Last year, readers of The Urbanist selected the intersection of Rainier Avenue and 23rd as Seattle’s worst. The intersection has been under construction since then and just recently a new crosswalk has opened. A route that previously required crossing five crosswalks now takes just one to cross Rainier.

While advocates have had much to be disappointed with lately, at least the Seattle Department of Transportation’s slow and maddeningly incremental march of progress is still moving forward.

Speaking of incremental, voting for neighborhood street fund projects is currently in full swing with a tantalizing slate of dozens of projects. Many of them should be implemented but only around 10 will be.

However, in the case of the worst intersection in Seattle competition, only one will prevail. And, while we can’t promise that the selected intersection will be in a better shape this time next year, we can guarantee that it needs to be.

So, what is the worst intersection in Seattle? We’re looking for intersections that are terrible for all modes. It’s the intersection of most inconvenience. The route of most regret. The crossroads of crap.

Could it be one of those intersections up for consideration in the neighborhood street fund? Like 38th Ave S and S Andover St, where pedestrians can’t walk across safely because of fast drivers and poor sightlines. Or maybe it’s one of the many dysfunctional intersections along Denny Way: Stewart and Denny, 2017’s “winner” is one project up for consideration in District 7.

We’ve been doing this, pretty consistently, since 2011: that year, Aurora Ave N with its impenetrable line of intersections between Denny and Mercer, took the honors. This past year saw that stretch renamed to 7th Ave N and the first work toward it becoming pedestrian-oriented with a crosswalk at Harrison Street opening.

Put your best foot forward by putting Seattle’s worst intersection forward in the comments below. We’ll look for all nominees after Sunday, May 5th.

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  1. I’d like to nominate Jackson Street and 2nd Ave Extension S/4th Ave S. Seattle’s Amtrak & Sounder hub interacts with a light rail station and bus routes everywhere in the city and yet the auto still dominates with signals timed so that you basically have to run to make it through the mega-intersection in one cycle. This is bonkers, and they don’t need a multi-year process to fix it.

  2. Terry at Denny. It may not be the worst of the worst, but I think it deserves the trophy due to how recently it has been “fixed” by SDOT and how much money they spent doing it.

    1-2 yrs ago they added a half signal since there were tons of people crossing here on foot and on bicycle and with the persistent excessive speeding motorists and the terrible sight lines due to the hill to the E of this intersection, it was very dangerous.. On Terry, other than this intersection, this is the best NB bike connection between Howell, and transit on Stewart/Olive to Lake Union Park and then to the Westlake PBL.

    So how did SDOT screw up?

    1. Beg buttons and crosswalk only on the W side of intersection. People always did and still do cross on both sides. But somehow SDOT felt requiring people on E side of intersection to make 3 dangerous crossings instead of 1 was better… for somebody. This is a half signal so it only changes when a beg button is pushed. No beg button, no ped signal to cross. Note the E side of intersection is a legal unmarked crosswalk per RCW, SDOT just decided they didn’t care to make it safe for the people crossing there.
    2. No way for bicycles to access beg buttons. This is a very busy WB bike route between Howell and Lake Union Park because there is very little traffic even at peak time and 6 of the 10 blocks of Terry are 1 way WB. But WB bicyclers have no beg button at all (see #1) and the beg buttons on the W side of intersection are difficult to access even on standard bicycles, never mind larger or cargo bicycles. As a result, many WB bicyclers just cross on the East side of the intersection, without a light if there are no peds crossing to push the button for them.
    3. There are plastic barriers blocking bicycles crossing on the E side of intersection. SDOT added those yellow flexposts mounted on hefty plastic bases to prevent any Denny car traffic from making left turns onto Terry, which is awesome and makes the intersection safer because then peds crossing E/W only need to watch out for high speed right turns rather than both high speed right and left turns. On the E side of intersection, SDOT left a crosswalk-sized gap in these flexposts lined up with the non-existent crosswalk but it is significantly off center with the path bicyclers take through the intersection. So bikes have to angle east to get through the gap and then west to get back to Terry St. This is not such a big deal when the bicycler has the ped signal but many bicyclers predictably choose to cross against the light rather than do the nonsensical triple crossing SDOT “designed” for them and it can be quite difficult to get across since you can’t see the (usually speeding) WB car traffic until they come over the top of the hill. So adding 2 or 3 seconds to this crossing makes it measurably less safe for bicyclers.

    So I nominate Terry and Denny because A) it is a horrible intersection B) SDOT spent over $100,000 putting in the half signal and C) SDOT managed to make it worse for WB bicyclers which is the vast majority of the bicycle traffic since 6 of the 10 blocks of Terry are 1-way WB.

  3. Montlake Blvd. and Shelby Street. On the way to 520, the cars are blasting through 20 mph over the speed limit and running the red light (which “protects” the ONLY marked crosswalk between the hospital and 520). I have personally witnessed pedestrians being run over crossing with the light, in the crosswalk. (I’m a stay at home senior, with sight line view of the intersection from my front porch). This is a huge problem. We need traffic calming, speed bumps, and a ticket camera that looks toward the Montlake bridge.

  4. So many choices…. i nominate NE 45th str/NE 45th place/Uniin bay pl/mary gates memorial drive. I you ever wonder why people don’t walk or drive just look at this intersection. It is one of the corners of university village, a major arterial. Considering the many shops, important bus routes, parks and sport facilities this is major opportunity to improve walking and maybe in some way even biking a possibility. And don’t forget improving transit.

  5. Westbound S. Horton & 1st Ave – the only way to go from Costco on 4th to West Seattle. Its pretty much just an alleyway, but when they re-did the W Seattle bridge onramps from 08′ – 13′ they funneled freight and commuter traffic through here as an only option, then just continued it up until last year at some point – when they unwittingly closed off the westbound lane at occidental, forcing heavy traffic to again twist and turn northbound to finally revert South and Hanford (sigh). The only other way to go west from Costco (on 4th) if to head east to 6th until spokane street, and take spokane street all the way through the lower bridge. Industrial meets alleyway, meets commuter and freight traffic, meets railroad crossing to (eventual) marine traffic related bridge closures… Amirite?

  6. Second the 7th Ave NE et al mess. Trying to ride a bike from the west bound bike lane onto NE 40th St (which is effectively “straight”) through the middle of five lanes of stop signed traffic is so unadvisable I typically walk it around over three crosswalks and then get on the road again. I despise both biking and driving through this one.

    • I should add, the bike lane is on the left side of traffic. So if you are on a bike and take your turn with the car next to you (and you will always wait for your turn because this is backed up anywhere near rush hour), and you’re both going to 40th…. then you need to figure out a way to get to the OTHER SIDE OF THE CAR. And nobody will tray the bike lane as a separate lane. It’s really just a complete free for all for everyone involved.

  7. Fairview and Denny to be sure. Nothing displays the impatience and selfishness of Seattle drivers like this constantly blocked intersection.

  8. Definitely Green Lake Way, Ravenna, and 71st. Without pedestrians it’s a pain and would be better off as a roundabout. With pedestrians it’s an impossible mess and needs some lights/ dedicated walking signal.

  9. Lenora, Boren, and Denny. Driving up from Lenora, it’s impossible to see any of the traffic coming from Denny.

  10. For years I’ve been baffled and stymied by the design on the Emerson Ave / 15th Ave NW, straddling Interbay, Magnolia, and Ballard. It feels like the intent was to keep 15th moving while allowing Emerson traffic to merge onto 15 or bypass. What you get is lane specific stop signs, stairs under 15th to carry your bike down if you want to cross, a curb break into a 40 mph lane of 15th for southbound cyclists if a car will stop to let you in, endless delays out of Queen Anne or Magnolia, yield/stop mergers where neither is abided, and why not throw in a protected bus/cyclist lane north bound to add to the re-merging traffic at the bridge. Oh, and the overpass closes periodically because somebody hit it.

  11. Westlake, Blanchard and 9th. Southbound left turners desperately wait for a break in traffic only to find halfway through the turn that there are pedestrians in the crosswalk, who have to then dive out of the way. Cars turning northbound from opposite directions compete with each other to get into the single lane… Or can the car coming from 9th turn into the bus-only lane? It’s unclear. The left turn from Blanchard is too narrow for 2 lanes of traffic to make the turn at the same time, especially when one is a bus, which then just sits in the middle of the intersection. Being so close to the Denny intersection means that any backups there immediately snarl the navigation through this intersection.

  12. The five way intersection in Green Lake where Ravenna, Green Lake Way, and 71st converge on a sunny weekend day.

    Oh. My. God. If there was ever an intersection that needs to be converted to stoplights, it’s this one. Cars use the inside bike lane on a regular basis. Drivers also routinely fail to give other drivers or cyclists the appropriate right of way. Bikers blow through the intersection without stopping or suddenly switch to the crosswalk without signaling. Pedestrians overwhelm the place and add an element of randomness because they have the ultimate right of way. I’ve had to sit ready to go when it’s been my turn to proceed through the intersection for many minutes while latte toting pedestrians just keep waltzing through in droves.

    The place is the definition of anarchy.

  13. Ravenna Blvd and 65th – the combination of long crossing distances and knuckleheaded signal phases makes this intersection maddening when I walk through it.

    • Also there are parts of the signal cycle where it is perfectly safe to cross half of Ravenna but the ped signals don’t go green. This (along with the long signal cycle) helps teach people on foot to ignore the signals.

      Also there is lots of foot traffic, mostly runners but also people walking dogs, travelling in the Ravenna median across 65th but there is no part of the signal cycle where it is safe to do this. There is always a green for cars coming from some direction who are told they have the right of way to drive over these peds. You have to learn how this complex signal cycle works and then watch for when there are no left turns onto 65th so you can run across.

  14. 65th and Sandpoint way. Cars driving in excess of 50mph in a 35mph zone. Blind Corner right before the intersection. No protected left hand turns for cars. Pedestrians frequently have to wait long periods of time to cross. There is a very busy bus stop andaa protected bike lane to BGT so this intersection sees a lot of use from all modes of transport. Almost all the right turns for cars have low visability due to traffic, the blind corner, bike lane barricade or the condo fence. I also see at least one person a week blatantly drive through a red light(like when it’s red long before the car reaches the intersection). Also the dreaded california stop across the crosswalk without drivers checking for PEDs. Plus I was hit in this intersection on my bike( I had the right of way) and have seen two other close calls one with a Ped and the other a bike. Sandpoint way in general is like playing chicken for PEDs, but this intersection is the worst.

  15. The convergence of SW Spokane Street, SW Manning Street and the West Seattle Bridge Bike Trail is uniquely terrible for cyclists. There are four right angle turns, railroad tracks, fast drivers, and stacks of semitrailers that make it very dangerous for W Seattle bikers.

    Also, the bird’s nest that is W Marginal Way SW / SW Spokane St / Chelan Ave SW / Delridge Way SW is confusing and painful for all involved.

  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.

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