Empowered by a few million in funding, enthusiastic biking and pedestrian advocates, years of community meetings, piles of survey data, and a welcoming business community, the city’s Department of Transportation is set to remake Melrose Ave as a microcosm of Seattle street design circa 2020.
Non sequiturs aside, the reinvention will bring wider sidewalks near Melrose Market and even help transition the I-5 onramp from Olive Way into a safer experience for pedestrians. SDOT officials and community members toured the area in recent weeks in advance of a planned fall 2020 start of construction on the various Melrose Promenade projects.
“You put the curb where the cars are,” said one official as the tour walked near Pike and Melrose where the city says it will respond to community feedback and add a raised crosswalk to the busy crossing in front of the Starbuck Roastery. A colorful “community” crosswalk will rise at sidewalk level across the “speed table” as curb bulbs cut down the total crossing distance.
The core stretch of Melrose is also set to gain a protected bike lane from Pine to E Denny Way. Elsewhere, the street will also have speed bumps added to slow your roll.
The sidewalk directly in front of the market is slated for some major “bulbing” as the walking area is planned to be widened along the market’s stretch of Melrose. The entrance bulb will feature a planted area for trees plus the addition of new bike racks.
Other opportunities are beyond SDOT’s purview but being pursued. Seattle Public Utilities could work with local businesses at the market and nearby Machiavelli and Li’l Woody’s to move dumpsters off Melrose. Utility poles also crowd the sidewalks. Work to move the lines underground will be a longer term project.
But big changes are coming. The central Melrose Market bulb alone will bring the removal of four to five parking spots. Elsewhere along Melrose between Pike and Denny, parking is slated to either be removed altogether or transitioned to back-in angle parking like you find in parts of Pike/Pine and along Cal Anderson Park. And, someday, the area near the market could be designated a festival street, making it easier to close to traffic for parties and events.
It’s a change that SDOT says the community and local businesses — including national shopping center developer Regency Centers which bought Melrose Market for $15.5 million in 2019 — are asking for.
The removal of parking will be an especially big change for Melrose between Olive Way and Denny. The area has little commercial activity at street level and serves mostly as a place for drivers to ditch cars. Changes will also include a slight shift in the location of the I-5 onramp from Olive Way. But don’t expect automatic pedestrian crossings tied into the light. SDOT representatives said the standard for intersections like the one near the onramp include button triggered crossings so you’ll need to hit the “beg button.”
Another popular part of Melrose for parking will also change. Parallel parking north of E Denny will be converted to back-in angle parking as part of the reconfiguration and transition of the protected bike lane alignment.
Meanwhile this winter, construction on another pedestrian and bike-friendly transformation of Capitol HIll streets is underway. A $2.2 million Safe Routes to School project is currently part of ripping up pavement and intersections from Lowell Elementary to Meany Middle School across Capitol Hill. The city is adding curb ramps at corners along the route and traffic calming, such as speed humps, will be placed along E Republican. Crosswalk striping, and sensors were planned to be added on 12th at Harrison and Roy streets, and on Republican Street at 15th and 19th Ave.
On Melrose, the planned changes will follow years of community planning. CHS reported on one 2018 session here. They also will come after the implementation of other improvements in the area when the new E Pike protected bike lanes were added last year. SDOT officials walking the tour noted that one element that will make Melrose safer was bumped up and implemented during the E Pike work. Now, they pointed out, there is a separate left turn lane from E Pike onto Melrose that should help make a dangerous turn a little less chaotic. But not everything always comes together smoothly, they admitted. There’s still a sign yet to be removed above the new Pike lane warning drivers no left turns allowed.
The Melrose Promenade project is currently planned to begin construction in fall of 2020. You can learn more at seattle.gov.
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