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City advances plans for N 34th St redesign in Fremont + Take the survey

SDOT is moving forward with a plan to redesign N 34th Street between Stone Way and the Fremont Bridge, a major connection in the regional bike network linking the Burke-Gilman Trail to the Fremont Bridge.

Though the most popular option for the street during initial outreach was a two-way bike lane on the south side of 34th, the project team has decided after further study to prefer paint-and-post bike lanes on each side of the street.

You can learn more and share your thoughts via this online survey.

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Today, the street has paint-only bike lanes, and the westbound lane is constantly blocked either by people double parking or by people queued up to turn right onto Fremont Ave. So a redesign that can remove these conflicts and keep the bike lanes clear would be a huge improvement.

Here are the concepts considered and how the team rated each idea:

The project is bookended by challenging and unusual intersections, and the online survey does not attempt to dive into solution for them.

Stone Way

The intersection at Stone Way is complicated for people on bikes because there are popular bike routes in essentially all directions. Stone is a popular bike route up the hill, 34th westbound heads to the Fremont Bridge, 34th eastbound heads into Wallingford, and the Burke-Gilman Trail awkwardly crosses through the south crosswalk. People biking from all directions want to go in all other directions.

Today, many of the movements are pretty strange and unintuitive. For example, what is the best way to get from westbound on the trail to westbound on 34th? There are at least four popular ways to make this connection that I can think of, and none of them are great. And how are people biking eastbound supposed to go left on Stone Way to head uphill? Having an easy and intuitive way to make these crossings will be vital for this project to work.

Fremont Ave

Fitting for a neighborhood with a famously strange street arrangement, 34th and Fremont Ave is one of the more unusual intersections in the whole city. Everyone comes together here, with busy bus stops, major bike routes, freight trucks and, of course, a bunch of cars. To complicate matters more, the Fremont Bridge opens for boats constantly, causing strange traffic patterns. There are even statues here waiting for a streetcar that no longer exists.

To make things even more complicated for people on bikes, there is no clear best way to get from N 34th Street to the Westlake bikeway. Some people take the east sidewalk across the bridge and follow the sidewalk all the way to the bikeway. Others take the west sidewalk and then try to cross at the Nickerson/Dexter signal. And others take the west sidewalk, then loop around the funeral home to the Ship Canal Trail, then cross back under the bridge to get to Westlake. None of these options is clearly the best, and they all share one thing in common: Squeezing across the bridge in a skinny sidewalk clearly not built to carry so many people biking and walking at the same time.

How the design team deals with this intersection is easily the most important detail in the whole project.

At some point, the city is going to need to dramatically redesign this intersection, Fremont Ave and possibly the bridge as well. But even making this N 34th Street project function will require some significant changes.

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23 responses to “City advances plans for N 34th St redesign in Fremont + Take the survey”

  1. Dylan

    The Stone Way/34th intersection is awful. They should add a pedestrian only signal or something. Also, the sidewalk/path on the southeast side is way too narrow for all the people waiting to cross. And the pedestrian light cycle is very short (shorter than the one for cars), which is ridiculous for one of the busiest cycle tracks in the city.

    1. Law Abider

      I would imagine and hope that SDOT would do something similar to 9th and Westlake, at the south end of the Westlake Cycletrack.

      There, it’s an all-way signal for bikes and peds, but one bike lane, eastbound 34th, will be able to cross with the EB car signal as well, similar to northbound 9th. It’s not perfect, but it works.

      Still, a 2 way track on the south side of 34th would eliminate most of these problems.

    2. The connection from eastbound 34th at Stone to the BGT is awful too. Many people jump the curb and cut across the parking strip to get to the BGT.

    3. Skylar

      N 34th St definitely could use an all-way walk/bike but those only work if SDOT and SPD are serious about doing their jobs and enforcing no-turn-on-red (or maybe just put in a red light camera and start printing money?). My experience with the one at N 40th and 15th has been that drivers flaunt the law with impunity, despite being just one block from UWPD headquarters.

      1. ChamoisDavisJr.

        Until the City posts a “no turn on red” sign on EB N 34th it is perfectly legal to do so after coming to a complete stop. When driving I turn there on red, mainly because it’s safer for everybody than trying to turn right on a green with that EB BGT traffic hidden by the cafe.
        I’m all for an all Way ped/bike crossing there however.

  2. Mike

    Based on their survey, it looks like the decision has already been made, so why on earth is this taking so much time to implement? Two years of planning, one year of design, and one year of construction for four blocks of bike lane is both excessive and resource-consuming.

    1. Skylar

      Not only that, but the questions are loaded: “Do you think this design adequately preserves existing on-street parking and load zones on N 34th St? Yes/No/Don’t Know” Where’s “Totally irrelevant, don’t care”?

  3. Good job on hitting on the challenges regarding Stone Way intersection and the Fremont Bridge connections. I’ve wondered about turning a cycle at Stone Way & 34th into an all-walk.
    The other danger spot will be the westbound protected lane in the vicinity of Woodland Park Ave / Albion Pl. Vehicles intending to go north on Stone Way will turn left there to skip up to 35th St if the 34th & Stone light is unfavorable. A westbound cyclist obscured by parked cars is a recipe for disaster, much like the left crosses on Dexter between Denny and Mercer. Maybe the solution there is to eliminate those intersections off of 34th?

  4. Is there some reason the article only focused on the Westlake trail and not Dexter in detailing the issues at 34th and Fremont? If you’re biking to the CBD, you take Dexter not Westlake for a lot of reasons.

    I also don’t see how Alternative 2 does anything for the problem at 34th and Fremont if the bike lane is on the far right side but you have to turn left over the bridge.

    1. Tom Fucoloro

      Because ppl headed to Dexter have a straightforward route. It needs a bike lane between the bridge and Nickerson, but it’s not confusing. Getting to Westlake is much more confusing.

      1. Gary Yngve

        Both Westlake and Dexter users sharing the west sidewalk share the same magic paint right hook at Florentia. They really should eliminate that right-hand turn entirely (could also simplify the phases of the Nickerson/Florentia/3rdAve N light).

  5. Andrew Squirrel

    I am just shocked that the city is continuing to focus on this area even though there are literally hundreds of other spots around the city that could use the funding and design resources. It’s fine as it is now, let’s move on and focus energy elsewhere.

    1. Dave

      I agree there are other problem spots in the city for biking, but the terrible connection between westbound BGT and the Fremont Bridge is right near the top and it’s very heavily used. I’ve seen more creative/stupid methods for making that connection than anywhere else. It’s definitely a higher priority than the bike lane installed west of Fremont Ave on 34th St, which was almost completely unnecessary but relatively easy, cheap, and non-controversial.

    2. Q

      Except all the other spots in the city aren’t the complete over the top white person vortex that is this intersection, so this must be dealt with forthwith.

    3. NickS

      I’m the furthest thing from impartial, since I live in SE Seattle, but there are almost no bike facilities down here. It’s frustrating to see the city tinkering with infrastructure in Fremont when they already have it so good by comparison to this part of the city.

      When do we get our equivalent to the Burke Gilman or the Westlake bike track or the protected lanes on Ravenna and Roosevelt or literally any safe and relatively direct series of protected bike lanes connecting SE Seattle to the CBD?

      The closest thing we have to a downtown route is the Rainier NS Greenway; a terrific but indirect, meandering, neighborhood focused riding-in-the-street route that veers off towards Mt. Baker and fizzles out at Sam Smith Park. Sure, you can ride through a couple of parks and take the I-90 Trail to North Beacon Hill and the Jose P. Rizal bridge, ride on the extremely narrow sidewalk or bike-lane-free traffic lane, then take your chances in general traffic lanes with the streetcar tracks on Jackson or navigate the 4-way stop laden ID and maybe eventually connect up with the 2nd Ave protected bike lane if you’re not already on your way to the emergency room or the morgue.

      Pointing more in the right direction is the Chief Sealth trail, but it climbs steeply up the side of Beacon Hill and sputters out of steam (and trail) around Dawson.

      And that’s it for north south bike facilities. Period.

      The city talks a big game about Race and Social Justice Initiatives and equity, but continues to invest bike infrastructure $$$ in wealthy, predominately white neighborhoods north of downtown. The few projects under development (Othello-Myrtle-Swift and S. Alaska-Columbian), it’s difficult to see where the city is going with them — both involve heroic hill climbs east west and connect to the unprotected lane on 15th.

      So, excuse me for not giving much of a rat’s ass about a few blocks in Fremont that run parallel to the best bike facility in the region.

      1. gm

        It’s also frustrating that the quality of outreach & design alternatives for these projects varies so much depending on where the street is located. Rainier Ave, a major street that connects multiple neighborhoods, received just 2 alternate designs while this short segment seems to have received 3 designs. On top of that, all of the Fremont designs at least seem to take into consideration the impact to biking, driving, parking and freight. Wish I could the same thing happened during the Rainier Ave “outreach”.

      2. Jesse

        Agreed, the nearly complete lack of protected and direct bike facilities in SE Seattle is shameful. The way that the city has used the Rainier N-S Greenway as an “alternative” to actual protected bike lanes on Rainier is ridiculous. Here’s a comparison for the bike route from Columbia City to Dearborn & Rainier via the greenway route: https://tinyurl.com/yxezbj4v vs the Rainier route: https://tinyurl.com/y5p72mgk.
        The greenway takes 32 minutes and includes 338 ft of elevation gain. The Rainier route takes 17 minutes (competitive with driving) and has only 46 ft of elevation gain.

  6. Dave

    I ride on this stretch every day and sure would like to see it improved. However the timing is crazy – new sidewalks, curb bulbs and parking were just put in this past year as a consequence of major apartment construction on the north side of the street. A second round of construction is currently underway. Then it’s going to be re-designed! What a waste of resources. It’s the stupidity of delaying every bike network plan in the city for two years, including this one.

    1. asdf2

      I don’t think the proposal requires re-doing the sidewalks and curb cuts. It looks to me like mostly restriping the paint, plus maybe a few bollards. This is not a waste of resources.

      1. On the north westbound side of 34th there are new curb bulbs at at least one intersection that would have to be removed.

      2. Dave

        If they move the bike lane as in Alternative 2 they will definitely have to re-do the curb cuts. I assume that the current new sidewalks were paid for by the construction completed a few months ago – that’s where the city could have saved money if they had just implemented the plan 2 years ago.

  7. Evan D

    I wish SDOT was more clear about what the design challenges are that ruled out the 2-way lane. I imagine the slip lane going from the bridge to N 34th westbound is an issue, but that is not an insurmountable challenge.

    We have a 2-way bike facility continuing from the east end of the project area, in the form of the Burke; a 2 way bike facility continuing west on 34th from the project area; and a de-facto 2-way bike facility going south from the western end of the project area, in the form of the bridge sidewalk, which links to the 2-way Westlake bike track. SDOT is missing a great opportunity to form some really long 2-way protected routes using the facilities we already have. For someone going westbound from the Burke to Westlake, it seems really silly to cross over to the north side of the street for a couple of blocks just to cross back over at the bridge.

    1. asdf2

      If you’re going straight through to the west, probably better to not use the 34th St. bike lane all; instead, just stay on the Burke-Gilman. Rather, the 34th St. bike lane is about local business access, and people trying to turn, either onto the bridge to go south, or up Fremont Ave. to the north. For that purpose, it’s debatable which side is actually better. West of Fremont Ave., 34th is a very narrow street that’s very easy to cross, so it really doesn’t make much difference whether you’re on the north side or south side of the street as you approach it.

      The main goal, though, a protected bike lane to connect the Fremont center to the Burke-Gilman trail to the east, is very important, and should have happened a long time ago.

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