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Work on Hwy 99 tunnel ramps will close Dexter bike lanes + Is this a chance to extend the redesign?

Map of construction zone (does not show exact closure info, just where to expect delays or bike lane closures)

The state is set to start utility relocation work to prepare the area between South Lake Union and Lower Queen Anne for the Highway 99 tunnel’s new on and off ramps. That means crews need to dig up parts of Dexter Ave between Mercer and Thomas Streets starting next week.

“A bicycle lane will be maintained in both directions on Dexter Avenue North during peak commute hours,” according to an email from WSDOT’s Alaskan Way Viaduct Project spokesperson Laura Newborn. “Bicyclists may have to merge with traffic during off-peak hours.”

But this work is just a taste of what’s to come. While these are short closures to do preliminary work, “there will be some longer-term lane-narrowing on Dexter Ave N. north of Mercer St. later this spring, lasting into summer,” Newborn said in an email.

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Dexter is an absolutely vital part of the city’s bike network. It sounds like WSDOT will try to keep bike lanes open in each direction when they can, and I hope they take that goal seriously.

I also hope there are plans in the works to take advantage of the WSDOT work as an opportunity to redesign the south segment of Dexter. As we reported in 2011, the city widened the bike lane buffer space following the tragic death of Mike Wang at Thomas St. But that was not enough to prevent more collisions, and there was a clear call for more significant changes, like protected bike lanes and a center turn lane.

The city said in August that it will evaluate the street for more changes in 2014, but there was no indication of when work on any changes might begin.

In 2011, the city added a small painted buffer to the bike lanes, but that wasn't enough to prevent more collisions
In 2011, the city added a small painted buffer to the bike lanes, but that wasn’t enough to prevent more collisions

Auto traffic on this stretch of Dexter is relatively low, and bike volumes are high. The highway-style design it currently has (with four general traffic lanes) is out of proportion with the actual use the street gets. It makes it very uncomfortable to cross the street on foot and to make left turns on and off the street if you’re driving or biking. The wide lanes and stressful design leads to people making mistakes that have killed and injured others.

These problems are set to become even more significant when the street grid is partially reconnected between South Lake Union and Lower Queen Anne. Dexter needs a full redesign that puts people and safety first.

I have a question out to SDOT about plans for this stretch of Dexter and will update you all if I learn more.

Details about the upcoming work:

Utility relocation on Dexter Avenue North, Harrison and Republican streets: April 14-18

Construction has begun on new ramps that will connect the existing lanes of SR 99 to the north entrance of the SR 99 tunnel. To make room for construction, crews will be relocating utilities on Dexter Avenue North and on Harrison and Republican streets. Preliminary work includes drilling holes to confirm the location of existing utilities.

Construction schedule and closures:
·         Monday, April 14 through Thursday, April 17, 7 a.m. – 4 p.m.
o    Intermittent lane closures on Dexter Avenue North between Thomas and Mercer streets.
·         Monday, April 14 through Tuesday, April 15, 7 a.m. – 4 p.m.
o    Intermittent closures of Harrison Street between SR 99/Aurora Avenue North and Eighth Avenue North.
·         Wednesday, April 16 through Friday, April 18, 7 a.m. – 4 p.m.
o    Intermittent closures of Republican Street between SR 99/Aurora Avenue North and Eighth Avenue North.

Construction impacts:
·         Drivers: At least one lane in each direction will be maintained on Dexter Avenue North between Thomas and Mercer streets. There will be intermittent closures of Harrison and Republican streets. Local access will be maintained to businesses, parking lots and alleys.
·         Bicyclists: Depending on the work activity, signs will direct bicyclists to merge with traffic.
·         Parking: Street parking will be closed in the work zone on Dexter Avenue North, Harrison and Republican streets.
·         Transit: King County Metro bus stops on Dexter Avenue North near Harrison Street will be relocated to the south, near Thomas Street.
·         Pedestrians: There may be intermittent sidewalk closures. Pedestrian access will be maintained to businesses.

Questions or concerns?

Visit: www.AlaskanWayViaduct.org   Email: [email protected]   Call: 1-888-AWV-LINE (298-5463)

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5 responses to “Work on Hwy 99 tunnel ramps will close Dexter bike lanes + Is this a chance to extend the redesign?”

  1. merlin

    I wish those signs would read, “Drivers yield to merging bicycles.” How am I supposed to merge with vehicles going way faster than I can pedal? If I were driving my car and merging with traffic, I’d wait until I could find a break in traffic to let me get up to speed – but that doesn’t work for an old lady on a bike. People driving cars don’t want to slow down to my speed, so they either squeeze by (if I’m not right in the middle of the lane) or pass dangerously.

  2. Becka

    Dexter is a road where I’d like to see parked cars used as a buffer. We have the room to make the separation between cars/bikes enough so bikers can’t get “doored” if a passenger opens their door without looking. It also gives some pedestrian benefits if a bulb-out is installed at crosswalks when the parking lane would be


    As long as the road designers don’t use the dreaded “mixing zone” style at intersections, I think buffered lanes provide the maximum safety.

    1. Josh

      Education would be vital with that “bend-in” style of sidepath because of the increased right-hook and left-cross danger at the intersection.

      If Washington law doesn’t change, many cyclists won’t recognize that they’re using an off-street facility, and will ride into the crossbike without yielding to motorists already in the street.

      If the law is changed to recognize cycletracks as part of the street rather than off-street sidepaths, we don’t currently have any system of continuing education for drivers who are already licensed, so many motorists will continue to treat this as a crosswalk situation rather than a lane of traffic.

      With or without legislative changes, this sort of infrastructure will require significant safety education.

      1. Becka

        I think collisions would be less likely with that style of intersection. The turn radius for cars is much tighter – meaning slower speeds – and where the car/bike intersect, the car should already be prepared to yield to pedestrians in the crosswalk. What I think causes side-swipe accidents is when the right-turn lanes crosses over the bike lanes. Those are always terrifying to me.

        I think this is the style used in Holland, but they couple it with bike-specific stop lights.

  3. Jeff Dubrule

    Yay! More ramps to nowhere!

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