The intersection of NE 40th St, NE 40th St, 7th Ave NE, and the Burke Gilman trail, which is contending for worst intersection in Seattle.

We’re down to the final four of bad intersections.

Now in its 7th year, the worst intersection in Seattle competition brings out the very best of the worst by inviting readers to nominate and campaign for those crossroads that impede commutes and frustrate people on foot, riding bikes, or riding the bus.

There are now four intersections that remain in the running to be Seattle’s worst intersection of 2019, and this week’s vote will determine the two finalists.

40th, 40th, & 7th vs Rainier, 14th, Jackson, & Boren

In the northeast, NE 40th St, NE 40th St, and 7th Ave NE meet up and join the Burke Gilman in a spaghetti knot of streets. Passing through this intersection just once might be persuasion enough to vote for it, but if not, then consider the arguments made in nominating the intersection as Seattle’s worst:

“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.” – Features

“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 [sic] the bike lane as a separate lane. It’s really just a complete free for all for everyone involved.” – Craig

It will face off against another multi-street mess. The intersection in south Seattle, at Rainier, Jackson, Boren, and 14th, is not only inconvenient to cross but is dangerous for bicycle riders and delays streetcar riders in addition to bus riders.

“My vote would probably go to the intersection of Rainier-Jackson-Boren-14th Ave: a dangerous, badly timed 5-way intersection that is horrible for pedestrians (see also).” – Apu

Mercer & 9th vs Denny & Stewart

In central Seattle, there should be no surprise that two intersections in South Lake Union will face off. More than a third of the intersections nominated this year were located in South Lake Union or Denny Triangle.

Mercer & 9th has suffered from adaptive signals that are so bad that they sparked a new twitter account. Recent reports suggest that the signals along Mercer have been improved and now give pedestrians the same amount of time to cross as cars, but this intersection is still dysfunctional. Vehicles turning from Westlake to east-bound Mercer regularly block people trying to cross Mercer. People crossing Mercer on foot have to push a button to cross and hope that they can slink between vehicles quickly enough to make it to the other side of the super wide street, lest they get stuck in the median for several minutes until the next cycle. People on bikes have just seconds to cross the intersection if the pedestrian signal has not been triggered.

While a formidable case can be made for Mercer & 9th, less than a mile to the southeast is recent champion Denny & Stewart. It was terrible in 1971 when it was the most dangerous intersection in Seattle and it was terrible in 2017 when readers of The Urbanist chose it as the worst. While a 2015 project restricted traffic on Yale and a new bus lane on Denny has helped bus traffic, it could still be the worst in the city. Here’s what I wrote about it in 2017, when this contest was written exclusively from the pedestrian perspective:

Riders waiting for the 8 bus at the southwest corner of Denny and Stewart have a front-row seat for the symphony of stink coming from vehicle exhaust.

People walking toward Capitol Hill have to cross Stewart Street here before the hill climb over I-5. This crosswalk is most often clogged by opportunistic and aggressive drivers, claiming their spot in line for the freeway.

Map and Voting Form

We have two tough matchups this week. Make your case in the comments below and please vote by next Sunday, June 9.

Article Author

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.