A few weeks ago, the Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT) held an open house to discuss improvements on the section of Banner Way NE between NE 80th St and Roosevelt Way NE. The meeting was framed as a discussion to consider various safety improvement along the corridor, similar to the successful NE 75th St safety redesign that was done in 2013. Banner Way NE is the classic Seattle overbuilt four-lane road that is well within the recommended traffic volume range for a road safety corridor redesign. While these safety improvements are needed, so far this project has had a frustrating lack of details, outreach has been incredibly poor, and is an example of Seattle’s poor transportation planning.

The meeting focused on general collision data, traffic volumes, speeds, and potential alternative roadway stripings. According to SDOT, traffic volumes on Banner Way range between 22,000 and 24,500 vehicles per day. And under agency guidance, a road safety corridor redesign is typically recommended for streets that have volumes of less than 25,000 vehicles per day, meaning that it could be a candidate. SDOT staff also provided other metrics. For instance, the posted speed limit for the street is 30 mph, but southbound drivers have an 85th percentile speed of around 36 mph, and the majority of collisions occurred at the slip lanes of Banner Way NE & NE 80th St.

Banner Way is four hard-to-cross lanes with bicycle shared-lane markings. (City of Seattle)
Banner Way is four hard-to-cross lanes with bicycle shared-lane markings. (City of Seattle)

While this is a welcome project, the biggest and most obvious problem with it is that it’s yet another potential safety island in an unsafe network. The NE 75th St corridor redesign extended from 15th Ave NE to 35th Ave NE, yet this safety project’s eastern terminus is Roosevelt Way NE. That leaves the worst part of this segment (between Roosevelt Way NE and 15th Ave NE, a full four blocks) unchanged. This section also sees a relatively heavy amount of bicycle and pedestrian traffic, thanks to the Safeway located there. But if that isn’t enough, it’s also the section where the most pedestrian and bike collisions have occurred.

Collision data of the intersection near I-5. (City of Seattle)
Collision data of the intersection near I-5. (City of Seattle)

During the meeting, SDOT informed the community that funding for the safety project is coming out of the City’s bike and pedestrian funds. It would also be a very low-cost project, consisting of mostly changes to paint. This seems a bit odd, given that the recently passed Move Seattle levy, which includes $320 million over 9 years to complete numerous safety corridor projects. It’s also unacceptable that a project using bike funds like this wouldn’t connect to the existing bike lanes a few blocks away on 12th Ave NE or NE 75th St.

Five super-sized lanes of fun in the ignored section between Roosevelt Way NE and 15th Ave NE. (City of Seattle)
Five super-sized lanes of fun in the ignored section between Roosevelt Way NE and 15th Ave NE. (City of Seattle)
Pedestrian collisions: 2007-2014; the large dot at 12th Ave NE & Banner Way NE is four crashes. (City of Seattle)
Pedestrian collisions: 2007-2014; the large dot at 12th Ave NE & NE 75th St is four crashes. (City of Seattle)
Bicycle collisions: 2007-2014; the large dot at 12th Ave NE & Banner Way NE is three crashes. (City of Seattle)
Bicycle collisions: 2007-2014; the large dot at 12th Ave NE & NE 75th St is three crashes. (City of Seattle)

But if that weren’t enough, outreach for this project has been terrible. People who live near the project area received a postcard notification the day before the open house meeting (many of who were at the meeting and expressed great frustration with the lack of notice). But for those who couldn’t make it, there’s another chance to talk with SDOT staff about the project. A walk-and-talk is scheduled for today (Wednesday, April 20th) at 5.30pm, at the intersection of Banner Way NE & NE 80th St. You’d be forgiven for not knowing about this meeting though – it’s not even on SDOT’s Banner Way project webpage.

The NE 75th St road safety redesign project was a massive safety improvement. After its completion in 2013, I was told by people within SDOT that outreach would begin in 2014 to continue the road safety corridor redesign in both directions. It’s incredibly disappointing that after passing a billion dollar levy with a huge Vision Zero focus, we’re getting just a small portion of what was planned. That portion skips the most dangerous portion of this corridor for vulnerable users; it isn’t even close to being enough. Please show up to today’s walk-and-talk or submit comments to SDOT to let them know that you want more.

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4 COMMENTS

  1. How would the stop sign at the 5th ave/Banner way intersection be handled with this new striping? The google street view shows about 30 cars at that intersection, using both lanes, in both directions on Baner Way (at, what, in my experience is likely to be at less than peak load).

  2. This is a hard-to-comprehend project. Extending the bike lanes from 15th would be a hugely useful project, allowing safe travel from the single family neighborhoods along 75th to commercial districts along Roosevelt. Banner way has very little appeal for cyclists – the bridges over I5 at 80th and 85th are incredibly bike unfriendly. Both bridges are narrow with zero shoulder. The 80th bridge is one way (uphill), and a weave where 80+% of cars change lanes in about a half a block (people coming from the southbound I5 exit ramp changing to the right to go south on Banner Way, people from EB 80th going to the NB I5 ramp have to change left – almost all other trip pairs in the area are faster using 85th or 70th). The 85th bridge is a fast swooping curve, again two lanes, no shoulder, going to a very steep hill without space for bikes on it on the west side of I5 – nobody bikes that thing. If you want to cross I5 on a bike in the area, you have multiple bridges and under crossings to the south (eg, ravenna) that are way, way safer, in addition to being flat, and 92nd isn’t bad to the North, either.

    So with nobody crossing the bridge, and obviously nobody using the I5 onramp, the only bikeshed is from the area along 5th to the north of I5, going towards the 75th bike lanes. Which is a) not a lot of traffic, b) easily bypassed on quiet resiential streets, or pretty mellow 5th and roosevelt way (north of 75th it’s two way), and c) totally dependent on 75th from Roosevelt to 15th.

    So we should save our money and build nothing on Banner Way (or at a maximum build to 5th – beyond there is just crazy) and invest in 15th to roosevelt, instead. That section is not at all bike friendly now, and would connect vastly more people with vastly more destinations.

    Lastly, as a frequent driver in the area, can we replace 4-way stop at 5th and Banner with a roundabout? The street might be low enough traffic for a road diet, but it’s way too busy for a 4 way stop to be efficient.

    • Pretty much. I could see Banner Way getting used by people biking IF it connects safely to the existing infrastructure. This project will not do that. NE 92nd and NE 70th/71st will continue to be the closest safe(ish) ways across I-5 for people biking.

      I disagree with saving our money – I think it is always valuable to road diet these 4-lane death traps. I just think the wrong pot of money is going to be used for this particular project.

    • The bridge on 80th is barely safe for cars, with the big flow of I-5 exiters trying to get into the right lane on the narrow stretch of bridge to access banner way. I can’t imagine anyone biking on it (and, in fact, bikers do seem to value their lives enough not to use it — I’ve never seen a biker)

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