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SDOT recommends NE 125th changes

Pending approval by Mayor McGinn, SDOT is moving forward with plans to redesign NE 125th St to include a center left turn lane, bike lanes and improved pedestrian crossings. The proposed changes between Roosevelt and 28th Ave NE met with resistance last year, with some fearing that the changes would bring traffic to a standstill. We have argued several times in favor of this project.

For those who need a refresher, NE 125th only carries about 16,000 vehicles per day, and its four-lane dinosaur of a road design encourages speeding and results in a far more dangerous collisions than are necessary. According to SDOT, 51 percent of collisions on NE 125th cause injuries. The average injury rate for comparable arterial streets in the city is 33 percent. The majority of drivers go more than ten miles per hour over the speed limit.

The five-lane design (two bike lanes, two general traffic lanes and a center turn lane) SDOT is proposing can carry up to 25,000 vehicles per day before impacting traffic flow significantly. Often referred to as a road diet, the proposed street design has been proven to reduce all traffic collisions. It will also make it far safer and easier to make left turns on and off the street.


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Crossing the street on foot will be much safer and easier. Safely crossing four lanes of general traffic typically requires someone on foot to use a traffic signal or, if there is no nearby signal, risk running across. Under the proposed design, people will be able to cross more safely and in more places, which will help reconnect neighborhoods currently split by the unnecessary highway design.

Riding a bicycle on NE 125th is a blast if you are headed east. It’s not entirely safe, but it’s fun to go down the long, somewhat steep hill. Riding west, however, it is horrendous and scary. With bike lanes on each side of the street, using this vital east-west route will become a possibility for more current and future cyclists, making bicycles a more practical means of transportation for several neighborhoods currently lacking in good connections to north-south routes. There are no neighborhood streets parallel to NE 125th that connect through the length of the proposed project.

I commend SDOT for pursuing the right action on this project, despite fairly heavy opposition. The changes will make the neighborhoods bordering the project far safer and more connected while having an insignificant effect of motor vehicle congestion.

Construction should begin this summer.

From SDOT:

After hearing from the public and conducting additional analysis, the Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT) has recommended to Mayor Mike McGinn that the city undertake a project to enhance safety along Northeast 125th Street by rechannelizing the roadway. Between Roosevelt Way Northeast and Northeast 28th Street, the road would have one travel lane in each direction, separated by a two-way left turn lane, and bicycle lanes on both sides of the street.

This recommendation is based on SDOT’s analysis that the number and severity of collisions that injure motorists, pedestrians and others can be reduced by rechannelizing the roadway. SDOT found that Northeast 125th Street had 13 collisions involving pedestrians and three involving bicyclists over the last three years. Comparable roadways like Greenwood Avenue North (south of Holman Road) had five collisions and Northeast 145th Street (from 12th to 28th avenues Northeast) had only two. Currently 51 percent of collisions on Northeast 125th Street result in injury. The average for citywide arterials similar to Northeast 125th Street is 33 percent.

The majority of drivers on Northeast 125th Street travel at 40 miles per hour or less, much faster than the 30 miles per hour speed limit. According to the Federal Highway Administration, a pedestrian hit by a car at 40 miles per hour has an 85 percent chance of being killed, while at 30 miles per hour the likelihood of death goes down to 45 percent. At 20 miles per hour the risk is only five percent. Faster speeds also increase the likelihood of a pedestrian being hit. At higher speeds, motorists are less likely to see someone crossing the road and are even less likely to be able to stop in time to avoid hitting that person or slow down to a less injurious speed.

The project would bring speeds closer to the posted speed limit, make turning on and off the street easier, allow safer crossings by pedestrians and provide dedicated space for bicyclists. For more information on this recommendation, click here to view the complete decision memorandum.

Since 1972, SDOT has successfully changed the lane configuration of 29 roadways, such as North 45th Street, Martin Luther King, Jr. Way and Stone Way North. We’ve learned from those projects that a configuration such as the one proposed for Northeast 125th Street reduces collisions and brings speeds closer to allowed limits while providing sufficient capacity for all road users.

Mayor McGinn is expected to make a final decision on this recommendation within the next two weeks. If approved, SDOT would begin work on the project shortly thereafter in April, weather permitting. Work would include pavement improvements and drain grate replacement along the curb. Existing paint on the roadway would be removed and restriped. Please visit the project website for additional information on the project.


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5 responses to “SDOT recommends NE 125th changes”

  1. biliruben

    This is awesome! It’s about time.

    Now we just have to figure out how to safely cross from East of I-5 over to the Interurban. It’s a dangerous gap, and one that needs to be filled.

    Not to mention the segment from 28th to Sand Point. Also hairy and unpleasant.

    I know, I know. One step at a time, but it would have been nice if they’d just gotten it done and engineered the entire 125th/130th stretch from Greenwood to Sand Point. There is just no safe we to go east-west on the north-end.

  2. JAT

    Out of curiosity, and because I hadn’t really been on 125th for more than a decade (and becasue I was going to Schmetzer’s Sporthaus…), I recently drove out that way. That’s one hell of a nasty road – having said that, I don’t believe downhill bike lanes maks sense on a pitch that steep.

    I agree with Bilirubin, though, the stretch from I-5 to Greenwood on 130th could really use the same treatment.

  3. Scott Depew

    Does anyone realize what can come from all this crap? Is there anyone at all that considers the potential misuse of such whimsy? Kids come to mind first, and even if you formulate a clause to exclude them, they wont know about it until their classmate is DEAD! Ever thought about protestors clogging streets on wheels moving at a snails pace? And speaking of wheels, ever think that a disabled person might sue for discrimination? Most roads can’t even handle the volume of cars, and we’re replacing lanes for bicycle use?!

  4. […] with the mayor’s approval, went ahead with the project, and NE 125th is now a calmer, safer […]

  5. […] to design streets that ameliorate that risk. It doesn’t cost very much and it typically has little impact on car travel. All that’s missing is a shift of priorities. And though City of Seattle […]

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