(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.