Busy Olive Way crosswalk overhauled with new placement, warning lights

Olive Before+afterOne of the busier, more dangerous pedestrian crossings between Capitol Hill and downtown Seattle is hopefully a little bit safer after a series of improvements made at the Olive Way onramp to I-5. Changes include renewed markings, new signs, moving the crosswalk closer to Olive Way to improve visibility of pedestrians to oncoming drivers and a new flashing signal to indicate when a crossing is taking place. Details on the changes from the state and the city are below. Olive Way has seen a series of pedestrian upgrades in recent years to improve crossings of the increasingly busy corridor. So far, nobody has made the Olive Way transit station a reality — yet.

Added visibility comes to Olive Way crosswalk
People walking up and down the hill on Olive Way between Capitol Hill and downtown Seattle – and that’s a lot of you – know that crossing in front of the on-ramp to northbound I-5 was a bit dicey. We recognized that too, and took some action.

Recently, the Washington State Department of Transportation and the Seattle Department of Transportation collaborated on a project that improved the Olive Way crosswalk at the I-5 ramp. The crosswalk is one of the busiest we have at freeway interchanges in King County and the work brings more visibility to people crossing with the addition of new pavement markings, curbs and a bright flashing light indicating someone is waiting to cross.

Previously, the crosswalk was tucked a bit off the main street towards the ramp and the sidewalk on the east side of the crosswalk wasn’t a great landing platform. Pavement markings were starting to wear down and while there were signs indicating the crosswalk, we felt more visibility would help.


New pedestrian warning lights included (Image: WSDOT)

New pedestrian warning lights included (Image: WSDOT)

The first step was moving the crosswalk closer to Olive, giving pedestrians more visibility to drivers looking to turn onto the I-5 ramp. Taking away a little parking on the eastside of the crosswalk, we installed a new sidewalk landing platform and two new pedestrian signs, making the walk across shorter and more direct with a more pronounced area to go to and from. The new sidewalk layout improves the views between pedestrians and drivers.

To add even more visibility to pedestrians, we’ve installed a warning light on both sides of the ramp to call attention to people waiting to cross. Pedestrians can push a button and emit a bright flashing light easily visible to oncoming vehicles. This is the first time this type of beacon has been used in Seattle. It sits next to an improved ramp installed for wheelchairs so that the light is accessible to all pedestrians.

Of course, it’s still up to drivers to be aware of pedestrians at crosswalks, and it’s up to pedestrians to exercise caution when moving through a crosswalk. Marked and signalized crosswalks improve awareness to those waiting to cross a street but ultimately it’s up to all of us to look out for each other.

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9 thoughts on “Busy Olive Way crosswalk overhauled with new placement, warning lights

  1. Yes, that crossing is dicey, but I’m not aware of any accidents there….perhaps pedestrians are extra cautious because they know it’s dangerous.

    SDOT does not usually do anything for obviously dangerous areas unless there has been a history of accidents, so I’m glad they have taken some preventive measures in this case. Maybe WSDOT was influential in getting this done.

  2. How about the other side now?

    I’ve almost been wiped out more times by people speeding up the off-ramp at 45 mph, thinking they can merge onto Olive without slowing. Way more times than this uphill turn onto the I5 on-ramp.

    • I agree. I worked for several months down in that area and crossed the Olive Way off-ramp several times a day. People come tearing off of I-5 and there is a bit of a curve so drivers don’t see anyone trying to cross from the east side until they are right upon the crosswalk.

      While on the other side (the on-ramp side) cars travel straight uphill for two blocks and can easily see pedestrians directly ahead of them crossing. I think the off-ramp side is much more dangerous.

    • the other side was a ton more dangerous before. it seems silly to even have the warning lights on the north side of the road, cars can clearly see you. Maybe this was now the case before the repositioning, but still.. cars traveling at 30 mi/hr uphill straight toward pedestrians isn’t super scary.

      The south side doesn’t even need much configuration, maybe a rumble strip and button-activated flashing lights. Put the button near the crosswalk and the lights back on the ramp –drivers cannot see a person standing at the crosswalk until they are in “lock up the brakes for an emergency stop” territory.

  3. The South side crossing is only 1 lane with good sight lines to oncoming traffic. It’s not that dangerous (how many accidents there?). People just need to look before they cross. And it’s not like a constant stream of cars are exiting. If someone is speeding, just wait.

    If we’re going to invest in pedestrian safety, dollars are better spent elsewhere in the city.

    • This is a freeway exit, so it’s WSDOT. I’d love to use the money at Denny and Olive, but, alas, it’s not possible.

  4. It’s great to have the new pavement markings, I hope SDOT does a better job of maintaining them than they do on other crossings, especially 15th. We have too high of a volume of foot/vehicle traffic for there not to be a more frequent schedule of crosswalk “refreshing”.