The Seattle Department of Transportation has responded to community feedback and has a new plan for E Union that will create unbroken protected bike lanes from 14th Ave to 23rd Ave. Construction is now on track to begin this summer.
The updated plans were presented at a community open house Wednesday night at the neighborhood’s Liberty Bank Building. An online survey will be collecting feedback on the updated plans through February 7th.
The updates follow plans shaped last year that drew criticism for trying to maintain area parking and existing traffic lanes by routing a portion of the planned bike lanes onto the sidewalk. The E Union bike lane project is being paid for by the Move Seattle levy to create an alternate for bicyclists away from the coming Madison Bus Rapid Transit corridor. CHS reported earlier this month that the future RapidRide G start of service has again been pushed back — this time to 2023.
The newly released plans would remove some street parking, shift a school bus loading zone, and consolidate Metro bus stops to add the “parking protected bike lanes” to both sides of E Union between 14th Ave and 26th Ave, and then transition to an uphill protected bike lane and a downhill sharrow lane from 26th to Martin Luther King Jr Way.
Street parking is, of course, a key issue for some area businesses including Uncle Ike’s and Earl’s Cuts. Wednesday night, SDOT representatives said the updated design would only require the loss of five existing street parking spots at the key 23rd and Union intersection. Some of that may be able to be mitigated by the opening of the Midtown Square development across the street. That three-piece, seven-story mixed-use apartment development with 428 market-rate and affordable apartment units and a quasi-public central plaza will include a huge underground parking garage when it opens in fall of 2021.
Street parking is a key component of the design providing a buffer of parked vehicles separating the bike lanes from traffic.
The Urbanist reports that most SDOT feedback recorded to date prioritizes bike safety over parking: “Of the 877 respondents who completed the survey, more than 600 listed the bicycle connection as important. Fewer than 200 noted that retaining as much parking as possible was important.”
SDOT is also planning pedestrian improvements at 23rd and Union including adding “pedestrian interval” and “automated” crossing that would automatically give pedestrians a head start to cross before vehicular traffic gets the green light.
Another key change involves the Seattle World School on the T.T. Minor campus at 18th and Union. SDOT is proposing the school’s bus loading zone be moved off E Union to make the stretch safer for the new bike lanes. Alternatives are being discussed with the district, officials said Wednesday night.
Metro stop changes will also help streamline the corridor. Metro is proposing to “consolidate multiple stops” including the elimination of stops at 16th Ave due to low ridership. Metro says other changes will be mitigated by the eventual start of RapidRide service on E Madison where a new stop will be added at 13th Ave only a short walk from E Union.
Another safety change, SDOT points out, will be the introduction of 25 MPH speed limits in the corridor.
With the project still in its design phase, SDOT is currently planning to wrap up its public outreach and feedback process in March with a final design unveiled by June and construction set to begin later in summer. Once it starts, the new bike lanes project will come quickly. SDOT rolled out the new bike lanes on E Pike in only a matter of weeks. Planners say the E Union project won’t require the street to be closed and should have the street re-striped and re-signed in only two or three weekends of work.
You can provide feedback on the project and learn more at seattle.gov.
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