If a street in Seattle has “Way” in the title, you know that it’s more likely than most streets to be heavily car-centric. Denny Way, Leary Way, and Marginal Way all have this in common. Northeast Seattle’s stroad is Sand Point Way, which follows the contours of Lake Washington and is an easy way for drivers to get around that quadrant of the city. Sand Point Way also has a lot of amenities along it: Seattle Children’s Hospital, Magnuson Park, and the University Village shopping center at the south end. Unfortunately, it is not set up to handle people not in cars very well. The Burke-Gilman Trail follows Sand Point Way pretty closely, and is heavily used by people walking and biking, but a multi-use trail is not a good replacement for a complete street.

Many segments of Sand Point Way currently lack sidewalks on both sides of the street, with some segments having no real sidewalks. Pedestrians on those segments are basically walking on planting strips on the side of the road.

A stretch of Sand Point Way NE near NE 60th St. (Google maps)

The good news is that the Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT) is conducting a study on how to improve the street, and they appear to be leaning toward a road diet solution. This is a good call: the street is currently two lanes in each direction, with traffic volumes at low enough levels that many vehicles are speeding. SDOT also proposes lowering the speed limit from 35 (with some segments signed 40) to 30 MPH, which wouldn’t do much if not coupled with the intense street changes that they are proposing. With the lane reduction comes the opportunity to use the space currently occupied by excess lanes to create pedestrian walkways: low-cost sidewalks using already existing pavement. Now, these walkways in what is currently the street will have to feel safe for people walking. Using inexpensive curbs or dividers will be the easiest way to make this happen, but it will be interesting to see what SDOT proposes.

SDOT is also considering a protected bike lane on the west side of Sand Point Way for a stretch south of NE 65th St. The Burke-Gilman Trail is close by, but if you need to access businesses along Sand Point Way it won’t do you that much good.

Below is the full map of changes that SDOT is proposing along the corridor:

Improvements SDOT is proposing for Sand Point Way. (City of Seattle)

A road diet on Sand Point Way is a no-brainer, and it is exciting to see the department deciding to use excess roadway capacity to expand pedestrian access in lieu of adding proper sidewalks. Now they need to hear from Seattle residents that these are the right changes to make, as they are likely to get pushback from people who are used to using Sand Point Way as a fast car route through Northeast Seattle.

These changes will also be good for route 62–no matter which direction it turns onto Sand Point Way.

SDOT is hosting a meeting on Wednesday night, January 25th, at 7:00 in the Officer’s Club (Building 30) at Magnuson Park. Because this project does not even appear to have a project website yet, you can e-mail supportive comments on the road diet to 684-Road@seattle.gov, SDOT’s general comment address.

It is time for a new era on Sand Point Way.

18 COMMENTS

  1. Given the broad ROW that already exists, would it be better to install roundabouts to replace the signalized intersections at 65th, 70th, 74th, and NOAA drive? Generally roundabouts don’t work in Seattle because of the tight street grid, but I think they could work well here given most of these intersections already have a large footprint.

    • A few things I would flag with that idea are pedestrians, bikes, buses, and freight. Any roundabout layout have to provide for bus and freight turning requirements, and be designed to minimise additional walking from the intersection necks. And at NE 65th St, a roundabout layout would have to be specifically designed for bikes to continue safely through. I’d be curious to see what the intersections plans for those streets would look like with those particular issues in mind.

      • I think the intersections are large enough handle buses & freight, which, again, is unusual within Seattle. Look at the roundabouts off of I90 exits 13 and 31 as good examples of “truck skirts” that allow freight & buses to easily navigate the intersection.

        For bikers, a dutch roundabout would work wonders … that makes the roundabout even bigger, but at 65th the city can always cannibalize a little bit of the park on the NE corner to make it fit.

        For pedestrians a simple signalized ‘flashing yellow’ crosswalk should work great, similar to what is used at midblock crossings.

        Basically, I’m a huge roundabout booster & I hope SDOT considers them… they are safer and greener than signalized intersections and fit the spirit of this project for traffic calming.

        • 20′ and 40′ containers as well as NESS cranes go in and out of the NOAA property. Roundabouts? No.

  2. 1) Having a parallel walk/bike route on Sand Point Way would help people get around detours when we have to close The Burke for repairs and other work. It’s not just for getting to businesses; Sand Point Way should have sidewalks and bike lanes.

    2) The SDOT project managers for this (as of Jan 10th) are Shauna Walgren and Howard Wu. I don’t know where 684-road@seattle.gov goes to, but I’d suggest CC’ing shauna.walgren@seattle.gov and howard.wu@seattle.gov on your emails.

    • I didn’t mean to imply that reaching businesses is the only reason to use Sand Point Way, but rather trying to conceptualize it for someone who might question building a PBL directly next to the Burke Gilman.

      • Understood, but I find that it also helps to explain to those same people that the Burke is not always available. When a highway or bridge gets closed, drivers can use alternate parallel routes. That’s not an option for people walking or biking unless safe parallel routes exist.

        • I think the most compelling argument is that the street should be safe for pedestrians cross the street, and a PBL would help slow down vehicle speeds and decreasing crossing distances. Even if no people every biked in the PBL, the safety to pedestrians is well worth the investment in the PBL.

  3. What about a bus lane? Isn’t transit access to the link station a priority? It seems like NE Seattle had the worst transit to downtown right now, since you have to transfer to link.

    Looking at the long range plan, there are supposed to be rapidrides on part of sandpoint in the future… I would hope they would at least leave those sections open to bus lanes.

  4. Thoughts:
    1. Aside from the main entrances to Magnuson Park and to NOAA, I’m not sure that turn pocket lanes are merited.
    2. Why not reduce the speed limit to 25 mph?
    3. Need a marked crosswalk & RRFBs from BGT spur to the backdoor trail to Sail Sand Point and Cascade Bicycle Club.
    4. At intersection of Sand Point Way & NE 65th Street, the existing 65th St PBL and the proposed Sand Point Way PBL should seamlessly connect to the frontage road inside the park. The road should get speed humps for a greenway treatment, from 65th St to the Cascade Bicycling Center.
    5. There should be bike lanes on Sand Point Way for the entire length of this project. For AAA design, PBLs south of 65th & the greenway treatment of the frontage road would be acceptable, but still need buffered bike lanes on Sand Point Way for the entire length.

  5. Look at the recent pedestrian hit by motorist on 65th and Roosevelt as an example. Cramming in bus lanes, bike lanes, car lanes, and pedestrians all in the same area is chaotic, unsafe for many. Is not a dedicated bike path, the Burke Gilman Trail, right next to Sand Point Way enough? City may need to back to the drawing board before the screw up Sand Point Way.

  6. Um, how many people work at NOAA, Children’s, etc.
    Put a bike lane on a road that parallels the Burke?
    What is wrong with a road for cars and buses.
    If you really want to fix it, make one lane dedicated for transit only.
    You are all clowns.

  7. Have you seen Metro #62 try to turn onto 65th from Sand Point?
    How about watching this same bus try to drive up to the BG Tail from Sand Point.
    Not possible for it to stay in it’s lane thanks to the million dollar concrete barrier put in for bikes down to Sand Point Way. Really needed to make that bike lane so wide? Really needed a concrete barrier? At what expense did this project cost? Sorry, but this insanity needs to be rolled back a touch.

  8. You have got to be kidding me. Seattle has the absolute worst urban planners of a major city. I live off of 65th and:
    1. continue to witness the debacle of the new-ish bike lane with barrier that was installed just west of SPW a few years ago. On a “heavy” traffic day, I might see TWO or maybe THREE whole bikers using this dedicated bike lane. How much did this cost? For truly a handful of users ?
    2. The new-ish 62 bus route: drivers of this bus struggle to make the turn from SPW onto 65th St, especially when there are cars stopped at the light on the west side of 65th. Really clever planning, especially for an articulated bus (that is very sparsely occupied).
    3. As the author of this nonsense article mentions a couple of times, the Burke Gilman Trail is 1/4 mile away (in most areas) from SPW! So WTF? Why would we need a “road diet” on SPW to make room for bikers when there is a bloody trail RIGHT THERE for bikers to use? I DO NOT UNDERSTAND this logic.
    4. As for pedestrians, do you honestly believe that there will be heavy foot traffic along SPW? What businesses are being denied foot traffic because of a lack of sidewalks (7-Eleven?)? There is a sprinkling of an odd business here and there along SPW, with no dense retail stretch until you reach Princeton Ave. Who do you really think is going to be using brand new sidewalks? Where will these walkers be going? If walkers want to walk for exercise, then hike another 1/4 mile west and use the gd trail that is dedicated to walking and biking!
    5. If this city wants to encourage bus use, why for god sake does it want to narrow SPW down to one lane? During the morning and evening commutes, there is going to be congestion, slower traffic, and increased frustration.
    6. So much for all of the money spent, the road dug up, traffic reduced to one lane from the CONTINUOUS work on SPW the last few years (much of it very mysterious – like, did they not fix under-roadway pipes, etc. correctly the first 2 or 3 times [just south of 65th St.], so they had to keep trying to fix the issue for years?)…. all that work now to be for naught?
    I can’t even believe this. Kinda like November 8 all over again.

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