One intersection in West Seattle recently got the full Vision Zero treatment. Located at the confluence of SW Admiral Way, 47th Ave SW, and SW Waite St, the Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT) sought to make the intersection much safer for users of the street. Part of the impetus for SDOT to do this was the death of Matthew “Tatsuo” Nakata, an aide to former Councilmember David Della, in 2006. Nakata was walking across the street, but was tragically struck by an oncoming driver. The original design of the intersection lent itself to danger for three critical reasons:
- SW Admiral Way is a curving thoroughfare with three minor streets converging to create a complicated five-way intersection;
- The intersection essentially sits atop an incline; and
- A striped crosswalk with an overhead flashing sign was placed across the southern portion of SW Admiral Way where the curve comes to an end, but the downhill portion of the incline continues.
Aside from this, pedestrians had cross the equivalent of four lanes, despite clear effort of SDOT to tighten the width of the street. Ultimately, the original design suffered from poor sight distance and sight lines.
To address the issues of the intersection, SDOT instituted five primary changes (SDOT Director, Scott Kubly, highlights some of these in a short video below):
- Installed a new traffic signal with advanced pedestrian technology;
- Upgraded six curb ramps to meet ADA requirements;
- Added crosswalk striping between four intersections;
- Removed the center lane turn pocket on SW Admiral Way and converted it to left-only at two ends of the street;
- Removed on-street parking within 50 feet of SW Admiral Way when located on approach streets;
- Added stop striping for drivers at all intersections; and
- Removed the existing pedestrian signal.
Aside from the practical safety design changes, the local community organization, Admiral Neighborhood Association (ANA), went a step further and commissioned street art. Seattle artist Peregrine Church of Rainworks was chosen to stencil words on the concrete of two street corners. The stenciled words are rain-activated and only appear when they become wet. Seattleites may be familiar with many of his other guerrilla artwork on sidewalks throughout the city.
While this project will deliver considerable safety and usability benefits to local residents and visitors, it’s just the start of many improvements slated for the area. SDOT plans to move ahead on more street safety redesigns, including the SW Admiral Way Safety Project.
Stephen is a professional urban planner in Puget Sound with a passion for sustainable, livable, and diverse cities. He is especially interested in how policies, regulations, and programs can promote positive outcomes for communities. With stints in great cities like Bellingham and Cork, Stephen currently lives in Seattle. He primarily covers land use and transportation issues and has been with The Urbanist since 2014.