VIDEO: 59th/Admiral ‘improvements’ made things worse, Alki Elementary parents say

Our video is from 59th and Admiral, during the Monday morning walk to school at Alki Elementary, just north of the intersection. It’s been a little over a month since SDOT changed the intersection to an all-way stop – previously, east-west traffic didn’t have to stop unless the north-south signal on the east side of the intersection was activated by pedestrian(s). It’s the first phase of what SDOT announced as a two-way “crossing improvement.” Some say it’s been anything but.

Parents from Alki Elementary have formed a Traffic Safety Task Force. They met with us at the intersection before school at Monday morning to show us what they say are more-dangerous conditions since the change, with some drivers still seeming confused about how the intersection is supposed to work, resulting in, for example, turns made through the crosswalk while pedestrians are still in it:

In the parents’ correspondence with SDOT so far, it’s been reiterated that the department is evaluating the changes over a six-month period before deciding whether to make them permanent and to continue to Phase 2. The parents say this is more urgent than that – we’re going into the dark, rainy months and even on the clearest winter day, many will be crossing before sunrise, and the intersection is challenging enough now.

The one marked crosswalk at the intersection already serves as the only marked crossing on Admiral Way from 49th to 59th, all part of the Alki Elementary attendance zone.

What they want, as Merkys Gomez from the Task Force summarizes: “An all-way traffic signal (i.e. traffic light) that is pedestrian and vehicle activated with no-turn-on-red signs, and red light and speeding cameras for ticketing, at a minimum, during school commute times. We also need appropriate signage installed indicating that this is a school zone, with flashing beacons.”

While the city hasn’t added red-light cameras in a long time (West Seattle has two, at 35th/Avalon and 35th/Thistle), it’s continued to slowly expand the list of speed-enforcement cameras in school zones; in West Seattle, they are installed along Fauntleroy Way SW near Gatewood Elementary, along Delridge Way SW near Louisa Boren STEM K-8, and along SW Roxbury near Roxhill Elementary (which is scheduled to be vacated next school year) and Holy Family School. Even more elementaries have flashing “20 mph school zone” beacons, minus cameras, nearby, including Genesee Hill, Highland Park, and Gatewood.

This morning, the Traffic Safety Task Force parents were scheduled to meet with at least one SDOT official to continue discussing their concerns. But the request for a full-service signal has already been turned down – here’s what SDOT spokesperson Dawn Schellenberg told the Alki parents via e-mail:

Unfortunately, at this time traffic operations do not meet Federal Highway guidelines for full signal installation so this is not a resolution we can move forward.

Noting that 47th/Admiral has a full signal, without a school zone in the immediate area, they are asking for an explanation of where 59th/Admiral doesn’t meet “guidelines.” They also want to know how SDOT is collecting “public input” during the six-month review, as they haven’t seen any calls for it yet.

By the way, as shown in our video above, the intersection does have a crossing guard – but not guaranteed; the parents say that if the guard has an off or sick day, they’re not replaced. Not that the guard’s presence in the roadway prevented all rule-breaking, we noticed while we were there. SDOT told the parents that when a traffic officer was at the intersection in the early going after the all-way-stop change, SPD saw “99 percent compliance,” but didn’t provide data, so the parents are asking for that too.

ADDED TUESDAY EVENING: Nearby resident Tim has since recorded video at the intersection and provided it to the Alki Elementary Traffic Safety Task Force as well as to us, via this YouTube clip.

45 Replies to "VIDEO: 59th/Admiral 'improvements' made things worse, Alki Elementary parents say"

  • aRF October 10, 2017 (1:09 pm)

    Count me in favor of the Task Force’s recommendation of an all-way signal. 

  • sb2780 October 10, 2017 (1:20 pm)

    What a surprise! I can’t believe SDOT made things worse! Said no one. 

    • Wsrez October 10, 2017 (1:40 pm)

      Lol so true.

  • Wsrez October 10, 2017 (2:06 pm)

    The thing about this four way stop is that the stopping points are too far apart from each other to make it work like a typical four way stop. Typical four way stops aren’t ideal because people don’t know the law for who goes first and often aren’t paying attention, just slowing to a role before proceeding if no one is in their way. They don’t care if anyone was stopped to their right or left.  Throw in pedestrians and other transportation modes and things easily get out of hand. Unless people wise up or police sit at every intersection, we’re always going to have lawlessness, even in “nice” “sense of community” Seattle.

  • David Hoover October 10, 2017 (2:12 pm)

    Every single one of West Seattle’s suppose road improvements have Been horrific disasters I’m not surprised at all let this one would be any different 

    • Jort October 10, 2017 (3:31 pm)

      If by, “horrific disasters,” you mean, “better safety for all road users, fewer injuries and deaths and fewer collisions,” then I totally agree.

      Cars are going to be slowing down in Seattle if that’s what it takes to make our roads safe. 

      • Matt October 11, 2017 (8:03 am)

        Agreed as inattentiveness continues to rise we must slow down.  I mean I’m certainly not going to stop using my phone.

  • TIM October 10, 2017 (2:12 pm)

    I lobbied SDOT and the city council for two years about replacing Admiral, north of Shmitdz Park Bridge after almost wrecking my motorcycle several times while trying to avoid the sinkholes or traffic cones the city would leave in the road. It took them that long and finally threats of legal action if I did wreck seemed to spawn action.

    The city gave virtually no notice about this intersection conversion, held no public hearing, didn’t solicit any community feedback before the change, and did not conduct an engineering study using traffic volume counting devices. Not only that, but the city came out in the middle of the night, tore up the street for 5 hours and converted the intersection.

    I cross this street daily when I get off the bus and it’s far worse now than ever. At least before, we had the benefit of a 20 second “walk” signal and a red light to halt traffic. Now, motorists drive right through the crosswalk and if unfamiliar with tbe intersection dont know to stop until practically at the crossing. The red light was elevated well above the roadway and motorists could easily see it 1/4 mile out.

    I recommend anyone who is curious to download the federal guidelines for traffic control devices and see how consistent the city was with it.

  • Tony October 10, 2017 (2:50 pm)

    I have asked multiple times for SDOT to paint a crosswalk on Admiral, north of Schmitz Park Bridge to the park entrance,  to no avail.    

    Cars come so fast uphill around the curve over the bridge that I almost got hit on multiple times.

    Then some speeders even have the audacity to yell profanities and speed up even more.

    They do not seem to know that even if crosswalks are not painted, they are implied at intersections, 

    so some paint would greatly help.

    • MrsB October 11, 2017 (5:20 am)

      I wholeheartedly agree!  

  • BKRDT October 10, 2017 (3:03 pm)

    The new change to this intersection is terrible. It was very reasonable before the change and I am not sure why it needed to change. Change it back!

  • Jort October 10, 2017 (3:17 pm)

    To be fair, almost every automobile driver in Seattle seems to have confusion about how crosswalks work. Maybe they can read up, since automobile drivers pose significant danger to pedestrians if they don’t follow the law.

    Here’s the law: “The operator of an approaching vehicle shall stop and remain stopped to allow a pedestrian or bicycle to cross the roadway within an UNMARKED or marked crosswalk when the pedestrian or bicycle is upon or within one lane of the half of the roadway upon which the vehicle is traveling or onto which it is turning.”

    I added some emphasis to the word “unmarked,” because somehow drivers think that pedestrians deserve to be hit unless they’re lucky enough to have a protective strip of paint on the pavement. This is not complicated. JUST FREAKING STOP AND WAIT FOR PEOPLE ON THE CORNER, EVERYWHERE.

    Literally nobody in Seattle stops for pedestrians at unmarked crosswalks. IT IS THE LAW. Why is it so difficult for car drivers to follow the law? Are they intentionally putting children and other people walking directly into harm’s way?

    • alki_2008 October 11, 2017 (6:53 pm)

      “Literally nobody“?  Really?  So, even you don’t stop for peds?

      Personally, I don’t think it’s so bad for pedestrians to wait an intersection for a few extra seconds. For example, if there’s a line of 5 cars driving down the street, without another car in sight after the 5th car, and the pedestrian comes to the corner as the 3rd car passes. Is it so bad for the ped to wait a few seconds for the 4th-5th cars to pass before crossing the road?  When I am the ped is such situations, I just wave the cars by and cross after the last car in the line.

      Look at it his way – It’s better for the environment if cars just drive through instead of braking and idling.

    • Tim October 12, 2017 (1:41 am)

      Hey dude, no matter what you think, we did not have any problems or safety concerns before the city deactivated the pedestrian signal and red lights. Say what you want about crosswalks and laws, but it was working fine the way it was before this debacle.

  • DR October 10, 2017 (3:35 pm)

    Who do you contact to hold these SDOT people accountable?!? I would even bet these changes wouldn’t meet the standards set by Federal/State regulations to justify the project.

    What specific Federal Regulation is blocking changes to their poor planning.

    According to the U.S. Department of Transportation Federal Highway Administration Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices for Streets and Highways Section 4B.03 Subsection E, 03-04:

    Traffic control signals are often considered a panacea for all traffic problems at intersections. This belief has led to traffic control signals being installed at many locations where they are not needed, adversely affecting the safety and efficiency of vehicular, bicycle, and pedestrian traffic.

    Traffic control signals, even when justified by traffic and roadway conditions, can be ill-designed, ineffectively placed, improperly operated, or poorly maintained. Improper or unjustified traffic control signals can result in one or more of the following disadvantages:

    A. Excessive delay,

    B. Excessive disobedience of the signal indications,

    C. Increased use of less adequate routes as road users attempt to avoid the traffic control signals, and

    D. Significant increases in the frequency of collisions (especially rear-end collisions).

  • Jon Wright October 10, 2017 (3:38 pm)

    I think it is disingenuous that SDOT eschews traffic standards when they choose to adopt a less car-centric model (which I actually think is a really good thing) but then hide behind standards when they don’t want to do something. Instead of a cowardly “sorry, regs say no dice” SDOT should have the gumption to say “we don’t think a signal is the right thing to do because <reason>.”

    And, of course, the complete and utter lack of any sort of enforcement of anything whatsoever rears its head again. 

  • Anothernative October 10, 2017 (3:42 pm)

    This has been a mess. I go through there at least twice a day. The way it was worked fine. Saw a SPD motorcycle cop there yesterday afternoon with the crossing guard. Don’t know if he was needed or not.

  • flimflam October 10, 2017 (4:37 pm)

    more fine work by our transit overlords – see, if nobody can move nobody can get hurt!

    • WSB October 10, 2017 (5:05 pm)

      The problem here is that everybody can and does move – in conflict. Nearby resident Tim recorded the intersection for much longer stretches and just uploaded his video – I’m adding above.

  • Bob Anderton October 10, 2017 (4:55 pm)

    I like it. I cross it twice a day by bike and regularly by car.

    I used to ride on the sidewalk east-bound to use the crosswalk and frequently cars would almost run me down, despite having a red light and a person in the crosswalk.

    Since it’s been a 4-way stop I haven’t seen anyone fail to stop and now I cross the street east-bound on the right side and don’t have to cross over again on the east side of Admiral.

    I was hoping for an All-Way Walk signal, but can’t imagine the vitriol that would bring.

  • NW October 10, 2017 (5:49 pm)

    I can not comment on the new configuration of this intersection however as a pedestrian walking in the morning and evening hrs using a light hand held to make myself more visible to vehicles works very well I reccommend trying it out. 

    • alki_2008 October 11, 2017 (7:04 pm)

      Thank you for making yourself more visible.  It’s aggravating to me how many people jaywalk, no unmarked or marked crosswalk/intersection nearby, when it’s dark and they’re wearing dark coats/hoodies/pants.  It can be very difficult to see them and I don’t have visual impairments.  And before people start saying that I would see them if I slowed down – I’m going 25mph.

      Even if people are standing at street corners in such attire, it can be difficult to see them.  Yes, cars SHOULD be stopping at intersections for pedestrians, but peds should also make sure that the car drivers can see them before stepping out into the roadway.  Wearing a dark raincoat with black shoes and a dark hat doesn’t help.

  • Mark October 10, 2017 (5:59 pm)

    I obtained SDoT report and the all way stop was not warranted by national standards.  They claim a 6 month trial, but per the letter they are being presumptuous that this will be made permanent.

    The fact remains it worked the way it was before, if it ain’t broke nothing to fix.  SDoT has lost its technical direction.

    Jon is correct SDoT fails to adhere to standards unless it is the answer they want.

    Failure to follow national standards will reduce safety in the long run.  Safety is enhanced by uniform and consistent standards!

  • Guy Olson October 10, 2017 (6:21 pm)

    The parents of Alki Elementary make the whole neighborhood a mess when they are picking up and dropping off their kids. I live near 59th and Alki and I cannot use 59th around these times. I personally like the 4 way stop. The alleyways nearby were a death trap for anyone pulling onto Admiral way. As I cyclist it is much safer as well. Thanks SDOT!

    • Etip October 10, 2017 (7:37 pm)

      Then why did you buy a house next to an elementary school? 

      Seems odd to complain about the school traffic when you knew the school was there when you bought. 

      • Guy Olson October 10, 2017 (11:06 pm)

        I wasn’t complaining, I was stating a fact. I would like to complain about all the parents illegal park jobs that make it very difficult to make it through at busy times.

        • KM October 11, 2017 (8:42 am)

          Yes, the parking/double parking and intersection blocking. Or the speeding and distracted cell phone usage. I live by a different elementary school also and I avoid walking my dog during school pick-up and drop-off to avoid the close calls we’ve experienced in the past, nearly being nailed in crosswalks by careening crossovers. 

          Nobody wants to admit they might be the culprit of the behavior they’re advocating to protect their children from. It would be great to see a ton of enforcement/cameras in this area, or all school zones. Or basically everywhere.

        • Etip October 11, 2017 (2:56 pm)

          Totally reasonable and I agree with you on that Guy. 

  • TJ October 10, 2017 (6:46 pm)

    KNational standards? Remember, this is Seattle, where are lords are trying to make national standards, not follow them. Sdot has replaced true engineers with social engineers who don’t care about commute times or the functionality of a intesection like this. In fact, annoying car commuters is a bonus to them. Another commenter on this thread always likes to tout “safety for all” in regards to anything that slows commutes, but in reality there wasn’t a safety issue in the first place. Sometimes its just a facade to push an anti car agenda

  • TJ October 10, 2017 (7:03 pm)

    Meanwhile the roads are falling apart, which is a big safety threat in itself. I nearly hit a woman 2 years ago on California Avenue just south of pcc while swerving to avoid a GIANT hole in the street that had been there for weeks (and had been mentioned on this blog) and that I thought for sure blew a tire the day before when I hit it. We pass levies to literally fix potholes, yet rarely are they filled in. Yes, I see stretches of roads being repaved here and there, but that is and has always been an expected funtion of our normal taxes. Over 60% of Seattle streets were paved between 1930 & 1950, with only a fraction of the population base we have now, and we can’t fill in holes in those streets?

  • SuperAwesome October 10, 2017 (7:24 pm)

    They didn’t really test this during the  busy summer months at Alki either.  The few sunny weekends we’ve had since installation have been a mess trying to get up Admiral later in the day.  If the goal was to protect pedestrians it would sure seem safer for peds to cross at a red light rather than a 4 way stop.

  • KT October 10, 2017 (7:45 pm)

    How about the road striping which makes one feel they are on an airport runway!  That in and of itself is confusing and distracting.  

    • BD October 10, 2017 (9:23 pm)

      KT,  I imagine that is a perverse result of the ‘road diets’, better visibility and more space so the cars go faster.

  • TJ October 10, 2017 (7:46 pm)

    Never have reported a pothole. Only the street panel at the end of my street that is raised 4″ above the next one, which hasn’t been fixed in the 4 years since. My office is in sodo on Occidental, which looks like a battlefield. All the streets down there are in horrific shape, so we shouldn’t complain too much here I guess

  • Joanne M Simpson October 10, 2017 (9:01 pm)


  • Chris D October 10, 2017 (10:22 pm)

    I’m still stuck on why it takes 6 months to evaluate the intersection. 

  • Chris October 11, 2017 (4:54 am)

    Interesting as recall comments before this was put in that it would be a problem, and the concern for the children.

    As to unmarked crosswalks, see this all the time.   We have to be sure the car behind us is stopping too so they do not hit us.   There are times when we could not stop because of that.

    There are some places where pedestrians waiting at a corner cannot be seen because a car is there.   Traffic coming up just cannot see that pedestrian waiting until right up on the intersection.

  • MrsB October 11, 2017 (5:25 am)

    What’s wrong with pedestrian-controlled signals?  Or crosswalks with lights that flash when pedestrians are in them, as they have in Bellevue?  The traffic lights at 47th and Admiral are a joke, they seem to favor the cross streets and traffic on the main arterial gets backed up horrendously.  We stopped using Admiral and now get to the bridge via the beach, thus avoiding 5 sets of lights. 

    • Tim October 12, 2017 (1:47 am)

      You know whats ironic? The intersection still has the pedestrian walk/don’t walk signals, and the red lights. All the city has to do to put this to bed is reprogram the signal to turn solid red when the button is pressed and the walk signal activated for 20 seconds. They can keep those stop signs if they want, and they wont have to spend another dime.

      That’s how easy this is; and I don’t even have an engineering degree.

      • gadams03 October 12, 2017 (11:44 am)

        SPD is paying attention to this intersection. I received a ticket for not waiting my turn at the intersection, inattention. OK, my fault, no excuses, but I hope they’ll focus on and ticket drivers who are clearly blowing through the stop signs as in Tim’s u tube video.  On my way back through that intersection 20 minutes after being ticketed, there is a car driving up admiral and they are half way through the intersection before stopping for an older lady who was clearly in the crosswalk, the police car was still near this intersection and there was no response from the police officer.  We need to have the intersection back to a solid red light and a button for pedestrians it’s about what works and safety. 

  • Seattlite October 11, 2017 (8:33 am)

     All schools should have clearly marked cross walks, viable directional lights, and a crossing guard at all times.  It’s not acceptable to not have backup crossing guards in case the permanent crossing guard is sick.  The school and parents need to make crossing guard backup plans a priority for the kids’ safety. Winter is approaching with less daylight which means less safety. SDOT has a lot of questionable marked roadways in WS that don’t make sense especially those marked for two lanes to merge into one.  WS has a lot of irresponsible drivers that don’t heed driving laws…sad but true.

  • Elise October 11, 2017 (1:09 pm)

     Thank you Merkys Gomez  and other parents on the task force! I am an Alki parent, and regularly feel unsafe walking with my kids to school. The other side of the school is also a traffic mess and dangerous for kids. The tiny street (Stevens SW and 58th)  does not even have a sidewalk! I have seen numerous kids almost get hit by cars on that side street.  At the very least, SDOT  needs to put in a sidewalk on Stevens SW. 

  • Amy October 12, 2017 (4:10 pm)

    I’m an Alki parent as well. My car was almost hit by a Metro bus this morning! This is the second time since school started, a little over one month ago that other drivers didn’t wait their turn and almost hit us. Today, we came to a full stop facing east on SW Admiral Way. I put my left turn blinker on and waited. The crossing guard was assisting pedestrians to the south side of 59th Ave SW. As we continued to wait at a full stop for the pedestrians and crossing guard to safely reach their destination on the south sidewalk, a Metro bus approaches the stop sign facing west on SW Admiral Way. The bus stops. Now it’s my turn to begin driving to turn left through the intersection onto 59th Ave SW. As I’m in the middle of the intersection, the Metro bus starts to drive straight at my car. I use my horn and the bus doesn’t stop. I now have to squeeze left between the bus on our right and now another car at a stop on our left. The bus driver never paid any attention to the fact that it was my turn to go first AND didn’t stop when I used my horn. We missed a potential accident this morning that still has me shaking. My daughter was in the passenger seat and in the direct line of first contact of being hit, had I not been able to weave my car away quickly enough to avoid the Metro bus driver. Please SDOT, bring the control activated lights back. The stop signs are too far away from each other.

    • Etip October 13, 2017 (11:34 pm)

      Bus drivers are the rudest, most aggressive drivers on the road. In downtown they break traffic laws regularly- running redlights, blocking the box in intersections, etc.

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