After two years of citizen advocacy, a series of pedestrian-focused improvements is coming to the John/Thomas Street corridor with construction set to begin in early July .
David Seater, co leader of Central Seattle Greenways, began calling for the project two years ago. Seater said he walks along the corridor frequently, and finds it challenging to cross either of the streets, which tend to be high on traffic, and low on places to cross.
“I felt like it shouldn’t be that tough,” he said.
In addition to supporting Metro’s 8 and 10 routes, E John and E Thomas offer direct pedestrian access to Capitol Hill Station. Unfortunately, the corridor can be difficult to navigate by foot. Seater found help from the city’s Neighborhood Street Fund, which allocates funding to projects identified by citizens. The projects generally have a projected cost of $100,000 or more.
The street fund operates on a three-year funding cycle, and two years ago was at the start of the current cycle, so seater approached the East and Central neighborhood councils, which was the step at the time. The project went through for consideration to the city via the Central council.
Since any one of the intersection improvements would probably not cost enough to reach the funding level for the program, Seater thought bigger.
“Why don’t we try to improve all these at once,” he said.
Seater said the project was ranked highly, largely because of the high number of accidents, mostly involving pedestrians at Broadway and John.
At the eastern end of the project, the safety improvements will no doubt come as a relief to the parents of students at Meany Middle School who have to cross the street to get to school. Meany re-opened as a middle school last September, and there was at least one case of a student being hit by a car on their way to school during the last school year.
The bulk of the project involves installing curb bulbs at corners along the corridor. A curb bulb is when the sidewalk pushes out further into the street, kind of like it’s swollen at the corner, giving a double dose of pedestrian protection by narrowing the street.
First, the narrower street means pedestrians have less distance to cross. Additionally, the narrowed street typically has a calming effect on traffic, slowing speeds and therefore increasing pedestrian safety.
This project will be a mixture of two different kinds of curb bulbs, some made by pouring extra concrete, and others made by a combination of paint and white marker stands. No legal on-street parking is slated to be removed as part of the project.
The project will also paint new crosswalks, and install bus bulbs – where the sidewalk widens to allow buses easier access to the curb – in some locations. Also, the bus stop at John and Broadway will be moved, so that westbound buses on John will now stop on the same side of the street as the light rail station, meaning riders will only have to cross one street instead of two.
Finally, folded into the project is a new bus bulb to be installed on E Olive Way near Summit. The bulb will widen the sidewalk on Olive on the westbound side, across from the Starbucks.
Seater explained that King County Metro has contributed some funding to the project, and the bus related amenities, including the E Olive Way bulb, were added in soon after they signed on.
Construction may start as soon as July 9, according to the city, with work beginning on the intersection at Thomas and 21st. Work will move steadily westward, with the final item on the list, the changes at John and 10th, set to start construction from early October to late November.
The bulk of the work near Meany should be finished before the start of school, though the intersection at Thomas and 19th may see construction stretching into early October.
Funding for the project comes from the 2015 Levy to Move Seattle. The levy provided $24 million to the citywide Neighborhood Street Fund over nine years. The cost of this project isn’t yet known but early estimates were around $1.245 million. UPDATE: SDOT says the budget for this round of improvements is $2.4 million.
You can learn more at seattle.gov.
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