As transportation chair for the Wallingford Community Council I’ve been closely following the roadway redesigns being done as part of repaving arterials in Wallingford and Green Lake. Most changes break down into familiar cyclist vs parking battles, but one design feature stands out as a terrible idea for both cyclists and residents- the current SDOT plans for adding protected bike lanes around the 5-way intersection of Stone Way N, N 50th, and Green Lake Way N.
The intersection is rated “F” for vehicle throughput by SDOT and regularly backs up with traffic, flooding side streets and school zones with vehicles. Despite planning to spend $12.3 million for paving only 2.8 miles of Green Lake Way N, SDOT says they do not have funds to look at the intersection design. Instead, funds are being spent to force protected bike lanes on either side of the intersection and to add two new signals for cyclists that are near the intersection, one on Green Lake Way N at N 52nd street (tearing out 6-month-old flashing beacons) and another one near N 55th street.
Commuting cyclists will be dramatically slowed down as they must first wait at 50th for the light, then wait to cross the road at 52nd to access a 2-way cycle track, then wait again at 55th. Recreational cyclists are not served as they will continue to use Lower Woodland Park for cycling, just as they do today and as the 2014 Bicycle Master Plan recommends. Vehicle throughput will be further choked off by the protected bike lanes and the new signal lights. Residents and several businesses will lose their street front parking on a 7-block stretch of road where a new 40 unit apartment building without parking is planned for construction (replacing Zaw and Bill the Butcher).
At least a million dollars could be saved if existing bike lanes were kept as-is from N 45th to N 55th, a design that appears to currently be working safely. Alternately, if the goal is really to add protected bike lanes that serve cyclists, then the 2-way cycle track could extend through the intersection at N 50th to connect to the planned regional Greenway on N 46th or N 47th. Vehicle throughput would be preserved, no mixing of cars and cyclists would happen at the intersection, parking would be preserved, and the regional Greenway on N 46th and N 47th would get its arterial crossing. Unfortunately, SDOT considers that change out of scope because it touches the intersection itself. Instead, we are getting the worst of all worlds- an expensive design that makes things worse for everybody.
So far, Green Lake Way Paving Project sessions by SDOT employees have provided no traffic studies, no safety data justifying changes, and show no signs of incorporating any community feedback. SDOT representatives don’t seem to like their own designs, but SDOT is between transportation directors and current plans appear to be locked in by bureaucratic momentum at this point. It looks like SDOT management is just trying to force in as many miles of protected bike lanes as they can so they can hit their numbers for the Levy to Move Seattle. If SDOT has the funds then they should do the protected bike lanes correctly, and if there aren’t funds then they should back off and not make changes until they have the funds to do the job right. Please express your concerns with this issue or other issues to SDOT by using their comment field in the online open house, by calling 206-693-4151, or by contacting them via email at [email protected]. You can also try contacting our elected representatives for this location: [email protected] and Jenny.Durk[email protected].