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Mayor announces $900K for E Marginal Way safety improvements, West Seattle trail projects

Mayor McGinn announced Tuesday that the city will spend $700,000 on near-term paving work and a possible temporary cycle track on E Marginal Way. The city will also spend $200,000 on design work for a permanent longterm solution, which will likely include a future full reconstruction of the street.

A dangerous stretch of industrial road, E Marginal Way is a vital bicycle corridor and one of the biggest impediments to cycling from West Seattle and parts of South King County. Long considered a top priority for cycling improvements in Seattle, E Marginal Way got increased attention after Lance David died in a May 1 collision with a truck at S Hanford Street.

The new investments also include funds to move the Westlake Cycle Track through final design and into construction, as well as work to improve walking and biking safety around Lower Bridge to West Seattle. This includes fixing dangerous trail crossings and improving the infamously awful intersection at W Marginal Way/SW Marginal Pl/Delridge Way SW/Chelan Ave and the Alki Trail:

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Image from Google Street View
Image from Google Street View

The funds come from savings after the Spokane Street Viaduct project came in millions under budget. More details on the investments, from the Mayors office:

The $3.25 million in funding will be used for the following projects:

  • Improvements to East Marginal Way in SoDo
    • $700,000 for pavement maintenance, restriping, and exploring interim cycle track options to provide further separation of bicycles and auto traffic.
    • $200,000 will be included for conceptual planning and pre-design for a permanent reconstruction to the road, which will also include a long-term design of separated bicycle facilities such as a cycle track.
    • Westlake Avenue Cycle Track
      • $1.2 million for final design and construction of this project to improve separation between bicycles and vehicles and link the Ship Canal trail to South Lake Union. When combined with previous funding from the City and Puget Sound Regional Council, this project will have $2.3 million of funding which may be enough to build the facility depending on final design.
      • $500,000 for Lower Spokane Street Safety Improvements. Project elements will be developed with input from the community, the Port, and other stakeholders and may include:
        • Improving pavement conditions along the pathway.
        • Improving crossing at Port driveways
        • Improving crossing for bicyclists at Chelan (5-way) intersection.
        • Improving crossing for bicyclists from the path to SW Avalon Way/SW Admiral Way.
        • Increase separation for bicyclists on SW Admiral Way.
        • Improving Delridge to Andover connection to the bicycle path.
        • $400,000 for implementation of the Pedestrian Master Plan
        • $250,000 for transit-oriented design in multiple neighborhoods:
          • Study at Rainier Avenue South and Martin Luther King Jr. Way South to identify alternatives, conduct a traffic analysis, conceptual design, develop conceptual cost estimates and conduct public outreach
          • New transportation analysis near Roosevelt light rail station, assessing station area access issues including evaluation of the Roosevelt/11th one-way couplet
          • Station access and transit-oriented design near Othello Station

This is in addition to the previously announced $11.75 million in transportation investments from Spokane Street Viaduct savings. That funding was included in the First Quarter Supplemental Budget, and includes:

  • $4.5 million for major road improvements on Northgate Way, closing the funding gap for this approximately $14 million project. This project includes paving, sidewalks and curb ramps, traffic signals, and lighting.
  • $1 million in new funding for Pedestrian Master Plan implementation
  • Design work on pedestrian projects currently being identified through the Lake City Way Traffic Safety Corridor Project and other community processes, and additional pedestrian mobility improvements along the length of the corridor and intersecting streets.
  • Planning for intersection improvements at Rainier Avenue South and Martin Luther King Jr. Way South, which was identified as a high priority in the Southeast Transportation Study.
  • Installation of a special pedestrian flashing beacon at 47th Avenue Southwest and Southwest Admiral Way. We will also work with the community to begin the technical design process for a permanent traffic signal at that location, and are working to identify funding sources for its construction.
  • Installation of safety improvements on Northeast 75th Street near Nathan Eckstein Middle School. In April we described these improvements in greater detail. They include a flashing school zone beacon, evaluation of this site for a school zone speed camera, remarking of crosswalks, evaluation of Northeast 68th Street and 25th Avenue Northeast for a traffic signal, and new pedestrian countdown heads at existing traffic signals in the area. We have also been working with the community to examine possible physical changes to the roadway to reduce speeds. SDOT is currently analyzing this feedback and will develop a proposal in the coming weeks.

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19 responses to “Mayor announces $900K for E Marginal Way safety improvements, West Seattle trail projects”

  1. Gerry Grimm

    Nice picture, but it doesn’t show E. Marginal Way, which is what the article is about. This appears to be a view (of the Chelan intersection?) under the W. Seattle Freeway, on the west side of Harbor Island (E.Marginal is on the East side of Harbor Island). Might want to replace it with a picture of where the cyclist was killed. Thanks for the report, in any case!

    1. JAT

      You’re right, and I rode through there east-bound for the first time in a while and the city has fairly recently installed a low median at the end of Delridge which makes it much harder to cut from lower Spokane St to the triangular island that leads via crosswalk to the ramp to the low bridge.

      I’m sure the intent was to limit the ability of motorists to illegally U-Turn onto the low bridge access without waiting for the light (though jusdging by this morning’s confrontation, it doesn’t actually accomplish that), but it has the effect of making it almost impossible for any cyclist using the road (i.e. any coming from the Admiral District) to get to the bridge. (I did a ride along with the facilities-loving Tom Rassmussen a couple summers ago and it’s not as if the access for those arriving from the bike lane from Harbor Ave fare much better).

      Rather than focusing on building crap-tastic bike specific infrastructure it would be nice if for every action SDOT takes they might think for a second: What effect will this have on a cyclist passing through here? Presently I don’t think they do.

  2. Theresa

    This intersection is also included in the plans. All of the plans are exciting! I look forward to seeing them all happen. Upsetting it takes a tragic accident to make these kinds of quick decisions. The city needs to work on that. Listening to the people and being proactive!

  3. Kirk from Ballard

    The city is not listening to the people. They polled the people, who responded that the Ballard Bridge was the worst crossing in the city. The Ballard Bridge crossing is FAR worse than East Marginal Way. There is no mention of the Ballard Bridge in any of the above projects. None. Apparently, the Ballard Bridge needs a martyr before anything will be done.

    1. Tom Fucoloro

      There’s no point to comparing whose awful bike facility is worse than anyone else’s. The Ballard Bridge being completely awful does not mean that E Marginal Way is also not awful and in need of investment. And reworking trail access on both sides of the lower bridge is also a high-level priority, as is the Delridge connection to the trails (which is nearly as bad as the Ballard Bridge, if you ask me).

      But you’re right. The Ballard Bridge is at a standstill and it’s maddening. My guess is that it will take a project of capital project scale to fix it, far more than what is in this budget.

      I think it’s time for a renewed campaign to fix the Ballard Bridge. At the very least we should be able to find money to study solutions and create a design.

      1. Kirk from Ballard

        Tom, I ride both E Marginal Way and the Ballard Bridge and am very familiar with both of them. They are both “my” bike facilities. I am actually quite comfortable with E Marginal Way. From Spokane Street to E Marginal Way, there is a stop light with a crosswalk. But there certainly is literally room for improvement there in the form of a separate bike facility, and I would love to see one.
        My point is about what gets prioritized and how these priorities are made. The Ballard Bridge was identified in the SDOT phone poll last year as the worst place to ride a bike in the entire city. That’s because it is. That no one has died at the south end “merge” of the Ballard Bridge, or along it’s sidewalks, since 2008, is truly miraculous. There are many low cost safety improvements that could be made, like fixing the heaved and potholed sidewalk at the south end “merge”, yet nothing at all gets done. In fact, as I noted, nothing is even planned.

      2. Tom Fucoloro

        I definitely agree with you there.

      3. I definitely think the city sees any fix for the Ballard Bridge as being necessarily long-term and expensive, both financially and politically, with the implied interim solution being to just avoid it entirely, which is probably popular enough to explain the lack of fatalities.

  4. SFT

    Kirk from Ballard, don’t be a dick. Just because it’s not about your commute doesn’t mean this isn’t a high priority.

    It is sad that it has taken a fatality to bring this to everyone’s attention. Many West Seattle commuters have been warning this would happen for some time. East Marginal could use a complete reconfiguration and there is the space to do so without changing truck and vehicle traffic, while steering most cyclists to use a multi-use path on the west side of East Marginal. The location of the fatality is a place where cyclists commonly make a diagonal crossing to gain access to the northbound bicycle lane, but most cyclists handle this area unpredictably as it forces you to take an “every cyclist for themselves” kind of approach since there was no design or thought put into what these riders would actually do. Just hope they don’t forget to handle the drainage which presents other obstacles altogether.

    The picture in the story is of the notorious 5 way intersection at West Marginal and Chelan. Another nightmare for bicyclists since the traffic lights and crossings consistently fail to change for these users. Like the location of the fatality, this is another one of those “every cyclist to themselves” kind of spots where everyone does something completely different. One contributing factor at this location is a nearby rail crossing that messes with the signal timing, even for signals that have nothing to do with the particular rail crossing, such as those used by bicyclists or pedestrians here.

    I haven’t actually been a huge fan of the Mayor, and have actually noticed that he has done less than his predecessor with regards to bicycling, contrary to what many critics believe. If this gets pushed through on such short notice, I may change my opinion.

    1. Kirk from Ballard

      SFT, I also regularly ride E Marginal Way. I access the northbound bicycle lane from Spokane Street via the crosswalk with a signal. As it was designed.
      Sure, I’d love to see a separate cycle path on the west side. There is a ton of room, and it would connect with the rest of the path up the waterfront. It’s a no brainer. But I gotta say, the money should be spent on the Ballard Bridge first. And the SDOT survey of cyslists has shown that the majority agree.

  5. bill

    I have to disagree about the lights at Chelan being unpredictable. The lights cycle to the right, with the exception of when there is a train. Then priority is given to clearing traffic off the tracks. Riding westbound, into West Seattle, both lanes of Delridge have a bike sensor. They work. Eastbound from the trail you usually need to press the pedestrian button, then make a left to the island on the east side of Delridge. The intersection could use some signage for cyclists. If everyone knew how to cross the intersection maybe so many riders would not cross it chaotically against the lights.

    I am glad to see the curb on the island on the north side has been painted white. In bad light I have almost run into it. I welcome the day the entire intersection is rebuilt. Raise your pump if you want a bike flyover….

    1. Joseph

      Pump raised!

      1. John A

        Another pump raised! I disagree about the Chelan intersection. It simply does not work. Certainly if it requires some level of understanding as is described by “bill” it doesn’t work for most riders, which in turn means it doesn’t work.

        I have patiently waited through this light for 3 complete cycles and not had a pedestrian walk, or a green light depending on how I choose to make the crossing.

        If a traffic engineer says something works, but no one is able to make sense and use it, does it really work?

      2. Cars get through the intersection in a single signal phase. Bikes should, too. Without pushing some out-of-the-way button.

        Riding between West Seattle and the mainland is an illustration of the sort of infrastructure you get when you design highways and try to tack on bike paths later (it’s similar to the I-90 path, particularly on the eastside and Mercer Island, in this way). The highway goes straight and cars get direct routes through intersections. The bike path darts around or does loops to cross the road multiple times and requires multiple signal phases to get through intersections. It’s a lack of respect.

        We should have a requirement that road designers, after their projects are open, must walk and bike through their design in every direction in heavy traffic. This is not an abstract matter for simulations; cities are not abstract, they’re physical. This needs to be brought all the way home.

  6. Charles

    While I am genuinely happy to hear that more bicycle tracks are going in somewhere in the city, I can’t help but notice how almost every discussion about adding bicycle lanes seems to end up being on another North-South track. It might just be me, being up here in the North end of town, but there do seem to be a lot of N-S routes already (mostly incomplete). The lack of East-West routes seems like a bigger problem to me.

    Lately when I see the city repaving East-West streets, I am always disappointed to see no apparent thought for bicycles put into the plans. A good example is Northgate Way. If they are spending the money to repave it, why in the world are they not spending a any on bicycle access for that street? Its a major East-West route that connects the Interurban trail, Greenwood, and runs straight over to Northgate mall where the new light rail station will be (eventually). It seems like a wasted opportunity to me.

    At some point this city is going to need something East-West for bicycles other than “sharrows”. I can make due with the moderate levels of risk riding across town myself, but I know a lot more people would be riding if they could manage to get across 1-5 and 99/Aurora without having to either get lost finding a connecting street or risk it on a busy corridor that seems completely unfriendly to those not willing to brave mixing with the cars.

    1. Yeah… it’s particularly a problem that even all the north-south routes we have come to inglorious ends as they approach major destinations. Downtown is first and foremost here — why are we designing a route between Fremont and SLU, which we already have, before designing routes through downtown, which are severely lacking?

      The delay on this is just stupid. We know we need consistent, high-quality bike infrastructure downtown. Almost any street that goes through would work and the objections will be the same on almost any of them, so just pick one without too many driveways, rip off a design from some other successful city, and just do it! We just received a windfall of transportation money and this isn’t even on the radar. McGinn should personally be ashamed.

      1. Charles

        Heck, I’d be happier if they would just pick a few East-West streets and did the signals right on them all the way across.

        I’ve lost count of the number of times I was going down a neighborhood street, just to find that it hits Holman/15th, 3rd, 8th or some other busy street with no signal whatsoever.

        On any given East-West route, you can usually get one or two busy streets with a sensible crossing, but there is almost always another busy street crossing a few blocks later with no signal. Either that or the street ends for a block or two and you have to hunt for another route to follow.

      2. As you get closer to places people actually want to go, it becomes too politically difficult to take lanes away from cars. So it is in Downtown, so it is with Northgate Way with its already insane I-5 queues. (A bike lane from Greenwood to Meridian might do, but is there even room for a bike lane on the diagonal segment? I forget how wide Northgate is there.)

  7. Brian King

    So… whatever happened to the improvements to on East Marginal Way? Have they been done? I have been commuting from West Seattle to Downtown along Marginal and it could use some major safety improvements. Is this already the “improved” version, or did SDOT not actually do what they promised?

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