ROAD WORK ALERT: It’s not a roundabout, but it’s a start – Highland Park Way/Holden changes ahead

While Highland Park continues fighting to get the city to build a roundabout at Highland Park Way and Holden, the city has repeatedly mentioned that it can make other, smaller changes to improve safety at the intersection in the meantime. Today, SDOT announced that those changes will be made in the next few weeks. The following letter has been sent to nearby residents, after notification to the Highland Park Action Committee, whose chair Charlie Omana forwarded it to us:

Subject: Highland Park Way and Holden Intersection Improvements

Dear Highland Park residents,

The Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT) will be making some enhancements to the
intersection of Highland Park Way SW & SW Holden St (see below and graphic). The purpose of these
enhancements is to increase safety and make the intersection more predictable.

The work that SDOT will be doing includes:

• Enlarging the painted triangles in the northwest and southwest quadrants of the intersection
(gore areas)
• Extending the southbound right-turning lane and installing advance lane configuration signs and
• Installing yield signs and markings
• Repainting the northbound left-turn arrow markings
• Installing a barrier to prevent eastbound left-turning vehicles from turning into the outside curb
lane of northbound Highland Park Way SW
• Converting SW Austin St to right turn in and right turn out only

We expect to make these changes within the next few weeks, when the weather is dry enough for us to apply paint to the road.

Please note, this work will not preclude a potential future roundabout at this intersection. SDOT has
applied for the Washington State Department of Transportation’s (WSDOT) 2018 City Safety Grant for funding the full design and construction of the roundabout. We expect a decision about the grant in
January 2019.

If that grant is not received, Mayor Jenny Durkan promised HPAC last month that the city would come up with a “Plan B” for funding the roundabout.

19 Replies to "ROAD WORK ALERT: It's not a roundabout, but it's a start - Highland Park Way/Holden changes ahead"

  • Run4urlife October 19, 2018 (9:18 pm)

    This is something…. I wonder if while looking at lower cost improvements, SDOT considered adding a “Your Speed” sign like the one on Admiral. That one slows me down every time. I’m not sure what the average speed is as cars near the crest of HP Way but we’d see less accidents if people were driving withing the 30 mph limit. 20 would be even better. A little help for pedestrians crossing near Portland would be appreciated as well. I appreciate what SDOT is doing but feel that they could do better.

  • Trickycoolj October 19, 2018 (10:23 pm)

    Thanks for the heads up as this is my regular commute route and I imagine it’ll get backed up during the work. I hope these improvements help. It’s getting really bad in the mornings trying to turn left to go downhill. I’ve had people honk at me when I’m trying to make sure there’s no straight ahead uphill traffic because the sight lines are so bad.

  • MJ October 19, 2018 (10:39 pm)

    Did SDoT finally higher a real engineer? The channelization depicted looks to be a good option that I anticipate will work well.

    • Run4urlife October 20, 2018 (7:41 am)

      The Emperor’s New intersection… I’m sorry but I don’t see what you’re seeing. I do see some overdue signage and peripheral changes but the heart of the intersection is virtually unchanged and the core safety issues are not being addressed.

      • Spooled October 20, 2018 (10:28 am)

        A big improvement is the right-turn-only from Austin St. In the existing alignment the occasional car from Austin has the option of going straight ahead onto Holden. There are far more cars trying to go left from Holden to N.B. Highland Park Way and it will be one less thing they have to watch out for. It is bad enough trying to see over the crest of the hill, past the tall grass in the shoulder, while making that left turn.

        A further improvement I’d like to see would be a curb between the two S.B. lanes on Highland Park Way a beginning a short distance before the right lane splits off onto Holden. If it were guaranteed that anyone in the right lane was indeed turning then those making a left from Holden would have more opportunity to go without waiting for huge gaps.

        The other improvement being made is preventing anyone from the right lane on N.B. Highland Park Way from trying to go left onto Holden. I’ve seen people do this (looking at you school bus!) and it just messes everything up.

        I’m encouraged by these subtle and inexpensive changes and hope that limiting some of the side roads and forcing more predictable behavior from the busy lanes will increase throughput. A roundabout is not the answer. (Never mind the disaster it will be during construction, or the cost). Think how backed up it will be on Holden and S.B. Highland Park Way during peak commutes! Wait until it rains and cars stopped on the hill for the slow moving roundabout are spinning their tires trying to move.

        • Run4urlife October 20, 2018 (7:14 pm)

          A physical separation of the southbound lanes would help matters and would cost next to nothing.

  • John Smith October 19, 2018 (11:22 pm)

    I think the main problem is not sightlines, it’s that drivers turning left from eastbound Holden St. have difficulty determining whether vehicles already headed north/south are in the turn lane or the straight-through lane. It doesn’t help that most vehicles headed up/down the hill are speeding.

    It also seems ridiculous that the City apparently claims that for a job the size of a roundabout, it has to rely on State grants to do one of the City’s basic jobs: streets/roads. It’s not like it’s a new 1st Ave. S. or Viaduct bridge, so maybe if the City were more efficient with the tax revenue it receives, it would be able to pay for something like a roundabout.

    • Trickycoolj October 20, 2018 (8:45 am)

      Yes! All of the near misses I have had trying to turn left from Holden are from cars jumping from the right turn lane to the straight ahead lane at the last second. It’s at the point that I will wait for a long line to get up the hill and actually turn before I can trust that I can safely turn left and not be t-boned. People honk at me for waiting. I don’t care. I’d like to make it out of my 10 minute commute down the hill alive thanks.

      • KM October 21, 2018 (2:38 pm)

        You and me both!

  • dsa October 20, 2018 (12:16 am)

    Looks like an engineering solution for once. The next step is to add a stop light somewhere.

  • BD October 20, 2018 (6:39 am)

    I don’t see how this work will help much. The ‘channelization’ is painted lines and won’t help those on eastbound Holden have confidence the oncoming traffic isn’t a threat. It seems to me the problem is the curbed channelization for turners off of HPW both directions isn’t long enough.

  • JayDee October 20, 2018 (7:50 am)

    And if they post a map, use a north arrow.

    • JayDee October 20, 2018 (7:52 am)

      (My bad I saw a small one (though I don’t know if it is correct). I always assume N is up.

  • Ride the Bus October 20, 2018 (12:14 pm)

    Can we get a crosswalk painted so folks can cross the street to the 131 bus stop? People come burning down highland park way while others who cut the intersection fill in voids in the traffic…

  • AIDM October 20, 2018 (4:30 pm)

    This intersection would so obviously benefit from a traffic circle that its ridiculous the city is spending money on anything else. Lisa Herbold, why can’t you get this done? The Westside needs to be represented here.

  • dunnkld October 20, 2018 (6:35 pm)

    The vignette for this story on the WSB home page links to the wrong story.

    • WSB October 20, 2018 (7:12 pm)

      Thanks for catching that! Fixed.

  • Scott Batson October 22, 2018 (11:03 am)

    People using the road make mistakes (like running stop signs and red lights), always have and always will. Crashes will always be with us, but they need not result in fatalities or serious injury.

    Modern roundabouts are the safest form of intersection in the world – the intersection type with the lowest risk of fatal or serious injury crashes – (much more so than comparable signals). Modern roundabouts require a change in speed and alter the geometry of one of the most dangerous parts of the system – intersections.

    The reduction in speed to about 20 mph and sideswipe geometry mean that, when a crash does happen at a modern roundabout, you usually need a tow truck, not an ambulance. Visit the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety for modern roundabout FAQs and safety facts. Roundabouts are one of several proven road safety features (FHWA).
    The life saved may be your own.

    Modern, slow and go, roundabout intersections have less daily delay than a stop light or stop sign, especially the other 20 hours a day people aren’t driving to or from work (it’s the #2 reason they’re built). Average daily delay at a signal is around 12 seconds per car. At a modern roundabout average daily delay is less than five seconds. Signals take an hour of demand and restrict it to a half hour, at best only half the traffic gets to go at any one time. ‘At best’ because traffic signals must have the yellow and all red portion (6+ seconds per cycle) for safety, and modern roundabouts do not. At a modern roundabout, drivers entering from different directions can all enter at the same time. Don’t try that with a signalized intersection.

  • KayK November 3, 2018 (5:17 pm)

    I strongly agree that the city add some of those “your speed” signals both going up and down Highland Park Way north of the intersection. Neighbors on Austin who are looking at losing their left turn access to most neighborhood services will then at least have a bit better chance of being able to make their left from Othello. Turning out there is very nerve wracking when downhill and uphill traffic are flying along at 40-50 mph (it’s supposed to be 30mph but that is completely disregarded by most drivers).Hopefully this will just be for a few more months until this gets funding!!

Sorry, comment time is over.