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Publicola Covers Last Week’s SDOT Rainier Safety Meeting

Although a few other news outlets covered last Tuesday’s SDOT Rainier Safety Meeting, Publicola has emerged with the most thorough coverage. As Josh Feit writes:Rainier Data

SDOT director Scott Kubly was in Columbia City last night kicking off a series of neighborhood meetings to begin the process of upgrading Rainier Ave. S. between Letitia Ave. S and Seward Park Ave. S. The pressing concern about the southeast Seattle principal arterial is pedestrian safety.

SDOT traffic engineer Dongho Chang presented the room (about 55 people were on hand at the the Columbia School elementary) with scary statistics about Rainier, starting with a slide that noted: “Data indicates significant speed and collision issues along the Rainier corridor.”

For example, there’s an average of one crash a day on Rainier with 1243 total collisions in the last three years, 630 injuries, and two fatalities. Compare that to 717 total collisions on Lake City Way NE and 294 on 35th Ave. SW.

Another factor, that a March 2013 U.W. school of public health study found when comparing Rainier Av. S. crossings to crossings in Ballard, was that intersections in both neighborhoods had a difference in the time allotted for pedestrians to cross. Rainer Av. S. had not been adjusted for compliance with federal safety standards while Ballard had. Additionally, Rainier Ave. is much wider which could contribute to the higher instances of (dangerous) jaywalking on Rainier.

“Data indicates significant speed and collision issues along the Rainier corridor.”

Rainier is also a busy stretch with 19,700 to 26,600 vehicle trips on weekdays (plus 11,000 transit trips) coupled with lots of pedestrians—100 crossings a day, for example at Rainier and Henderson…

Feit goes on to cover much more of the meeting. To read the full piece, click here.

For those who could not attend, the full slide show SDOT covered during the meeting can be accessed here.

SDOT’s Rainier Transportation/Safety Open House on Thursday

The next followup meeting regarding the ongoing safety issues and proposals for the Rainier Valley is happening on Thursday, July 30th, at 7pm at the Rainier Valley Community Center. If you are interested in a safer Rainier Ave, better pedestrian and bike access, and having less cars slam into buildings, you should attend. Here’s the official agenda (click for full details):CC_rally

Join Mayor Ed Murray and the Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT) to learn more about three transportation projects that are going make it safer and easier to walk, bike, drive and access transit in your neighborhood.
• Rainier Avenue South Road Safety Corridor
• Rainier Valley North-South Neighborhood Greenway
• Accessible Mt. Baker

SDOT Proposes Three Potential Options for Rainier Ave. Safety Project

Option 1b, showing protected bike lanes between Columbia and Hillman City

Option 1b, showing protected bike lanes between Columbia and Hillman City

Tonight’s packed meeting at the Columbia School was the current step in SDOT’s ongoing efforts to tackle Rainier Ave’s major safety problems. The meeting began by quickly establishing that Rainier has, without question, some alarming safety concerns and that the road is in dire need of some major rethinking and redesign.

In addition to some easy changes that can be made right away–lowering the speed limit through Columbia and Hillman city to 25mph (which got a big applause), re-timing pedestrian crosswalks (more applause), making sure lanes and signals are visible, etc.–SDOT proposed three different options for significant redesigns of Rainier Ave S:

Option 1A:

  • A road diet from S. Alaska to S. Henderson
  • Reduction from four lanes to two lanes…with a designated turning lane in the middle.

Option 1B:

  • Same as option 1A but with the addition of protected bike lanes between Columbia and Hillman City (the most involved and expensive option)

Option 2:

  • Essentially the same as option 1A but with designated transit lanes running intermittently the whole four-mile stretch. No bike lanes.

Although there are variations with separate benefits and limitations to each plan, all share essentially the same key features:

Reduce top collision types (left turns, sideswipe, parked car)

Lower vehicle speeds

Better conditions for people walking

Opportunities for new crossings

Improved efficiency

Easier turning movements – especially for large vehicles

The full presentation can be viewed here and, of course, SDOT’s slideshow goes into much more detail than the quick summaries provided above. To better understand the implications of each option, be sure to really explore the data provided and the ideas behind each proposal. Comments, questions, and concerns regarding each proposal were welcomed and addressed at the end of the meeting. Continued input from the community was encouraged.

The next meeting (addressing much of the same info that was provided tonight as well as some additional, specific information for areas of concern north of Hillman) will be:

Tuesday , March 3, 2015
6:00 PM to 8:00 PM, The Ethiopian Community Center,
8323 Rainier Ave S

In the months to come, SDOT will continue to review and study the options, continue to seek out feedback and input from the community, and come back with a decision around May. From there, implementation will begin–which, depending on the decision, may be a very long process. Questions and comments about the proposals can be directed here:

jim.curtin@seattle.gov

(206) 684-8874

Reminder: SDOT Rainier Ave Safety Meetings (2/26 and 3/3)

SDOT is hosting two follow-up meetings in the coming weeks to the Rainier Ave. Safety Project that’s underway. As many in the neighborhood are well-aware, the past year proved beyond any doubt that action needs to be taken to keep pedestrians (and buildings) safe from Rainier’s often-dangerous traffic. Neighborhood involvement and turnout at the last few meetings and events has been high and that is absolutely one of the main reasons SDOT is now paying attention and working on this project. If you can, be sure to attendRainierPostcard:

 

SDOT invites you to review potential safety improvements for Rainier and to provide feedback on possible design changes at one of the following meetings:

Thursday, February 26, 2015
6:30 PM to 8:30 PM, The Columbia School – Cafeteria/Commons,
3528 S Ferdinand St (use the Edmunds St entrance and parking area)

Tuesday , March 3, 2015*
6:00 PM to 8:00 PM, The Ethiopian Community Center,
8323 Rainier Ave S

*Additional information will be presented about upcoming transportation
projects in the Rainier Beach neighborhood at this meeting

Launching November 2014 – the Rainier Avenue South Safety Corridor Project – a multi-year effort to improve safety for all through street improvements, increased enforcement efforts, and educational outreach.

The Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT) is launching a collaborative process to review roadway conditions along Rainier Avenue South. As safety is our number one priority, we are committed to preventing collisions and improving safety for all users of the transportation system.

Together we will determine the specific nature and design elements of these changes through the process described below. New safety measures to be considered through this project will include: arterial traffic calming, traffic signal modifications, pavement repair, and pedestrian and bicycle safety enhancements. To address behavioral issues like speeding, distraction and impaired driving, we will develop targeted enforcement strategies and area-specific educational outreach.

This project will focus on the segment of Rainier Avenue South from Letitia Avenue South to Seward Park Avenue South.

Facts about Rainier Avenue South

  • Principal arterial classification
  • Adjacent land uses:
    • Single family and multi-family residential, commercial, industrial
    • Libraries, parks, community centers, senior housing and senior centers
    • More than 10 schools and daycare centers within three blocks of Rainier
  • Speed limit 30 mph
  • Busy transit corridor
  • Average Daily Traffic – 19,700 to 26,600 vehicles per weekday
  • 1243 total collisions, 630 injuries and two fatalities January 2011 through September 2014

 

KUOW Covers Rainier’s Safety Problems

rainier-ave-photo-jason

Photo by KUOW’s Jamala Henderson

KUOW’s Jamala Henderson had the following to report on Rainier’s speed problem’s this morning. Click here to listen and remember, the next SDOT meeting is tomorrow at 4:30 p.m. at the Ethiopian Community Center (8323 Rainier Ave. S)

Rainier Avenue, one of two main arterials in Seattle’s southend has a notorious problem with aggressive, speeding drivers.

Some residents say they’ve known about it for years, and their complaints about it to the city have gone unanswered.

New collision and injury data from the Seattle Department of Transportation shows those residents were right – more than a thousand people every day drive 10 miles or more over the 30 mile-an-hour limit.

A Near Miss

Late last summer, Phyllis Porter  was walking down Rainier Avenue to have lunch at The Grecian Deli. She changed her mind, though, and stepped back out.

“As soon as I stepped on the curb, all I could see was an SUV coming at me,” she said.

Seconds later that SUV crashed head on into the Carol Cobb Hair salon and the Grecian Deli. Porter remembers screaming. Debris flew everywhere. People in the deli were pinned to a wall inside.

Seven people were injured, including children.

As it happens, Porter is an advocate for street safety in the community. The accident that nearly took her out is what she tries to prevent.

“It’s really hard because I work in this area,” Porter said. “I’m at the point where I really don’t want to walk on Rainier Avenue.”

Alarming New Data

Porter was at a community meeting, hosted by the city transportation department, that revealed new statistics about collisions in the area. The data made one thing clear: There’s a lot of speeding going on through South Seattle.

Dongho Chang, Seattle’s traffic engineer, said the focus is on controlling speeding behavior.

“If you look at a similar corridor like Lake City Way — that has much more volume but significantly less collisions,” said Chang. “That tells us that this roadway needs some attention.”

Speeding is a problem on Rainier, but the biggest issue is the number of collisions. There have been 1,243 collisions between Columbia City and Seward Park on Rainier Avenue in the last three years. Those have resulted in 630 injuries and two deaths.

In the last decade, there have been 11 deaths due to traffic accidents on Rainier.

Residents have a long list of safety ideas for SDOT. They include improved signal timing, better police enforcement, and adding traffic cameras along the corridor. City officials said they expect to put solutions in place by spring of next year.

For Phyllis Porter, those changes couldn’t happen soon enough.

“The things that are happening in Rainier Valley, Columbia City, Hillman City,” she said, naming the neighborhoods off Rainier Avenue, “these things are unacceptable. And something needs to be done now.”

SDOT will hold another community meeting on the Rainier Traffic Safety Project at 4:30 p.m. on Tuesday, Nov. 18 at the Ethiopian Community Center, 8323 Rainier Ave. S.

Another Accident on Rainier: SDOT Safety Meeting 11/12

Once again, there are bollards down, pedestrians at risk, and a car/driver at fault at Rainier and Ferdinand. Initial reports from the neighborhood Facebook page are indicating everyone is OK. This incident (it’s getting difficult to keep track of how many there have been as of late) is a good reminder for everyone to attend  this Wednesday’s (11/12) Rainier Safety Project meeting with SDOT at the Columbia School1622705_10152514290097476_6045330971924086630_n

Rainier Ave. Road Safety Corridor Project Moving Forward

CC_rallySDOT has released some initial details regarding the plans to tackle the traffic and safety problems that have been at the forefront of a lot of neighbor’s minds as of late.

According to SDOT, more information is to come but they wanted to get the word out as early as possible about a number of key “issue identification” meetings for those interested. The details are as follows:

WEDNESDAY, NOVEMBER 12

TIME: 6:00 PM to 8:00 PM

LOCATION: The Columbia School – Cafeteria/Commons, 3528 S. Ferdinand St (use the Edmunds St entrance)

 

WEDNESDAY, NOVEMBER 28

TIME: 4:30 PM to 6:30 PM

LOCATION: The Ethiopian Community Center, 8323 Rainier Ave S

These meetings are an opportunity for you to share your experiences on Rainier with SDOT’s project team and review collision data along the corridor.  This will be a collaborative process to review conditions along this roadway and find solutions that will improve safety for all users of the corridor.

Below gives a rough timeframe estimate of this process:

Safety Plan

Local News Covers Yesterday’s Rally for a Safer Rainier

As many noticed on the way home or to the market, yesterday marked another rally to raise awareness about Rainier Ave’s ongoing safety issues. Local news outlets were on hand to cover the story. Here’s the report from KOMO:

SEATTLE — Rainier Avenue South averaged one crash every day over the last three years, according to the Seattle Department of Transportation.

From 2011 to 2014, there were 1,243 accidents along Rainier, and community members say that’s unacceptable.

City data also found that each year, between 10 to 25  pedestrians and two to five bicyclists are involved in collisions on Rainier.  The city says the likelihood of injury is nearly 100 percent in pedestrian and bicycle collisions.

Last year after a string of crashes, SDOT promised changes are coming, but some community members would like to see the changes sooner.

Activists organized a protest and rally outside Columbia City’s popular Farmer’s Market Wednesday to keep pressure on the city. Residents, business owners and crash victims carried picket signs, signed a petition calling for action and signed a giant Get Well card for all the businesses and people hurt by accidents along the busy stretch.

Activist such as Phyllis Porter with Rainier Valley Greenways insist the stats have earned Rainier the title of “most dangerous street in the city.”

“Something is definitely going on, a lot of speeding going on down here,” said Porter.

In a short stretch of Rainier Avenue there have been three recent harrowing crashes. In August an out of control pickup rammed into 15 vehicles.

A couple weeks later an SUV jumped the sidewalk, nearly killing several people. The driver plowed through steel posts, rode the sidewalk, crossed the street and plowed into a busy salon. The driver rammed through a wall and crashed into the neighboring Greek deli.

“I believe they’re estimating she was going  60 or 70 miles per hour,” said Rainier Avenue S. business owner Emily Kopca.

And just three weeks ago, another speeding car jumped the curb, less than a block away, nearly careening into a storefront.

“We’re calling out to the city today to act now to fix the most dangerous street in Seattle,” said Porter.

Kopca, who Columbia City Bouquet on Rainier, has had a front-row seat to much of the destruction.

“Rainier Avenue is a street in which the car takes priority over the pedestrian,” said Kopca.

SDOT promised safety changes last year and came up with several proposed options. They include putting Rainier Avenue on a Road Diet — shrinking it down to just two lanes with a center turning lane — or possibly adding a bike lane or a transit lane. SDOT expects a decision by mid-June.

“Something has got to be done,” said Kyoto Pierce, a Columbia City resident.

SDOT research found one in every three collisions in the city involves speed.

“I almost got hit crossing the street,” Pierce said. “And these people making the turn, they don’t care.”

SDOT says it will reduce the speed limit from 30 to 25 mph from Hillman City to Columbia City, as requested by the community, as well  as extend Cross Walk times, add better signage and striping at crossing points and enhance the timing on traffic lights.

“People just want to make sure it does happen. We’re not going to stop until it does happen,” vowed Porter.

KIRO was also on hand to cover the event.

Crosscut on the Rainier Road Diet: Not the Perfect Solution

Crosscut’s Eric Scigliano has a new piece on the proposed Rainier Road diet.

Unlike most of the recent coverage on SDOT’s three proposals (which has been primarily enthusiastic and approving),  Scigliano’s piece includes criticism of the road diet and limited bike lanes and reaches out to opponents (or at least those skeptical) of the plan. Vocal Columbia City neighbor, realtor, and long-time neighborhood activist, Ray Aykers (who dove into a lively discussion here on the same proposals), is included in the conversation

Late this spring, the Seattle Department of Transportation plans to put Rainier Avenue S.

Option 1b, showing protected bike lanes between Columbia and Hillman City

Option 1b, showing protected bike lanes between Columbia and Hillman City

from Columbia City to the city limit on a “road diet” — to squeeze it down from a four- to two-lane arterial, with a center turn lane serving left-turning vehicles going both ways. SDOT has presented three alternative schemes for doing this, all with the same traffic configuration. Only one of them includes any provision for bicycles, and that’s just 0.9 miles of separated bikeway from Hillman City to a little north of Columbia City, the stretch of Rainier with the most commercial and pedestrian activity.

This redesign will make notoriously perilous Rainier safer and more convenient for pedestrians and safer if somewhat less convenient for motorists. But unless it’s amended, it may actually make this notoriously perilous avenue less safe for cyclists, squandering an even better opportunity to bring a safe, widely accessible through cycle route to the most under-served quadrant of the city.

Before considering how that’s come to be and what can be done about it, it’s important to credit the need and motives driving the push for a Rainier safety fix. There’s no questioning the need. Rainier is far from Seattle’s busiest arterial, and, at 8 miles, it accounts for only about 1/200th of the city’s arterial miles, and 1/500th of total street miles. But Rainier claims 1/30th of the city’s traffic collisions, and an even larger share of traffic fatalities — two in the last three years, 11 in the last 10. On Rainier, as opposed to other hotspots, the victims are mostly pedestrians…

The piece goes on to include a number of areas of concern about the road diet’s lane reduction and offers some strong criticism of the limited bike-lanes:

[Ray] Akers predicts the lane reduction will be a disaster for Southeast businesses, most of which lie along Rainier, and for property owners there. “How many Safeways can you find located on a two-lane road?” he asks. “How about 7-Elevens or McDonald’s? Any major chain will seek a major arterial, and that means four lanes. Secondary and tertiary arterials do not command the attention or the value of a four-lane arterial. Real estate fronting on a four-lane arterial is always more valuable.”

[SDOT Director, Scott] Kubly and [Mayor] Murray contend that far from road diets starving retail, there is “a lot of data showing that when you do these kinds of facilities [road diets], retail does better,” says Kubly. “It’s only going to make this a more attractive place to be.” And anyway, he adds, “Most of the people using these retail businesses are using transit to get there.”

Really? Try parking in Columbia City.

I asked both Akers and Kubly and SDOT spokesman Richard Sheridan if they could send me their data. I didn’t hear back from SDOT. Akers replied that his data was “anecdotal,” with one notable example very close at hand: Many retailers closed when only two traffic lanes continued operating on MLK during light rail construction. Indeed, but that project caused (and continues to cause) much more disruption than a road diet, which would be speedily implemented.

I suspect that Akers and City Hall are both right to a degree: Fewer traffic lanes will be one more factor dissuading the sort of national retailers that Akers has tried for frustrating decades to lure to Southeast Seattle. But smaller, locally-owned, more pedestrian-oriented businesses may fare better in calmer traffic conditions (and be glad not to have SUVs crashing through their walls). Southeast Seattleites will continue to miss the convenience of Trader Joe’s and Target nearby, but Columbia and Hillman Cities will retain their distinctive, nearly all-local characters. Some residents would call that a fair trade.

The neglect of bicycles in the Rainier plans is more worrisome, and not just for the missed opportunity. Paring lanes may actually make Rainier Ave. more scary for cyclists. That’s because impatient motorists will no longer have another traffic lane for passing them. Asked about this, Jim Curtin said drivers could still use the center turn lane for passing. But that’s dangerous too — and illegal…

Be sure to read the whole piece here.

Seattle Times on the Rainier Road Diet

Over the weekend, The Seattle Times chimed in on the various proposals to calm the traffic on Rainier. Click here to read the whole post:

The city’s patience ran out last August, after a car slammed into the Carol Cobb Salon on Seattle’s busy Rainier Avenue South, pinning a 344a51ac-c479-11e4-93b0-814658681981-300x650family of three to the wall.

Miraculously, no one was seriously hurt. A neighborhood rally followed, the salon and the Greek restaurant next to it temporarily found other sites — and Scott Kubly, city transportation director, told staff to let loose their safety ideas.

Eight times in the past year, cars have smashed into businesses in and around the Columbia City business district. The city also reports 1,243 collisions in a 3½-mile stretch of Rainier Avenue South in the past three years, causing 630 injuries and two deaths.

Rainier’s road diet

The city is preparing to remove two general traffic lanes for 3½ miles between South Alaska Street and South Henderson Street. Also, the speed limit of 30 mph would decrease to 25 mph for one mile, through the Columbia City and Hillman City business districts. Options range from $500,000 to $2 million.

Option 1a: Reduce the four lanes to two lanes, plus a center left-turn lane.

Option 1b: Same as 1a, but add protected bicycle lanes in the Columbia City-Hillman City core.

Option 2: A “hybrid” layout that includes bus lanes in parts of the corridor. Some roadside parking would be removed.

Source: Seattle Department of Transportation

Twelve people have died on Rainier Avenue as a whole in the last decade, and there are twice as many collisions as on Lake City Way or Aurora Avenue North.

The problem is speed, safety officials say.

So in October, the road’s four lanes will be reduced to two between South Alaska Street and South Henderson Street, plus a left-turn lane in the center. In a mile-long retail core, the speed limit will be reduced from 30 mph to 25 mph.

Rainier Avenue will undergo the city’s 36th so-called road diet since 1972, on a former state highway that attracts nearly 20,000 cars a day. Another lane reduction goes into effect in April on 23rd Avenue through the Central Area, including the stretch in front of Garfield High School.

On Rainier, one of seven drivers exceeds 38 mph between Columbia City and Hillman City, city samples found.

Nationally, road diets reduce crashes some 29 percent, while a city study of Seattle’s 2007 road diet on largely commercial Stone Way North found injury crashes dropped by a third. Average speeds dropped 3 mph…