By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor
While the information presented by SDOT’s Jim Curtin on Thursday afternoon was the same – most of it in this slide deck – the reaction and questions were not. And that wasn’t surprising, since Curtin asked for a show of hands by those who had already heard something about the proposals.
As we listened to the presentation a second time, different facts jumped out, beyond the big ones (five people killed and more than 1,000 crashes in a decade):
Here’s one: Types of crashes – 31 parked cars hit on 35th, for example.
Causes of crashes:
Rationale for the safety-design options: “Balance the need to move people and goods with the function of the nearby land uses (and) reduce collisions.” Curtin noted that the 35th/Henderson intersection right outside the meeting location was a good example of multiple uses – the library, small commercial businesses, homes. And he again vowed that 35th will be monitored “in perpetuity.”
Enforcement is something many asked about. “(State) grant funds secured for extra patrols; data-driven deployment; pedestrian-safety emphasis” are the points he hit. Asked for more details on the grants, Curtin said one is in effect now, through September 30th, and then there’s another one for next year, also through September 30th. He later notes that many comments they’ve received, and have monitored “online” (ostensibly here, since no other local news outlet reported on the first meeting) in the past few days, asked for enforcement, so he was “really happy to see somebody pulled over on the way here.”
Asked about those killed on 35th – actually five over the span of seven years, fall 2006-fall 2013 – Curtin mentions (not all by name) James St. Clair in late 2013, who was “in a legal (though unmarked) crosswalk,” at 35th/Graham, where Susanne Scaringi was killed while riding her bicycle in 2006; lighting has been added and turns have been restricted at that intersection, he noted. He also mentioned the 2008 35th/Dawson death of Gregory Hampel, and the deadly 2011 motorcycle crash of Andrew Seffernick, while acknowledging that “re-engineering wouldn’t likely have prevented that crash.” (Not called out, the 2007 death of 85-year-old pedestrian Oswald Clement near 35th/Othello.)
One audience member asked, “So you’re proposing these massive changes because of five deaths in 10 years?”
Curtin said it goes beyond that – it’s the 1,000 crashes, with so many life-changing serious injuries – each one costs society “about $6 million apiece – that’s a huge part of our thinking out here,” including the value of reducing the need to deploy police and fire to crashes, if there are fewer crashes. Talk erupts about distracted driving and texting; a woman mentions that long before cell phones etc., small children in cars could be a distraction too. “Next, we’re coming after the kids,” Curtin subsequently joked (after noting he is the dad of two, 2- and 5 years old).
For those looking for more data, Curtin said a “thick book of” traffic analysis and data will be available at the next 35th SW meeting(s) in June. He think implementation will start toward mid-September, continuing into 2016, and “It’s very possible it will be incremental.” The speed-limit drop to 30 mph will happen “as we change the roadway.”
At one point, a discussion briefly erupted between members of the audience regarding 35th SW residents parking cars on the street and getting ticketed if they break the rules.
Parking also came up with residents wondering if bicycle lanes would someday be installed and lead to parking removal. Curtin stressed repeatedly that bicycle lanes on 35th are not envisioned as part of this project: “We’re not talking about bike lanes right now” – though the city’s Bicycle Master Plan does call for them eventually.
The rough road surface comes up; reporting potholes is exhorted. (Here’s how.)
When it came time for specifics, some applause and a scattered boo greeted Design Alternative A, the full-length rechannelization proposal (one travel lane each way plus a full-length center turn lane). One man says the city’s rechannelized roads are “terrible” and as an example, cites the bus-bulb backup at California/Morgan. “That had nothing to do with the rechannelization” (of Fauntleroy), points out Curtin.
(Later, someone brought up Delridge and noted that it is one lane each way plus a center turn lane – “It was rechannelized way before my time,” Curtin says – and that it is backed up during rush hour. “Yes, it is,” he acknowledged, and asked, almost rhetorically, “But what about the other 20 hours of the day? How does it work?”)
Design Alternative B would rechannelize part of 35th and implement some daypart restrictions. Buses would be out of the traffic lanes when pulled over at stops.
Most of the specific intersections called out in the main slide deck used at both meetings were described as being primarily at risk for left-turn crashes in the 3-year study period cited.
When 35th/Juneau came up, some vigorous back-and-forth erupted regarding whether it should have a traffic signal since people use Juneau as an arterial. Curtin said the city didn’t want to encourage people to use it even more by installing a light. Also: “If we introduce more lights to the corridor, we’re going to introduce 80 seconds more of delay.”
Juneau, as first noted in our Tuesday coverage, might eventually be a candidate for a pedestrian crossing with an island. Regarding crossings, a question comes up: What about a pedestrian overpass? Not an option, Curtin contends. Too expensive, too often ignored.
For stretches where street parking might be removed during peak times as part of Alternative B – What about people whose only parking option is on the street, because of no driveways, garages, or alleys? Curtin is asked. He acknowledges that has to be taken into account, and adds, “in the past, we have built driveways for people.”
He wraps with info on four other rechannelizations – Fauntleroy, and outside WS, Nickerson, NE 125th, NE 75th. “It’s the design of the street that dictates how people actually drive,” Curtin declares. (And for those interested in North Seattle, he says a full report on NE 75th will be on the SDOT Blog website Monday.)
Talk veers off into whether just putting up speed-limit signs would make a difference. Curtin: No. Then there’s talk of the radar signs showing you how fast you’re going, and it’s revealed that those have max points at which they won’t show you your speed – just SLOW DOWN.
Then one of two City Council candidates who were in attendance, Tom Koch (also present: Chas Redmond), says the city would have more money for this kind of thing if it had been collecting development-impact fees.
In the only “gotcha” type moment so far this meeting, one attendee read aloud from an e-mail he says he received from Councilmember Tom Rasmussen in 2013, saying that it had been determined rechannelization wouldn’t fix/be appropriate for 35th. “So was that wrong?” he asked. Curtin: “I don’t think (it was, at the time), I think conditions have changed.” One condition he cited: The 40 percent increase in transit ridership, which he declared “huge.”
Shortly thereafter, discussion on a variety of topics broke out around the room, and Curtin (above) invited anyone with questions to stay for one-on-one conversations. Many did just that.
WHAT’S NEXT: A proposed final design will be presented in June. In the meantime, you can comment on the newly revealed options, and anything else related to 35th that you would want SDOT to hear as this proceeds, by e-mailing Curtin – email@example.com. Whatever’s in the final plan, work will likely start in late summer.
P.S. The city’s official project page is here.