Council committee endorses new route for St. Helens

A Tacoma City Council committee yesterday approved a plan that would re-route St. Helens Avenue downtown into a one-way, southbound street and preserve nine parking stalls.

The decision was made by the city’s community and economic development committee, which unanimously approved a do-pass recommendation to the full City Council.

The committee weighed two options. One would create a bulb-out and pedestrian crosswalk linking both sides of St. Helens Avenue near City Hall, but would reduce the number of parking stalls by nine. The second, which was endorsed by the committee, does not include the crosswalk and preserves the parking stalls.

Both plans would transform St. Helens from a two-way avenue into a one-way, southbound avenue. They also aim to create small greenspaces and parks near St. Helens and Market Street.

In considering its decision, committee members examined pedestrian safety along the street. Councilmembers Connie Ladenburg and Spiro Manthou liked some aspects of the first plan — specifically, the bulb-out and crosswalk, which raised the visibility of pedestrians to oncoming traffic. But whether pedestrians would use the crosswalk was uncertain, as it’s lawful to cross St. Helens at any point along the avenue.

Moreover, there was concern that creating such an amenity would result in the loss of parking stalls in an area of town currently experiencing economic development.

“My preference would be that the more parking stalls, the better,” said Councilmember and committee chair Rick Talbert.

Developer Blaine Johnson, who owns Vintage Y and Roberson condominiums nearby, supported the decision. “Landing on something either way, wether northbound or southbound, is better than a two-way street.”