After a 21-month road diet, first phase of 23rd Ave work complete

DSC00851The new, post road-diet 23rd Ave is now open.

The Seattle Department of Transportation began construction on the first phase of the three-phase project in June 2015, closing the road to northbound traffic between Jackson and John streets.

The newly designed road has gone from two lanes in each direction to one lane in each direction, with a center turn lane. It’s also been widened near bus stops, to allow cars to get past buses as they load and unload passengers.

Road improvements weren’t all. Since the street was being torn up anyway, the city took the opportunity to replace a 100-year-old water main, widened sidewalks, added a piece of street art, installed new streetlights and traffic lights, and completed a new greenway for bikes and pedestrians along parallel streets.

During construction, Metro re-routed the northbound 48 bus. SDOT expects this bus to return to its more traditional route when Metro makes seasonal changes March 11. Meanwhile, work has also been underway to electrify the corridor with an eye toward switching to electricity-powered coaches on 23rd Ave in 2018. UPDATE: Metro says the 48 will be back on 23rd starting Thursday morning.

All work along the road is not complete. Workers will continue to complete smaller tasks, such as landscaping and installing street signs.

With this section mostly complete, SDOT now turns its attention to Phase 2 of the project, which will stretch from Jackson to Rainier Ave. An eventual Phase 3 will reconfigure the road from John to Roanoke.

The start of construction for Phases 2 and 3 is undetermined. SDOT has $43 million to spend on 23rd Avenue, and Phase 1 used $31 million of that. The money left over should allow for the design of the other phases, but construction funding has not been identified. SDOT expects to release information about the design and schedule for Phase 2 in the late spring or summer of this year.

The project so far has not been free of controversy. The city opened its wallet to help businesses impacted by construction, upending usual city protocols during construction projects.

But now that traffic is flowing again, you can start to tell if the road diet worked. Let us know.

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20 thoughts on “After a 21-month road diet, first phase of 23rd Ave work complete

  1. As a resident of 23rd Ave and E Denny, I can tell you that we are HAPPY to have our road and intersection back. Woohoo!!!

  2. Wow, so this stretch ate up about 75% of the budget leaving phase 2 and 3 with only funds to design but not construct? Is this how it was planned?

    Its great we have this magical stretch of road to meander through but roads around it are crumbling. Has anyone commuted E John between 23rd and Madison?

    • John between 23rd & Madison isn’t a through-street. Despite what navigation apps might say, one shouldn’t be cutting across there, they should be going up to MLK & Madison.

      That street can be lower-quality, if it’s for local-access only.

    • You must be confused. John street is absolutely is a through-street. It is 4 lanes and capped by stop lights at each end and pretty much the only way to toggle between Capitol Hill and Madison unless you run Madison down to lower streets.

      MLK runs North/South proving no East/West connection.

  3. The purpose of the project was to reduce the accidents on 23rd. We were told the 3 lane system would do this while maintaining the same traffic count and speed of travel. The northbound stretch has only been open a week but my guess is that N-S traffic is much slower with all the new lights and less lanes. I see traffic backed up for blocks now at the lights. I do not doubt that there will be less traffic accidents on 23rd because so many drivers have changed their route to MLK or side streets. Judging by just 23rd I guess the project is successful because the street is calmer, safer and prettier. Holistically as an impact to the neighborhood I doubt it has made any difference in terms of overall accidents and I pessimistically think accidents will increase on the residential side streets.

    • Every time a roadway gets changed from 4 lanes to three (aka road diet), somebody is bound to come out of the woodwork and spout off the unsubstantiated garbage that’s in your post.

      Every time, they are 100% wrong. What happens is that the roads flow closer to the speed limits, instead of 10+ above, they handle just as much traffic as before and while incidents of people using the side streets might happen at the beginning, they quickly learn in a week or two that there’s a reason they are side streets: they aren’t any faster.

      Accidents WILL drop, speeding WILL drop and the 23rd and the surround neighborhoods WILL become safer.

    • Truth – I hope you’re right! That was all my anecdotal opinion based on daily observation and flow into my business. I never claimed to be an expert.

  4. I appreciate that it’s become safer for pedestrians to cross 23rd even at crosswalks without lights. Much appreciated. But: I have certainly noticed what seems like an increased number of too fast, angry driving on side streets, especially 19th Avenue. There are lots of pedestrians and bicyclists there, so this can be quite dangerous. Also, as somebody else pointed out, this is nice for what it is, but what about improvements on some other streets, or even basic safety measures and maintenance? People race up and down Union, especially between 14th and 18th; it’s very uncool for pedestrians, and driving there is awful with all the potholes. That’s been one of the worst roads in the city for ages, and we’ve got many bad ones.

    • Bob – I risk sounding like a paranoid type but I’ve been reporting potholes around 23rd & Union for almost a decade. I’ve been reporting potholes at 15th & Republican for a little over a year. On 15th they get fixed FAST, in the CD not so much.

    • I’ve reported potholes over here on 22nd and seen them filled the next day. As far as I can tell the city is quite responsive. Unfortunately they were just filled with cold patch and they’ve reopened in less than a month…

    • Btw Chris – there have always been fast aggressive drivers on 19th – long before the construction on 23rd… I actually started avoiding it years ago on my (bike) commute in favor of heading directly down 23rd because of them. At least there’s no parked cars there and the road is wide enough for passing. I had enough after having a driver decide to try to speed around me on 19th without looking ahead.. there was a car in the opposite lane and another one parallel parking. He pulled in sharply and and slammed on his brakes.. I put my hand and break lever through his tail light… Me one busted fingernail (fortunately it was cold and I was wearing gloves, so no cuts) – him one busted tail light.. at least mine grew back.

  5. I love this road diet. 23rd between John and Jackson is safer with room for left-turners to get out of the way so people don’t swerve around them in the adjacent lane. Traffic moves at a safer speed thanks to the narrower overall roadway (people tend to exceed the speed limit more when there are two lanes). And it’s so much safer to cross as a pedestrian! All this, plus the road is nice and smooth.

    To those who complain about increased traffic on side streets and parallel arterials like MLK and 19th, I think that is just a carryover from the construction period. Drivers are just starting to realize that they can now drive on 23rd again. The side street traffic should die down again as time goes by.

    Now let’s get the same thing done south of Jackson, and on 23rd from John all the way down the hill to Montlake!

  6. Regarding this:
    During construction, Metro re-routed the northbound 48 bus. SDOT expects this bus to return to its more traditional route when Metro makes seasonal changes March 11. Meanwhile, work has also been underway to electrify the corridor with an eye toward switching to electricity-powered coaches on 23rd Ave in 2018. UPDATE: Metro says the 48 will be back on 23rd starting Thursday morning.

    As of this morning (Thursday) the detour is still in place.

  7. Like the new look on 23rd, though find it to be vaguely Canadian. Definitely hope to see tighter timelines on the other phases of the project. Rainier got put on a road diet and it took about two weeks (just repaint the lines). I’m guessing it was mostly the water main work that slowed down the 23rd Ave upgrades. Regardless, I find the street to be much improved.

    • 23rd got far more than just a repaint… The sidewalks were completely redone and widened. The paving was completely taken up and redone – the outside lanes were paved with concrete rather than blacktop so that they bus doesn’t buckle them and tear them up, (and since it all came up the water lines were redone too). Overhead wires were put in so that the 48 can be converted to an electric trolley line.

  8. Now that you see the effect of the street improvement, you may consider making 23rd avenue one way and MLK avenue one way.

    • Please no…. when 23rd was one way during the construction, my tiny street 22nd, one over was overrun by people who did not feel it necessary to follow the detour up to 19th or down to MLK – it was ridiculous. 22nd is barely one lane wide when cars are parked on it and most of the houses do not have driveways, so cars are always parked on it. My car was hit 4 times in one month… we had daily, usually multiple screaming, honking matches between people who didn’t feel they should be the one to give way…

      I don’t think the road diet will be encouraging people to keep coming over here – in fact most people have already figured out they can use 23rd again and are doing so, but making 23rd one way certainly would – no way people would go all the way down to MLK to go the other direction.