State wants City to maintain signals at busy Auburn Way South, Highway 18

The State of Washington recently approached the City of Auburn, asked if it wanted to take over maintenance responsibilities for the traffic signals on busy Auburn Way South at the Highway 18 ramps.

But as City Engineer Ingrid Gaub told City Council members Monday during a study session at City Hall, too many issues remain to answer the query, so the City is pressing WSDOT’s Signal Group for details.

Like, what would maintenance work mean there?

What maintenance efforts has the state been performing?

What are the general costs of those?

And what operational restrictions would the City have to deal with?

“As much as we have operational control today without the maintenance responsibility – and I don’t know that we’re going to see much bigger things we can do operationally yet at those two signals – we’re taking on the additional cost of maintenance,” Gaub said.

Gaub said the City is working with WSDOT’s Signal Group to get the information.

The main issue at the intersection, Gaub said, is that if ramp meters should ever be added to those ramps, that would place many more restrictions on what the City can and cannot do because of the configuration of the ramps.

“We can’t back the traffic up onto Highway 18, and the most significant one for that is actually the westbound offramp because we can only stack about 10 cars in that left-turn movement,” Gaub said. “And what we are seeing is you have a fairly heavy left turn movement from there … leading it right onto 6th Street Southeast, so that is really kind of the controlling movement between both of those signals right now.”

Another important issue: whose would be the liability for accidents?

“We need to see details of what have they been spending on maintenance and what we would have to spend, what freedom will we have to adjust the timing,” said Councilman Rich Wagner.

“It could be possible that we really can’t adjust anything because of the backup, and then we are just getting the cost for their maintenance,” said Deputy Mayor Largo Wales.

“That is my concern and my staff’s concern —to not get into that situation,” Gaub said.

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