Those of us living in the vicinity of 40th St. know that crossing 40th on foot or bike — especially during rush hours — can be challenging. Now, thanks to SDOT’s Neighborhood Street Fund and citizen action by some of our neighbors, improvements are on the way.
Personally, I try to avoid this crossing when headed north on bike because it’s hard to get a quick start on the crossing when you’re headed uphill. If I’m headed to parts west, I can cross at Wallingford Ave. where there’s a traffic light, but if I’m headed east …
Under Washington State Law, motorists are supposed to stop for pedestrians and bicyclists crossing at an intersection whether there is a painted crosswalk or not. However, not all drivers are aware of the law in this case, and even if they are, it can be hard to divine the intentions of a person standing by the side of the road or even to see them on a rainy night.
To address the problem of visibility, orange crossing flags have been placed at intersections throughout Wallingford with 40th St. being especially well covered. We’ve talked about these here on Wallyhood with an initial article in June of 2011 and a follow up a little later. The Wallingford Community Council was responsible for this first round of flags, but a more recent flagging effort has apparently been undertaken by the Hamilton International Middle School Green Team funded in large part by SDOT’s Safe Routes to Schools program. (I tried to contact the Green Team at HIMS, but wasn’t successful.) The Green Team program of the Seattle Public Schools makes funding available for students to do green projects in their communities.
These DIY efforts can only get us so far. Now, actual city dollars will be applied to the problem of crossing 40th by improving the intersection at Bagley Avenue. Details of the project have not been finalized, but SDOT is considering curb ramps at all four corners as well as painted crosswalks, pedestrian lighting, sidewalk repairs and some improvements to nearby bus stops. To save money, the project will be put off until 2019 so it can piggyback on a scheduled repaving of 40th. In the meantime, SDOT will install signed crosswalks across 40th on either side of Bagley as well as a curb bulb on the southwest corner. More information on the project is available here.
The project is funded through the city’s Neighborhood Street Fund using monies that we the voters made available via the 2015 Move Seattle levy. NSF projects are selected from proposals written by citizens like you and me. For the 40th and Bagley Improvements Project, we have neighbors Cathy Tuttle and Jeff Hummel to thank.
Cathy is director of Seattle Neighborhood Greenways (SNG), and she has proposed this idea to SDOT before – each time with a different set of neighbors acting as co-sponsors. This year’s ultimately successful application was co-sponsored by Jeff. Previous applications were turned down by SDOT due to the perception that the amount of foot traffic crossing 40th was too low.
But the need for a better crossing was clear. In Cathy’s words, “A single marked crossing along 40th between Wallingford Ave N and 2nd Ave NE — about a half mile apart — seems like a very small thing that will go a long way towards making 40th a more pleasant place to live and to walk. Surveys by AARP show over 50% of the people interviewed over age 50 said they couldn’t safely cross the main street closest to them. Their fear is justified. Americans are 16 times more likely to be killed crossing the street than by a natural disaster — and the risks are far higher for older people. We all benefit from a more walkable bike-able community. Our health improves dramatically, as does air quality and general quality of life. We need to step back and question how our largest public space, our streets, is being used in our neighborhoods. A change in traffic speed along 40th will make a world of difference to people living on that street and people near that street who use it daily.”
Although her first applications to SDOT were rejected, Cathy counsels persistence for those wishing to apply for NSF funds. “Work within a coalition of local groups — your school, religious organization, social club, business chamber — to amplify your voice.” She invites neighbors interested in revitalizing a “safe streets” organization here in Wallingford to join SNG and contact her.
None of us needs to be told that things are changing rapidly here in Seattle, and our neighborhood is not exempt. Remarks Cathy, “Folks in Wallingford need to start talking and planning now about a safer, more pleasant way to walk to light rail opening in 2021, as well as talk about slowing traffic to survivable speeds on major arterials (Stone, Green Lake Way, 50th, 45th, 40th, Pacific).” Portions of most of these routes are slated for repaving, and your comments could make a difference in determining how those arterials are ultimately configured.
Although the first phase of outreach for the 40th and Bagley project has concluded, the comment period for the repaving work continues until May 7.