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State makes changes to confusing Atlantic Street intersection – UPDATED

In early March, bike trail connections will open that should make the intersection easier to navigate. In the meantime, state says to be cautious.
In early March, bike trail connections will open that should make the intersection easier to navigate. In the meantime, state says to be cautious.

The Washington State Department of Transportation opened a new overpass at S Atlantic Street to help people bypass a sometimes frustrating railroad crossing near Alaskan Way S. But people on bikes were met with frustration and confusion when the overpass opened last week.

The biggest issue is that the northbound bike lane on Alaskan Way S currently ends abruptly at the entrance to the new overpass. A planned bike path on the east side of the new overpass does not yet exist, leaving people to figure out how to safely access the waterfront trail.

Seattle Bike Blog commenters documented some of this confusion, and WSDOT officials were reading. Genevieve Stokes, communications officer for the Alaskan Way Viaduct Project, said the state has made some changes to how people on bikes move through the area.

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“After we opened the overpass, we got some feedback from a few different bicyclists on how we could make it clearer,” she said. “We’ve added some pylons, and more clearly indicate how bikers should cross the street.”

Basically, when you cross the intersection in the northbound bike lane, you are supposed to wait at the northeast corner and use the walk signal to access the trail.

“I know it’s not an idea situation for bicyclists to have to cross in a pedestrian crosswalk,” said Stokes, but “a much better solution is coming soon.”

How the whole area will look when (if) the Hwy 99 tunnel opens.
How the whole area will look when (if) the Hwy 99 tunnel opens.

Details from WSDOT:

On Monday, Jan. 27, the Washington State Department of Transportation opened the South Atlantic Street overpass to the west of Seattle’s stadiums. This changed access to the existing bicycle path west of the new overpass. We are continuing to work with the bicycle community to maximize safety in this area.

Safety is a top concern for WSDOT, and we want to remind bicycle commuters that this area is still an active construction zone and a busy freight corridor. Caution should be taken when traveling through the intersection of South Atlantic Street and Alaskan Way South. Bicyclists traveling northbound must cross South Atlantic Street to the northeast corner of the intersection. From there, they must use the signalized pedestrian crosswalk to travel west and connect with the bicycle path.

After observing the traffic flow at this intersection and receiving feedback from bicycle commuters, we have made several adjustments to the bicycle route. We added candlestick barriers to clearly delineate the path and numerous signs to indicate the detour route. We will continue to monitor the area and make further adjustments as necessary.

A new permanent connection (PDF) between the on-street bike lanes south of South Atlantic Street and the shared-use path from South King Street is scheduled to open by early March 2014.

We appreciate the patience and feedback of the bicycle community as we work to complete this vital bicycle route. Please contact us via email ([email protected]) or call our hotline (1-888-AWV-LINE) if you have questions, concerns or suggestions.

UPDATE 2/5: After issues continued, WSDOT announced more changes and a planned meeting to discuss the area:

After observing the traffic flow at the intersection of South Atlantic Street and Alaskan Way South, and receiving feedback from bicycle commuters, WSDOT and SDOT have worked closely together to make several adjustments to the bicycle route near the new South Atlantic Street overpass. These adjustments include:

  • Adding numerous signs to indicate the bicycle detour route.
  • Adding candlestick pylons on the west side of the northbound bike lane to clearly indicate how bicyclists should cross the intersection.
  • Changing the way the signals operate at this intersection so that it is no longer necessary for bicyclists to push the pedestrian button to trigger the pedestrian walk signal to change.

We will continue to monitor the area and make further adjustments as necessary. Keep an eye on our bicycle/pedestrian webpage for shared-use path updates and advisories.

Join us at Milepost 31 from 6 to 6:30 p.m. on Thursday, Feb. 6 to talk to about the current and future configurations of the bicycle/pedestrian path in this area.

More info on the project:

2014 0131 BikePed Path Fs by tfooq

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10 responses to “State makes changes to confusing Atlantic Street intersection – UPDATED”

  1. Jayne

    What a crock. The inmates truly are running the asylum.

    1. onshay

      Yes, and remember to “be careful”. Not ideal for cyclists? Certainly not.

      I rode the gauntlet this morning and very little appeared to have changed. I used the northbound left turn lane (the one heading to the port) since that seems to be the safest thing to do.

      You know, people complain about every penny spent on cycling infrastructure so seeing a giant overpass connecting 2 points 50 feet apart so cars don’t have the inconvenience of waiting for a few minutes at a train crossing makes me a bit more than slightly irritated.

  2. AiliL

    I used the intersection this morning. The “bike route” was marked with orange cones to the left with a giant gap in the middle roadway to allow motor vehicles to pass through the intersection.

    There were at least 3 bike detour signs I noticed…but to tell the truth I was more focused on watching the other two cyclists near me, making my way along the bike lane and crossing the intersection. I don’t think that the detour signs I saw gave a clear indication of HOW cyclists are “supposed” to cross the intersection. There’s no pavement markings to assist this movement. Since there was absolutely no motorized traffic at that time of the morning and we all had the green, we all crossed directly to the path rather than use the crosswalk pad.

    I will make a point of using the crosswalk route tomorrow morning to see how long it takes. My main issue with this routing is that even though we can press that little button to let the signals know we need to cross, the intersection still favors motorized traffic (how long does it take to get the “walk” signal), and I want to see how the signals work when there is a train (i.e. the didn’t used to at all). I *think* that problem was solved the last couple weeks however so I’ll give the benefit of the doubt there.

    Second, I am confused about the word “must” being used in reference to the crosswalk route. If this is a must, then I want to see paint and very clear roadway markings for cyclists. WSDOT has watched cyclists here, but have they actually ridden it? With traffic?

  3. meanie

    While not dangerous per say, with the relative speeds going on, its very confusing and dumb at times.

    This morning the way was blocked by construction workers standing around with no cones marking the path, the alternate route from last week in by the port entrance was open, but blocked by some moron who used it as a parking spot.

    At least the cops further back were friendly when they mentioned they had no idea how any of it was supposed to work now.

    Also, is there a reason the overpass lacks any bike lanes? In the summer when the train blocks the lower road for upwards of 30 mins ( its happened before ) bikes will take to the overpass.

    And I am also unsure if I *must* do anything they want, aside from obey the law when taking whichever lane I decide is safe and prudent.


  4. It’s been changing daily lately. Most mornings, no one seems to know where anyone is supposed to be going. This morning, none of the traffic lights were operational, and saw a cyclist brake hard and go up on his front wheel to avoid being hit by a car traveling northbound onto the overpass today. Be careful. Slow down.

    I’ve just been taking the left turn lane most of the time to get into the bike path entrance. Not ideal currently, by any stretch of the imagination, but it will improve. Rome wasn’t built in a day either.

  5. These detours should be designed to recognized standards for bike paths and multi-use paths. Instead, it seems to be completely ad hoc. I measured 5 feet between fences on a blind curve there. The standard for width for a two-way multi-use path is 10 feet on a straight section. I agree with Aili’s comments on the crosswalk. It’s bad enough to require a two-step left turn. On top of that, if the only way to activate the east-west crosswalk signal from the east side is to use a pedestrian button that requires doing a 360 maneuver onto the sidewalk to get to the button, does WSDOT really expect cyclists to use it? We need design for how bikes move. Bikes are not pedestrians. If this was a vehicle detour, it would have been shut down within an hour and not just tweaked.

  6. bill

    Looking at some recent bike projects, SDOT seems to have an A-team … who were not used here. The northbound left turn is perfectly manageable for bikes. I am not going to wait two lengthy signal cycles to turn left. Doing that once a day to ride up Avalon from the Alki trail is enough.

    As a general remark, if SDOT wants to make signalized intersections across the city safer for pedestrians and cyclists, ped-button response times need to be shortened dramatically.

  7. AiliL

    Rode through here northbound this morning, using the “official” detour route.

    There’s two signs stating “bike detour.” One as you approach the intersection near Atlantic – but it’s off the roadway to the right. And I am not sure how many riders are going to be looking that direction rather than left/front. The other sign is ahead across the intersection, at the crosswalk area on the northeast corner. The only way I knew that the waiting area for cyclists was here was because I read the maps. There’s no “cyclists use crosswalk” signage or other information.

    The N/S signal was green already when I went through the intersection so I had no wait-time due to a vehicle in front of me so I couldn’t find out if I would trigger light by myself.

    Traveling through with the “cones/markers” was odd, it doesn’t look like a bike lane whatsoever. The orange markers seem to be delineating a construction area, so I would be surprised if some cyclists totally avoid the area instead of staying inside of it.

    To access the NE crosswalk waiting area, you have to access the curb cut that faces west. This is a 90-degree turn from the roadway (remember there’s no more bike lane here) – which could be tricky if wet or if there’s other crosswalk users there. One then has to turn bike 360 degrees to again face west (ending up facing east when first there) and then press the pedestrian button.

    The pedestrian button cycled the light really fast for me. But the only other traffic was an approaching single motorcyclist. I wonder how fast this turns with traffic? It’s interesting that motor vehicles are supposed to still use Atlantic, but not if a train is blocking the tracks; it’s purportedly mostly for truck/Port traffic. How are SOV drivers to know this? I have seen few drivers using Atlantic at all since the bridge opened, trucks, SOVs, motorcyclists all included. It’ll be interesting to see if traffic backs up there anyway…

    Overall the crosswalk method works, but it’s confusing and cumbersome. It’s forcing cyclists into a space that to me is clearly meant for pedestrian use only. Bike travel I am guessing was not planned for and the planners are now scrambling to remedy a situation that could have been prevented in the first place. Which is becoming a familiar issue all around town it seems…

  8. AiliL

    Today I chose to ride the left turn lane instead of the bike lane through the intersection. What a *good* choice! It’s easier to get into the left turn lane from the far right bike lane way back. I moved into it far earlier than I would have moved into the bike lane that crosses the right turn only lane. Note of course, that I am going through here at about 7:00 am so there’s little traffic – but the early turn lane access should be a general plus. At the light, I waited with lots of other traffic (Seahawks parade?) for a short few seconds. When the light turned green for all of us, even me, the only one in the left turn lane, I easily had a protected pocket to wait for oncoming traffic to pass before I completed my turn. I was then easily able to cross and access the path. This will be how I navigate this intersection from now on.

    * Note, if you use the left turn lane, don’t advance too far in front of the white stop line. The through traffic lane narrows and encroaches on any ‘pocket’ for left turners, so traffic in the through lane moves left a bit. You don’t want to get sideswiped, so stay back and wait and make a sharp left rather than a broad sweep.

  9. […] biking and walking trail under the newly-opened Atlantic Street Overpass is now open, fixing a confusing bike connection between E Marginal Way and the Alaskan Way Trail into […]

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