SDOT quiet on decision to back off left-turn signals at busy Broadway intersection

Seattle Fire responds after a driver struck a woman at the intersection in February 2017 (Image: CHS)

This morning, CHS reported on some major progress in making a vital east-west stretch of Capitol Hill roadway connection to Capitol Hill Station safer for everybody — especially pedestrians.

But a major component of recent City of Seattle planning won’t be part of this summer’s project. Already one of the busiest spots for pedestrian traffic in the city, the intersection of Broadway and E Olive Way/John just outside the station’s main entrance is more crowded with foot traffic than ever. But the city isn’t including planned signal changes at the intersection to cut down on collisions — and near misses — in this summer’s work.

Seattle Department of Transportation officials haven’t responded to our multiple inquiries about the decision so we’ll turn it over to The Urbanist’s Ryan Packer who revealed the big non-action on SDOT’s part in his recent report on the intersection:

But the issue of conflicts between left-turning vehicles and pedestrians using the crosswalk remains a huge problem at this intersection, and after responding to community concerns around pedestrian safety here, SDOT made the decision to install left-turn signals to the traffic lanes heading east/west, on E Olive Way and E John St. This improvement was to be included in a comprehensive corridor improvement to the E John Street corridor east of Broadway that was awarded a Neighborhood Street Fund (NSF) grant in 2016 from a proposal submitted by Central Seattle Greenways volunteer (and current Pedestrian Advisory Board chair) David Seater: it was not funded by the NSF grant but would be treated as part of it.

“Now the department is scaling back plans for the signal replacement needed to add left turn arrows, saying that adding them would be cost prohibitive,” Packer writes. “Instead they propose simply rechannelizing the lanes on the roadway, which are poorly defined currently.”

UPDATE: Here’s what SDOT tells us about the “rechannelizing” work:

We’re planning to install left turn pockets on the east and west legs of Olive Way and John St, respectively. This change is expected to treat a driver collision pattern (14 east west left turn collisions in 3 years). Work is scheduled to happen in the Q4 2018, after the NSF project is completed and the Route 8 project shifts bus stop locations.

CHS first reported on the latest plans to make the intersection safer back in February 2017 as SDOT considered options including an “all-walk” crossing and signal change. What was implemented instead was this rather limp change at Broadway and Denny. Meanwhile, Broadway/E Olive Way/John zooms along.

It’s said to be a cost issue — a new signal setup would come in around $250,000, Packer says, $235,000 more than the current plan to “rechannel.” We’ll continue to ask SDOT about the decision at Capitol Hill Station.

Meanwhile, the department has also gone back to City Hall to work out changes around Broadway between Madison and Pine to improve the service speed of the First Hill Streetcar as it also tries to balance increasing concerns from the area’s business community. Given how things are working out farther north on Broadway, get ready for an underwhelming compromise.


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27 thoughts on “SDOT quiet on decision to back off left-turn signals at busy Broadway intersection

  1. If they’re not going to install left turn signals, I vote no longer allowing any left turns. This intersection is utter chaos.

    • Agreed. I have had to run for my life here, from a left turning driver who didn’t yield while I had the walk signal. For every collision there are probably a bunch of terrifying near misses.

      • Not to mention all of the pedestrians who illegally dart across the street while the crossing signal is flashing, frustrating drivers who could otherwise turn. While I am more often a pedestrian at this intersection and a motorist, this kind of dangerous and rude behavior really bothers me.

      • Just hock a loogie at any assholes that fail to yield. A throat oyster on their windshield is a small consequence for what is essentially attempted murder with a deadly weapon.

      • I agree with Eric. The blatant and frequent crossing against the “red hand” by pedestrians is at least as much to blame for incidents as motorists’ not yielding when they should.

  2. I agree Tim, if no left-turn light then NO left-turn. I ride the #2 going west and the traffic backup during the day is rediculous.

  3. This is another example of government malfeasance by city leadership. Don’t stick a light rail station in the middle of a neighborhood if you are not prepared to assume all of the costs associated with it, like making the intersection safe for pedestrians. But hey, let’s head on down to the border to make a political point while people get hit by cars and others are sleeping in tents under bridges. And listen, I’m no right-wing troll. I’m about as left as it gets. But I also think this issue is yet another example of piss poor leadership at the city level. Focus on the issues you’ve been hired to focus on.

  4. All politics are local Seattle. This needs to be addressed, I walk through this intersection multiple times a week, and 25% of the time you see a car zooming to make the turn after the light turns red. Pedestrians and oncoming traffic be damned.

    • In store for a revamp with Madison BRT, which is waiting on a federal funding grant. If it doesn’t get it, the entire RapidRide program is in doubt.

  5. SDOT sucks and doesn’t seem at all committed to strategic planning, implementation, safety, equity, it’s stated Vision Zero plans, etc. etc. I hope Durkan and the city council really prioritize effective management of the agency. We need it to be well-functioning! Whoever challenges for the District 3 council seat has my vote if they have real plans of oversight and accountability for SDOT.

  6. This is ridiculous. Next time, forget about fancy crosswalks and put in left turn signals instead. Or don’t put in 10 p-patch plots (I heard about 50k for the p-patch expansion at Summit Slope- that is for 3 new plots). The things this city *doesn’t* have money for sometimes are amazing, considering all the things it seems to find money for.

    • Yes, let’s cancel all other projects with completely separate funding sources and budget because one particular project doesn’t have funding. Sloopy for mayor/governor/president!

  7. FYI it is worth mentioning that the Denny and Broadway “all-walk” crosswalk has now been modified as of April. Feel free to investigate but now it’s a pseudo all-walk.

    Basically when the light is green going down broadway, the crosswalk sign also lights up.

    I don’t cross to the other side of Broadway


  8. This article doesn’t seem to match very well with the one below it.

    So, we’re going to fix all the other intersections but just leave this one a total cluster?

    Who’s making these decisions?

  9. I have a solution that will have a HUGE impact on this intersection (as a driver through it). Vehicles that are turning left, follow the law and turn on your damn blinker before you get to the intersection. DO NOT TURN ON YOUR BLINKER AFTER YOU ARE IN IT AND FORCE ALL THE CARS BEHIND YOU TO BE STUCK OR TAKE RISKS TO GET AROUND YOUR CAR!

    The traffic light should catch and ticket the non-blinking offenders. That would solve part of the problem.

    Here is the law:
    RCW 46.61.305
    (2) A signal of intention to turn or move right or left when required shall be given continuously during not less than the last one hundred feet traveled by the vehicle before turning.


    • How about this…. JUST WAIT PATIENTLY UNTIL THEY’VE TURNED LEFT… then you won’t be driving like an asshat and putting other people in danger when you attempt to dodge around them, then jam on the gas because you are now trying to squeeze between the next person, who wasn’t turning left and parked cars because John Street is only 1 lane….

      You are CHOOSING to take risks because you are too impatient and self centered to simply wait – and yeah what if it takes you until the next light to get through – BFD. Don’t drive in the city if you don’t like it.

      • CD Cyclist. So you’re for enforcement in one thread and against enforcement in another?

        When traveling eastbound, if you wait patiently, you may be waiting several lights as only 1 car typically can turn left at a light during peak. This can be avoided with drivers approaching the light to use their signals.

        People who provide advance notice (using their signals) of their intentions allows those behind them to make safe choices and keeps those behind them from having to change lanes behind them and pass on the right.

      • No… I’m all for enforcement of traffic laws- never said I wasn’t, so don’t try to twist what I said around. The OP is however suggesting that only people doing what he doesn’t like, what would benefit only his own selfish ends, see enforcement, while what he is doing is *far* more dangerous and more deserving of a ticket.

        Even when people do signal he shouldn’t be “taking risks” his words… to get around them. John is *1* lane – anyone attempting to go straight through the right lane has to be prepared to yield to traffic going straight – yet assuming that a left hand turner will block things up so that you won’t have to yield to anyone who is going straight (or likely not caring and not yielding even though you know there is already someone else there) is another commonality at that intersection.

        I don’t really care if you do sit through more than one light. It’s city traffic, you want to drive in the city deal with it. If the city doesn’t want to put in a light with a left hand turn that will happen and if you want to drive through that intersection you just need to expect the wait and accept it gracefully.

        In any case the city not wanting to fix lights and motorists behaving badly are two different things – I simply don’t care if you have to wait longer – You still are simply not allowed to drive recklessly or menace other road users just because you are frustrated or think your wait is too long. Whether or not someone puts their turn signal on a little late so that you no longer have the opportunity to do something dangerous and stupid doesn’t make me pity you… nor does it excuse you for driving badly.

    • CD Cyclist. You’re mixing your own words, contradicting yourself, and putting words in others mouths, such as the OPs post.

      • I haven’t contradicted myself anywhere. If you don’t understand the intersection, it’s not my fault.

  10. AND add a turn signal that is red until the crosswalk is cleared and then goes green to allow those turning left to turn. Also make the lower portion of Olive/Denny no parking along it to allow for double lanes. We have to acknowledge that this interaction and street is a thoroughfare and needs to have the space to accommodate it. Or make driving through it so miserable that people avoid it. You can do that by making broadway a “no turn left” street. Allowing parking up to the intersection and rerouting buses so they run along broadway and not through it. But if you are routing buses on John through broadway, allowing left turns, and it is experiencing heavy traffic then this is a thoroughfare and you need to treat it as such. Sorry SDOT, it’s easy once you understand what you are dealing with.

    • We stopped that ridiculous crosswalk on Jackson! That was our grant but certainly not our intent down there!! SDOT! Man, you have to watch them like a hawk.

      Seriously, Cap Hill pedestrians, it is time to take this into your activist hands and make a day of action where you make it an ALL WALK when you need to.. and get the papers there and try to figure out how get our MIA District Rep to actually show up at some pothole-type politics.

      That intersection has sucked for 25 years and is only worse since the light rail opened.

      Citizens: take it from your Judkins Park neighbors, you have to publicly shame SDOT to get any thing done with those bureaucrats.. it’s just insane the amount of waste happening there— and to be fair to many of their great employees…they are just as overwhelmed and under-staffed for the amount of change happening in Seattle.