SDOT Nearing End of Early Design with Route 40 Improvement Concepts

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A green and yellow Route 40 with Fremont displayed on its screen with downtown towers in background.
A Route 40 bus in downtown heads to Fremont. (Credit: SDOT)

Route 40 upgrades could be on the horizon. King County Metro and the Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT) have been working on the Route 40 Transit+ project, which could bring right-of-way improvements to the corridor, speeding up buses and improving reliability. SDOT has developed a variety of conceptual street enhancements, tabbed for several sections of the corridor in Westlake, Fremont, Ballard, and Greenwood based upon feedback from the public and operators. Improvements could reduce travel times by 5% to 10% during peak times.

A map showing portions of the Route 40 corridor that are a focus for right-of-way improvements.
A map showing portions of the Route 40 corridor that are a focus for right-of-way improvements.

Westlake improvements

In Westlake, street layout changes are being considered on Westlake Ave N between 9th Ave N and the Fremont Bridge. The 1.5-mile stretch of street would be modified by putting a bus-only lane in each direction on the four-lane street. To support access, four new concrete pads could be added at southbound bus stops. Other possible improvements include a new southbound left-turn lane for buses only at the Westlake Ave N and Valley St/Roy St intersection and a southbound queue jump at the N Highland Dr intersection. SDOT notes that these changes would provide “reduced transit travel times and improved reliability in both directions, especially northbound following bridge opening events.”

  • Improvement considered for the Westlake Ave N and Valley St/Roy St intersection. (City of Seattle)
  • Conceptual rechannelization and existing street layout of Westlake Ave N. (City of Seattle)

Fremont improvements

In Fremont, significant changes are proposed to Fremont Ave N between N 35th St and N 34th St as well as on N 35th St/N 36th St on approach to Fremont Ave N. Other streets could get more targeted improvements.

In terms of Fremont Ave N, SDOT is considering sidewalk replacements and curb ramp upgrades near the bus zones, new bus only lane markings, and a restriction of northbound left turns to N 34th St. Leading to the intersection with Fremont Ave N, SDOT is also considering a new bus-only turn lane westbound from N 35th St by removing parking and rechannelizing the street.

On N 36th St and Fremont Pl N between 1st Ave N and Fremont Ave N, a new southbound bus lane could be added to the street by removing a lane in each direction and revising the overall layout. This means that lanes would be shifted and a new center turn lane would be added to balance out the change. Sidewalk curb extensions and bus bulbs may also factor into the modifications at the intersections with N 35th St, Dayton Ave NW, Phinney Ave NW, and 1st Ave NW.

Where bus lanes are added, the red paint markings will be provided, though general traffic could enter most of the lanes near intersections to make right turns.

  • Conceptual improvements and rechannelization for Fremont Ave N and nearby streets. (City of Seattle)
  • Conceptual rechannelization and existing street layout for N 36th St between Fremont Ave N and 1st Ave NW. (City of Seattle)
  • Conceptual improvements and rechannelization for N 36th St at Phinney Ave NW and Dayton Ave NW. (City of Seattle)
  • Conceptual improvements and rechannelization for N 36th St at 1st Ave NW. (City of Seattle)

Ballard improvements

Ballard presents perhaps the most complex and varied types of improvements, which are tabbed for Leary Way/Ave NW and NW Market St. On Leary Way/Ave NW, SDOT has outlined the following possible improvements:

  • Sidewalk repair and curb ramp upgrades, turn restrictions, a new eastbound through lane on Leary Way NW, and new westbound left turn lane on Leary Way NW are all possible changes at the 15th Ave NW intersection;
  • From 15th Ave NW to 20th Ave NW, the street could be rechannelized from four lanes (two in each direction) with parking lanes on both sides to two lanes (one in each direction) with a center turn lane and wider parking lanes on both sides;
  • Near the NW Dock St intersection, bus bulbs could be added for stops in both directions and short medians in the center of the street to prevent passing of buses;
  • At the 20th Ave NW and NW Vernon Pl intersection, a full traffic signal could be installed along with new painted crosswalks, turn restrictions, a median island, and formal curb extensions to trim down the roadways and tighten up intersection points;
  • A midblock crossing could be upgraded between 20th Ave NW and NW Market St with a curb bulb, center median islands, and enhanced flashing beacons; and
  • Between 20th Ave NW and NW Market St, a new northbound bus lane and center turn lane could be added, replacing a general purpose lane in each direction.
  • Conceptual rechannnelization and street improvements to 15th Ave NW and Leary Way NW. (City of Seattle)
  • Conceptual rechannnelization and existing street layout of Leary Way NW between 15th Ave NW and 20th Ave NW. (City of Seattle)
  • Conceptual improvements near the NW Dock St intersection. (City of Seattle)
  • Conceptual improvements near the 20th Ave NW and NW Vernon Pl intersection. (City of Seattle)
  • Conceptual midblock improvements on Leary Way NW between 20th Ave NW and NW Market St. (City of Seattle)
  • Conceptual rechannelization and existing street layout of Leary Way NW between 20th Ave NW and NW Market St. (City of Seattle)
  • Conceptual midblock improvements on NW Market St near 22nd Ave NW. (City of Seattle)

On NW Market St, SDOT has indicated that following improvements could be made:

  • Bus bulb extensions could extend the bus area along the curb between 22nd Ave NW and Ballard Ave NW;
  • Bus-only lane signage could be added in both directions between 24th Ave NW and 22nd Ave NW on the outer lanes and red paint on pavement could follow the street repaving project;
  • Northbound right turns from Leary Way NW to NW Market St could be prohibited; and
  • Right turns from NW Market St to 22nd Ave NW could be prohibited except for buses.

Greenwood improvements

In Greenwood, street layout changes would be focused on a nearly 500-foot stretch of Holman Rd NW between 3rd Ave NW and NW 104th St. The existing center turn lane would be removed with left turns being prohibited in both directions on Holman Rd NW. With the surplus lane, the center lane would be converted to a general purpose lane and the southernmost lane would become a bus-only lane for northbound buses.

Conceptual rechannnelization and existing street layout of Holman Rd NW between 3rd Ave NW and NW 104th St. (City of Seattle)
Conceptual rechannelization and existing street layout of Holman Rd NW between 3rd Ave NW and NW 104th St. (City of Seattle)

SDOT’s corridor survey is open through April 16th. Feedback on the survey could be critical to implementing and improving upon the conceptual improvements. The project will proceed to 30% design, possibly as soon as early June. Timing for project completion is estimated to be 2024, but funding considerations could mean that the timeline might slide further — having already slid from 2023 and originally envisioned as RapidRide under the Move Seattle Levy.

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Stephen is an urban planner with a passion for sustainable, livable, and diverse cities. He is especially interested in how policies, regulations, and programs can promote positive outcomes for communities. Stephen lives in Kenmore and primarily covers land use and transportation issues for The Urbanist.