Last week, someone drove their car into a historic building on Rainier Avenue, injuring seven people.
In response to this event, the Columbia City Business Association has scheduled a “walk-in” tomorrow near the location of the crash to encourage action from the Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT). There have been several severe crashes on Rainier, including one just six months ago when someone drove over the curb and into a nail salon.
From 4:30 to 5:30 tomorrow, participants will cross Rainier Avenue at Ferdinand Street during each light cycle. All are welcome to join in, including latecomers.
Rainier is the “Main Street” for the Columbia City business district, however drivers often travel in excess of the posted speed limit of 30 miles per hour therefore discouraging pedestrians from walking in the area and crossing the street.
The Business Association is asking SDOT to take action, specifically by providing the following:
- Longer crossing times for pedestrians on Rainier.
- Red light cameras at intersections to reduce the number of cars speeding through red lights.
- A slower speed limit through our “main streets” and business districts.
- Roadway design changes to reduce hazardous driving.
One possible roadway design change for this stretch of Rainier could be a lane rechannelization or “road diet”, which would add a center turn lane and reduce lanes for through traffic. In other locations, lane rechannelizations have been effective at reducing vehicle speed and collisions without affecting roadway’s ability to accommodate traffic. SDOT considers 25,000 vehicles per day as a maximum volume for a four-lane roadway to receive a lane rechannelization and less than 20,000 vehicles appear to travel this stretch of Rainier daily.
The Association is looking for SDOT to take action quickly so as to not allow further and potentially more devastating collisions to occur.
Mayor Murray and new SDOT director Scott Kubly have set high expectations for action by quickly deploying of a protected bike lane on 2nd Ave downtown. Can they do the same for Rainier before something worse happens?
SDOT is repairing a block of sidewalk along S McClellan St near Beacon Hill between 24th and 25th Ave S. This route is one of few walking routes between Rainier Ave and Beacon Hill in this area. Construction will last for the duration of the week.
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Release from SDOT:
SEATTLE — Crews from the Seattle Department of Transportation are replacing a sidewalk on Rainer Avenue South at the intersection with South Jackson Street this week. The curb lane on the eastern side of Rainier Avenue South between South King and South Jackson streets will be closed 24-hours a day while the sidewalk is excavated, tree roots trimmed, and new sidewalk poured. Pedestrians will use the sidewalk on the western side of Rainier. The crews expect to complete the work by Friday, March 4.
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This follows some other work that SDOT has completed at this intersection:
Installed concrete bus bulbs (curb and sidewalk extensions) that allow buses to load and unload passengers without having to pull in and out of traffic. The wider sidewalks also provide more room for pedestrians.
· Improved street lighting and drainage related to the new bus bulbs at several locations.
· Added curb ramps at several locations along the corridor
· Removed the traffic island and installed a new traffic signal at the northwest corner of Rainier Avenue South and Martin Luther King, Junior Way South, opening the new, safer southbound turn lane from Rainier onto Martin Luther King.
These improvements were funded by the “Bridging the Gap” transportation initiative approved by Seattle voters.
Erica C. Barnett at PubliCola, responding to SDOT’s map of pedestrian fatalities first published at Walking in Seattle, calls for the city to do something about the high number of deaths on Ranier Ave S:
In five years—despite dire warnings from groups like Save Our Valley that surface-level light rail construction and operations would lead to a rash of pedestrian fatalities—there have been zero deaths in the past five years along Martin Luther King, Jr. Ave., where surface-level light rail opened in July 2009. In the same period, there have been seven deaths on or near MLK’s parallel street, Rainier Ave.
The correlation is no coincidence: As I’ve written before, Rainier Ave. is a pedestrian nightmare, a five-lane arterial where drivers speed along at 50 mph and where stoplights are as far as a mile apart. MLK, in contrast, has more stop lights, fewer lanes, and frequent pedestrian crossings, especially at light rail stations. According to the PI.com, Rainier is the most dangerous street in the city, with 61 reported car-pedestrian collisions between 2002 and 2006. The intersection of Rainier and 39th Ave. S. tied a several-block-long stretch of Aurora for the most jaywalking incidents (six) in the city.
The solution (as I’ve also written before) is to add more stoplights and lighted, marked crosswalks all along Rainier. As long as people have to walk a half-mile in each direction to get to the nearest stop light and back, people are going to keep jaywalking across Rainier, and people are going to keep getting hit. The pedestrian death map highlights what’s already obvious to anyone who walks, rides the bus, drives, or bikes along Rainier: The city hasn’t taken pedestrian safety in the Rainier Valley seriously, and it’s time for them to step up and do so.
The Rainier Valley Post (via Publicola) reports that SDOT is doing some construction along Rainier Ave. Most of these improvements are transit-oriented, to the benefit of the riders of the popular bus route 7.
Pedestrians will benefit, too, with new pedestrian signals across Rainier at 39th Ave S and at S Fronteac St. Some crosswalks will be repainted and curb ramps will be added in several places along the street.
The project is expected to continue through the end of the year.