Which Of These Is Seattle’s Worst Intersection In 2016?


Another year, another solid crop of nominees for worst intersection in Seattle. These are 10 of the most dangerous and unpleasant crossings that Seattle has to offer. While all of these need some serious re-engineering from SDOT, only one of them can truly be the worst intersection in Seattle. Read the descriptions, view the photos, and cast your vote.

1. Leary Way NW & 20th Avenue NW

The Urbanist wrote almost 1000 words on why this intersection sucks, “It’s a safety hazard to both drivers and pedestrians. And, if it’s dangerous for both of these groups, it has to be even worse for bicyclists.”

Leary Way NW & 20th Avenue NW (Google Maps)
Leary Way NW & 20th Avenue NW (Google Maps)

2. N 50th St & Phinney Ave N

Skylar nominates this one, “Drivers will barrel through the crosswalk at 30+ mph without regards to pedestrians, and in fact probably cannot even see them until they are about 30′ away due to the way the street curves around the zoo.”

N 50th St & Phinney Ave N (Google Streetview)
N 50th St & Phinney Ave N (Google Streetview)

3. Rainier Ave S & I-90

Al Dimond nominates this one and the next one, saying “About half of the top 10 worst intersections in Seattle have got to be along Rainier!” One example is the on ramp onto I-90 “Crosswalk across two exit ramp lanes. One is HOV, so it may be moving while the other is backed up, and it’s also set up so pedestrians can’t tell whether a driver in that lane is going to exit or not until the last second.”

Rainier at I-90 on-ramp (Google Streetview)
Rainier at I-90 on-ramp (Google Streetview)

4. Rainier Ave S & S Henderson St

“…was called out recently on Twitter as one of the most dangerous in the city. It’s a pretty straightforward design, but I guess that much fast traffic right by a couple schools is a bad combination.”

Rainier Ave S & S Henderson St (Google Maps)
Rainier Ave S & S Henderson St (Google Maps)

5. 5th & Stewart

Hayden B nominates this one, “The buses cut across all four lanes of Stewart from 7th to turn left on 5th. It’s awful.”

5th & Stewart (Google Streetview)
5th & Stewart (Google Streetview)

6. Montlake Blvd & 520

Lisa nominates this top vote-getter from last year, saying, “Angry drivers, all on their phones waiting to get on 520, buses, lots of pedestrians, very long lights, pedestrians darting across to catch their bus, bikes routed to sidewalks and crosswalks because of construction. It is a disastrous spot.”

7. Montlake Blvd & NE Pacific St

Jim S says, “Beg button takes forever. lots of light rail passengers trying to cross.”

Montlake Blvd & NE Pacific St (Google Maps)
Montlake Blvd & NE Pacific St (Google Maps)

8. Sand Point Way & 50th Ave NE

Another one nominated by Jim S, “Really bad visibility crossing sand point from east to west, cars going way too fast in both directions.”

Sand Point Way & 50th Ave NE (Google Streetview)
Sand Point Way & 50th Ave NE (Google Streetview)

9. Ravenna Ave NE & NE 54th St

Yasmeen says, “I nominate Ravenna & 54th, ‘The Ravenna Park Triangle’ for being utterly unpredictable. Cars can go both ways on all three of those intersections, and during rush hour traffic backs up and people get impatient. Walking through, especially during that time, is a disaster.”

Ravenna Ave NE & NE 54th St / Ravenna Park Triangle (Google Maps)
Ravenna Ave NE & NE 54th St / Ravenna Park Triangle (Google Maps)

10. N 50th St / Stone Way N / Green Lake Way N

Another nominated by Yasmeen, “My least favorite for walk wait times. There are so many intersections at that point that it can be several minutes before you get a walk light.”

N 50th St / Stone Way N / Green Lake Way N (Google Maps)
N 50th St / Stone Way N / Green Lake Way N (Google Maps)

You can vote for which intersection you think is the worst of 2016 at Walking In Seattle.

This is a cross-post from Walking In Seattle.

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Troy is a pedestrian advocate who serves on the board of Seattle Neighborhood Greenways. He loves cities and walking, hiking, and biking. He wrote a book to help others looking to find the right place for them, called Move to the Place of Your Dreams: A Relocation Handbook. By day, he is a professional consultant for a technology firm.

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Dude. Roxbury, Renton Ave. S. and 51st Ave. S. is FAR worse than this. At least there’s a stoplight on the 50th and Stone Way intersection.

Stephen Fesler

Make sure to nominate that street next year! It could be in the running.


Any chance of something being done about Rainier Ave S & I-90 before the light rail station opens?

Izaac Post

Growing up, the 5-way intersection at 50th and stone way was always my least favorite intersection. Walking across it is a pain because the signal times are so long, and you have to cross so many different streets to get anywhere. I always thought a roundabout would be a better solution.

Al Dimond

You have to cross just as many streets to get across at a roundabout, you just do it without a signal. That’s fine for some people at some times of day…

This particular design would at least need refuges to break up the four-lanes-at-a-time crosswalks. So it turns into something like this. That one has fewer spokes, but is almost as complex due to a couple bypasses. A roundabout like that isn’t clearly worse for walking than 50th/Green Lake today, but it’s no picnic.

IIRC SDOT studied it and didn’t think a roundabout would handle the particular traffic conditions there very well. In isolation I’d expect with a roundabout we wouldn’t need so many lanes coming in and out to store lots of queueing traffic and then accommodate it quickly on the far side when the light turns green. I’d guess that despite the large number of lanes the actual number of vehicles carried by the four-lane roads at this intersection isn’t that great… and if we could just smooth out the traffic flows instead of producing intense pulses, we might be able to get away with fewer lanes and a simpler roundabout design. Maybe the problem SDOT found is that this roundabout isn’t isolated — it receives intense pulses of traffic from the 46th/Aurora interchange.