the city’s decision to reduce the speed limit on Main Street to 20 mph,” Yost said.