Seattle City Council Transportation Committee representatives Tom Rasmussen and Jean Godden will be taking part in the Move Seattle levy walking tour happening this Sunday at 11 AM in Wallingford and the U-District. Mike O’Brien is also on the Transportation Committee and is a maybe (it’s his wife’s birthday), plus candidates running against Jean Godden for Seattle City Council District 4 will be attending.
Wallyhood hopes you will come on the walk! Just come to the Mosaic Coffee house on 44th between 1st and 2nd Ave NE by 11 AM Sunday. Here is a printable map of the walk. Our goal is simple: the Move Seattle levy should have a line item added for connecting Wallingford pedestrians and cyclists to UW and the U-District light rail station by the time it opens in 2021.
If we were demanding parity with Northgate then we’d ask for a 25 million dollar 2000 foot long bridge that would go straight from the train station to 44th in Wallingford, flying over all the U-District streets and I-5 along the way. Instead, all we’re asking for here is for SDOT to do something that will make a real difference, maybe something like this:
Upgrading the bridge would form the backbone of an East / West greenway network like this.
Is there space? Yes, there is! I went off my meds so I could be “on my game” for this walk, so it won’t surprise you to learn that I went to the trouble of getting road diagrams and fitting everything in. Here are the diagrams showing how changes can be made to NE 45th Street. First, the NE 45th street bridge itself. The numbers written on the roadways are widths in feet, current and proposed:
Then approaching the bridge from Wallingford:
And finally leaving the bridge into the U-District, including to UW and U-District light rail:
Where can the money come from? Currently the 930 million dollar Move Seattle levy is 2/3rds road maintenance, with the remaining 1/3rd split between transportation alternatives, including money for transit. That money is all there is for non-motorized transportation development for the next decade, whereas transit has multiple levies already dedicated to it. The result is that Seattle only spends about 35 million per year on infrastructure for walking or biking, whereas Seattle spends about 360 million tax dollars per year on buses and trains. Transit is a hungry beast- you need to build infrastructure, pay for vehicles, pay to fuel them up, pay for people to drive them around, pay to maintain them. People that walk and bike only ask for a safe place to do so. Spending billions on trains and then failing to spend a few million here and there so people can walk or bike to the train is just plain stupid.
I’ve gotten involved in organizing the walk along with Seattle Greenways, so I have that feeling you get when throwing a party and wondering if anyone will show up. That’s especially the case given how SDOT has been ignoring our humble neighborhood, not visiting even once while designing this levy or collecting feedback, and then making zero changes to the levy based on the feedback we did provide.
So here’s the pitch- please come and show the candidates that they should care about Wallingford! Help address climate change at the local level! Help build out a transportation network in Seattle that is an alternative to sitting in traffic! Support good government and help set priorities for the upcoming election! Save college kids from getting run over by cars! Or maybe you just want to tell me to shut up already about the Move Seattle levy. Regardless, 11 AM Sunday is your chance!
Nice data – agree there are definitely ways to improve safety on the current bridge. There’s a lot of room to work with. I’m not a traffic engineer, but based on my experience two thru-lanes may not be necessary especially if the lights are well synchronized/sensored (especially going into Wallingford) since street parking constricts to 1 lane soon thereafter anyway). The back-up seems all driven by folks making left turns onto I-5. You could easily have 1 lane that is left turn optional. That is another common thing I see here.
It might also make sense to make the pedestrian/bike areas asymmetrical. 9′ is a little narrow – standard bike lane is 4-5′ and sidewalk is 6′, so I wonder if you make the south side eastbound bike traffic only, then have two bike lanes and pedestrians on the north side. I feel like more pedestrians use the north side now, and this would also reduce delays for southbound I-5 traffic (which seems to get the worst backup) by keeping pedestrians out of those crossings. Similar tactics are used in North Capitol Hill at the Roanoke/Harvard intersection and that seems to flow a lot more smoothly.
Let’s get this fixed!
Eric: As a cyclist, I’m not a fan of shared-use sidewalks. I’m curious why you’re looking at those as part of the solution, rather than having a street-level protected bike lane all the way from 4th to 8th? There seems to be the space to do so.
Nice work, Eric! I do have a few suggestions:
– I think you will have a hard time convincing SDOT to take away the second left turn to SB I-5, especially when it is for HOVs. I would be willing to keep the 2nd turn lane but have a single thru lane into Wallingford, with the balance being more sidewalk and bike space.
– Three things that are [ relatively ] inexpensive that would dramatically improve that walk are (1) eliminating right-on-red at the freeway intersections (where drivers are not looking for peds, but cars), (2) curb bulbs (although not ones that force bikes into traffic) at intersections to make crossing distances smaller and reduce vehicle speeds, (3) high visibility cross-walks. Currently they are basically worn off!
– I actually really like biking on Latona/Thackeray and would route the bikes there as opposed to 4th (although as a 4th Ave resident, I would love a signal there b/c it would prevent me from having to walk a block out of my way to wine world…but as a transportation planner, I wouldn’t advocate for it)
– Like Doug, I’m not a huge fan of shared-use sidewalks. I would prefer a bike climbing lane westbound on 45th and green-backed sharrows on way down.
– I think the issues of safety along 45th street extend beyond the blocks you have shown on the east and west side (i.e. cars to/from Dicks and the general crazy east of the bridge) so we shouldn’t ignore that in our plea…although I can get behind prioritizing.
A few things I wonder what other people think about:
– general successfulness vs neighborhood impact of the ramp metering policy.
– safety of connections to/from Wallingford and the (nearer term) Husky Stadium ST station
Thanks all! Regarding configuration, there are many good options, and I’m sure the final solution won’t look like what I’ve drawn up. The main point of the drawing is to spark the imagination and make the case that the Seattle Move levy needs a line item to do something significant on NE 45th.
I took the shared path approach because it’s a clear upgrade over what’s there today for all non-motorized users, including pedestrians and the “willing but wary” crowd. Nobody has to switch sides of the bridge to access the paths and pedestrians, kids, and your mom will all benefit from it. As for the fit cycling 20 and 30-something crowd, it’s a short stretch of the route where you’ll be going slower on occasion, then you’ll be redirected to greenways parallel to 45th where you can motor as fast or as slow as you want. The key points are safety and offering a path for everyone.
Still with the sour grapes about Northgate. If they wanted parity with Wallingford, they’d get two new bridges 5 blocks apart along with a razed shopping mall. And a pink pony.
Stevesliva- Sorry for picking on Northgate, but the parallels between the situations are too easy- both locations have light rail about 2000 feet from the other side of I-5, both have strong cases that can be made to improve things for non-motorized transportation, and both have bronze or gold solutions to make things better. I mean, the fact is that Northgate could have gotten by with a cycle track on 1st Ave NE that went over I-5 at 92nd and under I-5 at Northgate way, just like we can get by with the Greenway solution proposed here. Having said that, my preference would be that both places get their gold solutions as I think non-motorized transportation is way underfunded. That’s not going to happen, we’re not going to get our bike master plan crossing, but at the very least Wallingford & the U-District should get the money for our bronze solution so as to make things safe for cyclists and pedestrians.
Thank you for staying on this issue. As a pedestrian and a cyclist, the I5 crossing is insane. It feels like something out of a suburban hell. Seattle can do better.
There are a lot of people watching and caring about this. Not just bloggers.
Good ideas, and your criticism of the money allocations is spot on. The Move Seattle levy should wait until we have a new council next year. One of the main points of district elections is to fix this very problem of inequitable distribution.
The current council (and mayor) should not lock in such a huge amount of our property tax capacity for so many years. Please tell the City Council and candidates that message tomorrow.
Thanks for organizing the walk this morning. I had to leave early and missed the greenways portion of the walk, but wanted to point out a few things re: the NE 47th St. / 4th Ave NE area. I’m all for improving the safety of the 45th St. overpass, but I share some of Elizabeth’s concerns about routing cyclists down 4th Ave NE, unless that’s done as part of additional greenway development work to make the area safer. To do the 4th street bike crossing portion of the proposal now without also addressing the larger 47th /4th area seems dangerous.
I live at the intersection of NE 47th St. and 4th Ave NE, so have observed traffic patterns throughout the day and week. What folks observed today on the walk is nothing like what the area is like on a weekday! 47th is getting a LOT more traffic during commute hours, as drivers try to avoid the congestion on 45th. This has gotten a lot worse in the last year or two, and there’s often a steady stream of cars traveling east on 47th during the morning rush hour. In addition to those trying to bypass 45th, we’re also seeing a lot of commuters using the 47th and 4th area as a parking lot for walking to nearby bus stops. All in all, the area is very hectic in the mornings–not the nice, calm neighborhood street envisioned for a cycling/pedestrian greenway.
The intersection of NE 47th St and 4th Ave NE is also pretty dangerous as is. With parked cars lining both streets, and elevated yards/retaining walls surrounding the houses on the corners, there can be poor visibility of oncoming cross traffic as you approach the intersection. However, there are currently no stop signs in any direction, only yield signs for those on 47th. Unfortunately, cars traveling east (downhill) on 47th have limited visibility of those coming north on 4th, so often don’t yield. We’ve seen/heard a number of accidents and near-misses in that intersection.
Another thing making that particular intersection dangerous is that the section of 4th Ave. that lies between 45th and 50th is very narrow. Although it’s a 2-way street, there’s only ever room for one direction at a time. You can see on Google Maps street view that just north of the Wine World parking lot the street narrows significantly, essentially shrinking from two lanes to one. Since parked cars usually line both sides of the street during the week, it’s rare that you can pull over and let an oncoming car pass. Instead, the reality is that a lot of cars end up having to back up for a significant distance instead, often backing up INTO the intersection at 47th and 4th–or backing around the corner onto 47th, surprising cars and bikes coming down the hill.
This is probably less of an issue, but I wanted to also mention the large trees lining the section of 4th between 45th and 47th. During the spring and summer these cause the block to be dark or dappled in sunlight, making it that much harder to see cyclists. During the fall, the street is often covered in large leaves, which can be slippery. Tree roots also impact the quality of the road and sidewalks, with large upheavals resulting in very uneven surfaces. If this section of 4th were to become part of a pedestrian/cycling greenway the road and sidewalks would likely need to be repaired or relaid.
None of these are insurmountable obstacles, I’m sure, but I wanted to be sure folks were aware of them as planning proceeds. If a bike crossing at 4th and 45th is part of the initial plan, PLEASE ensure that this also includes additional fixes to the surrounding area. Encouraging more cyclists to use this route without any additional improvements would be too risky. At a minimum, it seems like the intersection at 47th and 4th should become a 4-way stop (and this would be a good idea even if the proposed bike crossing does not happen). Additionally, some effort to reduce traffic congestion in the area should be considered if we really want to make the area safe for increased use by cyclists. I don’t know which, if any, are feasible and/or acceptable to neighbors, but options might include physically restricting traffic on 47th, converting part of 4th to one-way, and/or making the area residential permit parking zone during commute hours. I’m sure there are other options as well.
Thanks again for all your work on this and for keeping us in the loop!
interchanges are complicated to fix, but most of the problem areas come from the actual intersections. the proposal here actually is pretty bad and doesn’t do really anything to address the conflict points that are the source of the collisions. also, eliminating the westbound dual left turn for 1 left turn is going to impact cars, and create a more aggressive driving environment due to a failing level of service for them.
What should really be considered is converting the 45th interchange to just an overcrossing with no access to I-5 except for flyer stops, and converting the 50th interchange to single point urban interchanges.