It’s time to submit nominations for what has become an annual tradition to determine the worst intersection in Seattle.

Consider the intersection you hate to walk across. It’s also probably awful for biking, riding transit, and driving, too. In fact, this competition tends to highlight everything with wrong with Seattle transportation from an urbanist perspective.

Last year’s worst intersection, Denny & Stewart, is awful for people walking, who have to walk around cars blocking the crosswalks. It’s dangerous for the brave souls who are willing to bike through, who have to vigilantly watch for drivers turning. And, it’s maddening for drivers, who can’t go anywhere because of all the other drivers. Coincidentally, it appears some improvements are coming this summer.

The worst intersections from previous years aren’t any better, although some have seen improvements since they won the competition:

So, what’s the worst intersection in Seattle?

2016 Worst Intersection In Seattle: Green Lake / 50th / Stone

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30 COMMENTS

  1. The scariest intersection I ride is S. Michigan Street from Georgetown trying to get on the First Avenue Bridge to go to South Park or West Seattle. https://www.google.com/maps/@47.5450532,-122.3309914,3a,75y,228.73h,83.68t/data=!3m6!1e1!3m4!1s7zicIDLOB0Ib4CSTpCsF4A!2e0!7i13312!8i6656

    Not only is this a multi-lane intersection in multiple directions, there is no marking whatsoever for bikes, and one needs to ride in the left lane and risk angry drivers, all of whom want to go to the right to get on the bridge at highway speeds.

    This is not infrastructure for all ages and abilities. I am comfortable with riding on urban streets, but this scares me every time. Also, the homeless people living under the ramp often have loose dogs, so that, after one survives the giant intersection, a large dog will often rush into the street. Now do this at night and try to stay calm. https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/fd04b9690e2d1776a3d8bf09ffb682399adcb5c1622bb7af8c8fe4126a7ce9b6.jpg

    • I second this vote. I have literally cried at thus intersection. I always feel like I have somehow failed because I can’t figure out a way to get to the bridge safely.

    • Yup, this one trumps my previous idea for worst intersection (also on E Marginal Way btw). There is an opportunity to fix this during the design and repaving work of the E Marginal Way corridor improvement project (led by SDOT). Advocacy letters from Duwamish Valley Safe Streets has only resulted in an email (1) acknowledging the problem and (2) stating that there is no current funding available to redesign this intersection, but that something might be done if more funding can be found. I now know of 5 cyclist that use (have used) this signed bike route to commute downtown, surely there are more, though given the stress levels I don’t expect to find lots more. I tried following SDOT’s signed bike route there one time. Never again. The design is unsafe, and I believe it comes close to criminal incompetence for a public transportation department to direct cyclists by designed wayfinding to an intersection this dangerous. If we can get 6-10 people together to go give public testimony before the city transportation committee, perhaps they can help to adjust the project budget to address this intersection. If there is interest in this let’s meet up.

  2. I nominate the intersection of E Denny Way and E Olive Way. Due to cars being allowed to turn right on red, the cars never stop coming. it is a constant flow of traffic which continually cuts off pedestrians. After 25 years in Seattle, I avoid this intersection (two blocks from my home) whenever possible. There should be NO TURN ON RED at this intersection. I’m amazed more people have not been hit or killed at this intersection. Is that what it takes to get something done about the situation?

  3. I agree. Embarrassing that this street even exists. How are the people running SDOT so horrifically incompetent?

  4. I nominate the intersection of E Marginal Way South and E Marginal Way South. Yes, it intersects with itself, more than once within this block. This one is without directional signage, lane markings, signaling, sidewalks, or crosswalks. When you walk, or bike there for the first time (or even after few times) you will be utterly bewildered as you attempt to ascertain how to correctly move through the sad wasteland of unconscious neglect that is this intersection. To experience entering the twilight zone, travel to (47.569711, -122.339772).

  5. Ravenna Ave NE x NE 54th St x 22nd Ave NE x NE 55th St x Ravenna Pl NE
    -Major bike/pedestrian connection between Ravenna Bridge greenway / 20th Ave and Burke-Gilman Trail
    – Multiple arterial intersection with highly unusual configuration
    -Fast downhill traffic going NE around curve of 22nd has right-of-way
    -Fast traffic from east has right-of-way to continue W on NE 54th St or SW on 22nd Ave NE
    -Ravenna Ave / Ravenna Pl thru traffic requires a left turn onto 55th in either direction, and cars need to be very aggressive about this turn when traffic is heavy
    -End result is frustrating conditions for car drivers and downright dangerous conditions for bike/pedestrian
    -Safest current approach for bike/pedestrian is to cross 55th at the ped crosswalk at Ravenna Pl, but cars stop very unpredictably

  6. I nominate Jackson Street at 4th/5th Avenues S. This intersection will only get worse over the next year as the Convention Center renovation begins. Then all the bus routes in the tunnel move to surface routes. It’s going to cause a lot of grief for pedestrians, bikes, and cars.

  7. I nominate Jackson Street at 4th/5th Avenues S., which will only get worse over the next year as the Convention Center renovation begins and all the bus routes in the tunnel move to surface routes.

  8. So I went to read some of the pieces on past winners, and came across the following quote: “The street grid will eventually be reconnected, but not until the completion of the Alaskan Way Deep Bore Tunnel boondoggle in 2015 or 2016.”

    2015 or 2016. Glad that worked out.

  9. I’m going to nominate my nemesis S. Holly/Rainier or what I call, “I’m so tired of almost being murdered daily”. I can’t imagine how other people feel but people who are outside metal machines do often complain about this intersection.

    You get 17 whole seconds to get across this YUGE intersection. SDOT sometimes comes out here to change things with the crossing but only after someone crashes into the Senior Center/a bus stop/and electrical poles. Who cares which politician come to the Senior Center and promises fixes to this intersection. Ya know, they’ll be dead soon and it won’t matter, right! I’ve been keeping track of the south end this year in my TWEETER so here. Look it and be like, SHEEEEET, Shirley’s going to get run over! #VisionCaca or #VisionWhatNumberNow. Keeping death real!

    Go ahead and read 18-207. I drank some beer writing that masterpiece
    https://www.google.com/maps/d/u/0/viewer?mid=1xnYS95omTXXeSKeNPdmUYnGF8cOyetSi&ll=47.566042751062%2C-122.30274436434331&z=13

    https://twitter.com/NoSpandexReq/status/948718438830153728

    https://twitter.com/NoSpandexReq/status/958177828012359680

  10. It wouldn’t be the contest without a Denny intersection. I nominate Denny and Boren/Lenora. Pedestrians on the south side of the street are rerouted off Denny to cross both Boren, which drivers quickly turn onto after coming up the hill on Denny, and then Lenora, the crosswalk of which frequently gets blocked by people trying to turn onto either street. https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/baebc2ae4a81d186501ca59f67c6f05f5bd6acf3bf21d0bafc989d90ae164979.jpg

  11. The Mercer Corridor and the ITS system implementation has created a corridor of anti-pedestrian crossings, among the worst of them though are the crossings at Mercer and 1st North, Mercer and Queen Anne, and the grand-daddy of intersections that fail everyone, drivers, pedestrians, and cyclist alike is the intersection at Queen Anne and Roy Street. It would serve UW well to send their engineering students to spend an afternoon with each of these intersection as a cautionary tale of exactly how you don’t design signalization if you actually went to encourage walkability and cities that are accessible to the differently abled.

  12. My 2nd vote goes to Terry Ave N & Denny Way.

    This intersection has long been one of the Worst Intersections in Seattle and it won in 2015. Yet I strongly believe it deserves to be considered again due to the Epic Fail from the changes that resulted from the 2015 award.

    Denny is one of the city’s worst car sewers and pretty much every intersection along it could be considered in the list of candidates for Worst Intersection every year. But my justification for proposing it for the 2018 award is due to the changes SDOT made in 2017 triggered I am sure in large part due to it’s victory in the 2015 Worst Intersection competition.

    The functional and safety failings that the SDOT project was supposed to address included:
    1. Peds could legally cross here but doing so was incredibly dangerous with 4 high speed lanes along Denny as well as right and left turns from Terry.
    2. Bicylers had an even harder time. They had all the challenges of peds, but since they are riding in the street they also had the challenge of getting around vehicles who were trying to turn right and especially those trying to turn left just to get to the intersection so they could make the mad dangerous dash across.
    3. Speed of traffic along Denny were incredibly high, especially in the WB direction which is downhill and motorists coming down the hill at speeds in excess of 40mph couldn’t see peds in the intersection until they crested the hill and by that time they only had about 400′ to stop. At 45 mph, a motorist covers 400′ in 6s (check my math… that seems too large) which must include registering that there is someone in the intersection, moving their foot from gas to brake pedal and stopping (remember they are going down a relatively steep hill at 45mph). http://www.brakingdistances.com/45Mph tells me in wet conditions a motorist needs about 300′ on a -10% grade (not sure what this hill is but it must be at least -7%).
    4. Turning motorists both onto and from Terry in all directions result in complete messes that gum up the “I expect to be able to travel at speed because I am on the Denny car-sewer where I am supposed to be monarch of all I survey” motorists and result in many additional unpredictable and dangerous movements by motorists that risk everyone, including motorists.

    So what did SDOT do? They installed a button activated half signal and put plastic curbs and posts in the middle of Denny to prevent all left turns, both from Denny onto Terry and from Terry onto Denny.

    If we ignore the upset motorists who are pissed that they can no longer make left turns (and whenever you restrict any movement by motorists, you can be sure you will get many and loud whinings by people who have spent many decades bathed in absolute entitlement), let’s look at the results when viewed through the lenses of the 4 priorities above.

    1. For peds, things have certainly improved. If they are on the west side of Terry, they can push the button and trigger the signal. Motorists will stop and they can cross. Now regularly, just like we see on Mercer and many other Seattle car sewers, there will be many motorists blocking the box and even completely blocking the intersection. This no longer impacts other motorists since all left turns are prevented, but it is still dangerous for people on foot to cross between tense motorists who may do something unpredictable at any moment to get out of the intersection or crosswalk. But what about the people on the east side of Terry? SDOT chose not to put a button there. The justification was that the westbound motorists were going so fast that SDOT did not think they would be able to stop at the stop line so they chose to not make a crosswalk there and instead force people on foot to cross over to the west side of Terry to cross Denny and then to cross back on the other side. Whenever we force 3 crossings instead of 1, we are needlessly increasing the danger for people. While left turns are blocked, we still see motorists turning right at speeds that are dangerous, particularly the westbound downhill motorists, so these additional 2 crossings are not without risk. But regardless, this is complete bullshit. SDOT identified the problem: motorists speeding on Denny, and decided to do nothing about it. They painted the stop line that they admitted they didn’t think all motorists would manage to stop before. They even put a gap in the plastic curb and flexposts at the point where the still legal unmarked crosswalk is. And of course no matter what SDOT does, this is still a legal crosswalk on the east side of the intersection, but now the people there have no way to activate the signal and motorists are even less likely to expect people to be crossing without a signal because… well because there’s a signal so they expect peds to activate it if crossing. So for people walking on the east side of Terry, SDOT has arguably made it less safe for them.
    2. Now for bicyclers… First we have to consider the fact that for the 11 blocks of Terry Ave N between Valley and Olive, 7 of them are 1-way northbound. This is why there are such low traffic volumes on Terry. When you pair 1 way street with no access points on the entire length (other than the parking lot above Whole Foods which has an entry just south of Denny) and a major street that has a diverter preventing you from crossing, you get very few motorists choosing to use it. This is great. It makes Terry the #1 bike route between the transit on Olive & Terry and Lake Union Park where it connects to Westlake PBL, not to mention all the Amazon and soon Google job centers along it. This is also why almost all the bicycle traffic on Terry is heading northbound. But SDOT chose not to put a button on the East side of the intersection for these bicyclers to activate the signal. SDOT says bicyclers must do the same 3 crossing dance that they are intending people walking to do, yet they fully realize that many are not going to do this and will instead will use the unmarked crosswalk which SDOT admits is not safe and has decided to leave unsafe. But for bicyclers it’s even worse. How do you get to the SE corner to access that crosswalk SDOT wants you to use? SDOT didn’t allocate any space for bicyclers to get there which means that if there are any NB motorists waiting at intersection who are planning to turn right, they will be right up against the curb, blocking access by bicyclers to travel to their right and access the crosswalk. The other option is to pass these cars on the left and then turn into the crosswalk from the middle of the street which is dangerous both for peds in the crosswalk who would not expect this but more importantly you are at risk from EB motorists on Denny turning right who will not expect this movement. So what do bicyclers do? Those who’ve been through a few times may go up on the sidewalk as they approach the intersection and use the unmarked crosswalk. Or if there are no cars queued up, they will just ride up to the intersection and hope that there is a ped on the west side of the intersection to activate the button for them. If not, they’ll just do what they did in 2015 when this was the Worst Intersection, they’ll ride through when they see a gap and hope they make it without some speeding motorist coming down the hill hitting them. But SDOT’s yellow plastic curb and posts have made it even more dangerous because the gap they left for the crosswalk is not lined up for a bicycler who is in the lane. They must now veer to the right to shoot through that gap, slowing them down which increases the chance a speeding motorist will crest the hill and barrel down on them at 40+ mph and little ability to stop in time. Even if a ped does push the button and they get a signal, more often than not, at least at peak, there are cars on Denny in both directions who are blocking the box and preventing access to that crosswalk gap. Peds can weave between cars more easily than bicyclers so sometimes you have to make the decision to ride over the yellow pastic curb or get off your bike and walk it over or… well let’s just hope you can make the decision before the cars on Denny get the green again and you get stuck in the intersection. See my video tweets with #TweetYourSDOTDanger for some of my experiences biking through this “safety improved” intersection – this is a good one since it shows someone other than me almost getting killed: https://twitter.com/GlenBikes/status/963615902099886080
    3. Traffic speeds on Denny? SDOT completely passed on that. No change. No improvement to safety. This is not #VisionZero.
    4. The dangers caused by turning motorists are one of the only things that this project actually did achieve. Motorists can no longer turn left in any direction at this intersection.

    So while this intersection may no longer be an actual Worst Intersection from the POV of safety, it is still really bad. I am putting this forth as a candidate because I think it highlights very well how much SDOT prioritizes speed and throughput of cars over everything else, including safety. The only thing that can be considered a true success in this project is the removal of left turns. While this did improve safety for people walking, it also improved speed and throughput of cars which is I suspect a more important reason that SDOT chose to do it. That was the real goal here. Everything else was just throwing a few scraps to people not in cars and telling them to be happy with the half-assed effort to keep them alive.

    Really Terry Ave N needs to be made a 1 way street all the way from Olive to Lake Union Park. There is no reason for any of these blocks to be two-way. In fact, other than access to that 1 parking lot above Whole Foods, there is no reason to allow cars on this street at all. It could be completely closed off to traffic and turned into an awesome and much-needed two way bike N/S bicycle route through SLU. This would also help the streetcar since it wouldn’t get stuck behind motoring enthusiasts and cars and TNC’s and Amazon buses on the block between Thomas and Mercer wouldn’t constantly force bicyclers into the streetcar tracks. I propose closing all of Terry off to cars with the exception of:
    1. Allowing EB cars on Denny to turn right and access the parking lot entrance above Whole Foods (really I think SDOT should also try to convince the owners of this property to consider making this space a people space so we could not allow cars onto Terry at all).
    2. Allowing delivery vehicles onto Terry between Denny and Harrison, but only until those older buildings with loading docks on Terry are redeveloped and then the city requires all access to the new buildings to be from Thomas, Boren, John and Denny (and yes, we can allow access from Denny once we make it not a high speed car sewer).

    So that’s my justification for giving Denny and Terry the crown a 2nd time as Seattle’s Worst Intersection in 2018.

  13. It continues to be ridiculous that none of the featured intersections are along Rainier. Rainier is the king of Seattle’s bad roads, starting at the disasterpiece of Rainier/Jackson/Boren/14th and ending south of the city as it turns into the 167 freeway, which itself is slated for a poorly conceived extension, probably the worst project in the region that Seattle urbanists don’t think about much. But there are so many choices along Rainier! Which to choose…

    Let’s go with Rainier/23rd/Hill. Not sure if I’ve nominated it before, but it really has everything:
    – The awfulness of Rainier
    – The bad part of 23rd Ave S
    – An angle that causes extra-long crossing distances, with no mitigation (e.g. moving stop-lines back to create right-angle crossings, median refuges, etc.). It’s 116′ to cross 23rd along the east side of Rainier. That’s like crossing an 11-lane street!
    – A third street butting in to make it even worse
    – It’s missing a crosswalk, across the northwest face of Rainier.

    If you need to travel the length of the missing crosswalk, you instead have to take five different crosswalks the other way around the intersection! Five! That’s all the crosswalks the intersection has, so it includes the 116′ crosswalk, of course. And if the missing crosswalk was added it would be just about as long and miserable as the existing 116′ crosswalk. That’s the extra layer of despair that puts this intersection over the top — over Rainier/MLK, over Rainier/Dearborn, over Rainier/Jackson/Boren/14th (though only just), even over Rainier/I-90, which I’ve nominated multiple times in past years (mostly because of the super-dangerous multiple-threat crossing of the southeast onramp).

  14. Mercer and Westlake. Maybe less deadly than last year’s winner, but dollar for dollar it might be the worst setback in Seattle transportation. SDOT’s expensive new system holds back north/south movement during rush hours, forcing bus, trolley, bike, and pedestrian commuters to make way for SOV’s heading to the suburbs. Those Mercer drivers still feel like the traffic is awful, while life has actually gotten worse for the rest of us. There are ways to safely jaywalk through the cycle for more daring pedestrians, but it shouldn’t come to that.

  15. My first vote goes to Mercer. No specific intersection, but all of them. They all suck. They are all of the size that you can see the curvature of the earth as you stand by the beg button looking across to the other side. The signal timings are designed to make people on foot decide to try to cross without waiting for the light, especially during peak while E/W motorists get eleventy-seventeen minutes of green even though at least one direction of motorists (the one SDOT is trying to prioritize) is not moving at all. These cycles that are measured using the Geologic Time Scale also predictably cause motorists to do stupid things because the incentive to put people walking at risk in order to avoid another epoch-sized wait is very high. As a result there are numerous vehicles of all types and sizes blocking not just the crosswalks but often most of the intersection on almost every cycle even outside of peak periods.

    The worst part of these intersections is how many millions and millions of dollars ($130+M for Mercer rebuild plus many millions more for the adaptive signals that cause these intersection nightmares) of our tax money has been spent on what was clearly known would be an absolute failure. And of course somehow SDOT managed to convince Council and the Mayor that they needed to follow neither the Complete Streets nor the Vision Zero policies when building this street or setting the signal timings. Unless maybe “complete street” means “cars, cars, 10h car parking, strip of sidewalk where people walking can curse their 3rd class treatment, and a big fuck you to anyone who dares to believe the city’s multi-modal vision statements that make them think streetcar, bus or bicycle should be a viable or safe mode of transportation in Seattle.

    The creme de la creme of the intersections:
    1. Mercer & 9th. This is a very busy ped crossing as well as bicycle route which connects to the Westlake PBL and the Dexter PBL. Yet at every cycle, the people walking and bicycling have to weave through vehicles that are blocking the crosswalk and intersection, while hoping that these motorists who purposely got themselves stuck blocking the box don’t make some quick movement to try to get a car length or two further ahead on this epic fail of a city street through the densest and the fastest growing urban villages in our city.
    2. Mercer & Terry. This intersection has even higher ped crossing volumes (but SDOT doesn’t measure this because who cares, so I may be right or wrong) and a similarly high bicycle volume due to Terry Ave N being the best low traffic volume and low traffic speed southbound bike route between the foot of First Hill and SLU to connect to the Westlake PBL and the laughable complete lack of anything for bicyclers on the east side of Lake Union. This is also where the Streetcar gets stuck for minutes, sometimes many minutes waiting to cross Mercer while EB/WB motorists barely move. Since the streetcar doesn’t have a dedicated lane, sometimes it will get stuck for an additional multi-minute cycle because 1 or 2 1-person-cars in front of it can’t manage to turn right onto Mercer or 1 or 2 EB or WB motorists on Mercer decided to block the intersection in order to get 15 yards ahead of the stop line. I wonder why nobody takes the streetcar? It’s tough to understand really. You just have to stand here for 60 seconds during peak period and you will see people on foot and on bicycle predictably braving the traffic to get across without waiting for the signal. And the ped signals in the E/W direction only give peds a green for a few seconds even though the cars on Mercer get a green for the amount of time it took the Colorado River to dig the Grand Canyon.

    I strongly believe that in the very near future, Mercer St will be a full course in many of our country’s university urban planning programs. Any professor worth her salt could easily spend an entire semester or four picking apart all of the epically bad decisions and designs made here which everybody knew would result in an insane price tag and an epic failure that was guaranteed to fail every measure you could think of for gauging how well the project met the city’s goals, even the goal of “moving lots of cars”.

    So I encourage The Urbanist to step a bit outside the box and instead of naming a single Worst Intersection for 2018, let’s name the entirety of Mercer St to be the collection of Worst Intersections for 2018. You can publish a series of articles that can be used in these near-future urban planning and transportation planning university courses.

    • Mercer and 9th is exactly the type of greenwashing development that serves no one SDOT is so fond of nowadays

    • Seconded. That intersection is blocked most of the day, and always at rush hour, on what is supposed to be a bike route, making it very dangerous to cross. I recall having to crawl over trailer hitches just to cross the street.

  16. The intersection of: 7th Ave NE, NE 40th Street (upper), NE 40th Street (lower) & Burke Gilman trail. This is the worst intersection that I have to deal with regularly. Its a 5-way intersection (6-way if you count the trail) with weird angles, worsened by another 4-way stop just a half block downhill, and the [also very bad] intersection with the campus parkway ramps a block uphill. Walking across or biking through at rush hour, weaving between cars stuck in gridlock traffic, waiting to cross the University Bridge. Not to mention being stuck in that mess while driving…can sometimes take 30 mins or more just to get through to the bridge.

    • Came here to nominate this one. First thing–it’s a perfect example of one of the many missing bike links in the city–two of the busiest bikeways in the city and no way to get between them except to cut off cars in a crosswalk, ride up a sidewalk, and hop off a curve (to get from the Burke to Univ Bridge southbound).

      Even without the bikes and pedestrians it’s already enough of a disaster with Seattle drivers try to figure out who goes next in a 5-way stop.

          • So dang stressful as a pedestrian. Every driver is mad AF at all the other drivers who might “cut in line” at their turn in the 5-way stop, the last thing they’re paying attention to is people. God forbid a driver goes 6th at a 5-way stop.

    • This intersection is the bane of my U-district/Wallingford bike rides… often I peel off Burke Gilman here (before the trail shoots SW following Lake Union), but negotiating this 5 way intersection is total balls… I end up walking my bike because I don’t want to hassle with riding out/button-hooking onto 40th.

  17. 24th Ave E and E Lake Washington Blvd…at the end of the new 520 off ramp and bike/pedestrian path. Cars block every rush hour & Weekend ClusterFest.

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