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Rainier Embraces Transportation Transformation

Mayor Murray at Rainier Ave S Open House 7-301-15

Mayor Murray at Rainier Ave S Open House 7-301-15

Cathy Tuttle July 31, 2015

In a sweltering and packed gymnasium, with the Mayor, City Councilmember Bruce Harrell, and Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT) Director Scott Kubly shouting through a rolled up paper megaphone (the sound system had failed), three of the most transformative projects SDOT has proposed to date were launched.

Harrell tossed down his megaphone and shouted, “We are DONE with Rainier Ave S being a freeway! People live here! We need this street to work for all of us!”

Here are the three transformative Rainier Valley projects (including SNGreenway’s top 2015 priority for Council District 2):

Click on image to see project details of Accessible Mt. Baker

Click on image to see project details of Accessible Mt. Baker

  1. Rainier North-South Greenway stretching from I-90 to Rainier Beach. Will be completed in 2016. Route identified with extensive input from Rainier Valley Greenways and Seattle Bike Advisory Board.
  2. Accessible Mt. Baker signals an SDOT commitment to prioritize people around transit. It’s too long been the norm for Sound Transit to plop in light rail stations and blithely leave it up to local municipalities to make their stations accessible to people who need to walk or bike to them. Accessible Mt. Baker takes up the challenge with a real station area planning.
  3. Rainier Avenue South Safety Corridor Pilot begins construction on Monday August 3 and wraps up construction on August 14. Not only is did SDOT’s Vision Zero Strategic Advisor Jim Curtin present an unprecedentedly short project timeline, the Rainier Ave S project has the potential to transform what is Seattle’s most deadly street.

Jim Curtin also had the advantage of a sound system that finally worked. He told an attentive crowd fanning themselves with paper plates that over the past 10 years, a combination of engineering that allowed extreme speed, and an enforcement culture that allowed those speeds to go unchecked, meant that Rainier Ave S caused 3600 total collisions, more than 1700 reportable injuries and 11 fatalities. Rainier really IS off-scale dangerous.

Rainier Ave S is off-scale dangerous compared to other Seattle roads

Rainier Ave S is off-scale dangerous compared to other Seattle roads

SDOT’s quick pilot project starts August 3 and will use the proven traffic control device of road rechannelization as well as other tools to slow traffic speed and prioritize people who walk with evaluation of traffic speed, volume, and collisions AND economic impact analysis to begin immediately upon project completion at the end of August.

The Rainier Pilot project is built on a framework of rechannelizing Rainier into one lane in each direction with a center turn lane between S. Alaska St to S Kenny St (just 0.9 miles). Speed will be monitored (and enforced) to 25 mph.

Traffic signals will finally be retimed to allow people more time to cross the street and both people walking and buses will have more lead time at certain intersections. Some streets and businesses will have turning restrictions too. See the whole list of improvements in the SDOT PowerPoint.

Road Rechannelization Proposed for Rainier Ave S

Road Rechannelization Proposed for Rainier Ave S

SDOT and Department of Neighborhoods brought translators to explain these complex changes to Seattle’s most dangerous street and the public meeting included comments in Oromo, Chinese, Amhari, Vietnamese Filipino, Cambodian, Somali, as well a youth table.

This is a great start!  We’re delighted SDOT has chosen bold and affordable changes to prioritize people on Rainier Ave S. Vision Zero Safety improvements are our #1 advocacy priority for Council District 2

We’ll definitely continue to advocate for people who ride bicycles (especially family bikes) along this thriving commercial street as the Rainier Avenue South Safety Corridor Project develops. In the meantime, the Rainier Greenway, Accessible Mt Baker, and the Rainier Ave S Safety Pilot have much in them to applaud.