6:53 PM: We’re at Neighborhood House’s High Point Center as SDOT’s Jim Curtin gets ready to unveil the “design alternatives” for “making 35th SW safer for everyone.” First, he’s recapping background about how we got to this point – including more than 1,000 crashes, 412 injuries, five deaths in the past decade on 35th SW between Roxbury and Alaska. The slide decks are up on the project page – this is the one with the alternatives:
Even before Curtin gets to those, he’s been asked questions such as “which of the deaths were the pedestrians’ fault?” None, he says. When countered with “but wasn’t one mid-block?” he explains that it’s legal to cross at midblock.
The background is in this slide deck (added – midway through the meeting, it’s clear that this deck also includes much elaboration on the proposed alternatives, intersection by intersection, so take some time to go through this one):
Curtin touches on enforcement and says SPD has obtained a grant to step that up. Southwest Precinct commander Capt. Steve Wilske couldn’t be here tonight but will be at the Thursday afternoon version of this meeting to talk about that, Curtin says. (With him at this meeting, by the way, is another high-profile SDOT employee, traffic engineer Dongho Chang.) He’s been asked about specific types of data and promises that will be made available; he also says that 35th will be monitored basically “forever.”
Somebody brings up rechannelized Fauntleroy Way and claims that it crawls at 15 MPH at certain times. Curtin says SDOT recently studied Fauntleroy and that more than 80 percent of the drivers are going 33 mph (two miles below the speed limit).
7:10 PM: Curtin has just declared that the speed limit on 35th will be cut to 30 mph, and the room erupts in cheers/applause, except for one participant who has already spoken out multiple times and claimed that higher speeds are safer. Curtin agreed that the speed limit alone won’t do it – that the road design must be made safer too. Shortly thereafter, he notes that Fauntleroy Way will be reduced to 30 mph this year too (as had been inferred in the Vision Zero plan announced recently).
What else will be done? he’s asked. The slide says “turn signals at some locations, signal optimization, reflective materials for most signals.” Also, “lane-line markers (buttons) throughout the corridor.”
Regarding bicycles, while “protected bicycle lanes are envisioned long-term for 35th,” Curtin says bicyclists have suggested that other routes be focused on first, so “that’s what we’re going to do.” A Neighborhood Greenway is planned for 34th SW, one block east, for 2017 implementation.
Now he gets to Design Alternative A, which will add 3 to 4 minutes delay during am/pm rush hours, he says. It would rechannelize 35th SW from Roxbury to Edmunds – one lane each way and a center turn lane.
Design Alternative B, projected to add 3 minutes’ delay in rush hours, would rechannelize between Roxbury and Raymond, but not north of Raymond, which instead would have peak-hour parking restrictions to create an extra lane only during those times. SDOT is still modeling this, Curtin explains, and the boundaries on this one might change.
Going into more background for the alternatives, he points out that 35th has no turn lanes right now, so all vehicles stop behind someone trying to turn. He puts up 35th between Henderson and Barton, showing how design alternatives will reduce lane changes that buses have to make, keeping them from “hanging out” in traffic. Then he shows how 35th/Barton would be affected. Asked if Metro might see a bus bulb – Curtin and Chang say no.
Next, 35th/Holden – “bus lanes through the intersection” might be considered, says Curtin, pointing out the signals at this odd intersection are “already delayed.” 35th/Webster, 8 of 9 crashes during the recent study period are related to left turns, so adding a left-turn pocket here can help – left turns off 35th.
35th/Morgan might get right-turn pockets. At 35th/Juneau, Option A could have a crossing “with turn restrictions” in the longer term, says Curtin, noting that 35th/Graham has similar conditions. That would mean no left turns, only right turns, he said in response to a question. Option B might not rechannelize this area, so a traffic signal might be needed to facilitate a crossing.
Curtin is asked about the in-pavement flashing lights that some other jurisdictions use to call attention to crossings. He says there’s concern about how they would be affected in snow/rain weather. Chang picks up, saying that he worked in Everett, which used five of them, and their lights can burn out without pedestrians being aware, giving them a false sense of security – four of the five in Everett are not working right now, he notes.
Next, he draws applause by saying a crossing is proposed at 35th/Dawson, where the community has long requested one (this is near Camp Long). In the longer term, he says, that could bring in low-cost “treatments” such as signs, pavement markings, flashing beacons, maybe even a “refuge island” midway across.
He says that Seattle’s 40 rechannelizations generally have “remarkable” results. Fauntleroy Way is an example given – 31 percent drop in collisions, 1 percent drop in 85 percent of the speed, 13 percent drop in 10+ mph speeders, volume change up a third of a percentage. “When the ferry lets out, are you really driving 35 mph?” asks someone in the audience. “There’s the data,” somebody else points out. The first speaker clarifies that she actually favors the rechannelization because Fauntleroy can be crossed a little more safely since it. (It was done in connection with repaving in 2009.)
Before Q&A, Curtin notes that a June meeting will unveil the “final” plan and take one last round of comments; implementation would begin in late summer.
First question – did the Fauntleroy rechannelization push traffic elsewhere? “Absolutely not,” said Curtin. (The slide a few minutes earlier had shown that Fauntleroy volume is actually up a bit since then.)
Another person has more of a comment, saying that he’s glad this might make it possible for both sides of 35th to be part of the same neighborhood, instead of, given its current freeway-like conditions, being a separator. That leads to some applause.
How much would this cost? More than $100,000 a mile, replied Curtin, for rechannelization, so this would cost at least half a million, not counting additional stoplights, etc.
8 PM: The meeting is breaking up now into a chance for one-on-one discussion with Curtin and Chang. This meeting will be repeated on Thursday afternoon at Southwest Branch Library (35th/Henderson), starting at 3:15 pm; Curtin also noted that his e-mail address is on the project website, so if you have questions/comments, you can reach him that way – firstname.lastname@example.org (which is also up on the board right now with his phone number, 206-684-8874).