Walking and biking is about to get a little easier on NE Northlake Way, a winding road on edge of the University District. Construction on a short two-block stretch of the road broke ground on Monday to add bike lanes, sidewalks, and curb ramps. The Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT) says that the sidewalk ranks high on the priority list on the Pedestrian Master Plan. The road loops along the edge of Lake Union and Portage Bay connecting neighborhoods. Fronting the street is a mix of marine, retail, and restaurant businesses between I-5 and the University Bridge, and a connection via 7th Ave NE provides a direct link to Burke-Gilman Trail.
West of University Bridge, NE Northlake Way is a relatively unimproved road in poor condition, despite significant traffic volumes and a local corridor for many people walking and biking. The road also happens to lead right up to the footsteps of University of Washington’s West Campus where more than a dozen dormitories house the university’s burgeoning student population.
Google Streetview provides a good window into what the street feels like today. With cracked and broken pavement, the condition make it a very uncomfortable road to traverse, which is especially treacherous for bicyclists who generally are forced to avoid such road deficiencies. The road has no separated facilities for pedestrians, which means that people walking generally have to mix with motorized vehicles. Both sides of the street also have angular parking, making things just that much more complicated.
SDOT estimates that the angled parking provides 18 spaces. These will be converted to parallel parking spaces to accommodate the sidewalk and will reduce the number of spaces to five between 7th Ave NE and 8th Ave NE.
The new sidewalk, ramps, and painted bike lanes will improve things for people passing through the area. But it won’t improve the conditions west of 7th Ave NE, which are similar but a little more dicey given that the road widens to two travel lanes in each direction and opens up to a busy intersection. How and when that might change isn’t clear, but any improvements will certainly be welcome.
UPDATE 4/24/2017: This post has been updated to reflect additional information related to parking details.