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City of Seattle

February 24, 1:19 PM click here to comment > 1

Building better streets in South Seattle

This week I authorized Seattle Department of Transportation director Peter Hahn to begin work on two roadway reconfiguration projects on two important corridors in South Seattle. The first project is on East Marginal Way South, enabling us to improve safety on the street and connect South Park to Georgetown with dedicated bike lanes. The second project is on Airport Way South, helping local businesses in Georgetown by making it easier for pedestrians and all road users to get around.

Traffic counts on both streets have declined significantly in the last 50 years since Interstate 5 opened – but the streets themselves haven’t caught up with a changing city. Traffic on East Marginal Way South has dropped by 44 percent since 1961, and traffic on Airport Way South has dropped by 36 percent over the same time. Yet the streets are still configured exactly as they had been in 1961. That’s not an efficient use of our roads.

In designing these projects, we first considered the needs of freight, as directed by the City’s Complete Streets ordinance. Both streets are designated as “Major Truck Streets,” which means that they are important routes for our city’s manufacturing and freight industries. The Complete Streets policy directs the Department of Transportation to design streets for pedestrians, bicyclists, transit riders, and persons of all abilities, while promoting safe operation for all users, including freight.

We’ve done that. On East Marginal Way South, we are preserving two lanes of traffic in each direction, preserving the center turn lane, and adding six foot bike lanes in both directions of travel. When the new South Park bridge opens in 2013, these improvements will help bicyclists travel from west and south Seattle to other neighborhoods in the city in a way that is safe for them and safe for our freight drivers. This corridor was identified in the City’s Bicycle Master Plan as a key route to be studied, and the decision to build bike lanes here comes from the Department of Transportation’s analysis that it is the best way to provide a safe route for bicyclists while maintaining freight capacity. You can view details of the East Marginal Way South project here.

On Airport Way South, the street will be reconfigured to help cars, trucks, bicyclists and pedestrians share the road more safely through the Georgetown Business District. As you can see in the image below, the new configuration maintains wide lanes for freight, provides parking for local businesses, and includes curb bulbs at key intersections to improve pedestrian crossings in the Georgetown Business District. Along this stretch of Airport Way South, vehicles will be able to pass bicyclists when it is reasonably safe to do so, similar to any other street with one lane and a lane of parking in one direction. You can view details of the Airport Way South project here.

I recognize that there are freight operators who are concerned about these proposals and the impact the changes will have on freight mobility. I have also heard from freight operators who support the rechannelizations and have expressed to us that the wider lanes for freight movement, bike lanes and curb bulbs improve safety throughout the area for all users.

Improving safety for all roadway users is at the core of my decision. There is a great deal of research establishing a connection between street attributes and safety. For example, there is a strong correlation between crash speed and the severity of injuries. This research supports our local Complete Streets policy and roadway improvements like these that encourage vehicles to travel at appropriate speeds. The Complete Streets policy requires that we make careful decisions that are based on data, shaped by adjacent land uses, informed by community experience, and that anticipate future needs.

I am confident that the project, as currently designed, accommodates all modes well, creates a reasonable balance of uses in the right-of-way, and supports freight movement on designated Major Truck Streets. I have asked the Department of Transportation to begin this project now, concurrent with the repaving of these roadways, so that we can get the most out of our scarce public dollars. You should see crews start working by summer.

Posted by: Mayor Mike McGinn


Comment from John
Time March 6, 2011 at 8:16 am

It never ceases to amaze me how out of touch your views are with reality. The idea of mixing bicycle traffic with heavy freight traffic is such a dangerous idea. Does the idea of a cyclist being squashed by a truck even bother you? Does the idea of constricting freight mobilty, and the resultant increase in the delivery prices of food, products, and services in the area come into your line of thinking?

Allow me to suggest a better solution, which is to dedicate a non-arterial street as a bicycle route, or create a bike path that is grade separated. There are plenty of abandoned rail right of ways that can be used for this purpose. Isn’t that the modus operandi for cyclists? Rails to Trails?