Some wanted an all-walk intersection, which would only let pedestrians through and then only allow motorists to go, at Broadway/John/E Olive Way, but they’re not getting one — at least not there.
Instead, after analyzing the intersection, Seattle Department of Transportation plans to give pedestrians an advance walk signal before concurrent drivers get a green light, put in left turn lanes on John and E Olive, and turn the intersection at Broadway and E Denny Way, a festival street, one block south into an all-walk.
The announcements are wins for organizations like Seattle Central Greenways and the Capitol Hill Chamber of Commerce who have been pushing SDOT to do more to address safety issues around Broadway’s increasingly busy core.
Along with collecting new traffic counts at the intersection that is home to the one-year-old Capitol Hill Station, SDOT also looked at collision history focusing on the last year and the “surges of pedestrians” coming out of the light rail station.
Dongho Chang, city traffic engineer, cited two pedestrian collision reports. One that occurred in February, and a self-reported collision in August.
“Pedestrian-wise we hear about a lot of close misses,” Chang said.
Giving an advance walk signal for pedestrians should help them get through the intersection more quickly.
The department found the majority of collisions, 11, were left-turn related from east and westbound drivers on Olive and John. Drivers heading north or south on Broadway didn’t experience many left turn collisions but did have a few rear-ending incidents.
Designated left-turn pockets are planned on Olive and John to help drivers avoid left-turn collisions.
UPDATE: The improvements are also hoped to help businesses in the area, Sierra Hansen, executive director of the Capitol Hill Chamber of Commerce, tells CHS:
The near miss in February was a stark reminder that more people than ever before are crossing at the Broadway and John intersection. The increased pedestrian traffic and the lack of signalized left turns is recipe for disaster, and in a vehicle-pedestrian collision, the pedestrian will usually be the loser. We are thrilled that SDOT responded to the Chamber’s request to improve safety this area, expanding the scope to include the Broadway/Denny intersection, too. The signal timing at Broadway/John and the all walk at Broadway/Denny will leverage the work of the Seattle Greenways to create a pedestrian-friendly festival street at the future TOD site. A more walkable Broadway means more customers and clients visiting our small businesses, many of whom are finally recovering from more than a decade of light rail and street car construction, and we will continue to advocate for improvements that benefit the businesses in the area.
When considering an all-walk intersection at Broadway/John/E Olive, Chang said pedestrians would have to wait longer than necessary as vehicles go through the intersection. The longer wait can lead to pedestrians attempting to cross streets when it’s not their turn, which increases the chance of a collision.
With development planned at Broadway and Denny, the potential for increased pedestrian activity is high. Doing an all-walk there because it’s a festival street makes it a more viable option, Chang said. It’s also an opportunity for artistic treatment.
SDOT is working on designs for the left-turn pockets. While the advance walk is easier to implement, Change said the department would like to put all the changes at both intersections in place at the same time, hopefully before this summer. Once they are operating, SDOT can see how Broadway/John/E Olive is impacted to see if more is needed to improve safety at the intersection.
“We don’t want to do something that is going to make the situation worse, and I think this is a good approach,” Chang told CHS.
Last summer, CHS reported on a study showing street and crossing dangers around the station. Late last year, intersections from Capitol Hill Station to Miller Park were selected for major pedestrian improvements.
Meanwhile, a paused plan to extend the First Hill Streetcar north on Broadway included an extended bikeway and would have likely provided opportunities to also improve the pedestrian experience at some of the challenged intersections.