The Seattle Department of Transportation has, at last, formally proposed a Ballard transit project I’ve been hearing rumors of for nearly a year: a northbound Business Access and Transit (BAT) lane for 15th Ave NW, between the Ballard Bridge and Market Street. This stretch of 15th Ave is one of its most congested sections, and it currently lacks any kind of transit priority. The new lane should bring about a noticeable improvement in transit travel times and reliability.
The project has, furthermore, been extended to include a major walkability upgrade: a new pedestrian signal at 52nd St. This half-mile of 15th is a six-lane car sewer comparable to Aurora, and while it is legal to cross at all of the intersections between 51st and 54th, in practice, a person would have to be insane to attempt any of those crossings when the road is busy. Today, 15th between Leary and Market is a wall to pedestrians and bicyclists, and this crossing will bisect that wall.
I have nothing but good things to say about the proposed work. The cost in dollars to restripe a road is minimal, and the street space being reallocated for transit is coming from a turn lane that almost no-one uses. SDOT is doing a great job of improving RapidRide D on a shoestring capital budget.
For pedestrians and bikes, this new signal will singlehandedly make 52nd the safest, lowest-stress way to cross 15th between the 58th St Greenway and the Interim Burke-Gilman trail (is it time for another Ballard Greenway route?). I’d argue this new striping will even improve life for drivers, who will have a less-stressful merge onto 15th from Leary.
My only regret is that the project will not involve any sidewalk work on 15th (other than at 52nd): the current sidewalks are broken, narrow and and inaccessible. Still, sidewalks are very expensive, and the prospects for this area to redevelop are good enough that it makes sense to wait and get new sidewalks for free.
Watch this space for more proposals (from SDOT) and ideas (from STB) on making the Elliott/15th corridor better for all users.