We’ve always enjoyed the rich, swampy smell of the Burke-Gilman trail as it wends under the 45th St Viaduct (the bridge that leads from U-District down to University Village) and alongside the hill leading up to the U-District. It feels like the bike path has taken a brief detour through the Pleistocene, engendering Sound of Thunder-esque daydreams.

Chris MacKenzie, Wallingford Community Council rep to the City, University, Community Advisory Committee reports that changes may be afoot in that region:

The 45th Street viaduct, originally built in 1938, has reached the end of its structural life and is going to be replaced this summer.  The bad news:  Eastbound drivers won’t be able to use 45th to access U Village for a few months beginning late spring. SDOT is suggesting 65th Street to 25th Ave as an alternate route. The good news:  better bus service to Magnuson Park, Children’s Hospital & other destinations in that direction will be possible when the new structure is complete and the area under the viaduct along the trail will no longer be as much of a safety hazard. Details at http://www.seattle.gov/transportation/45th-bridge.htm.

Good news, bad news, just don’t mess with my Pleistocene adventures.

  1. Ben Lukoff said,

    I’ll kind of miss the area under the viaduct. Never felt unsafe on the trail. Anyway, I took some photos recently, since all this will soon be inacessible: http://www.flickr.com/photos/lukobe/sets/72157622805051642/

    Tue, January 12 at 11:33 am
  2. Raffaella said,

    I used to live in that apartment building that you access from climbing up the hill under the viaduct – never felt unsafe, and wowza is that a primo blackberry picking spot. Got a bucket full of ’em in August and was hoping on making that a yearly tradition…here’s hoping the blackberries stay put!

    Tue, January 12 at 1:45 pm
  3. Anonymous said,

    Wow, I never realized the upper part of the viaduct was made of wood!

    Tue, January 12 at 8:54 pm
  4. Jef Jaisun said,

    I e-mailed this letter to the project managers on December 20th. I’m still waiting for a response. That’s some “outreach” SDOT has there. Same old “screw you” that we just kicked out of office. Somebody there better buy a clue, ASAP.

    December 20, 2009

    Michael Ward
    Project Manager
    [email protected]

    Maribel Cruz
    Outreach Coordinator
    [email protected]

    Dear Michael and Maribel,

    Re http://www.seattle.gov/transportation/45th-bridge.htm :

    I was unable to attend the November 12th public meeting. I reside at 5107 Ravenna Avenue NE, and have several questions and comments that need responses ASAP.

    1. Southbound Ravenna Avenue below NE 51st dead-ends into the current West Approach. It is a one-lane road through a heavily populated residential area, traversing the Ravenna Springs greenbelt which our neighborhood successfully fought to preserve in the early part of this decade. In looking at your satellite image, I can’t see any other way for trucks and materials to access the construction site without heavy use of this stretch of Ravenna Avenue.

    What are your plans for Ravenna Avenue south of NE 51st?

    2. Closing the NE 45th St overpass for four months — effectively all of next summer — will create a traffic nightmare of epic proportion in our neighborhood. I’m sure you have statistics on how many cars use that overpass on a daily basis. Since NE 45th St has long been recognized by SDOT and WSDOT as the most heavily travelled and most congested arterial in the city, I’m going to go out on a limb and guess at least 20,000 vehicles a day. Even if it were half that many, where are you expecting those vehicles to go? (UPDATE: SDOT studies show the overpass carries 27,000 vehicles per day.)

    There are extremely limited options. Montlake Boulevard really isn’t one of them. Those of us who live north of U-Village are intimately familiar with the daily gunny-sacking of traffic that builds up on the Boulevard. It is substantially worse in the summer. Even though UW summer enrollment isn’t as heavy as the rest of the year, classes remain in session. (Contrary to the claim on your web page.) More critical, however, is that boat traffic through the Montlake Cut can close the bridge as often as 18 times a day. This is particularly problematic in the summer months. Additionally, construction staging for the new Husky Stadium light rail station has already begun. (Once again, contrary to the claim on your web page.) That staging and construction will have substantial impact on traffic immediately north of the bridge.

    That only leaves a few ways to get around the NE 45th closure, none of which will be adequate.

    Eastbound: 22nd Avenue NE; 20th Avenue NE to NE 54th or Ravenna Boulevard NE, downhill to the six-way intersection.

    Southeastbound: The above to Ravenna Place NE, Ravenna Avenue NE or both.
    Westbound: NE 55th to 22nd Ave NE; NE 55th to NE 54th to NE 20th; NE 55th to Ravenna Boulevard NE

    Northwestbound: Ravenna Place to the above, via 25th NE or NE Blakeley.
    22nd Avenue NE — It appears you plan to divert the lion’s share of traffic onto 22nd Ave NE. That will bring it into direct conflict with the legendary six-way mess of an intersection we have at the foot of Ravenna Park — a confluence of Ravenna Boulevard, Ravenna Avenue, Ravenna Place, NE 54th St, NE 55th St and 22nd Ave NE. That intersection includes two Metro bus stops, two pedestrian crosswalks to the park and sharrows on the street for bicycle riders.

    Historical SDOT data doesn’t consider the intersection a “high accident” location. I refer you to Eric Widstrand’s recent comments on Seattlepi.com:

    Getting There: Ravenna intersection is a “mess”:

    “We have reviewed the traffic data in the area, including the collision history and traffic volumes. We are reassured by the relatively low reported collision history despite the complicated movements required at that location, and believe that the existing controls are appropriate for the current traffic volumes. At this time, we do not have funding to reconfigure or completely repave the intersection,” he says.

    Widstrand is being disingenuous at best. Five years ago the City and SDOT came to us with a plan to reconfigure the intersection, ostensibly to improve safety. They knew there was a problem that long ago. But the plan was so horrifically ill-conceived that it was dropped.

    Widstrand also cites “the current traffic volumes,” but he must surely be aware of the upcoming NE 45th project. The traffic volumes we will see next summer, when the ramp is closed, will bear no resemblance to the intersection’s current usage. Whatever data he is using to support his current position will be woefully out of date overnight, as soon as that ramp is shut down. But even the current data does not sufficiently address safety hazards and concerns we deal with every day at the intersection.

    No one is on hand to count the near misses. No one has spent any time analyzing the interaction between vehicles and cyclists since the recent surge in bicycle popularity. The UW area is particularly impacted, with many student cyclists in addition to those who might otherwise be riding. As the new administration at City Hall moves towards encouraging more bicycle use, next summer could be a watershed year for a massive increase in on-street ridership. Critical to this consideration is that Ravenna Boulevard is the direct link between U-Village/Laurelhurst/Bryant and Green Lake, where cycling is a virtual national pastime. At the southern end of Ravenna Place, an already overburdened two-lane road terminates at the busy intersection of 25th Avenue NE, where it also connects with the Burke-Gilman Trail. That intersection has been designated Seattle’s Worst Intersection for bicycle/vehicle interaction. Last year we had a ghost bike chained to a pole at the crosswalk, in commemoration of a cyclist who was hit by a car.

    There is no question that U-Village and Laurelhurst/Bryant traffic will attempt to use this route to circumvent the NE 45th St construction closure. NE Blakeley, around the back of U-Village, will become the “short cut,” and that traffic will, in turn, cause westbound backups at 25th NE, and southbound back-ups at the Five Corners/Tully’s intersection at NE 45th & Union Bay Place.

    Add to this the possibility that Children’s Hospital will gain approval for their massive expansion and begin construction on Sand Point Way NE next summer. That construction traffic will have to blend with everyone else. As will the construction traffic for University Village, which has filed permits for a new 1,800-car parking garage.

    But wait, there’s more. Next summer King County will be tearing up Lower Ravenna Park again, to repair a faulty pipeline that caused sewage overflow into Univeristy Slough in May 2008. That construction, which will impact NE 55th, Ravenna Boulvard, Ravenna Place, 25th NE, NE 65th and related sided streets and arterials, will coincide with the exact time you’ve chosen to close NE 45th St and divert traffic towards the Park. Here’s their web page:


    The contact person for that project is:

    Monica Van der Vieren
    Community Relations
    Cell (206)255-9105
    King Street Center (206) 263-7301
    Department of Natural Resources and Parks
    Wastewater Treatment Divison
    201 S. Jackson St.
    Seattle, WA 98105-3855

    If you go to the following presentation, Panel 14, you can see the construction area outlined for the project. It consumes almost the entire two blocks of NE 55th between 25th NE and Ravenna Place.


    Finally, Widstrand claims on seattlepi.com, “At this time, we do not have funding to reconfigure or completely repave the intersection.” There seem to be plenty of Bridging the Gap funds for this overpass replacement and numerous other large projects. But for years now we’ve been told there isn’t enough funding to repave Ravenna Boulevard, which is pretty much one long pot-hole from the I-5 overpass at NE 63rd St all the way down to the base of the park at NE 55th. I suggest tapping the BtG funds we are paying into, and giving us some service for our tax dollars.

    This all begins to appear like piling on. We are not only facing the probability of extremely hazardous driving/biking/pedestrian conditions, we’re facing a high probability of gridlock most of the day, with cars belching out exhaust and pollutants, turning the neighborhood carbon footprint into a Godzilla-sized depression. That’s a lousy way to spend the entire summer, especially when winter here usurps the other eight months. Adding insult to injury, we will not have use of our beloved neighborhood park and Ravenna Creek, two gems we labored long and hard to restore.

    On behalf of myself and my Ravenna/Bryant/Laurelhurst neighbors, I would very much like to know how you plan to address and mitigate these very critical issues. I hope to hear from you at your earliest convenience, long before any plans are finalized.

    Thank you very much.

    Sincerely yours,

    Jef Jaisun
    Ravenna Park Action Council
    5107 Ravenna Ave NE
    Seattle, WA 98105

    Wed, January 13 at 4:17 am
  5. hans said,

    you’re silly. what do you want them to do? not repair the viaduct? build an alternate route to use before the construction so that we can have another alternate route during the construction? your concerns may be valid, but there’s really nothing they can do to address them. also, the other construction you mention won’t happen concurrently, so that’s really a mute point.
    my only question is, do they plan on changing the west-ward approach to the viaduct so that you can turn onto 22nd? that would be sweet.
    good day all!

    Tue, June 1 at 7:50 pm
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