SDOT held an open house this Saturday at Garfield Community Center to discuss the upcoming repaving project on 23rd Ave. The background here is that SDOT, through several successful grant applications, has put together $20M (more than the $14M I’d previously reported) to turn what would have been a basic repaving project into a potentially much more significant series of improvements, including:
- signal upgrades
- transit signal priority
- fiber optics
- CCTV cameras
- license plate readers
- bus stop improvements
- lighting improvements
- sidewalk repair
With about 6,900 daily riders, 23rd Ave is the most important corridor between North and South Seattle outside of the downtown area, so what happens here is of vital importance to the transit network overall. Buses are the primary non-car mode, and the need for them to remain fast and reliable is, according to SDOT staff, what’s likely to define what’s possible and what’s not.
The big decision is whether to rechannelize the street to three lanes from the current four lane configuration*. SDOT as completed a basic traffic study which has shown that going down to three lanes through the entire corridor would cause significant backups at three intersections, resulting in unreliable transit travel. A more detailed traffic study which may shed more light on this is currently underway, to be completed in April.
Much more after the jump.
If it’s determined that the road can go down to three lanes without significantly impacting transit, then the question becomes what to do with the extra right of way. Options include a two-way cycle track, a parking lane, or moving the curb out another few feet to make the pedestrian experience safer and more pleasant. Currently there are no funds to move the curb, but SDOT says they will attempt to find the money to pay for what ends up being the consensus option. Regardless of whether the curb is extended on not, current sections of the sidewalk which are broken will be replaced, and ADA curb ramps will be installed at all corners.
The cycle track will be difficult, due to the relatively narrow right-of-way, and the three failing intersections mentioned above. The only way SDOT has found so far to make the three-lane option work for the overall corridor is to transition to four lanes at those three intersections, but that, of course, would not leave enough room for a cycle track. A cycle track would also reduce the lanes down to 10′ in places, which is about the lower limit of where Metro considers it safe to drive a bus. An alternative option might be parallel bike infrastructure on, say, 24th Ave. Funding would come after the completion of the Bicycle Master Plan, currently in progress.
Down the road, there is hope that the corridor could be electrified, and all changes made will be compatible with future electrification, but the cost here is significant and the money has yet to be identified.
In addition to SDOT’s work, DPD is conducting a separate action plan to study three 23rd Avenue intersections – Union, Cherry, and Jackson – with a goal of creating a shared vision for the neighborhood. This is all happening as major changes continue to occur throughout the neighborhood.
Planning will continue through 2014, with construction running from mid-2014 to late 2015.
* Two lanes is not an option. Unlike, say, Dexter Ave, which is basically a North-South corridor with little turning traffic, 23rd Ave has multiple signaled intersections that cross major East-West corridors. Turn lanes are unavoidable.