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$3.6M paving project must make 25th Ave NE safer, improve access to U Village

Injury collisions on 25th Ave NE (2013-2015). Explore the map by Andres Salomon based on SDOT data.
Injury collisions on 25th Ave NE (2013-2015). 56 people were hospitalized due to collisions on this stretch in those three years. Explore the map by Andres Salomon based on SDOT data.

25th Ave NE is a wide, unfriendly street separating the U Village shopping center from bus stops and its neighbors in the Ravenna/U District area.

Nearby residents have among the lowest car ownership rates in the whole city, yet 25th Ave NE has an outdated, cars-first design that makes it difficult and even dangerous for people to access the many destinations along and across the street.

With a $3.6 million budget, Seattle is working to finalize design work for a major repaving project later this year on 25th Ave NE from NE 65th Street to Montlake Blvd. But the plans do not currently include safety changes to the street, a remarkable omission that flies in the face of the city’s Vision Zero goals.

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Andres Salomon made a strong case for safety improvements on 25th Ave NE in a December post for The Urbanist (emphasis mine):

According to the City’s website, the repaving project of 25th Ave NE will cost $3.6 million dollars and span 1.1 miles of road. The only safety improvement being made is the addition of a pedestrian crossing at NE 49th St (in front of a University Village entrance). This stretch of roadway is four to five lanes wide, and sees numerous speed-related collisions and injuries each year.

In just the past three years alone, there were 140 reported collisions on the part of 25th Ave NE that’s being repaved. Those crashes sent 56 people to the hospital. Seven of those people who were injured were walking, and another seven were biking. The remaining 42 injured people were in cars. The most serious of those injuries involved crashes with only a single vehicle; in other words, people were driving way too fast and crashed. Click here to view a map with collision data.

Looking at the traffic volumes for the section of 25th Ave NE being repaved, it’s clear that safety improvements could easily be made through a standard road diet. Road diets generally work with traffic volumes of less than 25,000 vehicles per day, and 25th Ave NE has less than 12,000 vehicles per day north of NE 49th St. For comparison, NE 75th St has around 22,000 vehicles per day and was successfully transitioned to three lanes with collisions and speeding drastically reduced, while average speed actually increased. As a result, the roadway became more efficient for drivers, while also becoming safer for everyone.

The good news is that space is not exactly a premium on this street. It is wide and has too many lanes for the relatively low traffic volume it carries. Planners have many options for making safety improvements.

As was well-documented during the awful Burke-Gilman Trail detour Thanksgiving weekend, biking on 25th Ave NE is a very stressful experience. And though most people making through trips will surely stick to the nearby Burke-Gilman Trail, a safer 25th Ave NE would make it much easier for people to get from the trail to businesses in U Village and on 25th Ave NE.

A safe streets redesign would also create much safer crosswalks, helping the growing number of people on foot, bike or bus get around the area. Safe crossing are often far away from each other, forcing people to choose between taking a long detour or making a run for it across the five-lane roadway.

The project does include a new signalized crossing at NE 49th Street, but collision history shows a history of problems all along the street, Salomon found. The problem is core to the road’s outdated design, which is designed like a highway to prioritize speeding at the expense of safety and walk/bike/transit access.

The majority of collisions are between two people driving, so the biggest beneficiaries of safety improvements would be people in cars. Of the 56 people hospitalized in collision along this stretch of 25th Ave NE in just the past three years, 42 were in cars. That’s an astounding figure that makes it all the more frustrating that safety improvements were not a central part of the work plan from the start.

Seattle is never going to reach Vision Zero if the city spends millions to repave streets and put them back in the same way that is causing collisions today. Paving investments are the city’s easiest opportunities to make safety upgrades, since redesigning a street is essentially free if you’re already tearing it up anyway.

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17 responses to “$3.6M paving project must make 25th Ave NE safer, improve access to U Village”

  1. Tim F

    When I lived on 25th an excuse I heard was it needed to be wide to help clear traffic after Husky games (so glorified parking lot). That should be much less of an issue with the Link station right at the stadium and all of the new stations coming online within the useful lifetime of this repaving job. Also the actual giant parking lots at the stadium are being redeveloped. It’s short-sighted to have all these new light rail stations going in right in the area and not having a safe walk or bike ride to get to them or to the many restaurants, shops, schools, playgrounds, etc. that tend to be on the arterial streets.

    1. Davepar

      I certainly hope the Husky games aren’t a factor in street planning. There are only half a dozen home games per year. I know it’s a $100B business for the UW, but the rest of us would like to get around without getting injured or killed on the other 358 days per year.

    2. The more regular problem is Montlake Bridge openings.

      Bridge-opening queues, like ferry queues, are a legitimately tough problem — any extra lanes added for queuing are going to be underutilized most of the time, but lane capacity that works well during normal conditions will cause really long backups during bridge openings, affecting lots of trips that aren’t going over the bridge (here, the 372 bus is an example).

  2. Stuart Strand

    Lots of UW scientists and scholars want to commute by bike to the UW and live in the neighborhoods around 25th. The present condition of 25th is pretty intimidating to cyclists, even experienced riders, IMO. Give them a good riding surface and separated lanes along 25th and there would be lots of bikers during the commute.

    1. Kyle

      I would think there are a fair number of UW janitors and food handlers who would use it too – they count, don’t they?

      1. Stuart Strand

        sure, lots of UW employees….

  3. William

    What is Council Member Rob Johnson doing about this? I know he is focused on Ne 65th Street but fixing the junction between NE 65th St and 25 Ave NE requires adjustments (road diets) on both streets.

    1. Yeah, who are the responsible agencies and individuals we should write to or call to tell them we want this?

    2. Stephan

      What do you mean focused on 65? Since being voted into office he needs to be actively drug into any issue involving road safety. He didn’t show up at the 65th walk until force by outcry. It is very hard to get an answer from his office on anything related to traffic. Email get vague fuzzy responses, call don’t get returned.
      He got the job though…

  4. asdf2

    As an alternative form of access to the U-Village, without riding on 25th, I would like to suggest riding the Burke-Gilman trail east to 30th, and entering the U-Village from the back side. It looks out of the way, the the Burke-Gilman trail is diagonal, so it’s actually not nearly as out of the way as it looks, especially if one is headed to the QFC at the southeast corner.

    Glad to see that there’s going to be a new signal installed at 49th. Hopefully, the wait time to cross there won’t be too unreasonable. FWIW, I have noticed the wait times to cross 25th at the Burke-Gilman trail to be significantly less after the lights were retimed a couple years ago, so hopefully that will set a precedent.

    Also, at 47th, let’s get some crosswalks in on both sides of the street. We shouldn’t have any signalized intersections in Seattle where you can only cross the street on one side.

    1. Tim F

      I actually had some luck this summer trying 32/31/30th all the way from 105th to the BGT. I think it should be considered for greenway treatments. Currently in comparison to the 39th Ave greenway 30th feels quite busy, however. It needs more calming and the immediate connection to the BGT would need to be redone. Given that there’s a ridge running North-South in that area, the significant rise between 25th and 30th (and between 30th and 39th) makes them poor substitutes for each other for many trips).

      That said, if 25th is being redone anyway, it should absolutely have improvements for people biking. I tried riding down 24th then crossing over to 26th to get to the BGT when I lived at 25th and 80th (25th was/is not safe). I stopped bike commuting regularly after a driver at 24th and 65th stopped and told me he couldn’t see me on a dark rainy winter evening (parked cars, pizza delivery traffic, my lights were less than “sun-like”).

      1. Conrad

        I love that one. I have received it too, even though I have stellar lights. Because you are having vision problems, I should stay off the road so you can bumble around in a 4000 lb SUV? Perfect logic, there.

  5. Law Abider

    Zero Vision.

    Also, I’m guessing the time it takes for the new ped signal to allow crossing will be measured in minutes.

  6. Jack Nolan

    That’s too bad.

    I ride down 25th NE every morning, Monday thru Friday. That particular section of road is bad, but not nearly as bad as the section north of 75th. That section is terrible! Not sure just paving it would be much help, which is probably why they aren’t messing with it.

    The section in the map does get a lot of traffic, contrary to the article saying it doesn’t. Most of the houses along that stretch don’t have drive ways or garages so the residents park on the street. One can witness the tow truck drivers hanging out like Vultures around 6:50AM- the cars are to be moved by 7:00AM.

    If you want your local Representatives to know about this, you should contact them. I’m not a citizen of Seattle proper. Just an interloper on a bike.

    1. JN

      P.S. The BGT detour lasted for what? 4 days? Come on, get over it.

  7. Ben P

    It’s also a very unpleasant place to walk because of the high speed. I think it obvious it shouldn’t stay the way it is, but I wonder what sort of diet would work best for it. We have a lot of example streets in Seattle no. We could make it like Dexter with no center turn lane, some parking, and bus islands. We could make it like Broadway, with the mini bike road (I’ve yet to hear a name for these that I like) on the side after the parking. Or it could be made like 75th, with a center turn lane, but no parking and buses need to pull into the bike lane to stop. I think a personally think a Dexter like treatment would be the best.

  8. Ben P

    I emailed the project communications lead asking for Dexter like treatment in the resurfaced part and 75th st ne like restriping from 65th ave ne to 75th ave ne. I live nearby, so I really feel how crazy it is that they weren’t planning to diet. Thanks for the heads up, Tom.

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