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.