EDITOR’S NOTE: I am still coming down from the most amazing wedding anyone could ever ask for this weekend. Forrest Baum, knowing I wouldn’t have much time to write, got in touch saying he went to this interesting meeting about 145th Street and asked if I wanted a write-up about it. Turns out, this could be one of the cooler complete streets projects in the area. But Shoreline and Seattle residents both need to get involved to make it happen right. So thanks for the report, Forrest!
I’ve recently moved to the NW corner of Seattle, just a few blocks from the city limits. I have a brand new baby, and to prepare, my sweetie Aimee and I were able to buy a house up here! (I was as surprised as you, believe me.) After biking as long as possible, even while pregnant, we’d resigned to commuting, mostly carpooling, and attempting to avoid the freeway as much as possible.
On occasion, however, we drive. In traffic. And It Sucks.
So when I heard that Shoreline was having a 145th Street Corridor Open House, I headed on down to talk about plans to make things better.
145th is the direct route connecting to I-5, and it’s a quick drive.
(Unless, of course, you’re trying to get anywhere during rush hour…)
At other hours, it’s almost too quick… 145th is half owned by the city of Seattle, half by the state (it’s really confusing, see below), and so it’s also known as State Route 523.
Yes, people that live on 145th, live on a highway. And it feels that way. As on most roads, cars drive about 10 over the posted 35mph limit. It also seems that much of the traffic is single occupancy vehicles (SOVs). 145th is a street ripe for improvement.
It’s amazing that Shoreline is heading up this project, as their city limit actually starts past the north edge of the street, but it’s an important corridor to people living north and south. As Shoreline Sr. Transportation Planner Kurt Seemann notes, 145th is the only through E-W corridor until 205th (the other border of Shoreline), so it’s very important for access.
I spoke to people who lived and worked on 145th, one only 10 blocks away from work. He drove because he refused to walk. It just felt too dangerous. Many take the bus, and they need to cross the 4+ lane street. Another I spoke to was nearly hit in a crosswalk.
Intersections, the places where it should be safe to cross, turn out to be some of the most dangerous places. There are plenty of vehicle collisions, but people walking and bicycling are most vulnerable.
A new Light Rail station will be opening at 145th and I-5. It’s definitely time to get ready for the surge in people using the corridor.
The City of Shoreline Traffic Engineer Kendra Dedinsky says they intend to “improve all modes” of access (walk/bike/transit/SOV) across the 145th corridor. Hallelujah!
Let’s break it down, currently.
The current sidewalk blows. It’s nowhere near the current legal standards, being only three feet wide in places, and that meager space is often bisected by poles. Disability access is a good barometer, and in that regards 145th fails miserably: wheelchairs often can’t even make it through the narrow walkway, and there are no curb ramps, either. All of this takes place right next to four lanes of speeding traffic.
Biking? Would you ride on the side of a four-lane highway? Biking is miserable, just delve into the collision info… and the sidewalk, usually a safe fallback position, makes a terrible refuge. See above.
There are hardly any transit routes using 145th, because of the peak-hour congestion, and lack of adequate sidewalks. I took one of the express buses to get downtown, but it has few stops and only runs during rush hour. With a bus-only HOV lane entrance, you’d expect more transit here.
Driving is pretty rough. 145th is old and pothole-ridden. Definitely in need of repair. A lot of 145th traffic seems to be funneling cars on and off the freeway. People in cars are in a hurry, either to get to the freeway, or to make up for being stuck on the freeway… but there are simply too many of them, and nothing but bottlenecks. Two lanes become one all over the place. Despite the HOV lane, there is no access for 2+ people in cars, and therefore no incentive to carpool.
So… 145th is a mess.
It’d be great to cut down on single-occupancy vehicle traffic, and improve, well, everything else.
Shoreline has done some amazing ground work on this. Peruse their extensive study process materials for more. Their Traffic Engineer gets it. In her presentation she described equity, actually calling out planning for everyone, even those without the means to own a car. Color me impressed. After hearing one suggestion, she explained that we couldn’t only have sidewalks (ahem, sidewalk) on just one side of the street. 145th Street has a 60′ right of way, c’mon!
Their team did a great job, coming up with streetmix mockups of possible street treatments. They’re definitely upgrading sidewalks to be ADA compliant, but many of their other more hopeful suggestions could hit some pushback.
So how do we make them happen?
We need to leave comments (you have until Sun, Oct. 11) about how important a safe corridor is for all modes, but especially walking and biking. We need to stress safe crossings, especially of I-5, the busiest and potentially most dangerous section. We need to show up to the upcoming meetings.
I can’t wait to ride to the Light Rail. Let’s do this.
All diagrams courtesy of the City of Shoreline 145th Street Multimodal Corridor Study.