1:37 PM: Another update from SDOT today about 59th/Admiral, two days after the without-warning end to its almost-two months as an all-ways stop, a change that led to parents from nearby Alki Elementary voicing safety concerns: SDOT communications director Mafara Hobson tells WSB that “We plan to visit the intersection today to do layout for the new decorative curb bulbs, median, and crosswalks. We’ll spray paint outlines for our crews. Pending weather, installation could occur as soon as Nov. 7. Installation will happen during normal working hours.” So if you see new markings – that’s what it’s about. Meantime, changes at other intersections – as first announced four months ago – are still in the works, and SDOT says that they’re tentatively scheduled to work at 61st/Admiral and SW Stevens/Admiral as soon as mid-November. Here’s how those intersections are scheduled to change, according to the SDOT graphics made public in June:
This is all part of the SW Admiral Way Safety Project, which included rechannelization of much of Admiral west of California a year ago.
4:02 PM: Thanks for the tips – we’ve since been back to the area and photographed two things – top photo shows the workers doing what SDOT told us they’d be doing; next photo, apparently Traffic Enforcement officers have been out in the area all day – this is one of two we passed on the uphill side of Admiral not far east of the intersection:
The Traffic Safety Task Force parents are “encouraged to see movement,” says Merkys Gomez.
ADDED FRIDAY NIGHT: The TSTF’s official response sent to SDOT’s Dawn Schellenberg, related to what transpired earlier this week – read it in its entirety after the jump:
October 27, 2017
Dear Ms. Schellenberg:
We have received your email dated October 25, 2017 (“the 10.25.17 email”) with updates on the changes to the intersection at 59th Ave SW & SW Admiral Way (“59th & Admiral”). To date, we continue to await a formal response to our email dated October 6, 2017 (copied below for those who are new to this conversation). Many of the questions outlined there remain salient, and will be referenced again below.
We appreciate that SDOT has heard concerns about the inadequate marking of the area as a school zone, and the need for greater safety at 59th & Admiral. However, the changes outlined in the 10.25.17 email fall short of addressing the concerns of area residents and what the intersection needs for improved safety. The fundamental concern regarding enforcement remains.
The impetus that spurred changes to 59th & Admiral revolved around the high speeds at which vehicles travel on Admiral, and how they often ran the red light on 59th. These behaviors made it unsafe for pedestrians trying to cross Admiral and vehicles trying to turn onto Admiral from 59th.
SDOT responded by converting the intersection into an all-way stop for the start of the 2017-2018 school year. This resulted into turning an unsafe intersection into a dangerous one. Parents at Alki Elementary joined their voices and formed the Traffic Safety Task Force (“TSTF”) due to the daily and flagrant violations and near misses that we were experiencing during the school commute as a result of the change.
School Zone Signage
As part of the concerns voiced to SDOT, we shared the lack of adequate school zone signage on Admiral, which included more than just the lack of flashing beacons. Our list outlined the following requests for marking the zone, all of which are currently missing:
– An advanced warning sign located 300 feet before the start of the school speed zone.
– A speed zone sign 300 feet in advance of the school marked crosswalk on 59th & Admiral.
– School speed zone flashing beacons mounted along with school speed zone signs that read “20 miles per hour when children are present or lights are flashing.”
– An “End School Zone” sign indicating the end of the school speed zone.
These are all as outlined on SDOT’s own Safe Routes to School website, linked here: http://www.seattle.gov/transportation/saferoutes_Enforcement.htm
Because a key concern on Admiral is the high speeds, we requested that school zone safety cameras be included as part of the school zone signage in order to ticket speeding and red light violations. “Safety cameras are a highly effective way of slowing down speeds in school zones. Since program inception, the average number of traffic violations per camera per day has decreased by 64 percent and average speeds have decreased by 4 percent.” (See http://www.seattle.gov/transportation/saferoutes_Enforcement.htm) Admiral is an arterial. (See https://www.seattle.gov/transportation/streetclassmaps/planwebsmall.pdf) Given that “[f]ifty percent of the moneys collected [from infractions “relating to speed restrictions within a school or playground speed zone”] must be deposited into the school zone safety account,” it appears that a school safety zone camera at this location makes sense. (See RCW 46.61.440(5).)
Of the school zone signage requests made by the TSTF, only the installation of flashing beacons has been confirmed in the 10.25.17 email.
Furthermore, the beacons would be installed “during the first quarter 2018,” i.e. sometime between January and March 2018. The dark and rainy season in Seattle has begun. As the TSTF has stated before, the first bell at Alki rings at 7:50 a.m. Children will be commuting to school in the dark. So we ask: What protections will SDOT put in place for children until the beacons are installed? Will you be working with the Seattle Police Department’s Traffic Infraction Unit to have regularly scheduled police presence? Or will you be implementing another plan? If the latter, what will that plan be?
Area residents, and the community more generally, must be provided adequate notice of relevant information and changes. Schools have differing bell times. Drivers who do not have children attending Alki do not know the bell times for Alki. If enforcement is set to occur, and no beacons will be installed until the first quarter in 2018 to warn drivers, then what will SDOT do in order to educate the public to the school zone schedule?
End Plan for 59 & Admiral
The 9.21.17 email from you stated that if the results of the data analyzed proved that the changes are unsuccessful, that “we’ll consider removing the stop signs.” In our 10.6.17 email, we asked what the alternative plan would be if the stop signs were removed. The stop signs have now been removed, but we have never received a response.
Reactivating the light on Admiral returned the intersection to the condition it was in prior to the change to an all way stop. Issues with the speed of traffic and access onto Admiral, in particular from cars turning from 59th, remain. Everyone, whether a pedestrian, a driver, or a biker, should feel safe at the intersection on 59th & Admiral.
The TSTF has proposed an all-way traffic signal that is pedestrian and vehicle activated, with no turn on red arrows, and traffic cameras to ticket red light and speeding violations, particularly during the school commute. Other things that can be added include signs that warn drivers turning onto 59th or Admiral to yield to pedestrians. The TSTF circulated a petition and collected over 300 online signatures and over 100 more on hard copy in less than a week. Although the TSTF was started by parents, through our work we have heard the voices and concerns of area residents. It’s not just parents who want a change. Our whole community wants to see safety improvements along 59th & Admiral. We’ve offered a proposed solution.
The intersection on 47th Ave SW & SW Admiral Way has a similarly atypical configuration, and an all way traffic signal that is pedestrian and vehicle activated was recently installed there. That intersection does not have a school crossing. It feeds into one business and an as-of-yet unopened senior living facility. The intersection at 59th & Admiral has a school crosswalk, and feeds into Alki Elementary, the Alki Community Center, the Alki Playfield, Alki Beach, and the many businesses located along the beach. SDOT rejects a proposal for a full traffic signal by stating that “traffic operations do not meet Federal Highway guidelines for full signal installation.” As we requested in our 10.6.17 email, can you please provide us a copy of the guidelines you reference? If not a full traffic signal, then what is the final plan SDOT envisions for the intersection at 59th & Admiral?
Children and other pedestrians seeking to cross Admiral at the crosswalk at 59th & Admiral often access the crosswalk by crossing 59th along the south side of the intersection. This stretch of street on the south side of Admiral crossing 59th presents unique challenges: it is atypical in its length; the northbound and southbound lanes are divided, but the median stops short of Admiral; and SW Hanford Street feeds into the northbound lane just feet before 59th intersects with Admiral. There is no painted crosswalk. This stretch remains one of the most dangerous segments of the intersection for pedestrians. Currently, a double yellow line is painted on the ground. Area residents have expressed concern over the dangers of drivers traveling eastbound on Admiral, driving across the open space on that stretch of 59th and crossing over the double yellow line to continue onto Hanford. Presumably recognizing the issues across this stretch of 59th, SDOT’s proposed change involves painting the median between the northbound and southbound lanes on 59th.
A double yellow line is an unequivocal pavement marking that all licensed drivers understand. A painted median may be result in increased visibility, but is does not provide drivers with a clear understanding of the traffic rule that they must follow. Washington’s Department of Licensing’s Driver Guide provides guidance to drivers for how they must behave when they approach a double yellow line. (See page 3-8 of Washington’s Driver Guide, linked here: http://www.dol.wa.gov/driverslicense/docs/driverguide-en.pdf). There is no uniform nor understood code for behavior when a driver approaches a roadway with a painted design. Unless the painted pavement comes with an elevated barrier (whether posts, or an elevated concrete median or some other type of barrier), simply painting the pavement will not curb driver behavior. If the plan is to fill the median with concrete to elevate it from the street level, that detail is unclear based on the communications posted by SDOT. Area residents prefer that money be spent on a definitive solution understood by licensed drivers rather than a decorative one.
Will a crosswalk be painted across Admiral on the west side of the intersection or will that remain a no-crossing zone?
Another issue that has not been addressed in the 10.25.17 email is the location of the westbound bus stop. The stop was originally located east of the intersection. When the intersection was converted into an all-way stop, the bus stop was moved to the west side of the intersection. We’ve heard reports that with the reactivation of the light, the relocation of the bus stop is affecting the crosswalk. Will SDOT be addressing this concern?
Any changes to 59th & Admiral need to take into account the unique needs of this community. The flow of traffic can go from almost negligible to unbearable, especially once the weather turns nice. We have lots of drivers that are not locals entering the area, and we need the police to be able to get around. Alki Ave SW can come to a standstill during the warm months. Police often need access to Alki Ave, and Admiral has been the throughway for access – you can ask any area resident who sees the sirens during the warm months. The flow of traffic on Admiral cannot be interrupted. But the speed of drivers on Admiral can and should be changed. Pedestrians should be able to cross Admiral safely. Let’s get to Vision Zero, and let’s do it together.
Merkys I. Gómez, on behalf of the Traffic Safety Task Force at Alki Elementary