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

The nominees are in and it’s time to vote. Take a walk through these terrible intersections and place your vote for the worst intersection in Seattle.

This year's 12 worst intersection candidates.
This year’s 12 worst intersection candidates.
  • 1. Denny and Stewart: Every year we do this, an intersection on Denny makes the list. This year, it’s Denny and Stewart, nominated by Ryan Packer:

    A hostile intersection for anyone on foot, yet essential for travel on foot between SLU and Capitol Hill. According to SDOT’s Vision Zero dashboard, there has been a pedestrian-involved collision at this intersection approximately every year going back to 2004. Pedestrians are forced to cross multiple unsafe lanes of traffic due to the absence of sidewalks on both sides of the I-5 overpass. Crosswalks are frequently blocked by traffic queuing for I-5, drivers frequently make very fast right turns on red from Stewart to Denny. The sidewalks are now so overflowing with pedestrians during rush hour that there is frequently danger of one being pushed into an oncoming bus.

    Caitlin seconded the nomination:

    +1 And during those crossings when your life isn’t in immediate danger, you’re jolted from peaceful thoughts by one driver incessantly honking at another for blocking the intersection. (Seriously, it happens nearly every cycle. Your honking won’t change anything.) Or, as was the case this morning, one driver angrily whipping around and flipping off the left-turning vehicle that had stopped to let you legally cross Denny.

  • 2. NE 45th St and I-5: Outside of the lidded section of I-5 Downtown, every intersection with this major interstate is unpleasant for pedestrians, but the worst could be I-5 at NE 45th St, nominated by Nick:

    The sidewalks are too narrow. There is a weird cross walk (north/south) in the middle of lanes of traffic (on the east side of the highway). Traffic is heavy and noisy. A cap on I-5 between 45th and 50th would be awesome to solve much of this concern (and would provide the city with a great additional park space).

  • 3. Rainier Ave S and Martin Luther King Way S: These two streets meet at an acute angle and make for a large intersection with a long light-cycle, which isn’t even one of the eight reasons Neel has listed below:

    I nominate Rainier Ave S and Martin Luther King Way S.
    1. Pointlessly inconvenient pedestrian flyover bridges that no one uses
    2. Poor signal timing which starves flow from MLK Way onto Rainier.
    3. Heavy traffic volumes, including heavy transit and freight usage mixed with cars.
    4. Narrow, partially obstructed sidewalks, next to a high school with a lot of walking traffic
    5. Lack of Crosswalks on 2 of 4 possible crossings
    6. High schoolers scrambling for their lives to get from school to public transit
    7. Poorly sited bus stops that obstruct traffic and strand buses
    8. Terrible integration with both the bus transit hub AND the light rail stations nearby.

    The “bolo tie” concept would be a massive, massive improvement, and should be funded. It’s truly awful to be anything other than in a car on Rainier Ave S, and even then, it’s pretty bad.

  • 4. Rainier, Boren, 14th, and Jackson: One of Seattle’s many complicated 5+ way intersections, like last year’s Worst Intersection in Seattle, Green Lake / 50th / Stone, but even more hostile to pedestrians and bicyclists. Kevin makes the case:

    The 5-way corner of Rainier/Boren/14th/Jackson is a horrible intersection. Heavy traffic from Rainier, Streetcar tracks curving through, Bakery Semi-trucks turning left, push-button crosswalks to little islands. Come to think of it, the whole triangle formed by Boren, 12th Ave, Jackson, and Yesler is a Bermuda Triangle of awful intersections.

  • 5. Madison, 24th, and John: Sean P makes a compelling case for this intersection, which was also nominated in 2015:

    I nominate the six-way intersection at Madison/24th Ave E./E. John St. The intersection is bad enough as viewed from above, but when you put the whole thing on a steel slope as it is, it doesn’t work for pedestrians, bikes or cars. The Madison BRT project made a half-hearted effort to incorporate some changes in their early designs but they really just consist of some paint here and there. 24th would be a decent greenway except you have to zig zag across this intersection going N-S. Madison is very wide here but the only paint is a double yellow line, so is it 4 lanes or 2? I’ve seen people treat it as both. Cars coming southbound on 24th have no light, so there is a right only sign to John which many people ignore by just darting into Madison. The crossswalk across John at the west side is phased with green coming up Madison, meaning cars are surprised by pedestrians after making only a very slight left. And forget ADA, the hill is so steep nothing could possibly be compliant even if you tried. I could go on for ages, unfortunately I have no idea what the solution is.

  • 6. Nickerson, Florentia, and 3rd Ave N: Kristen tells us about this one, another six-way intersection unpleasant for people driving and on foot, which is just south of the Fremont Bridge and near the Ship Canal Trail.

    I nominate the 6-way intersection at Nickerson St., Florentia St., and 3rd Ave. N just south of the Fremont Bridge. The lights are timed so poorly during commuting hours that cars coming from Florentia Ave. and 3rd Ave N have nowhere to go when they have a green light. But they go anyways, completely clogging the intersection, and forming an obstacle course for pedestrians to navigate around.

  • 7. Rainier, 23rd, and Hill: I think it’s safe to say that there’s not a six-way intersection in the city that anyone likes or an intersection on Rainier, for that matter. This one was nominated on Twitter by @travismerrigan, who tells us first-hand how dangerous the intersection is: “6-way intersection right off a freeway. I’ve almost died their twice, no joke.”
  • 8. Leary and 20th Ave NW: The Urbanist summarized all the problems with this sea of concrete in 1,000 words, calling it an “accident waiting to happen.” Commenter Moe Sizlac offered a more concise synopsis: “Leary and 20th Ave NW awful awful awful.”
  • 9. University Bridge and Campus Pkwy: This actually used to be an intersection at one point, but at some time between 1936 and 1968 was converted into a highway-style interchange. J explains the situation:

    I nominate the intersection/pseudo-interchange at Campus Pkwy and the University Bridge. Even after the recent work, it still represents a major PBL gap, and people biking northbound face a pair of long weave areas at the offramps. There is no easy way for bikes, especially southbound, to get to the eastbound Campus Pkwy PBLs and therefore to the Burke-Gilman Trail. There is no way for people walking to cross Eastlake/Roosevelt/12th without using the underpasses, a roundabout route for people walking north-south on the west side, and no real pedestrian through route on the east side. The east/west to south movement for cars and buses ends with a merge onto Eastlake, which tends to be a slow spot for southbound buses, especially when the Montlake Bridge is closed. There is no eastbound through route, making the inbound 31/32 (outbound 75) take a slow, roundabout route via Northlake/Pacific. Sadly, there is no real way to deal with this mess that would not be insanely expensive. The Roosevelt HCT project could potentially help to some extent; however, it is not in the current plan, and the project’s budget is likely to be cut, not expanded.

  • 10. NE 40th St and 7th Ave NE: Few intersections are as confusing as this one, and it’s a pain for people on foot, on bike, and in a vehicle–especially when traffic backs up and clogs the intersection. Here’s what baselle says:

    I nominate the spaghetti nightmare (6 way intersection!) of 40th and 7th NE. In addition to the joys of a 6 lane intersection where peds fight cars, and where nobody understands right of way, the Burke Gilman is just close enough to provide extra issues with peds and bikes and cars.

  • 11. North Green Lake Intersections: The intersection of E Green Lake Dr N, W Green Lake Dr N, and Green Lake Dr N is terrible based on the street names alone. However, it’s only one intersection in a series of bad ones that Jay nominates:

    I nominate the mess of intersections at the north end of Green Lake. Of the 6 arterials that meet there (E Green Lake Dr/W Green Lake Dr/Green Lake Dr/Wallingford/Winona/Stroud), only the Wallingford intersection has any sort of traffic control. The result is congestion if you’re in a car or on the 45 bus, a lot of near misses and noxious fumes if you’re on a bicycle. As a pedestrian, your main risk here is being a victim of road rage.

  • 12. 15th Ave W and W Dravus St: 15th Ave W is essentially a highway at this point, with a long light cycle that creates traffic back-ups, where overeager drivers encroach on the crosswalk to turn right on red. Here’s what Lisa B. says:

    15th Av. and Dravus, where Interbay/Magnolia/Queen Anne blend into a wonky, frustrating mess. The busy D Line passes through here – with lots and lots of Ballard High students traveling north during morning rush hour. The timing of the signals is completely unpredictable and can take what seems a lifetime to get through each segment of the intersection. And because it’s on an overpass, there are several small segments to get through. When commuters get off the D Line from downtown, they scurry across the street to a tiny strip of concrete (it is NOT a sidewalk) because, as mentioned above, it can take FOREVER if you actually wait for the signal.

The polls will be open until June 9.

Nominate Seattle’s Worst Intersection: 2017

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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.