Photo by Shane Harms
SDOT's Emile Ehlers (forefront) and Dawn Schellenberg presented at the open house.

SDOT gathers public feedback for 17th Avenue NW Greenway project

The second public open house meeting for the 17th Avenue Northwest Greenway was held at Ballard High School last Thursday August 7.

Around 50 attendees gathered in the BHS gym and viewed materials that explained the reasoning, design features and planned action thus far for the project.

SDOT’s goal for the meeting was to gather public feedback for project design and other elements. Attendees were encouraged to ask questions and leave comment cards for SDOT officials to consider before future action is taken.

SDOT official, Dawn Schellenberg, explained that at its base, Greenways are made to provide safety. SDOT has a goal of having zero traffic fatalities by 2030. They reported that nine out of ten people survive traffic accidents occurring at 20 mph, compared to one out of 10 occurring at 40 mph. 70 percent of Seattle streets are residential. Designating safe bike routes is essential to completing the Bicycle Master Plan.

The Greenway is set to be constructed on 17th Avenue Northwest from Northwest 90th Street to Russell Avenue Northwest and along Northwest Dock Place between Russell Avenue Northwest and Ballard Avenue Northwest. The location was determined by evaluations SDOT made from community input at the first open house last March. They determined that this route is the most efficient from Whitman Middle School to downtown Ballard and to link to the Burke Gilman Trail.

At 17th Avenue Northwest and Northwest 90th Street, SDOT plans curbed ramps and a crosswalk. Moving south on 17th Avenue Northwest to Northwest 85th Street, crossing beacons, curb ramps and crosswalks will be installed. At Northwest 80th and 65th SDOT plans curb extensions, ramps and crosswalks.

In addition, at 17th Avenue and Northwest 57th Street, SDOT plans a partials closure at the northeast corner of the intersection to improve post office mailbox drop-off access and also reduce vehicle cut-through traffic. 17th Avenue Northwest will continue to be a two-way street, but northbound vehicles will be directed to turn left or right at Northwest 57th Street.

Attendees voiced concern for this planned changed, and said that in order to get to the mail box from the south, drivers will take the path with least resistance and drive to 16th Avenue Northwest and take a right onto Northwest 58th Street – an already established Greenway running east to west – causing more vehicle congestion.

One remedy a citizen voiced was to put the post office mailbox on an island in the intersection and allow drivers to move freely, dropping mail off from both north and south directions.

SDOT Map

Moreover, at the existing signal on Northwest Market Street, SDOT plans right or left turns only. One elderly woman, a driver, said that the change would be a terrible inconvenience to her and other drivers, causing her to drive a few more blocks than she currently has to.

At Northwest Dock Place and 17th Avenue Northwest an intersection reconfiguration is planned. SDOT will construct an area that juts into the current intersection and diverts traffic to a more squared junction. Drivers going north will be diverted left and will need to make a right turn in order to continue on 17th. SDOT has the Seattle Fire Department’s support for this intersection improvement.

Some Ballardites thought that this intersection change would cause more vehicle congestion in an already congested Ballard.

However, SDOT officials countered by using that same argument to justify why there needs to be more safety in Ballard: congestion from an influx of bicycles and cars without regulated safety leads to fatality, according to one SDOT official.

In addition Seattle Public Utilities has partnered with SDOT and plans to install green storm water infrastructure like rain garden beds along the greenway. The beds will improve driver awareness that they are in a Greenway and beautify the space. SPU will also help create an open space at the Northwest Dock Place and 17th Avenue Northwest intersection.

Lastly, at Northwest Leary Way and Northwest Dock Place a bicycle/pedestrian traffic signal, curb ramps and crosswalk will be added.

Through out the Greenway there will be stop signs facing east and west on residential streets, wayfinding signs, and sharrows. Speeds will be reduced to 25 MPH to 20 MPH. Pavement and sidewalks will be repaired for smooth travel.

Some citizens were worried about losing parking along 17th, but Emile Ehlers with SDOT explained that the stop signs would only take away 30 feet, which is about half a parking spot, per intersection.

Further more, one woman said that bikers should be paying for construction of the Greenway project. One citizen, a cyclist, said that he pays property taxes and therefore already pays for projects like this. SDOT did not want to dive into to the nuance of tax allocation at that meeting. There was no discussion of a bicycle licensing tax. SDOT reported that the project is locally funded by the nine-year voter approved Bridging the Gap Levy.

SDOT has plans to construct the Greenway in early 2015. Officials said the Greenway would not take more than a few months to construct. SDOT’s next step is to evaluate citizen’s concerns and make changes to the Greenway as they see fit.

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