Othello Street/Myrtle Place redesign work starts today. The project, funded by the Neighborhood Street Fund, will include biking/walking safety improvements from Beacon Ave to Seward Park Ave. The redesign is also expected to bring motor vehicle speeds down closer to the speed limit and reduce car collisions.
The road currently has a dangerous four-lane highway design despite carrying only 8,000-11,000 vehicles per day and traveling through a residential neighborhood with lots of foot traffic, including many lower-income people living in NewHolly. That’s fewer than half the number of vehicles that can fit on the city’s redesigned road before encountering significant travel delays, according to the city’s standards.
The new road design will include safer crosswalks and new bike lanes connecting Othello Station, the NewHolly neighborhood, Othello Playfield, Seward Park Ave and the Chief Sealth Trail.
The project was somewhat controversial, with some members of the neighborhood expressing concerns about how the changes would affect emergency response times. However, SPD’s South Precinct Captain signed off on the plans and said he does not expect it to be a problem.
The project also raised the question of how bike lanes and complete streets contribute to gentrification. While traffic engineering standards clearly show the project is sound from a traffic flow point of view, the outreach process was not very successful at garnering strong community support. While lower income people, people of color and the elderly are consistently injured and killed in traffic at disproportionately high rates, complete streets and bike lanes are still perceived by some as a wealthy white thing. Are bike lanes harbingers of gentrification or traffic justice projects? Are they both?
This is the subject of an upcoming project by Adonia Lugo, and I can’t wait to read her results (get a taste on the Seattle Bike Justice Project website. More on that soon…)
The Seattle Department of Transportation will be re-striping S Othello Street between Beacon Avenue S and Seward Park Avenue S beginning tomorrow, Tuesday, August 21. The re-striping is expected to take only a few days, and will create minor back-ups while being applied. Drivers should exercise additional care when travelling on Othello.
The new lane configuration is expected to reduce speeding and the potential for accidents, as well as provide a better balance between motor vehicle, bus and freight traffic with pedestrian and bicycle traffic.
The new lane configuration will allow for one travel lane in each direction along the entire corridor. In addition, there will be a two-way left turn lane in the center of the roadway for driveway, business, and side street access between 32nd Ave S. and Martin Luther King Jr. Way South.
The project will also add a dedicated bike lane in each direction between Beacon Avenue South and Martin Luther King Jr. Way South, plus one in the westerly direction from Seward Park Avenue South to Martin Luther King Jr. Way South.
This project is funded by the Bridging the Gap (BTG) transportation levy through the Neighborhood Street Fund (NSF), a city-administered program that works with communities to prioritize and build neighborhood projects.