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RapidRide J plans still include paint-only section south of University Bridge

The RapidRide J line project, currently scheduled to open in 2026, will upgrade the bus corridor between downtown and U District Link light rail station, and include protected bike lanes along Eastlake Avenue, one of the few bike projects that former Mayor Jenny Durkan specifically went to bat for. However, for a segment of Eastlake Ave E between Harvard Ave E and the University Bridge, the designs for the project haven’t included any physical barrier separating the bike lane and the other vehicle lanes, in contrast with the rest of Eastlake.

A five lane road has paint bike lanes on the curb with some green paint
The plans for Eastlake Ave south of the University Bridge still include retaining the paint-only bike lane along the curb with no protection. (Photo: SDOT)

The intersection around Eastlake Ave and Fuhrman Ave has always been one of the most dangerous intersections in the city for people on bikes, with the harrowing merge for southbound cyclists to turn onto Harvard Ave close behind. In October, the Bicycle Advisory Board was told by the project team that traffic volumes were just too high between Harvard and the bridge to eliminate any of the five traffic lanes. The board pushed for creative solutions, such as elevating the bike lane to sidewalk level or a narrower barrier.

Cascade Bicycle Club and Seattle Neighborhood Greenways organized a push to submit comments pushing the project team to fix this segment. “Dropping the protected bike lane in this area is especially concerning due to the volume of vehicle traffic that travels at high speeds in connection with the I-5 highway on-ramp,” Cascade’s sample letter wrote.

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This week, the project team for the RapidRide J project sent out an email update notifying people who had submitted comments that the design would largely be staying the same, with some additional green paint added.

The full email:

Thank you for taking the time to provide your comment regarding the multi-modal improvements and the connections served by the protected bicycle lanes along Eastlake Ave E. The street width on Eastlake Ave E between Harvard Ave E and the University Bridge is limited and needs to accommodate all travel modes – including people biking, walking, driving, and taking transit. Because of the narrow width of the roadway in this section, and in order to accommodate all modes, the concept design plans do not include the 3-foot buffer that is included along the majority of the new protected bike lanes along Eastlake Ave E.

However, the current design for this section does include bike facility updates, such as green markings on the roadway, that bring attention to the potential conflict points between motorized vehicles and bicycles. Additionally, with the proposed redesign of the street, we would expect fewer motorized vehicles traveling adjacent to the bike lanes, making the bike lanes feel more comfortable.

As we work towards final design, we will continue to evaluate options to provide separation between the bike lane and the motorized vehicle travel lanes along this section of roadway while considering all roadway users. We will reach out to the community for an opportunity to participate in these conversations.

Calling Eastlake Ave narrow here, when it’s 59 feet wide, is a wild statement to make. A tremendous amount of effort is being expended to make space for people biking along the majority of the Eastlake corridor, and the city is ultimately just undermining their own work in a way that will likely frustrate everyone. A better solution must be found.

The RapidRide J and the accompanying bike facilities aren’t scheduled to open for use until 2026, which should be enough time to find a fix. But unless the environmental review process gets reopened for the project again, this key design flaw may be baked into the project.

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11 responses to “RapidRide J plans still include paint-only section south of University Bridge”

  1. FunFella13

    Thank you Seattle Transit Blog

    1. RossB

      For what? I don’t understand your comment.

  2. RossB

    Does anyone have updated street level plans for this this area? The only set of docs I can find are from 2015. This is one is for that section:
    http://www.seattle.gov/Documents/Departments/SDOT/TransitProgram/RapidRide/Roosevelt/RHCT2_EASTLAKE.pdf. This doesn’t match the picture shown above — I assume it is out of date.

  3. NickS

    I couldn’t agree more, Ryan. This isn’t a neighborhood only route where people could shrug and just not use that section. This is a really important north – south corridor linking the U District (and greater NE Seattle) with South Lake Union and downtown. And they’re severely compromising the safety of cyclists and limiting the potential usage of the route by refusing to acknowledge that a route is only as safe and welcoming as its weakest link. You’re automatically excluding less confident (or less foolhardy) riders and ensuring that many will ride the route once, get the crap scared out of them or get injured, and give up the idea of commuting or riding recreationally along that route.

  4. RossB

    I can’t find an updated map of this project, but I can only assume it is similar to what was planned previously. It will be three general purpose lanes south of Allison. Right now it is five lanes (with occasional parking in the right lane). It is two lanes each direction over the bridge. Thus the plan is for the street to narrow to one lane southbound, and widen to two lanes northbound. The simplest thing to do is to have one lane northbound until Fuhrman. That would add enough room to add barriers.

      1. RossB

        Yes, that is exactly what I was looking for. Thanks.

        It looks like what I would have in mind would be simple to implement. North of Harvard, the northbound bus lane would merge with the general purpose lane. It would be one lane until the bridge, where it would widen to two. As long as they give the bus a head start when the light turns green that would be fine.

        Meanwhile, that would give enough room for barriers, as the remaining lanes would shift half a lane to the south.

  5. NoSpin

    Enough already. Someone is always unhappy with some detail of every project. Remember, if the environmental review process gets reopened for *this* then it get reopened for all the NIMBY Eastlake businesses who don’t want any bike or transit improvements at all (because parking)

    Stop making your version of perfect the enemy of the great. The current proposal makes Eastlake Ave dramatically better for biking and transit, and we’d probably be nearer to achieving it without the endless Seattle Process of each interest group constantly trying to add one more bell or whistle to it.

    1. RossB

      Good point. This project should probably be implemented as is, and then small improvements should be made after the fact. Those improvements — like changing one block — shouldn’t have to go through a lengthy review.

  6. Charles

    This article is really based on what appears to be the misinterpretation of the author. You didn’t read between the lines of what SDOT wrote as it seems you didn’t truly read the lines.

    Their response clearly notes that they are not done with design. They have responded to show they are hearing the concerns and I know from experience in West Seattle, they do listen, and they do work with the community to create a final product that works for safety in mind.

    Not sure why you think stoking a fire helps anything, as it really doesn’t. One person makes the point about opening the process back up. It’s as if the staff writing this simply do not understand one thing about the process, and you clearly do not grasp the fundamentals of unintended circumstances.

    At some point this community must decide what is the better of two evils, and at some point we will reject the output of this blog as it seems to not represent me as a biker, nor the biking community at large.

    I’d suggest you try working with us, and the City, and become a part of something constructive instead of a thorn in the side that has no logical and beneficial outcome.

  7. JR

    Tom, you quote the city as saying “Additionally, with the proposed redesign of the street, we would expect fewer motorized vehicles traveling adjacent to the bike lanes, making the bike lanes feel more comfortable.”

    Could you elaborate on the “we would expect fewer motorized vehicles … adjacent” bit?

    I’m trying (and failing) to visualize how this wonderful outcome would actually happen. Does he know something we don’t?

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