By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor
The final decision is in regarding what SDOT plans to do about 35th SW north of Morgan. Actually, first, what it won’t do: No further rechannelization, though that doesn’t mean it’s off the table forever.
The Phase 2 plan is going out via e-mail and web updates soon, probably next week, as SDOT had told us when we checked back two weeks ago. Then we got first word of the final plans during a briefing at SDOT headquarters downtown today, along with toplines on how Phase 1 has been doing.
First, some backstory. The project to improve safety on 35th SW was announced in February 2014, after five deaths in seven years on what some called “I-35.” In fall 2015, two miles of 35th SW were rechannelized between Roxbury and Willow.
SDOT’s Jim Curtin says that was the longest rechannelization SDOT has ever done. It is part of the city’s Vision Zero initiative – working toward zero traffic-related deaths and zero major injuries.
And since the south-end rechannelization (and speed-limit reduction, to 30 mph), he says, 35th SW has reached that goal.
The last person killed on 35th SW was James St. Clair, hit by a driver while crossing at Graham in December 2013, two months before the safety project was announced. And while the stretch was averaging 3 major-injury crashes a year before the project, it’s had zero since then. Five pedestrians were getting hit in an average year before the project; two since then.
Crashes overall are close to the same rate – 40 per year before, 38 per year now. Before and after, rear-enders were and are the most-common type. But, Curtin says, the addition of a left-turn lane in the rechannelization has “nearly eliminated” left-turn crashes.
Also: “Speeding has decreased substantially,” and traffic volumes are up (for those wondering if 35th has lost vehicles to side streets) – 19,000+ per day at 35th/Roxbury, from 16,000 before the project. Yes, they studied side streets, Curtin says, and while they saw some volume increases immediately after the rechannelization, that’s dropped and “clearly people are back to 35th in droves.”
One of his favorite stats is next: Bus travel times have stayed the same or decreased.
And as for car travel times, Curtin says it’s played out the way they said it would pre-project – “maximum delay, about 1 minute, 20 seconds.” He says this was measured in “hundreds of runs on the corridor” with one person driving, one person recording. In some stretches, it’s faster, as they have continued to work to refine the signal cycles.
You’ll see more about these stats in the SDOT mailer and web updates soon. But these are the toplines. And now, what work is planned:
To recap what we wrote above, “We’re not rechannelizing the northern section at this time. That doesn’t mean we’ll never rechannelize it,” Curtin says.
You’ve probably already heard about the new signal planned at 35th and Graham, as part of the West Seattle Neighborhood Greenway project (which itself has meetings coming up). Here’s the design made public last fall:
That will be “prioritized for walking and biking,” according to Curtin, and should be even more helpful once the Upton Flats project on the northeast corner opens.
Further north, a “full traffic signal” will be added at 35th and Dawson, the intersection that includes the entrance to Camp Long. This, Curtin says, has long been requested by the community – he says that in his 11 years with SDOT, it’s likely the longest-running unfilled request. Pavement at the intersection will be repaired, too, “all the way to the Camp Long gates,” and new curb ramps will be installed.
That’s it for new signals. Some have asked for one at 35th/Juneau, Curtin acknowledges, but says that didn’t qualify for one – so they are going to do some other things, primarily, turn restrictions: Whether you are eastbound or westbound at Juneau, you will only be able to turn right. This intersection also will get pavement repairs and new curb ramps.
Then, dipping back into the Phase 1 zone, pavement repairs and curb ramps also are planned at 35th/Kenyon, which had its crosswalk restored last year, a decade after it was removed, and now has flashing pedestrian-activated beacons, too.
And continuing south, a longstanding request will be fulfilled at 35th/Barton: Left-turn signals in all directions.
So when will this all happen?
Construction is expected this fall – but what gets done first depends on the contractor; this is all expected to go out to bid next month, and sequencing details are likely to be available around July. The 35th/Graham light will be part of the greenway work expected in 2019.
And then, Curtin says, there’ll be a Phase 3. They’re looking at a “greenway spur” along a relatively short stretch of 36th SW, likely in 2022 or 2023, and residents will hear from SDOT long before that. They’ll also be looking at “traffic calming” on 34th between Findlay and Raymond, measuring the effects of the Juneau turn restrictions.
So since Curtin cautioned that they weren’t saying they would “never” consider further rechannelization, what would the criteria be for any future review? Installing the new signals and seeing what happens will be big, along with measuring the volumes on 35th.
If you have questions about all this, watch for a project e-mail address once the details are postal-mailed and posted online. There is NOT going to be a community meeting about all this, Curtin says; much of this was foreshadowed at the “Phase 2 possibilities” meeting a year and a half ago.
P.S. As for enforcement – Curtin says SPD has been out on 35th lately and will continue to be.