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Seattle leaders will break ground on MLK Way safety project

Map of the project with ADA ramps, bike lanes and sidewalk improvements marked.
Images from the SDOT project page.

Seattle Mayor Bruce Harrell will join SDOT and Sound Transit leaders as well as community members to celebrate the start of the MLK Way S safety project 10 a.m. Friday (October 6) where the I-90 Trail crosses MLK.

The project includes protected bike lanes from S Judkins Street/I-90 Trail to and, importantly, through the intersection with Rainier Ave. The lanes will connect to Mount Baker Station and provide a much-needed bike route to the northern Rainier Ave area. It will not make a complete connection to the rest of Rainier Valley, but it’s a big step in that direction. The project faced a few extra months of delays because contractor bids came in a bid higher than expected. But SDOT was able to scrounge up the extra funds to make it happen.

Overhead diagram of the MLK and Rainier intersection design plan, including expanded sidewalk space and curb extensions as well as crosswalks for all four corners.

As we reported previously, the project will not only create a bike connection, but SDOT also did not shy away from making much-needed crosswalk improvements to the intimidating and complicated intersection with Rainier Ave S. Perhaps the most important element of this entire project, SDOT will build the two missing crosswalks at the southwest and southeast legs of the intersection. These will make a big difference for walkability in what is currently one of the worst intersections in the city, and it a major improvement for Franklin High School students.

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When developing a safety improvement project, it is tempting to end the project scope before reaching an intersection because that is often the most difficult and expensive part. SDOT can complete more miles per dollar by skipping intersections, especially complicated big intersections like MLK and Rainer. But the intersections are also where the majority of our traffic injuries and deaths occur, and they are also the most stressful places to walk or bike. An entire biking or walking route is only as safe as its least safe section, so making intersections safer is worth the time and investment. Not so long ago, SDOT would have just ended a project like this 500 feet before the intersection and called it a day. This project is a promising and hopeful sign of the department’s commitment to tackling safety problems even if they are difficult and complicated.

More groundbreaking details from SDOT:

Mayor Bruce Harrell, Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT) Director Greg Spotts, and community partners will be celebrating the groundbreaking of the MLK Jr. Way Safety Project on Friday, October 6th.

This project, funded by the Levy to Move Seattle, will improve safety for people walking, rolling, biking, and driving, and create better connections to transit and to destinations between Mt. Baker Station and the future Judkins Park Station. Once the project is complete, it will complete part of the bike network, connecting the I-90 bike path and neighborhood greenways to provide safe and comfortable cycling trips between Mount Baker and Downtown Seattle, as well as the neighborhoods in between. 

The MLK Jr Way Safety Project design was guided by our Vision Zero Top to Bottom Review and the USDOT’s Safe System Approach. This project will help manage driver speeds and encourage more walking and biking on this busy corridor.

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One response to “Seattle leaders will break ground on MLK Way safety project”

  1. Matthew Snyder

    Agreed, it’s great to see that SDOT is not just giving up before getting to the intersections. That said, I have my doubts about what they’ve designed for the southwest corner of the intersection of MLK and Rainier — that mini segment of “PBL” right above the text “Mt. Baker Station” in the image you posted. That’s just a little paint-and-post segment immediately after a very lazy-angle corner — southbound Rainier traffic can turn right onto southbound MLK without much need to slow down. I don’t think those posts are going to last long, especially given that MLK then immediately widens after the mini bike lane ends. Other sections of the PBL are designed with concrete buffers, but they decided not to use that treatment here where it seems particularly useful.

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