The main north-south arterial street in the Central District (my neighborhood) is going to get a big complete streets makeover in 2014-15. Currently designed like a four-lane highway, 23rd Ave is by far the most dangerous street in the neighborhood. Instead of being the heart of the CD, it is a barrier that slices the neighborhood down the middle.
The draft Bicycle Master Plan map suggests 23rd Ave as a potential candidate for a protected bike facility. While the BMP has not been finalized or adopted yet, I personally endorse the idea strongly. There are many businesses and destinations on 23rd that are simply not safely accessible on a bike. This is not a shoo-in, though. I have already heard talk of creating an “alternative” route for bikes (side streets that could be neighborhood greenways). As we have written before, this is a huge mistake and a misuse of the neighborhood greenway idea. This is our chance to do things right, and that includes safe bicycle access, fast buses, safe crosswalks and comfortable sidewalks.
Will 23rd be the city’s first big test for dealing with a road designated as a “multimodal corridor” in the Bicycle Master Plan?
Below is my write-up about the project for Central District News:
With millions of dollars in federal, state and local funds behind them, the city is beginning outreach for a repaving, transit efficiency and complete streets redesign of 23rd Ave stretching all the way from Rainier Ave to E John Street. If everything goes smoothly, work could begin in mid 2014 and wrap up in 2015.
You have a chance to hear from project planners first-hand tonight (Monday) at the Jackson Place Community Council meeting, 7:30 p.m. at the Hiawatha Place Lofts. Also on the agenda: Judkins Park Light Rail Station planning.
23rd Ave is the last remaining four-lane street through the heart of the Central District, and is the site of several of the most dangerous intersections in the neighborhood for all road users. The intersection of 23rd and Jefferson is one of the most dangerous intersections in the entire city for people walking. Five people were struck by cars there between 2009 and 2011.
Between 2001 and 2009, four people were killed in collisions on 23rd Ave—two people on foot, one person in a car and one person on a motorcycle. This makes 23rd Ave by far the most dangerous street in the CD.
Seattle laws require that every transportation project go through a complete streets process in which the needs of all road users are considered in the new road design. There are no details on any plans for the street at this point as the city is just beginning the outreach process. There will be an open house in February so residents can get a look at options and give the city feedback.
The project could also see transit improvements, including trolley wire connections that would allow the 48 to run as an electric bus from the Mount Baker Transit Center to the University of Washington. This improvement is part of the city’s Transit Master Plan, and would require the 48 to split into two routes: One that runs the route south of UW and one that runs north and west of the UW to Ballard. For more on this, see our previous story.
Traffic volumes on 23rd Ave between Jackson and Rainier are about 18,700 vehicles per day (counting buses and bikes), according to SDOT data. This is below the threshold the city typically considers prime for a “road diet,” often in the form of adding a center turn lane and reducing general travel lanes to one in each direction. A recent road diet on Nickerson (which moves about 2,000 more vehicles per day than 23rd) reduced collisions by 23 percent without significantly impacting traffic flow, according to an SDOT report I wrote about on Seattle Bike Blog. For a local comparison, MLK see only a couple thousand fewer vehicles per day than 23rd (about 14,000), and it easily does so with one lane in each direction plus a center turn lane (though the outdated bike lanes on MLK are terrible).
At the Squire Park Community Council quarterly meeting over the weekend, 23rd Ave project leaders mentioned Dexter Ave as an example of a recent street reconstruction project that got a complete streets redesign. On that street, “bus islands” and bike lanes with larger-than-normal buffer spaces were constructed to speed up transit and provide safer movement for people on bikes. Shorter crossing distances for crosswalks made the road safer and easier to cross on foot, and motor vehicle flow was not significantly impacted.
If you haven’t picked up on it yet, I am quite excited about this project. 23rd Ave is a barrier in the CD that should be a destination instead. Imagine being able to cross 23rd on foot at every intersection without sprinting for your life or going four blocks out of the way to nearest stoplight. Imagine more welcoming bus stops and more comfortable sidewalks. Imagine quiet electric buses instead of diesel-belching ones. Imagine if very few people drove over the speed limit, and fewer people got injured or killed simply trying to get wherever they’re going. And yes, imagine being able to safely bike to 23rd Ave destinations. All or some of these could become reality.
What would you like to see happen on 23rd Ave?
Here’s the project flier: