From 520 to Wallingford: improving bicycle connections at the regional and local level

As you may know, the 520 bridge is currently being rebuilt. But what you might not know is that we are faced with a unique opportunity to provide feedback on the design of the west approach in Seattle that will impact regional bike connectivity for generations to come.

The third SR 520 Seattle Community Design Process public session is scheduled for Wednesday, Dec. 7 from 4 to 7 p.m. at MOHAI. If you haven't been to the last two public open houses (view past meeting materials here), or even if you have, we strongly encourage you attend this one. You will have the opportunity to learn about and provide input on new design alternatives that have the potential to significantly improve bicycle and pedestrian connectivity and safety where the bridge connects to Seattle.

One alternative, that we’re excited about, is a possible new configuration for 24th Ave E.

From the beginning, one of our primary concerns with the design of the SR 520 I-5 to Medina Preferred Alternative (PA) was the impact to 24th Ave E -- which today functions as a key connection for bicycles and pedestrians crossing over SR 520. In the PA, 24th Ave E becomes a much higher volume corridor with complex intersections and turning movements, as this is where the new westbound SR 520 off-ramps will connect to the Seattle street grid. The SR 520 regional trail will face its first intersection at 24th Ave E as well, and for cyclists and pedestrians heading southbound on 24th Ave E, several lanes of traffic will need to be crossed at this intersection.

However, as we learned at our SR 520 design committee meeting on Tuesday, the configuration of this corridor is not set in stone, and if you attend the meeting on Dec. 7, you will hear about new alternatives to improve the connections for bicyclists and pedestrians at this location, along with other locations throughout the SR 520 westside project corridor.

One option that is being considered at 24th Ave E would bring the regional trail along with some of the general purpose travel lanes underneath 24th Ave E (rather than intersecting with 24th).  This would enable bikes and peds to continue along the trail without having to stop at 24th Ave E, while also reducing the number of travel lanes at the intersection of 24th Ave E and the SR 520 off-ramps. Under this alternative, trail users would still have the opportunity to access 24th Ave E from the SR 520 trail and would have fewer travel lanes to cross if traveling along 24th Ave E (design materials will be available at the meeting and on WSDOT's website next week).

At the meeting, you will also learn about new traffic calming design strategies for Lake Washington Blvd., alternative designs for a nonmotorized path along the waterfront near Foster Island, as well as opportunities for improving bicycle and pedestrian connections along the 10th and Delmar Lid. If you can attend the meeting, come prepared to provide input on the new design alternatives and how you think the connections for bicyclists and pedestrians can be improved. We hope to see you there!

Meanwhile, on a more local front, the Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT) is hosting an open house to discuss the upcoming installation of the Wallingford neighborhood greenway. The open house will be held on Thursday, December 8th from 6 - 7:30 p.m. at the Hamilton International School. More Details Here. We are excited to see this project move forward for a number of reasons. It represents a successful story of a community (Wallingford) coming together to generate support and ultimately seek funding to improve walking, biking and the overall livability of the community. Backed by a Neighborhood Project Fund, the Wallingford neighborhood greenway will be installed on N/NE 44th and 43rd Streets between Latona and Stone Way, providing a traffic-calmed, family-friendly route that will improve access to key community destinations like the Wallingford Center, the Wallingford Playfield and two separate schools. The proposed project will include signs and pavement legends, crossing improvements for bicyclists and pedestrians and improved landscaping along the corridor.

One exciting treatment that has been proposed as part of the greenway project is a median island along Stone Way at 43rd – this would provide a refuge for bicyclists and pedestrians crossing Stone Way, but would restrict  motorist left-turning movements from Stone Way to 43rd and from 43rd to Stone Way.  This would effectively reduce cut-through traffic on 43rd creating a low-volume, bicycle and pedestrian friendly route through Wallingford.

For more information about the Wallingford neighborhood greenway, read Seattle Bike Blog's recent post, or to learn more about the neighborhood greenway movement, view our post from September about Portland's successful network of neighborhood greenways and Seattle's recent efforts toward this end.