@ Highland Park Action Committee: About the roundabout…

Roundabout (above) or signal, to ease the traffic woes at Highland Park Way and Holden? Not that the city has money for either, yet, but the concepts have been roughed out and we were there as SDOT’s neighborhood-traffic guru Jim Curtin talked about them at this week’s Highland Park Action Committee meeting:

Curtin first described in understatement that “there can be some congestion in the morning – sometimes, I hear, all the way up to 16th SW.”

HPAC leadership applied for the Large Projects Fund, and that got this as far as a conceptual design. It’s funded by the expiring-this-year Bridging the Gap levy, said Curtin.

Two possibilities (see them here): A roundabout, estimated to cost $2,140,000, or a signal option, estimated at $1,330,000. The roundabout would be the first in the city, “which adds a whole ‘nother level of cool,” as Curtin put it – not just a traffic circle (those, of course, abound). Hitches include “a massive amount of earth work … we would need to change the nature of the topography significantly.” He said that wouldn’t be a “project killer” but it “adds costs.”

A signal would be a lower-cost option, $1,330,000, but “from an efficiency standpoint, it’s not the best option,” Curtin observed.

The intersection’s “been on my list for a while,” he said, outlining what’s been/being done to try to advance it. They’ve been looking at “different grant-funding sources,” he explained, two sources – Transportation Improvement Board, and WSDOT – were explored last year, but their funds were finite, $8 million total for the entire state, so “$2 million for just one project in Seattle was not looked at favorably.”

The projected price tags are just estimates, since these are not fully studied/designed projects, but rather concepts, Curtin clarified. He said they hope to apply for grants again in hopes of getting this funded – possibly involving some matching funds. The project is one of West Seattle’s main entry points, so it has some urgency, he added.

“The light option (above) would be great until about 8 am,” HPAC co-chair Billy Stauffer observed. He and Curtin agreed it would stop vehicles even at times without much traffic, and people would try to ignore the light. With a roundabout, you would always feel like you’re moving.

From there, the discussion sidetracked into a discussion of some other transportation-safety challenges in Highland Park, including spots where signage might be helpful. “Sounds like there are a multitude of issues both around the intersection of Highland Park Way and Holden and (elsewhere) and might be a good time for a walking tour in the next few weeks,” Curtin suggested. That could help collect more about the challenges in the neighborhood, the way the streets are being used now, and other “characteristics” that could help SDOT understand the neighborhood better.

Overall, though, the problems all seem to be tied to the “uncertainty” of the HP Way/Holden intersection, as Kay Kirkpatrick said. A light wouldn’t fix that uncertainty, she said.

If you’re wondering about bicycle/pedestrian facilities, the thought is that a “wide sidewalk” running alongside the road on the hill could handle both.

And then the discussion swung further into hypotheticals. Maybe a trolley. Someone suggested a gondola. Came the call from one side of the room: “Zipline!” The word “gondola” even was heard.

Curtin’s part of the meeting wrapped up with him voicing hopes of “walking with you all” in the future. Observing that Curtin must have at least “100 other intersections around the city that are messed up” – he smiled and suggested that’s an underestimate. Among them, Kirkpatrick asked if HP is a big bird, a medium bird, or a baby bird. “Oh, you’re a big bird!” he insisted, but in the next breath, noted that the city didn’t get grants for anything last time around. So, building on past successes, they’ll apply again, and are likely to find out in the fall. The project could be under way as soon as summer of 2016, if the money can be found. (Other “big birds” right now include the 35th SW corridor project, he mentioned in passing.)

FUTURE PROJECTS: Not this year, but at some point in the future, co-chair Carolyn Stauffer said, they’re looking at seeking grants for trail improvements in the nearby greenbelt. Craig Rankin, who had Neighborhood Park/Street Fund success recently with the crosswalks near Boren, said he’s working with local historian Judy Bentley on the concept.

HPIC HONORED WITH SUSTAINABILITY AWARD: As reported here last weekend, Sustainable Seattle has announced HPIC as co-winner of its Transforming Spaces award. Carolyn Stauffer pointed out it was a citywide award – and Billy Stauffer pointed out that it was shared with two other local groups,

NEW LEADERSHIP: The Stauffers would like to hand over the baton to somebody else, and the field’s open.

NEW WESTCREST PARK CONSTRUCTION: It’s being unofficially used, some pointed out, but the reservoir retrofit isn’t done yet.

CAMPAIGN FORUM: HPIC will be the site of the first District 1 City Council candidates’ forum this Thursday (doors 6:30, forum 7, presented by WSB), it was noted. Be sure to come and ask questions, pointed out an attendee – the earlier you start talking about something, the better its chances of becoming a campaign issue.

Highland Park Action Committee meets on fourth Wednesdays, 7 pm (usually preceded by a 6:30 pm potluck), at HP Improvement Club, 12th/Holden.

26 Replies to "@ Highland Park Action Committee: About the roundabout..."

  • datamuse February 1, 2015 (7:29 pm)

    It would be really nice if that hill sidewalk got some love. Biking, you pretty much have to use it, uphill at any rate; between the steepness of the slope and the speed of traffic, there’s no safe way to ride uphill in the traffic lane. I sometimes see people riding downhill on the road instead of on the sidewalk, but I’m guessing that’s because the sidewalk is cracked, bumpy, and often overgrown. Widening it would be awesome.
    I’m in favor of the roundabout if the money can be found.

  • Josh February 1, 2015 (8:15 pm)

    I’m a huge fan of the roundabout. I was wondering about his very thing weeks ago. Is it legal to crowd fund something like this?

  • West Seattle Hipster February 1, 2015 (8:43 pm)

    The money IS there, it is where our “leaders” choose to spend it.

  • Jeanine February 1, 2015 (9:49 pm)

    Yes! More roundabouts – they work!

  • trickycoolj February 1, 2015 (10:18 pm)

    Understatement barely describes the backups in the morning commute. When the high/low bridges have issues it backs up down Orchard to Home Depot. I’m a little skeptical of roundabouts having grown up in Thurston County when they got obsessed and installed probably close to a dozen around Lacey, Olympia and Yelm. Some of them worked well, some were really badly designed.

  • kayo February 1, 2015 (10:28 pm)

    Roundabouts are great when done in the right way. In Skagit County, there are roundabouts in a number of locations at busy intersections. They seem much safer and keep traffic flowing. I hope the money can be found to make that happen here.

  • JeffK February 2, 2015 (5:40 am)

    Another fan of roundabouts here.

  • Dave February 2, 2015 (7:43 am)

    This is not about congestion, it’s about safety. This is a poorly designed intersection. The intersection as well as that stretch of Highland Park Way is prime for accidents. Solution: Traffic lights for the intersection; large speed bumps up and down Highland Park Way SW; restrict and fine the drivers cutting through 11th and 12th when there’s a back-up.

  • BlairJ February 2, 2015 (8:18 am)

    I’m in favor of the roundabout, even though it will slow down my commute in both directions. That intersection is very dangerous for vehicles turning left from northbound HP Way on to westbound Holden Street. I also see pedestrians risking their life trying to cross HP Way in the morning to get to the northbound bus stop. The roundabout would help both of these conditions. I plan on writing to the City Council and the Mayor urging them to put a priority on funding for this improvement.

  • JoB February 2, 2015 (10:30 am)

    roundabouts work best when there is simple four corner egress… anyone who knows that “intersection” knows that isn’t the case here

  • AJP February 2, 2015 (11:42 am)

    Roundabout! YES! And better biking/sidewalk access!!!! YESSSSS!!!!!

  • PangolinPie February 2, 2015 (12:21 pm)

    I live nearby — I can see the intersection from my house. I’ve seen some pretty nasty accidents in the short time I’ve lived there, and I would LOVE to have a roundabout. It would also slow down the people who come speeding up the hill at 50+ mph on a regular basis. If the city puts in a roundabout with a planting area I will even volunteer some time and money of my own to keep it looking nice!

  • Kay K February 2, 2015 (12:21 pm)

    It would be great to hear support and comments/suggestions from the everyday commuters along this route. We neighborhood residents know there are hundreds of you.

    During the bikeways planning work SDOT clocked usage on Holden SW at over 14,000 trips per day.

  • trickycoolj February 2, 2015 (12:33 pm)

    I think another really important reason to prioritize any fixes at this intersection is how difficult it is for non-locals to navigate. Anytime I have a parent/relative visiting me and insists on driving for an outing they always do the intersection wrong. Heck, I did too the first time I used it to get to work when I moved over here. I’d like to know the count of cars daily turning left from Holden to HP Way downhill that go around the barrier to the outside lane on HP Way when making the left turn. I practically had a heart attack when my mom did it while I was in her passenger seat as a car started to barrel down the hill in what they thought was the protected outside lane.

  • datamuse February 2, 2015 (1:28 pm)

    PangolinPie, we must be neighbors! And yeah, trickycoolj, if I had a nickel for every time someone’s almost hit me doing that exact thing, I’d be getting myself one of Starbucks’s more expensive coffee beverages. And I don’t know WHY people do it. Are they reading the barrier as a directional divider?
    JoB, I’ve navigated roundabouts with anywhere from three to seven accesses so I don’t understand your point. Far as I can tell it comes down to planning the lanes appropriately and drivers not freaking out, though the latter can be kind of a tall order.

  • NotOnHolden February 2, 2015 (3:47 pm)

    This intersection needs traffic lights. Comparing the cost, it makes sense to install lights. The people that live on Holden and the area need actual crossing protection.

  • Pete February 2, 2015 (5:07 pm)

    Bad idea
    Without the stop signs it will be impossible to turn off sw othello st further down highland park way

  • Pete February 2, 2015 (5:09 pm)

    Also northernmost foottraffic route has to go
    Its a blind corner and people come up the hill at 50mph sometimes
    Asking for issues
    Make em walk up to the top of the hill so they will be in everyones line of sight
    I live on this block

  • Sunny.206 February 2, 2015 (6:27 pm)

    I’d be interested to see the volume on highland parkway. It looks like just one lane is planned?

  • NotOnHolden February 2, 2015 (7:09 pm)

    I cannot say enough how badly this intersection needs traffic lights and cross walks, hell even ad an automated arm that comes down, something to seriously stop people.

    I used to live right at this corner and kids play on the sidewalk here, that’s terrifying. One time I was outside and there was a blind woman trying to cross, I walked with her down to the cross walk which is a complete joke. I think I even contact Seattle or King County about the traffic here. It’s insane and I’m surprised more people have not been hurt.

    A traffic circle is not the right choice and when you add the numbers to it, I cannot understand how anyone would even think that is a good idea.

  • Frank February 2, 2015 (11:57 pm)

    I don’t agree with using a roundabout for this intersection. The amount of traffic through this intersection in the morning and evening is too great for this to work. I am familiar with the roundabouts in Lynden and Yakima. I also drive regularly in Mexico were they are used extensively.
    People here don’t understand how they work as is clear if the previous comments are read and from the Puget Ridge E-mails recently. People are also treating traffic circles as roundabouts, causing hazards at these intersections. I believe a light is a much better solution and would protect pedestrians crossing both Holden and Highland park.

  • w.s.maverick February 3, 2015 (8:33 am)

    good luck with this one

  • PangolinPie February 3, 2015 (12:38 pm)

    Honestly, I’d be in favor of ANY solution that slows people down. It’s true that they tend to confuse people but I’m sure my fellow bright W. Seattlites would get used to it. I do see the sense in a traffic light making things easier for pedestrians, of which I am often one. I’ll be interested to see what gets done, and WHEN.

    (Datamuse, if you want to compare notes about where we live, I’m on Gmail with this same name; drop me a note!)

  • AmyB February 4, 2015 (3:14 pm)

    I live on the alley off of 16th right by that intersection, and yes, it’s a mess. I’d love to see a rethinking of the traffic lights, with a Left Turn Only lane for those going up the hill on Holden to Highland Park Way. I’m talking about the 16th ave SW and SW Holden intersection, but yes, that group of intersections needs to be redone! I don’t know about a traffic circle, but I’m quite familiar with that Holden and Highland Park intersection and yes, it can be downright scary. But the mess starts down at 16th and Holden, and backs up onto Austin going towards Delridge. Turning into the alley from 16th can be, er, interesting (and a total rave to those folks who stop to let me through! And a rant to those who speed by on the right without looking, especially those of you who make that right turn from Austin to 16th.) Anyway, that set of intersections needs to be considered and coordinated!

  • CSW February 4, 2015 (4:36 pm)

    A traffic light makes more sense at this intersection. I can’t see a roundabout helping traffic flow better. I think it would be more difficult for people turning left to Highland Park.

  • highland park resident February 7, 2015 (5:46 pm)

    I agree that a roundabout might be a good solution, but I also think the City needs to do something about crosswalks and the “sidewalk” that runs down the hill. It’s dark, bumpy, narrow, and steep.

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