We need a safer Rainier Ave now. Meetings Thursday and Tuesday

Collisions on Rainier Ave in the study area in recent three years. The whole length is dangerous. Image from SDOT

Collisions on Rainier Ave in the study area in recent three years. The whole length is dangerous. Image from SDOT

Rainier Ave is Seattle’s most dangerous neighborhood street. There’s a collision every day. Somebody is injured in a traffic collision every two days. And it has been this way for a long time.

The injury rate is so high in part because the speeding rate is so high. In fact, more than half of all people driving on Rainer speed, according to a city study. As many as 1,800 people drive more than 10 mph over the speed limit every day. This is not a problem with a few bad apples. Rather, the road design encourages speeding by having too many lanes that are too wide.

The faster a person drives, the more likely they are to be in a collision and the more seriously they will injure someone. If the typical driving speed were 30 mph (the current speed limit) rather than 38 mph (the measured 85th percentile speed on some sections of Rainer), far fewer people would be injured.

But now the city is looking to finally make a serious change to address the dangerous design of the street between Letitia and Seward Park Ave. These four miles pass through the Columbia City, Hillman City, Othello, Brighton, Seward Park and Rainier Beach neighborhoods. You have two opportunities to meet with the city and other community members and discuss the changes in the next week: Tomorrow (Thursday), 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. at the Columbia School and Tuesday 6 to 8p.m. at the Ethiopian Community Center.

Collisions occur along the entire length of the street, pointing to a core design problem. Small changes just in commercial centers always help, but they will not be enough to calm the damage this street causes to the neighborhoods it passes through.

The changes could include a complete streets redesign that would add bike lanes and a center turn lane. As we reported last week, Seattle has a long history of success with safe streets redesigns, including on streets with comparable traffic volumes (for example, Nickerson and NE 75th Street both carry a similar number of vehicles each day as Rainier).

Rainier is designed like a four-lane rural highway, but it passes through densely populated neighborhoods, passing in front of schools and community centers, and splitting commercial districts in half.

Rainier Ave should be easy and safe to cross on foot. People driving should feel comfortable making turns and traveling at or below the speed limit. And people on bikes need to have a comfortable way to get around the neighborhood and access destinations. Rainier fails in each of these ways today.

This is a unique opportunity for Rainier Valley to revolutionize its walkability, bikeability and family-friendly environment. It’s a chance to treat commercial centers like Columbia City as places that value all people, not just a corridor for cars to speed through. And it’s a chance to take a giant step closer to Vision Zero by eliminating hundreds of serious injuries — and maybe even a few deaths — every year.

Rainier Valley Greenways is helping to organize neighbors in favor of safety changes, and they even have a petition you can sign:

We support safety over speeding on Rainier Avenue South.

With 1,243 crashes in the past three years, Rainier Avenue South is the most dangerous street in Seattle. Every crash impacts our community – from cars careening into our businesses to our children being run down by drivers who never even stop. We say enough! Rainier Ave S should be made safe for all people to walk, bike, drive, catch the bus, shop, and live.

We need our neighborhood back. We need,

  1. Safe Speeds of 25 MPH along Rainier Avenue South and 20 MPH engineered in our community centers of Columbia City, Hillman City, and Rainier Beach with enforcement.

  2. Safe & Dignified Crossings of Rainier Ave S where people driving stop for people walking, and people walking have enough to time cross before the traffic light changes.

  3. A Safe Place for People to Bike on Rainier Ave S.

If you would like to learn more or lend your support to making bold safety changes to Rainier Ave, the city is holding two community meetings in the next week. Details:

SDOT invites you to review potential safety improvements for Rainier and to provide feedback on possible design changes at one of the following meetings:

Thursday, February 26, 2015
6:30 PM to 8:30 PM, The Columbia School – Cafeteria/Commons,
3528 S Ferdinand St (use the Edmunds St entrance and parking area)

Tuesday , March 3, 2015
6:00 PM to 8:00 PM, The Ethiopian Community Center,
8323 Rainier Ave S

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7 Responses to We need a safer Rainier Ave now. Meetings Thursday and Tuesday

  1. Karl says:

    So glad to see some attention finally being given to the Southside. Long overdue! I will sign the petition and anything else I can do to help.

  2. Neel says:

    I know they are concentrating effort from Columbia City south, but the northern portion of Rainier is just as bad. Speeds are higher on average leading up to and under I-90 coming south. Though it’s more crowded so people are forced to drive slower, it’s not because the street design encourages them. Also, crossings are few. I hope a full treatment from end to end eventually emerges.

  3. Andres Salomon says:

    I really hope SDOT can accelerate the process of reworking this street, like they did for NE 75th. It would be wonderful to have a much safer, comfortable Rainier Ave in time for Cranksgiving 2015!

  4. RDPence says:

    I’m all for a safer, calmer street in Rainier Valley, but I hope it doesn’t come at the price of even slower service on the Route 7 bus. Transit is part of the solution, so I hope it doesn’t become collateral damage in the battle for a safer street.

    • Skylar says:

      I’m not a regular 7 rider, but many of these improvements could actually speed transit. A person speeding in a car is unlikely to yield to a bus merging back into traffic (it would help if SPD actually enforced this), and bus bulbs effectively decrease the number of travel lanes (I’m not sure if bus bulbs will be used on Rainier, but they could help in some places).

  5. scott t says:

    i dont know the actual data on the type of injury-crashes. rear endings?? pedestrians struck in crosswalks? illeagal pedestrian road crossings? most collisions at intersections?

    if the info is true and not another lie some speed humps and reduced speed limits might help. im not sure if a dedicated bike lane would fit on most of ranier or not…perhaps some sbetter bicycle signage along the nearest parallel streets to ranier to gude bicylists along it rather than it for increased and safer bike travel to the businesses on ranier could work..cheaply.

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