Mayor Durkan moves quickly to improve Rainier/Henderson intersection after someone seriously injured 2 kids

Just 12 days after someone driving struck and seriously injured two kids crossing the street at Rainier Ave and Henderson St, SDOT crews were out making significant temporary safety improvements to the wide intersection.

The sense of urgency follows a weekend talk and rally for safe streets organized by Seattle Neighborhood Greenways and Mayor Jenny Durkan’s office. At the talk, Mayor Durkan gave SDOT the green light to make road design and signal changes quickly.

“What happened was an incredible tragedy for the children, for the family, for the people they knew and loved,” Mayor Durkan said during the Saturday event, according to the Seattle Times. “We the city have to stand up, take notice, and make sure we’re doing all we can to make every community safer.”

It is very exciting to see Mayor Durkan respond to this tragedy with action. So often, people are killed or seriously injured on our streets, and we do nothing. Just in December, Kao Saeteurn was killed just a few blocks from this intersection by someone who drove away from the scene and left him on the street.

While these and future safety changes cannot go back in time to stop what has already happened, they can prevent similar collisions in the future. As Times reporter Mike Lindblom noticed during the talk, potentially dangerous situations occur all day long on this street because the road just isn’t designed with safety as its top priority:

During the mayor’s talk, an elderly man with a cane couldn’t make it across Henderson before his walk signal expired. A driver rolled past him two feet away. Others ran a left-turn signal, or sped through the crosswalks.

A third girl was injured there in May, said Rainier Beach High School science teacher Jennifer Goldman. “It was the day before Ramadan. She explained to the students what Ramadan meant to her, and an hour later she was at Harborview.”

The immediate changes that are already complete or in process will help, but Rainier Ave S needs so much more work before it is safe for everyone who uses it. You can still sign Seattle Neighborhood Greenways’ petition calling for both immediate changes at this intersection and to quickly finish the whole Rainier Ave safety project.

While it shouldn’t take a tragedy to get quick action from SDOT and the Mayor’s Office, hopefully this is just the start of a more urgent attitude toward traffic safety at City Hall. There is so much work to do, and SDOT staff has shown they can do a lot very quickly when the Mayor gives them the go-ahead and the political cover to make it happen.

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10 Responses to Mayor Durkan moves quickly to improve Rainier/Henderson intersection after someone seriously injured 2 kids

  1. SDOT please explain says:

    Can someone explain to me:

    Why, at many intersections in Seattle, there are often more traffic lights above a roadway than there are lanes in that roadway?

    For example: you’re on a three lane road. One lane each direction, plus a center turn lane. You approach an intersection. There is a left turn signal (presumably an arrow). And then there are often TWO traffic lights for just the thru lane.

    Why is that? It’s so complicated, especially when roads are often ambiguously painted, or without paint entirely. A wide roadway with limited paint and TWO thru traffic lights, make it seem like two cars are supposed to speed through there at the same time!!

    Seems like there should be one light per associated lane.

    • Law Abider says:

      I’m sure there’s a decades old study for FHWA, AASHTO and MUTCD that gives a somewhat valid reason.

    • Mike H says:

      The general rule for signal design is 2 indications for the main movement. This was based on when signal indications were incandescent and burned out more quickly than the LED’s used today. It’s still useful as LED’s burn out as well and may need to be replaced. On the roads with two or more through lanes, you can match the number of signal heads to the number of lanes.

  2. SDOT please explain says:

    While I’m at it.

    Can someone please explain to me:

    Why, when there is a painted crosswalk, is it often ONLY ON ONE SIDE OF AN INTERSECTION??

    For example, you’re walking down an arterial, and you come to a side street that just so happens to be (thankfully) a marked crosswalk. But it’s only marked on the far side of the intersection, which is not necessarily on your route. So you wait on the un-marked side, and car after car after car after car pass you because “you’re not in the crosswalk.” Now we all know that they are legally required to stop here, but they don’t, and never will.

    Why, oh-why, can’t we just paint crosswalks on both sides? Cost? How much more could it cost?

    It sure wouldn’t do any harm, and in fact 2 crosswalks make an intersection that much more of a visible crossing.

    • Southeasterner says:

      Because Drivers.

      Beacon Hill is the perfect example:

      https://seattletransitblog.com/2018/08/23/school-safety-beacon-hill/

      The SDOT status quo..

      1) identify safety problem
      2) solve safety problem
      3) drivers object to solution
      4) change solution to instead make the problem much much much worse
      5) note increase in pedestrian fatalities and talk a lot about the importance of Vision Zero without mentioning any specific plans to implement Vision Zero policies

  3. Skylar says:

    I see this is continuing in a proud SDOT tradition of only improving safety after tragedy strikes. I suppose we should all be thankful that no one had to die for this change to happen? I hope the kids can make a fast and full recovery.

  4. Kirk says:

    So classic Seattle. An area is known to be unsafe. Activists have been pointing it out for years and nothing gets done. Someone gets seriously injured and all of a sudden “the mayor and SDOT are acting quickly”. Bullshit. Just bullshit.
    Where is the most hazardous spot in the city to bicycle? Many people will concur it is the Merge of Death at the southwest end of the Ballard Bridge. The unsafe nature of this area is obvious and has been pointed out endlessly for years. And what has been done? Nothing, or course. It’s hard. So nothing gets done. Well, nobody has died or been seriously injured yet. But somebody will inevitably become a martyr there, and the mayor and SDOT will then “act quickly.” Bullshit.

  5. NickS says:

    Since this is the bike blog, I’ll point out one problem with SDOT’s re-striping. Because the former straight-or-right-turn lane on westbound Henderson at this intersection (next to the former Payless / new Sherwin Williams) is now a right-turn-only lane, bike markings should be updated. Henderson, from Seward Park Ave S to Rainier Ave S, lacks bike lanes and only has sporadic and faded sharrows.

    This street REALLY needs bike lanes, all of it, from the Rainier Beach station on MLK, past South Shore PK-8, past the community center, to Rainier Beach High School and to the popular Beer Sheva park (the Link2Beach project — https://www.facebook.com/link2beach — specifically aims to improve public access and amenities in the park, and great pedestrian and bike access should be a huge part of that).

    With two schools and the community center directly on this route, two other schools (Dunlap Elementary and South Shore High School) and Rainier Beach library a block away, there is NO excuse not to put bike lanes in all the way. If that means that Metro buses need to layover somewhere else (rather than across the street from the Rainier Beach HS athletic field), so be it.

    SDOT is planning bike lanes on Henderson west of Rainier Ave (at least between Rainier Ave and Renton Ave) as part of the now stalled RapidRide extension replacement for the #7, but it’s unacceptable to not continue the bike lanes all the way to the high school.

    • NickS says:

      Slight correction — “Henderson, from Seward Park Ave S to Rainier Ave S, lacks bike lanes and only has sporadic and faded sharrows.” What I meant to say is “lacks complete bike lanes”; while bike lanes are present between Seward Park Ave S. and the Mapes Walkway, they disappear at the Mapes Walkway, halfway between Seward Park Ave S. and Rainier Ave S. I suspect this is because Metro doesn’t want interference with their layover operations here.

      I would also like to see the bike lanes on the east section of Henderson converted to a protected lane on the north side of the street (swapping places with the parked cars); ideally this would eliminate or run through curb bulb at the crosswalk — https://www.google.com/maps/@47.5233163,-122.2674997,84m/data=!3m1!1e3.

  6. Doug Bostrom says:

    Just a slight alteration of a request in a related thread downstream:

    How about exhibiting the Mayor actual political courage by asserting her notional authority over the police and beginning to enforce traffic regulations, as opposed to rushing out with a bucket of paint and a bevy of flacks to the location of a single bad act?

    Driving at the speed limit in this town unleashes a torrent of hostility from drivers trying to fix their broken mode of living by mashing on the gas pedal. It’s lonely being a member of the maybe 3:10 who try to respect the safety of others.

    How about some help?

    We live on the infamous 35th Ave NE (the latest battleground between overgrown infants behind the wheel versus health and safety), at the bottom of the hill by Meadowbrook Community Center. The speed limit is 30, but it’s impossible to tell that from observation– it might as well be 40 mph. This situation is endemic. Where the f–k is law enforcement, to regulate the most dangerous activity most of us participate in behind the wheel or in front of it?

    There’s a complete vacuum of authority here, and I’ll hazard a guess it’s down to simple cowardice on the part of our so-called leaders. It’s certainly not about rational application of police resources; far more bodily injury, expense and ineradicable harm is caused by inner-children driving cars than any single other cause in this town.

    “Speed limit.” If you’re too stupid or unimaginative to read those two words and understand why they’re necessary, you’re simply unfit to drive. The rest of the requirements to operate a vehicle as safely as possible are not genius-level material either.

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