Coming to Pike/Melrose pic.twitter.com/27WAc3EqwA
— jseattle (@jseattle) November 13, 2015
Construction crews have been hard at work at the intersection of Melrose and Pike this week installing an important set of street and sidewalk improvements — including the coveted pedestrian crosswalk signal that will soon be bringing Pike wheeled-vehicle travel to a halt so that residents, workers, and Starbucks Roastery tourists can safely cross the busy street. In all, it’s a $135,000 investment.
Right now, the crosswalks are painted but the hardware and signal are not yet fully in place making for a slightly harrowing crossing. SDOT says, depending on the weather, the signal light could be up and operational as early as next week. Pedestrians looking to cross Pike at Melrose will get a button to press on each side of the intersection. Once the system determines the proper amount of time has passed for traffic to clear around other signals in the area, the Pike signal will turn red for motor vehicles, bikes, etc. and the walk signal will turn green. For walkers, it’s an amazing change at one of the increasingly active neighborhood’s busiest crossings.
So, how did the project come together when other crossings — say, Pine at Boylston, for example — have not?
“In terms of how we make these sorts of changes happen, it is through old-fashioned community organizing, developing with our neighbors and partners a conceptual vision for how to improve the quality of life in our city, and engaging in a positive and proactive way with the City,” community member and Melrose Promenade volunteer Mike Kent tells CHS. “No small amount of perseverance is also important, as we have been advocating for pedestrian improvements along Melrose for more than five years.”
Here are the logistics of the project from a community standpoint. The Melrose Promenade group’s advisory committee applied for a grant through Department of Neighborhood’s Neighborhood Park Street Fund and was awarded $90,000.00 “to improve pedestrian safety in the Melrose Promenade vicinity,” according to SDOT. CHS wrote here about the most recent round of Capitol Hill-related applications.
“In coordination with neighbors, the committee produced a list of aesthetic and safety enhancements they would like to see implemented in the area as part of their grant application,” the SDOT spokesperson told CHS.
The Melrose Promenade proposals included some ambitious stuff:
- Narrowing down the curb line at this intersection to increase the predictability of auto movement
- Incorporating more pedestrian-oriented lighting to both improve visibility but also to change people’s psychological experience of this space, increasing awareness of the shared nature of the street
- Distinctive paving materials at the pedestrian crosswalks to improve drivers’ awareness of pedestrians and cyclists, and to encourage more predictable pedestrian traffic patterns
- Implementing a curbless festival street
- Signage identifying this area as the gateway to the Melrose Promenade corridor and signifying the unique character of this particular location
SDOT reviewed the enhancements but found the group’s hopes were “well beyond the scale of available NPSF funding or required additional design refinement and community involvement.”
“Accelerating the installation of a pedestrian signal across Pike is consistent with any of the future design scenarios and provides the greatest available improvement for pedestrian safety at the intersection,” the SDOT spokesperson told CHS.
According to SDOT, the awarded grant funds were originally scheduled for 2016. The department also was able to add $45,000.00 from the Neighborhood Greenways program for a total of $135,000 putting the project on the road toward 2016 construction.
But “high pedestrian demand” — read: Starbucks and the nearby Melrose Market — pushed SDOT to move up the schedule “using funds made available through construction savings on 2015 projects,” according to the department spokesperson.
Meanwhile, Kent and the Melrose Promenade group also convinced SDOT to pony up for one of the original community enhancements envisioned for the grant — a community crosswalk part of the Pike/Pine rainbow-inspired program being rolled out across the city. The street is also due to get a new streatery parklet in front of Mamnoon.
The SDOT spokesperson says the colorful crosswalk across Melrose will be a community project and will require “design approval by the community council and by the city traffic engineer.” The plan is to install it in the summer of 2016. No, it doesn’t have to be Starbucks green.
As for the coffee giant’s help in all of this, we’ve asked the company about its support of the Melrose Promenade projects but haven’t heard back. But Kent’s past work shows that creating a safe Capitol Hill crossing doesn’t necessarily have to involve a coffee giant.
The success at Pike and Melrose, he says, is very similar to the work that went into creating safer crossings of 12th Ave at Howell and Harrison. Work which neighbors along that street continue to advocate for, Kent points out.