Sign a petition or register for public comment at the Seattle City Council Budget Committee meeting Thursday, October 28 at 9:30am.
News that the Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT) had ostensibly dropped plans for a safe crossing for cyclists and pedestrians over Interstate 5 on NE 45th Street in Seattle was a heavy blow for many residents of the nearby Wallingford and U District neighborhoods in recent weeks. Now advocates from U District Mobility are pressing for the Seattle City Council to intervene and make funding available so that desired improvements can proceed forward. The group has created a petition for supporters to sign and is also asking supporters to register to speak at public comment during the budget committee meeting on Thursday.
Urging support for a protected westbound bike lane and other improvements, The Urbanist and coalition partners Cascade Bicycle Club, Transit Riders Union, and Seattle Neighborhood Greenways submitted a letter to the city council, as did the U District Community Council.
In terms of funding, advocates from U District Mobility are specifically requesting the city council contribute an additional $150,000 to the allocated $350,000 for safety improvements for a total budget of $500,000. These requests are line with expense estimates for new street markings and delineators provided by SDOT.
Safety improvements sought by advocates include a protected bike lane on the uphill, westbound side of NE 45th that would connect to the bike network, a safe interchange at 8th Avenue NE for pedestrians and cyclists, and increased safety protections for pedestrians over the I-5 bridge. They are also pressing for SDOT halt the Route 44 Multi-Modal project until these improvements can be coordinated with existing plans.
Making these improvements is essential, advocates say, to ensure that people can safely travel to and from the newly opened U District Link light rail station.
However, SDOT cited problems related to traffic flow for vehicles and transit in the corridor as the reason for their decision to drop plans for the protected bike lane. “A part of this study included creating traffic models, which made it clear that a bike lane would raise a number of operational concerns for the local transportation network in all directions,” SDOT wrote in a statement provided to The Urbanist.
In response, advocates are pushing back at this argument.
We have modified designs to eliminate the throughput concerns SDOT raised, and we need the project reopened so SDOT and WSDOT can study the new designs. It is important for SDOT to collaborate with neighborhood groups on incorporating pedestrians and cyclists into the local transportation network.
A failure to acknowledge that pedestrians and cyclists are, in fact, part of the ‘local transportation network’ does not waive the obligation to make the crossing safe for all modes.U District Mobility, 2021
In response to concerns raised by WSDOT about the need for two westbound lanes on the NE 45th Street bridge to clear the dual northbound left turn lanes from the I-5 off-ramp in order to avoid delays, advocates have asserted that the westbound, leftmost lane across the bridge does not have to be a trap lane, which forces drivers to turn. There is “space for cars going straight to be in that lane and then merge right after going through the intersection,” advocates contend.
As for the question of whether or not a safe crossing over I-5 at NE 45th Street was included in the Bicycle Master Plan, which SDOT has disputed, advocates say that recommendations for a bicycle and pedestrian bridge at NE 47th Street in the style of the new John Lewis Memorial Bridge at Northgate, signal the need for safe facilities in the corridor. The addition of a new NE 47th Street bicycle and pedestrian bridge would also cost millions of dollars and take years to plan and execute.
Seattle Neighborhood Greenways, which as participated in community engagement around planning for the NE 45th Street bridge over I-5, has also pointed out that improvements on NE 45th and a NE 47th Street bridge can be complimentary.
Want to show your support for a safer crossing at NE 45th Street? Here’s one more plug to sign a petition or register for public comment at the Seattle City Council Budget Committee meeting Thursday, October 28 at 9:30am. Online registration for public comment starts two hours before the 9:30am meeting start time so be sure to set your alarm clocks.
Natalie Bicknell Argerious (she/her) is a freelance reporter and podcast host at The Urbanist. She previously served as managing editor. A passionate urban explorer since childhood, she loves learning how to make cities more inclusive, vibrant, and environmentally resilient. You can often find her wandering around Seattle's Central District and Capitol Hill with her dogs and cat. Email her at natalie [at] theurbanist [dot] org.