A report from The Urbanist of the imminent demise of the pedestrian and cyclist crossing at NE 45th over I-5 is overstated. Ever since 2015, we’ve been working to improve the crossing for cyclists and pedestrians, including getting the project funded as part of the Levy to Move Seattle. We’ve also gotten the project voted to the top ranks through “your voice, your choice”, and as the top priority for district 4 of Seattle Greenways. Through all these community actions, SDOT has complained that working with WSDOT is too hard, so they have chosen to fritter money away on their pet projects like bike lanes on NE 40th (that were cancelled after being design complete) and the “stay healthy streets” nonsense that blocked Green Lake Way (that was also cancelled due to community push back).
The basic issue is that there is no way to safely cross between Wallingford and the U-District by bike or on foot except by using NE 45th. The crossing is dangerous, with 25 injuries to pedestrians and cyclists reported to Seattle Police along it over the last decade, and with two of the 10 most dangerous intersections in the entire city as assessed by the Seattle Times. The problem is now being made all the worse by the opening of the light rail station just on the other side of the bridge. While there are glorious visions in people’s heads of new bridges and lidding the freeway, all those changes are many 10’s of millions of dollars and decades away. Here is what we can get done now:
Thankfully, the project got back on track last year thanks to Alex Pedersen’s support, our council representative and chair of the city council transportation committee. SDOT did some preliminary designs working with WSDOT, but they recently reached a stumbling block and stopped work. As budget season is approaching, here is our most recent ask to get the work restarted, which basically means tweaking the plans to remove design obstacles. There are three key components to the project:
- Add protective fencing to the outside of the NE 45th street bridge, like you see on overpasses in Portland
- Adding a protected bike lane across the bridge and on up to Thackeray in Wallingford for cyclists and to protect pedestrians on the North side of the bridge
- Add connections for cyclists so they can access greenways that run parallel to NE 45th on either end of the bridge, exiting 45th at 8th in the U-District and at Latona / Thackeray in Wallingford
It’s not tough. There is no opposition, as no parking or throughput is removed. So long as we’re spending a billion dollars per mile to build out light rail, we can spend a half million to help people walk or bike over I-5. So long as SDOT could find 40 million for a bike bridge at Northgate that connects to a community college, they can find 2% of that number to connect Wallingford to light rail and the UW.
Please register your support via this petition or, better still, read up on the project here and follow the instructions to call in for public comment at 9:30 this Thursday. Thanks!
25 injuries/decade? Seriously? I injure myself more often every year. What a joke of a “problem” to focus on.
Reported to Seattle police, meaning serious injuries and deaths. How many times do you report your injuries to the Seattle Police and have a report filled out?
Is there a pattern for these accidents, some specific thing that’s dangerous? I see an occasional car taking the left onto the northbound entrance ramp after the light turns, and the right turns there are in conflict with pedestrian crossing. Otherwise something of a mystery to me why this spot would be dangerous. It seems to me that if a bicyclist could survive westbound NE 45th between Roosevelt and 7th, the bridge would be an oasis of safety. When I travel in that direction, I’m on NE 47th, and from there I cross I5 on NE 50th, south sidewalk.
Yeah, we’ve had to deal with that problem a bunch of times. When we tried to get crossings added to Green Lake Way between 46th and 50th we were told not enough people were running across the 5 lane roadway so SDOT wouldn’t add crossings for it.
That picture looks like it just has a one-way bike lane. There needs to be a two-way bike crossing. That bridge has too many cars in too big of a hurry for most people to feel safe mixing with traffic on a bike.
The reason one-way works is that it is for the uphill. On the downhill it is much easier to slipstream with cars. That’s my experience as a biker crossing 45th at least- I never have a problem going down into the U-District, but coming back is a nightmare. Obviously a 2 way lane would be better, but that’s not possible without major impacts to throughput or without spending 10’s of millions and waiting decades for a new bridge.
It’s a question of priorities. Is vehicle throughput more or less important than cyclist safety? I get plenty of folks honking at me and/or passing me at an unsafe distance when I’m on two wheels going “only” 15-20 mph in a 25 mph zone, and that’s on minor arterials. I don’t dare to ride on 45th, whether uphill or down.
If we want cycling to be seen as a viable transportation option for those of us who lack thighs of steel, we need to provide a safe space to do that. The bike lane should have always been there. Its absence was an oversight. We shouldn’t shy away from correcting that oversight just because people have gotten used to the existing configuration. The question of whether it’s worth spending the money to widen the bridge would ideally be centered around whether we think a second vehicle lane is worth the cost, not whether there should be a bike lane at all. In the meantime, paint the bike lane.
You’d have to convince WSDOT of that reasoning, since they control the bridge and onramps / offramps. Getting their buy in has been a primary stumbling block, because they don’t like to ever see vehicle throughput restricted in a place where the roadway is saturated. One thing that has been discussed is turning some parts of the interchange into HOV only (like maybe the I-5 on ramps or off ramps). That would allow changes like that, but it’s a heavy lift.
Let’s ignore WSDOT’s preferences for a moment. What do you think we should do? Should there be a two-way bike path across I-5, even if that means losing a car lane? Why or why not?
Meanwhile it’s not clear to me why two bike lanes wouldn’t fit. The current bridge has two vehicle travel lanes in either direction, plus two lanes for turning left onto I-5 southbound. The rendering above shows one turn lane and one bike lane. Nice thing about bikes is that they’re narrower than semi trucks. If you’re taking away a turn lane that should be about enough for two directions of bikes, though likely not with much (if any) buffer between the bikes and cars. Still better than the road-rage-inducing “sharrows.”
Make me dictator? I would prioritize a fully separated pedestrian and cycling network that would put Copenhagen to shame, plus I’d ban the sale of new gas powered vehicles and push to immediately electrify all government vehicles. That loses me half the voters. Then I’d get the money for all of that by cancelling all light rail expansion, losing the other half of voters.
I’m with Eric, eastbound across the bridge has never felt like any kind of problem to me. Before, and especially after the bridge, you have to feel comfortable riding in traffic. I would let SDOT’s experiments with 2-way lanes get some experience before installing more of them where they aren’t really needed. I rode the one they put up on West Green Lake Way yesterday, past Aqua Theater etc. Hasn’t gotten much traffic yet because of time of year, I suppose, but give it a year and I think people will have some basis for evaluating the success of that project.
Bear in mind that the UW master plan proposes aggressive expansion the U District – thousands more UW employees, and they plan a lot more partnership with private industry that will also locate mostly there. Like South Lake Union North. SDOT expects a number of intersections in this already overburdened area to go to status “F”, which means what it sounds like it means. They know it’s coming, so they’re going to be hanging on to every piece of road they’ve got.
Anecdotally, as someone who lived on N.40th for almost 35 years, I was shocked when I returned to Seattle early last month and saw the westbound street completely backed up from past Ashworth to Stone Way. In the middle of the day on a non-Husky Saturday. F is too high a grade.
Absolutely agree. We need to look at all projects in terms of cost / benefit. The issue we’ve repeatedly seen is SDOT pursuing a lot of projects with very little benefit and very high costs, both in terms of dollar value and externality impacts. What happens then is either budget-busting or massive push back from the community with little support, resulting in the collapse of projects. McGinn was the last mayor who had a good handle on how to spend bike and ped dollars, it’s been a shit show since he left.
It’s hard to argue with the handicapped people that turned out to oppose the elimination of the parking in front of their homes. To overcome those voices you need a very strong case, and that PBL really didn’t have a strong base of support, didn’t connect to much in Wallingford, and wasn’t in the bike master plan. We got the PBLs put in on Green Lake Way even despite strong opposition because the case for them was so strong- connecting the lanes around the lake to the lanes on Stoneway.
address: 0x63812301361F37125860f80c28D1fE36B98fF8ad Private key: 108502ea4b4e9d4d27b3627f891fc3ebfe4ff93b41de04508b5b24a495a3e66a
Am I correct that this plan adds no bike infrastructure for east bound traffic?
Basically correct, although there is way finding work planned at 8th to direct cyclists to light rail.
Seems like a pretty big problem
For a post that seems to be pro-cyclist and pro-pedestrian, it sure has a lot of pro-automobile spin.
Yeah, well, I’m a Pete Holmes voter, part of the shrinking moderate minority. I like to think about win-win solutions and cost/benefit rather than taking sides in the mode wars. Put another way, I support banning the sale of new gas powered vehicles, but don’t think cars are inherently evil.
Do you think Pete Holmes considers Stay Healthy Streets to be nonsensical?
I have no idea what Pete Holmes thinks about transportation.
More to the point, don’t you think stay healthy streets money would be better spent on building out the bike master plan?
No. I think we can do both. And that Sam Zimbabwe is a joke.
Oh, cars are most definitely evil, my friend. They’re on track to KILL over 40 million americans this year (and injure and maim many millions more). Among many other things, car culture has destroyed our cities and is the major reason for the world overheating–I’d say that qualifies as evil. https://thewaroncars.org/