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Originally published Friday, August 15, 2008 at 12:00 AM

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Illegal speed humps removed from NewHolly neighborhood

Residents of the NewHolly neighborhood in Southeast Seattle installed their own speed humps on two residential roads because the city's Department of Transportation would not — although the city did send a crew to remove them.

Seattle Times staff reporter

After witnessing a speeding car nearly run down her 12-year-son at the mailbox across the street, Van Nguyen won't allow him to ride his bike in the neighborhood anymore.

"Even on the sidewalk," she said.

Nguyen is one of several residents of the NewHolly neighborhood in Southeast Seattle who tried forcing the issue of traffic safety by taking matters into their own hands.

About six weeks ago, they installed eight rubberized yellow speed humps — purchased online for $900 — on two of NewHolly's busiest streets.

They said they acted because the city would not. A city Department of Transportation crew on Wednesday removed the illegally installed devices.

"The individuals who installed these speed humps may have been trying to make a point, but they were creating a hazard and causing potential problems for other users," such as emergency vehicles and bicyclists, said Rick Sheridan, department spokesman.

The type of speed hump residents installed is meant for parking lots, he added.

"You think this is fun for us?" resident Mary Seibert asked. "We have other things to do."

Recently completed out of the ruins of the Holly Park low-income housing project, the 1,400-home NewHolly development was sold as a model of high-density urban living.

Now, residents say, motorists use 39th Avenue South and Holly Park Drive South as a shortcut to avoid the stoplight at Martin Luther King Jr. Way South and South Othello Street — an intersection that will get busier when Sound Transit opens its light-rail passenger station there.

They say speeding is a scourge throughout the neighborhood, pointing to other close calls and instances where parked cars have been hit by speeding vehicles.

But their perceptions don't meet the city's reality test.

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Sheridan said the traffic volume residents are complaining about is generated by the neighborhood itself.

Radar-gun studies, including one done by the residents, clocked average speeds just above the 25 mph limit — significantly below the prescribed threshold for installing speed humps, Sheridan said.

Neighbors believe their speed humps calmed traffic, if not their nerves. They are not satisfied that the city plans to install a traffic circle at 39th and Holly Park Drive this fall and has $15,000 budgeted for more traffic signs.

"Well, we already solved the problem and it only cost us $900," said Allen Jefferson, who runs a neighborhood coffee house.

Sheridan said he isn't surprised the illegal speed humps reduced traffic levels and speeds: "Anytime you install a hazard in a roadway, it's going to change traffic patterns."

He also said traffic engineers doubt motorists take a shortcut through the neighborhood, because it doesn't save time.

NewHolly, with its mix of owners and renters of varying incomes and cultures, is the result of $340 million in public and private investment.

"So much money has been invested here, you'd think the city wouldn't just neglect us," resident Jennifer Martinez said.

Stuart Eskenazi: 206-464-2293

or seskenazi@seattletimes.com

Copyright © 2008 The Seattle Times Company

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