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After community urging, SDOT adds last-minute safety improvements to 15th Ave NW paving project

Concept image showing the planned NW 51st Street crossing of 15th Avenue NW with two northbound lanes, a median, two southbound lanes and a southbound bus lane.
From the SDOT project webpage.

SDOT just added some significant safety improvements to the 15th Ave NW paving project before declaring the design 100% complete and ready for construction. No, the changes to not fix the horrible sidewalks across the Ballard Bridge, which is easily the biggest problem with this stretch of the street.

However, SDOT will add a median between NW 50th and 54th Streets as well as a new signalized crosswalk at NW 51st Street, breaking up a five-block stretch that currently has no safe crossings. The new median will replace one of the three existing southbound lanes, and a new northbound bus lane will replace one of the three existing northbound lanes.

The result of these changes will be a major calming of this faux-highway cutting through Ballard. They will also mirror the road layout of the Ballard Bridge, which has two general purpose lanes in each direction. There’s no good reason to widen the street to 6 general-purpose lanes following the 4-lane bridge, and we know that having too many lanes encourages speeding and makes streets more deadly.

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The changes come after safe streets advocates worked hard to push back on the lack of planned safety improvements to this major paving project. Fremont-Ballard Greenways even put together a detailed plan filled with safety ideas called “Reconnect Ballard.” The group suggested a new signal at 51st and improvements to the signal at 53rd, both of which are now in the plan. Shortly after he was picked to lead SDOT, Director Greg Spotts went on a tour of the area “exploring the potential for safety-related additions to the paving project that is planned.” This project was mostly through design before he came on board, so these changes are perhaps a glimpse into the kinds of changes he is pushing the department to deliver instead.

The project is planned for construction from “winter 2023 – winter 2024,” according to the project website. More details about the latest changes:

The design for the 15th Ave W/NW and Ballard Bridge Paving and Safety Project is complete, and we’re scheduled to start construction preparation by the end of the year. The final design was informed by community input and our Vision Zero goal to end traffic deaths and serious injuries on city streets. The project includes all the original elements from earlier design stages (see the Project Design section below) as well as the following new enhancements:

  • Install a new bike and pedestrian signal and crosswalk at NW 51st St, making it easier to walk, roll, or bike around the neighborhood and connecting people to Ballard businesses, attractions, and transit.
  • Replace a southbound lane on 15th Ave NW with a new landscaped median between NW 50th St and NW 54th St to calm driver speeds and reduce the likelihood of serious crashes.
  • Add a new southbound transit lane with red “bus only” markings on 15th Ave NW between NW 54th St and NW Market St.     
  • Add a new southbound transit lane with red “bus only” markings on 15th Ave NW between Leary Way NW and NW Ballard Way.
  • Improve and add new lighting under the bridge along Leary Way NW and on the pedestrian path near the intersection of 15th Ave NW and W Nickerson St. 
Updated project map showing paving from NW 57th Street to W Emerson Street and noting the new safety improvements and median.

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2 responses to “After community urging, SDOT adds last-minute safety improvements to 15th Ave NW paving project”

  1. John P.

    Definitely a good start. I don’t know that it’s even possible to fix the “sidewalks” on the bridge without completely dismantling it, so I wouldn’t expect much there.

  2. Ballard Biker

    Something needs to be done with the Starbucks at 52nd. The driveway constantly spills out into the road, creating a hazardous road condition.

    Whomever approved of the driveway opening into 15th should be fired.

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