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With John/Thomas corridor work underway, 2019 will bring $2.2M Safe Routes to School pedestrian improvements across Capitol Hill

Guess what? What’s safer for students will also be safer for everybody crossing 15th Ave E (Images: CHS)

Students walking to Capitol Hill’s Lowell Elementary and Meany Middle School should be greeted by a number of safety improvements on their way to school next year.

The Safe Routes to School program is administered by the Seattle Department of Transportation with an eye toward making it easier and safer for children to walk and bike to school. In a 2016 report, program officials touted 18 projects at schools around the city. Projects range from installing speed bumps to rebuilding or installing sidewalks and other pedestrian safety enhancements.

In the coming year, SDOT projects it will make improvements at 31 schools around Seattle. Capitol Hill will get in on the program with a grab-bag of safety measures on streets and at intersections around Lowell and Meany, which may begin construction in the summer of 2019.

SDOT tries to find ways to use existing infrastructure, explained Emily Reardon, who handles communications on the issue for the department. In this case, planned neighborhood greenways along 16th and 18th avenues, and also along Republican Street provide anchors for the changes.

The city plans to add curb ramps at corners along the route, along with some intersections having curb bulbs added. Curb bulbs are when the corner pushes out further into the intersection. The approach narrows the street, which tends to slow drivers, and also give pedestrians a shorter crossing distance.

Traffic calming, such as speed humps, will be placed along Republican Street.

Crosswalk striping, and maybe sensors are to be added on 12th at Harrison and Roy streets, and on Republican Street at 15th and 19th Ave.

Some other changes are slated for 15th and Republican, including moving the loading zone currently on the west side of Republican further back, and no longer allowing parking so close to the corner. There are also plans to add bike infrastructure to that intersection.

Reardon said SDOT has been in communication with businesses in the area explaining the coming changes to them.

19th and Republican is set to be made safer in 2019

Four intersections will get flashing crosswalk beacons: Harrison Street at 15th (which is also going to get raised crosswalks and curb bulbs) and 12th avenues, 19th and Republican and 12th and Roy.

There will be a number of signage changes, forcing drivers approaching the greenways to stop. For example, at the intersection of 13th Avenue and Mercer Street, there is a two ways stop, with cars on 13th Avenue stopping. Those signs will be removed, and instead, cars traveling on Mercer Street will stop.

Similarly, stop signs will be added on 16th Ave at Republican Street.

SDOT will work with the schools by publishing maps for distribution to the student bodies to make them aware of which routes have safety improvements.

The project will follow one currently underway from Broadway to Miller Park to make the John and Thomas corridor safer. The bulk of that $2.4 million project involves installing curb bulbs at corners along the corridor. A curb bulb is a section of sidewalk that pushes out further into a street, kind of like it’s swollen at the corner, giving a double dose of pedestrian protection by narrowing the crossing.

The total project cost for next year’s Safe Routes work on the Hill is estimated to be $2.2 million, Reardon said. UPDATE: $442,000 of the funding will come from a federal grant, with the balance coming from the city tapping into levy and traffic camera funds.

Construction could begin as soon as summer 2019. The exact timeline, including how long construction might take, is not yet known.

For more information, visit the city’s Safe Routes to School: Lowell-Meany website.

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9 thoughts on “With John/Thomas corridor work underway, 2019 will bring $2.2M Safe Routes to School pedestrian improvements across Capitol Hill

  1. Good news. Does the map indicate that a full traffic signal will be added at 12th and Mercer? Right now, stepping out into the crosswalk there in the morning can be harrowing. With no stoplights between Aloha and John, the street has become something of a speedway for morning commuters.

    • I’d love to see that too. If not a full on stop light, at least some traffic calming measures to slow drivers down.

      • It was only about a year ago that that intersection was modified to calm traffic. Isn’t that enough spent of taxpayer’s money for one intersection?

      • That is incorrect, Bob. It was modified to with curb bulbs. They are helpful for pedestrians to have buffer and better sight-lines to vehicles. They do nothing to slow/calm traffic. Cars still speed along.

      • We will have to disagree on this one, Timmy. The recently-installed curb bulbs do improve pedestrian safety, even if cars sometimes speed there. Also, there is a flashing yellow light above the intersection.

  2. Those white-painted curb bulbs with glaring florescent plastic posts, which have been installed on Thomas and John, are a danger to pedestrians. As a driver, I find them very visually distracting, which makes it harder, not easier, to see pedestrians dressed in drab colors who are standing within the bulb area, especially at dusk or nighttime. As a walker, I do not feel safer because of the presence of those bulbs.

    • I disagree. I feel much safer with those painted curb bulbs in place. It would be even better if they were physical concrete curb extensions, not just paint, but still, this is a big improvement for me as a person crossing the street. For one thing, they allow me to get out further in the street so that drivers can see me. Also, they prevent cars from being parked too close to the corner, which also improves visibility. When cars are parked right up to the corner it’s hard to for drivers to see me when I’m waiting on the corner to cross. The reflective posts help drivers to see that the curb extension is there.

      • I’m another pedestrian who feels much safer with those things. I notice that cars are stopping more frequently to let me cross and I’m assuming it is because I am more visible.