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.

A map showing the City of Seattle bicycle master plan in North Seattle with facilities marked in blue and green depending on their type.
An excerpt from the Bicycle Master Plan 2021-2024 Implementation Plan with the NE 45th Street bridge area highlighted shows the east-west network gap near the U District light rail station. Blue lines identify proposed bike facilities. (Credit: SDOT)

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.

A map of proposed improvements for cyclists and pedestrians between Thackeray Place NE and 12 Avenue NE on and near NE 45th Street in Seattle.
Proposal for 45th Street protected bike lane and adjoining greenways. (Credit: Seattle Department of Transportation)

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.

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Natalie Bicknell Argerious (she/her) is Managing Editor at The Urbanist. 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.

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James G

No. This is a key, if not the only remaining east-west connection available for higher speed vehicles and needs to stay that way. The road dieting is causing an increase in road rage behavior not to mention it’s impossible to pass dangerously slow or inattentive drivers. Burke is also literally yards away and is a much safer and efficient route anyway.

Eric

1) When I drive I find NE 50th Street to be a much quicker crossing of I-5 than NE 45th St.
2) This proposal would not remove any through traffic lanes from the bridge. The number of west->south left turn lanes on the bridge would be reduced from two to one.
3) The Burke-Gilman Trail is roughly half a mile south of 45th, and over 150 feet lower. That’s a pretty significant detour to ask someone on a bike to make.
4) There are currently zero bicycle facilities crossing I-5 between the Burke-Gilman Trail and NE 65th St, a gap of nearly 1.5 miles. This would help close the gap.

Honestly, I think bike lanes should be installed on every arterial street. Seattle’s population is growing. Its streets aren’t. That means the average Seattleite is going to need to spend less time driving as we grow. Bikes and transit will need to pick up the slack, and the time to make our facilities reflect that is now.

Andrew

Do you have any evidence that road dieting leads to an increase in road rage behavior?

I think it’s pretty straightforward that road diets make safer streets.

Ott Toomet

45th is the main commercial street both in UDistrict and in Wallingford, and hence we need good walkable and bikeable connections over the i5-corridor _at 45th_. Even if 47th will get a bridge or lid or something, 45th is the most important street. It is also one of the few crossings over i5. 40th and BK-trail are roughly 5-10mins away, and the streets are, in part, not particularly welcoming.

I’d like to see the traffic light cycles becoming more pedestrian friendly, so one could always cross along the 45th, or across it, on both sides of i5. I’d also like to see the sidewalks being wider–it is ok on the current bridge but too narrow on the 45th on both ends, and too narrow at the bus stop on the bridge.