What SDOT told HPAC about Highland Park Area Safety Project – pending funding finalization

(SDOT slide deck from HPAC meeting – or see it here in PDF)

What SDOT now calls the Highland Park Area Safety Project was the first of two major topics at last night’s HPAC meeting. (The other, Westcrest Park Off-Leash Area, will be covered in a separate report.)

It’s meant primarily to address the long-problematic Highland Park Way/Holden intersection, but the scope has broadened, SDOT says. Thought the agency’s director Sam Zimbabwe had been announced, he wasn’t there; an SDOT delegation led by Jim Curtin and James Le handled the presentation and Q&A instead.

Bottom line, as Curtin reiterated multiple times, this is contingent on whether Mayor Jenny Durkan‘s proposal for funding – taken from the city’s so-called “Mercer Megablock” sale proceeds – is finalized by councilmembers in November. That said, they talked with the 30+ meeting attendees about where they’re at and what residents think.

For context, Le explained that Highland Park Way is a principal arterial north of SW Holden, minor arterial south of SW Holden. 700 transit riders each way – 1400 trips a day. It’s a 90-foot crossing at HP Way/Holden – the intersection is so wide because of a long-ago streetcar. The intersection has had 107 police-reported crashes 2014-2018.

SDOT made some changes via signage and paint about a year ago. The zigzag striping to the south is meant to address speeding issues (this is the second place they’ve tried it after Beacon Hill); they’ve also added speed cushions near 16th/Myrtle. They explained that overall the scope has changed and the reason the projected cost of a potential roundabout had jumped to $7 million (as announced in May) was largely the amount of grading that would be needed.

Kay Kirkpatrick pointed out that side streets are bearing a lot more traffic, as the area densifies and this intersection jams further. “This whole area’s been studied so incredibly much,” short-term fixes are needed. 12th, 11th, “they all shoot out on Kenyon” … she mentioned a school-bus incident at 11th/Kenyon a few years ago.

“Highland Park Way is a total nightmare for drivers and bikers,” pointed out another attendee.

Another person pointed out that in the pm, people getting off at the southbound stop on the hill then have to cross those 4 lanes of traffic, in the dark.

Another voice: “What kind of safety measures can we implement now?”

Attendee Odetta mentioned 60 homes east of Highland Park Way and more houses being built. They’re “concerned that how we navigate in and out of our neighborhood is being ignored” – they exit Austin or Othello onto the street. “As much as I don’t like going out of Austin, going out of Othello is a nightmare.” She was assured by Curtin that a former proposal to block off Austin is “off the table.”

The plan that would be fully funded if the mayor’s proposal goes through includes sidewalks.

Another attendee worried about the effects of a signal at the hill’s top in bad weather. “We have hills all over the city with signals,” said Curtin. The attendee said this hill doesn’t get sanded often; Curtin countered that with an arterial, it’s supposed to.

HPAC chair Gunner Scott said a pre-meeting discussion had focused on a plan for the whole area. Scott said he lives on one of those side streets, and even with a traffic circle it’s been beset by speeders. 16th/Holden needs arrows, too. “We’re looking at 16th/Holden as part of this project,” Curtin replied.

Scott suggested some of the side streets be made one-ways. “We could look at that,” said Curtin.

One thing they haven’t been considering – a “mini-roundabout.” It would still require some (expensive) grading.

Michele Witzki wondered how the potential signal would be timed, and how lighting would be improved, for pedestrians. “We don’t know yet,” said Curtin regarding the former, and as for the latter, he noted that Le is a lighting engineer, “so you’re in good hands.” He also mentioned the Pedestrian Leading Indicator and that it’s been installed at 100 Seattle intersections this year alone.

Witzki said inviting other partners in the project such as Seattle City Light and Seattle Public Utilities would be good for a future meeting. Curtin said he sees “lots of opportunities to invite other stakeholders.”

Deb Barker from the West Seattle Transportation Coalition noted that other communities are making increasing use of roundabouts. She also supported some kind of temporary help while this potential project plays out over two years.

Roundabout fans were passionate, but understanding also was voiced for its potential costs. By discussion’s end, the visitors had heard from people with pedestrian, bicyclist, and driver perspectives.

“Nothing is set in stone” and money isn’t guaranteed, reiterated Curtin. But if it does go through they’ll have $3.85 million *for the area* including Highland Park Way/Holden, 9th, and 16th/Holden.

What are the next steps?

Curtin: “We have to get the budget passed.” He stressed again that it’s up to the council.

“To keep those dollars in the budget for a neighborhood that hasn’t seen that kind of investment” in, more than half a century; Scott said they’ll be campaigning for it.

“We’d like to build something out here for y’all,” insisted Curtin.

If the money comes through, they’ll be back here early next year. Design would be finalized in summer 2020, construction could take place in 2021.

6 Replies to "What SDOT told HPAC about Highland Park Area Safety Project - pending funding finalization"

  • Craig October 24, 2019 (8:49 pm)

    Thanks to Jim Curtin and James Lee for joining last night’s meeting. If and when this project is funded,  I hope we will have more holistic conversations with SDOT regarding how funding is spent within the project area than the limited focus of last night’s meeting.   Regardless of the resulting roundabout or stop light, there are a host of pedestrian issues that need to be addressed.  Even though Mr Curtin admitted during the meeting that he has yet to peddle his way completely up the sidewalk on Highland Park Way,  he did concede that it is “a great connection to the Duwamish Trail. ”  In fact it is the only Seattle connection to the trail this side of the WS Bridge.   According to the 2014 BMP,  cycling facilities are planned on SW Holden, 9th Ave SW, 15th Ave SW(existing)and 11th Ave SW-all of which converge within the project area(see map below) This project should include features that support future cycling infrastructure. Beyond cycling,   SDOT  should do right by a neighborhood that has been plagued by high speed traffic along it’s arterials and adjacent residential streets as well as by unsafe pedestrian crossings on 9th Ave SW.   Add traffic calming along arterials and adjacent non-arterials (especially near schools and parks)and create safe crossings along 9th. Future bike routes highlighted within the 2014 BMP     

  • WGA October 24, 2019 (11:16 pm)

    If they are serious about making Highland a viable bike connection, they will probably need someone from Trondheim to make it work.

    • Craig October 26, 2019 (11:12 am)

      Nice!That would be a long tow up HP Way!I would think that with how fast e-bikes/scooter are evolving that if cycling infrastructure were improved here(repave and widen the existing sidewalk and adding lower cost greenway connections) that we would get a good return on the investment- more bikers and fewer cars.    HP Way is also a key part of one of the better bike loops in West Seattle via Alki and the Duwamish Trail.   Nice mountain bike variation dropping down through the greenbelt from SSC or Riverview Playfeilds.   

  • Frank Cunningham October 25, 2019 (9:08 am)

    One thing that could be done now is drivers doing the 30mph speed limit, and stop tailgating those that do. Also racing traffic to be first doesn’t help. Patience 

  • Scott Batson October 25, 2019 (12:02 pm)

    First cost is the wrong way to compare projects. It would be like buying a car without knowing the fuel economy or safety of the thing, just its price to buy.  Very short-sighted.     Present Value Life Cycle Cost Analysis (LCCA) is the best way to compare two or more choices.  When comparing modern roundabouts to signals for a 20-year life cycle (the standard period), modern roundabouts usually cost less.  Costs to compare include: first cost (design/land/construction), operation and maintenance (electricity, re-striping, upgrades, etc.), crash reduction (what’s your/your family’s safety worth?), daily delay (what’s your time worth?), daily fuel consumption (spend much on gas?), point source pollution (generated by stopped vehicles = health cost), area insurance rates (this costs more where it is less safe to drive).  Each of these things, and others, can be estimated for any two choices and everyone near or using the project area will pay some portion of all these costs (and gain the benefits).

  • KayK October 25, 2019 (1:09 pm)

    Thanks for getting the word out about this WSB. Important to note that the street is now carrying 20,500 trips per day. The initial count by SDOT a few years ago was 14,000. That’s an increase of 6500 trips while we talk about the problem. Up zoning around Westwood and Morgan Junction to the west will add significantly to this. Folks we need to contact Council – Councilperson O’Brien for one is suggesting this finding be diverted elsewhere.  

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