Community Post

Updated: A Two-Lane 23rd?

There was a post last week on the Miller Park blog that got me thinking. The subject was the poor condition of 23rd Ave, and I remember getting a map during last year’s campaign for the “Bridging the Gap” road levy that showed 23rd as one of the arterials that would be fixed up and re-striped to add bike lanes.

It’s been over a year since then without any activity, so I sent an email to SDOT to try and figure out what the official plan was for the major N/S thoroughfare in our neighborhood. Peg Nielsen got back to me with some details.

As far as general repaving goes, 23rd Ave between Cherry Madison is “an identified 20-year paving need”, but it is NOT on the list of projects that will be done in the nine-year first phase of the Bridging the Gap program, and is not otherwise scheduled to be fixed. That doesn’t necessarily mean that it will be allowed to continue to deteriorate for the next 10 years, but there is no current plan to fix it up.

As for bicycle lanes, Ms. Nielsen says:

23rd Ave, between E Madison and E Jackson streets, has been identified as a potential arterial for bike lanes, but it must first be studied (traffic counts, turning at intersections, access to adjacent businesses etc). Were the studies to provide positive results that the bike lane could be installed while maintaining safety and accessability for all the arterial users – pedestrians, bicyclists, motorists – then that lane marking would be installed at the very earliest in the end of this year, but more likely, next year or in 2009.

23rd is fairly narrow for a 4-lane roadway as it is, so adding bicycle lanes would have to mean getting rid of some traffic lanes. I would guess it would go to 2 traffic lanes with a center turn lane and the typical bike lanes on the shoulders. Now as both a bike rider and a resident of 23rd, I’m all for anything that would lessen the speed and volume of traffic, so that sounds great to me.

But I’m curious what everyone else thinks: Would you mind losing 2 vehicle lanes from 23rd? Leave your opinion in the comments below.

Ms. Nielsen provided a further update and clarification on the prioritization of 23rd:

We are making great progress with the aid of Bridging the Gap (BTG) funding – in 2007 we paved 27 miles of roadway and this year we will pave 36 miles. There are many arterials in the city that need significant work and the BTG funds enable us to fix far more than in the past.

While we recognize the need on 23rd Avenue, we do have an order of priority. Although the planned paving map on our BTG website shows 23rd as a major arterial to be paved, it is not among the most “critical” arterials for which the funding must first be used. When comparing 23rd Ave, between Madison and Yesler, to the other critical major arterials, it is actually in far better condition and carries less than half the traffic and freight volumes than those arterials slated for paving first. We are trying to stretch our BTG funds to cover paving needs as soon as possible, but face constraints based on material and construction costs.

In the 2004 Pavement Condition Report, the link for which I am pasting below, you will note that 23rd Ave between Madison and Yesler is on our priority list; however you’ll also find in the report all the factors that are considered when determining the paving which must be done first. It also helps explain ideas like the 20-year paving need.

At this time, we do not yet have 23rd Ave on the paving schedule, but please keep in mind that it continues to move up the list as we pave higher priority arterials. In the meantime, please urge your neighbors to call in potholes to our pothole hotline (386-1218) as we do make repairs within two business days and repairing the holes is the best way to prevent further deterioration.

0 thoughts on “Updated: A Two-Lane 23rd?

  1. As much as I’m in support of bike and pedestrian zones- I don’t think 23rd is a good candidate. It’s the major N/S arterial in the CD- continuing on past Madison down to Hwy 520 and the U. District in the north, and to Rainier in the south. Aside from way too much car traffic- there are also the buses to contend with. Can you imagine being stuck behind a bus on a 2-lane road, making stops every 2-3 blocks?

    That being said- I think it’s in dire need of repair- especially between Jefferson and Jackson, where the potholes are now large enough to swallow your bike.

  2. I like the idea of one lane in each direction, plus the bike and center turning lanes, because speed is too great as it is now. Traffic lights are far apart, and walking across at the insignaled intersections reveals a death wish at certain times of day. The current lanes, two in each direction are too narrow – often it is impossible to pass a bus or large truck in the same direction, and if you’re passing one in the opposite direction, look out!

    I do have a concern about the safety of bike riders if vehicles make a right turn across a bike lane – we’ve recently had horrible accidents in various parts of the Seattle area under this scenario, and they are probably more likely when they are first installed.

    I can’t think of any spot in this route where a right turn by a vehicle would hold up traffic for more than a moment. There’s already a traffic light at the south end of Safeway.

  3. Adjacent north-south streets make excellent bike lanes. I often use 22nd, coming from Miller Park: cross Madison at light by Safeway then it’s a clear shot with good visibility at crossings of E-W streets. I vote for leaving it that way.

    I’ve also used 20th and 24th for similar purposes, depending on where I’m going to/coming from.

    A bike lane on 23rd sounds a BAD idea.

  4. I bike from 23rd and Union to montlake almost daily. My biggest concern about switching to bikelane/center-left-turn-lane is the buses, which would need to pull into the bicycle lane for every stop.

    I’m personally fine bicycling northbound without a bicycle lane. When cycling southbound (uphill) I’ll take the side streets.

  5. There’s so much traffic on 23rd. I wouldn’t want to see it cut down. Where would the traffic go? MLK? 14th?

    It’d be nice to do like A.T. says (above) and use adjacent N-S streets for the bike lanes — but why not put some resources into making these sidestreet bike lanes really user-friendly and attractive to bicyclists? For instance (I dunno), put stop signs on cross streets so intersections would be a little safer. Like that.

  6. Traffic is really bad. It needs to stop. We should take the advice of JB and travel in tubes. “Get the scientists working on the tube technology. Chop chop!!”

  7. I do not support making this street into a two lane road. But I DO strongly support fixing the surface so that it is not like driving over a series of deep creaters! As for any one on a bike, these are also very dangerous. How about this: If every person seeing a pothole that needs to be fixed would call the City with a request and the location, at least there would be fewer pits to fall into, drive over or crash into on a bike. The # for the pothole hotline is: north of Denny Way, 684-7508 and south of Denny Way, 386-1218. This will not get the entire street repaved, as needs to be done, but at least there will be fewer holes to deal with and make the City pay some attention to all the neighborhoods along 23rd Ave.

  8. Putting bikes lanes on 23rd will be the folly of this decade. Please do not delude yourself that 23rd is anything less than a freeway through town. Or that it can somehow be transformed into a quaint country road with a center turn out lane. This is not Texas. We don’t have that kind of luxury of space.
    I find it curious that seattle equates traffic control with choking the road so tight as to render it useless, then remove the parking that should be at your destination so that, if on the off chance you make it, in the customary untimely fashion, there’s no where to put you car. People here are already challenged by an inability to identify where they are in relation to the moving objects around them. Throw in temporarily parked cars in the median and passing silent bicycles to the right and someone dear to you will be hurt. It’s time to stop thinking American and get European with congestion. Be honest with yourself and know, your not giving up your car. And to expect someone else to make the hard choices have left us all with the situation we have before us now.
    Tear out the lights, remove the corners and replace every intersection with roundabouts. If your frightened by the idea, learn it and embrace it. The traffic must flow whether you like it or not.
    Better Yet, areas of the city with No Car Zones. That would be awesome.
    For those who only drive, don’t feel guilty for it. Keep your highway through town. Don’t feel bad for us on bicycles. We take the side streets and we take our time, stopping once in awhile to smell the roses, pick berries and admire some very lovely homes. There’s nothing to see on 23rd.

  9. Bike lanes now. yesterday preferably. please. I ride this street every morning, and the area where these lanes are being proposed (south of madison to beacon hill) is hardly in need of 4 lanes. The size of the street encourages speeding and reckless driving and generally just brings down the quality of life in the central district. 23rd can and should go through a road diet and we should acknowledge that our arterials need to support all forms of traffic including bicycles, pedestrians and even cars. Lets get over seattle carhead addiction.

  10. I don’t bike on 23rd – partly because of the potholes; the set north of Union next to Philly Cheese Steak are out of control, and they’re hardly alone; I also don’t feel particularly safe for much of that route.

    In other parts of town we’ve had the conversation about parallel routes. The catch is that you need to make, as was mentioned earlier, the parallel route sufficiently attractive to cyclists that it will develop ‘critical mass’. Doing that often requires signals at ‘non-standard’ intersections to allow for safe bike crossings. Signals cost lots of money, and let’s not kid ourselves – the CD doesn’t do a very good job of representing ourselves with the City on transportation issues, so we get screwed. I’m not holding my breath that we’ll magically get together to push for better alternate routes to 23rd.

    On the positive side, we have sharrows on 19th, and on Yesler, and part of Union, and we have stamped crosswalks at 23rd/Jackson and 23rd/Union.

    I guess I’ll close by saying that if the traffic counts are low enough, I’d be interested in doing a road diet on at least some portion of 23rd. I’m just not optimistic they’re low enough, at least not at rush hour.

  11. I strongly support adding bike lanes to 23rd and giving it a road diet down to two travel lanes. And though I am a seasoned bike commuter, my support is has more to do with other issues.

    First of all, 23rd should never have been made into four lanes — the right-of-way is not wide enough. So what we get is measly six foot sidewalks with no planting strip or any kind of buffer from the cars whizzing by. Walking along 23rd is a miserable experience, and so very few people do it, street life is dead, and 23rd is like a black hole in the neighborhood. Bike lanes along the edges of 23rd would give pedestrians some relief from the onslaught of cars, and more people would walk there again.

    At four lanes, 23rd is also nasty to cross. I’ve done it hundreds of times at Marion, on bike, with a stroller, carrying babies and toddlers. You find yourself backing away in fear for you life as you wait hopefully for a gap. The slightest bad move by one the cars and you’re toast. Several years ago a car crashed into the building at 23rd and Marion, and I was told by the owner that it wasn’t the first time. Last summer at the same interection a car hit a stroller that being pushed across and dragged it up onto the curb (miraculously, the baby that was in the stroller was pretty much unharmed).

    As Glenn Bates says above, 23rd is indeed a highway that rips a gash through our neighborhood. But unlike him, I don’t think that’s a good thing, and I want it to change. Because at most transportation agencies like SDOT, reducing car capacity is pretty much sacrilege, I never expected to see any changes on 23rd. But then I was completely surprised and thrilled to see bike lanes proposed on 23rd in the new Bike Master Plan. Published by SDOT, no less. Yes, there is no doubt that dropping 23rd to two travel lanes will reduce car throughput. But a balanced urban community with any kind of grip on future reality does not base its decisions solely on car capacity.

    We all like to think of ourselves as concerned about our environment (even people like Bates, I’ll bet): Well, as I see it, this 23rd question is a good example of hard choices we’ll have to make. Choosing to leave 23rd as it is means maintaining a status-quo car-oriented city, with all the associated environmental ills. The alternative choice, putting 23rd on a road diet with bike lanes, means we sacrifice some car capacity to encourage alternative modes of transportation, and to create a safer, more humane neighborhood. I’ll leave it to the reader to decide which is the hypocritical choice.

  12. I would be all for the bike lanes! I don’t bike to work, but I realize what a mess 23rd is. It is not only an unfriendly pedestrian road, but it is a HUGE divider between neighborhoods.
    Providing planter strips, bike lanes and narrowing it down to 2 lanes of traffic would do wonders for that road and the people who inhabit it.
    I hope in my life time I will get to see the results of a planning process that is not focused on only the vehicle’s needs.

    Our real estate agent showed us a house along 23rd once…