By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor
Two major transportation-related topics at tonight’s Westwood-Roxhill-Arbor Heights Community Council meeting, too big for one story, so we’re tackling them separately.
In this first report: A SW Roxbury Safety Project report card, six months after changes including the rechannelization of its western mile-plus, to one travel lane each way plus a center turn lane, presented with information about what’s yet to come.
Jim Curtin, SDOT’s project manager for Roxbury (and the concurrent 35th SW changes), brought new stats, half a year after preps for the restriping began, along with an update on what’s next.
As Curtin explained tonight, “It was an effort to improve safety, and it all came up because this neighborhood council sent a thoughtful letter asking us to take a look at the corridor … as anyone in the neighborhood knows, walking along Roxbury was not a fun thing. We had two lanes in each direction; if you had a vehicle of any substantial size in that curb lane, they were going 30 to 40 mph literally inches away from you as a pedestrian. We took a look at the data and found out there was a high injury rate – that’s something we don’t like to see; the speed data showed an egregious speeding problem; we have two schools, Holy Family at 20th SW and Roxhill Elementary at 30th SW … As somebody who lives in Arbor Heights, I drop the kids off at day care every morning and (see these roads). … Wider streets encourage faster speeds.”
They reviewed, as he reminded everyone, the entire corridor from 35th to Olson. “Most of the changes have been on the western end of the corridor, but we’re gearing up to do some things further east” – not further rechannelization, he said, because the eastern part has too much volume for that, “one of the busiest streets in West Seattle.”
Here’s the latest data (with a formal report to come in September, along with recommendations):
SPEEDING: Down “significantly,” Curtin said.
At 20th SW (Holy Family), the 85th-percentile speed pre-rechannelization, was 37.5 mph – 7.5 mph over posted speed limit. Since the rechannelization, the 85th-percentile speeds have dropped by 3.7 mph, just a bit under 10 percent reduction.
At 30th SW (Roxhill Elementary), a “big drop in speeds” – pre-project, 85th percentile was 41.3 mph, 11.3 mph over posted speed limit; post-project, 34 mph – a 7.3 mph (17 percent) reduction in speed.
CRASHES: At 26th/Roxbury, which is still being evaluated for possible changes such as turn signals, there were 17 collisions in the 3-year period pre-rechannelization; post-project, zero, Curtin said: “We’re thinking that’s a good change at this point.”
As a whole, 17th to 35th SW on Roxbury, grand total of two collisions in the six months post-rechannelization, both “property damage only” crashes – zero injuries, zero serious injuries, zero fatalities. Curtin’s assessment: “We are certainly liking where those numbers are taking us.”
TRAFFIC VOLUMES: Steady, almost exactly what they were before, 475 per hour is the busiest it gets.
TRAVEL TIMES: Interns are doing what they call “floating car surveys” on all the SDOT rechannelization projects, “driving the corridor during peak hours with a passenger with a stopwatch, recording times.” So far, Curtin said, travel times are basically unchanged, with a maximum delay of 23 seconds over pre-project travel times: “Very little change or impact to vehicular traffic out there.”
FEEDBACK: After Curtin finished, two participants brought up issues such as having to wait a long time to back out of driveways or to merge into traffic. “The floating tally doesn’t include that,” one man suggested. What’s the likelihood of changes at 26th/Roxbury? Curtin was asked. It’s functioning well now, he said, but “I think we can take a look at it” – looking at, for example, lengthening the north-south “green time” on 26th. Some other questions led to Curtin wondering if possibly a “signal loop” in the pavement had failed, so he said they’ll take a look.
City Councilmember Lisa Herbold arrived during the briefing and asked about the analysis Curtin mentioned for fall, as well as the feedback on 35th SW. Can citizens help define how it’s analyzed? she said, urging a “partnership” between SDOT and the community. “That’s how this project got started in the first place,” Curtin pointed out.
One attendee noted, in support of the changes, that people who “can no longer speed” certainly are experiencing a slower commute, so “their opinion might not be as valid. … I’m just amazed at 6:20 in the morning at how many people are ready to, like, shoot me for going the speed limit.”
WHAT’S NEXT FOR ROXBURY CORRIDOR: SDOT is up to 90 percent design for the new stretch of sidewalk coming to the south side of the street, east of 30th SW; a bit of it is in the city, but mostly in King County. They’ll take it out to bid in April and then build “400 linear feet of sidewalk,” which will “complete the sidewalk network” in the area (which has already seen new sidewalks as part of the Safe Routes to School program).
Also: Look for two new radar speed signs between 4th and 12th SW; they’ve made some modifications at the crash-prone 8th SW intersection, Curtin said, and they’re working to reduce the speed limit to 30 mph there.
At Olson and Roxbury, where Roxbury curves into Olson Place, SDOT will “fully signalize the crosswalk at that intersection” this year.
They’ll be rebuilding the sidewalk and improving barriers at Myers Way and Olson Place – ramps and other pedestrian improvements in the works.
And, looking back to the west a ways, “we’re still working on pavement and ramps in the section where the pavement is the worst” at 17th and 18th, in tandem with King County, because it’s “mostly theirs,” plus a City Light vault.
“Otherwise, I’m totally open to everyone’s comments and suggestions,” said Curtin. (You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org – and in addition to a Roxbury report this fall, you can also watch for news about the northern section of 35th SW in the months ahead.)
What about the slickness on the Roxbury/Olson hill area? asked a motorcycle rider. Another SDOT rep present said they thought they had it solved by tracing it to a particular model of Metro bus that seemed to be causing an “oil issue” at various spots around the city, but it’s not completely corrected, he acknowledged, so there may be something else in play.
SPEAKING OF BUSES: Report #2 will focus on the discussion of a problem that residents of 26th SW south of Westwood Village have been experiencing since RapidRide and other changes transformed the area into a major transit center without a significant amount of planning – damaged pavement and curbs, and settling/sinking houses.
Westwood-Roxhill-Arbor Heights Community Council, co-chaired by Amanda Kay Helmick and Eric Iwamoto, now meets on first Mondays, 6:15 pm, at Southwest Library.