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23rd Ave road diet continues with year-long south project ready to dig in, bus-only lane cut from Montlake plans

23rd Ave south of Jackson

The process to overhaul 23rd Ave from one end to the other between 520 and I-90 is preparing for the next stages as construction is prepared to begin next month in the southern stretch of the corridor while a big change is being made to the plans in the north.

Wednesday night, the Seattle Department of Transportation will hold a “pre-construction open house” for the southern Phase 2 of the 23rd Ave Vision Zero project:

Phase 2 construction will happen along 23rd Ave S between S Jackson St to Rainier Ave S. While we don’t yet know an exact start date, we anticipate Phase 2 construction beginning as soon as May 2018 and lasting approximately one year. We will share more details about the construction schedule and phasing once the contractor is on board.

Wednesday’s meeting is scheduled for Wednesday, April 18 from 6:30 to 8:30 PM at Thurgood Marshall Elementary School, 2401 S Irving.

This summer, SDOT will also dig in for a few weeks on slimming down the 24th Ave E end of the corridor through Montlake. But a big component of the plan has been dropped:

In another unfortunate setback for Vision Zero and the Move Seattle Levy, SDOT has elected to remove the dedicated bus lane planned for 24th Avenue to give more space to cars. 23rd/24th Avenue, home to the 43 and 48 routes and used by over 6,000 bus riders daily, is one of Seattle’s supposed “transit priority corridors” (a phrase that grows ever more meaningless), slated for RapidRide buses in 2024.

“The 2015 Transit Master Plan called for bus lanes from Thomas St. to Roanoke St., almost all the way to the Montlake bridge,” the Seattle Transit Blog reports. “As the plan has evolved, neighborhood opposition has increased and the bus lanes have been walked back, until this month, when they were scrapped entirely.”

With or without the dedicated bus lane, the Montlake-area Phase 3 construction of the 23rd Avenue Vision Zero project will be much simpler and won’t be nearly as disruptive as the first phase of the project between John and Jackson streets which took 21 months to complete, city officials have said.

The work continues the Seattle road diet strategy in an effort to reduce collisions and make streets safer. The redesigned road was to have one lane going northbound (downhill), a center turn lane, and two lanes going southbound (uphill). The lane closest to the curb was planned to be bus only to help keep transit travel time reliable, and in advance of potentially placing a rapid ride bus on the road in the future. The bus-only lane was to continue to 23rd and Madison.

In a mailer sent to area residents this week, SDOT is touting the community driven process for a new design for 24th Ave E that “maintains two southbound travel lanes, adds a center turn lane, and goes from two northbound lanes to one.”

SDOT also plans to install “skid-resistant surface treatments” in some areas and is “conducting additional analyses to determine where we might enhance bus stops, install a new traffic signal, modify parking, and add new curb ramps within the project area.”

Officials say they are coordinating with WSDOT to make sure the 23rd Ave corridor changes mesh with plans for a new Montlake lid and interchange that are slated to be part of the next phases of the 520 replacement project. Phase 2 work will be funded by the 2015 Levy to Move Seattle at a cost of about $3.5 million.

In the south, the 23rd Ave changes are much more significant and the community is in for at least a year of construction. SDOT has around $8 million to spend.

Phase 2 work likely to begin next month will add sidewalk improvements including new paving, crosswalks, and upgraded pedestrian crossing signals, new landscaping and trees, and transit improvements including real-time arrival information and bus pullouts between Jackson and S Hill. There will also be more work to extend the adjacent Central Area Neighborhood Greenway for bikes and pedestrians.

A major water main project will also be undertaken during the roadwork.

The construction will mean traffic detours for months with plans to keep northbound traffic on the street while channeling southbound traffic to MLK Jr. Way through parts of the work.

Transit in the are will also face disruptions:

  • Route 4: From community feedback about Phase 1 construction, we heard the importance of maintaining Route 4 service to Judkins Park during construction. When the southbound detour begins on 23rd Ave S, Route 4 will be detoured to Martin Luther King Jr Way S. Since there is no trolley wire on MLK Jr Way S, Metro will use diesel shuttle buses to service all Route 4 stops south of E Jefferson St. On weekdays, continuing Route 4 riders will need to transfer between the regular electric trolley bus and the diesel bus shuttle at E Jefferson St (on weekends, diesel buses will serve all of Route 4 so there will be no need to transfer). The diesel buses will begin operating on Saturday, March 10, with Metro’s next service change, but will not be detoured to MLK Jr Way S until the 23rd Ave S construction detour begins (as soon as May).
  • Route 48: Route 48 will also be detoured to MLK Jr Way S during the 23rd Ave construction detour, beginning as soon as May.

Bus riders will eventually be rewarded by faster routes — and cleaner running buses. Metro officials confirm that SDOT is planning the next step of installing trolley wire on the new poles that were installed during Phase 1 of the 23rd Avenue paving project in order to electrify bus routes through the area.

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3 years ago

With all the talk of adding dedicated only bus lanes, is there a discussion to ramp up the bus service, so it runs more frequently or have a dedicated bus lane during peak weekday hours from 7 am to 6 pm? Most bus lanes in the city are rarely used on weekends or the evening — the number of buses doesn’t warrant an entire dedicated lane. They’ve opened them up on Highway 99/Aurora and it works well.

3 years ago

I’m super disappointed in the planned “improvements” at the north end of the corridor. Speeding and unsafe ped crossings are a major issue all along 23rd north of Madison and down the hill along 24th. A road diet similar to the one just completed to the south — one lane in each direction with a center turn lane — would slow down traffic and make it safer for people to cross this road that currently feels like a highway. Maintaining two lanes southbound runs counter to the whole road diet concept.

Moving On
Moving On
3 years ago

This seems like a horrible idea. How do skid resistant surfaces keep pedestrians safe or speed up buses?

SDOT has lost the plot lately and I don’t think we’re getting the value we were promised from the Levy.

Capitol Hillian
Capitol Hillian
3 years ago

If the road can’t be narrowed to make it safer to cross at least re-instate the bus lanes.