Reconnecting the Ballard neighborhood and adding a bus only lane on 15th Ave NW

Remember the NW 53rd Greenway?  It has been a couple years since we’ve written about it (see: 05/2016 and 06/2016), but last week a neighbor contacted us asking if the project was still active. A quick email to Seattle Department of Transportation revealed that the project was indeed moving along.

What’s happening now:

SDOT is working towards the installation of a new pedestrian signal at 15th Ave NW and NW 53rd Street as part of an effort to connect the Ballard neighborhood.  This new signal will create a dignified way for residents to access bus stops, parks, and medical care without needing to travel a half a mile out of their way in order to find a safe crossing.  Below, you can read the full update from the Seattle Department of Transportation, Spot Improvements.

Reconnecting the Ballard neighborhood and adding a bus only lane on 15th Ave NW

15th Ave NW is a major street carrying around 50,000 vehicles a day. It is a bus priority corridor and a major truck street. RapidRide D and the 15 Express use the street and move about 15,000 people a day. Currently bus routes experience delay northbound between NW 51st St and NW Market St. We want to retain and grow the number of people taking the bus. So to make service more reliable and faster, we’re planning a bus only lane in this area. Buses can then bypass traffic that occurs when the drawbridge is lowered. To make room for the bus only lane, we’ll remove the center turn lane. Construction is scheduled for late 2017.

Project Elements

Removing the center turn lane means people can no longer make left turns on NW 15th Ave at NW 52nd and NW 53rd streets. Some people and service providers will change their routes to get home or access businesses. However, the change will make the intersections safer. The chart below shows recommended thresholds for having a center turn lane and why restricting turns at these locations is a good idea.

Factor Threshold Value for Two-Way Left Turn Lane 15th Avenue NW between NW 51st and NW Market
Crashes 3 crashes per million vehicle miles 5.3 crashes per million vehicle miles
Traffic Volumes 28,000 vehicles daily Greater than 50,000 vehicles daily
Number of Lanes 2 lanes or less in each direction 3 lanes in each direction

Recognizing 15th Ave NW is a truck street we wanted to make sure people and goods continue moving smoothly. We conducted studies to understand possible impacts to nearby intersections. The study found they will continue to perform at acceptable levels of service.

This busy street also divides the neighborhood. There is almost a half a mile between traffic signals at Leary and NW Market. To help reconnect the neighborhood we’re adding a pedestrian signal. The improvement will happen at NW 53rd St.


Example of what the crossing would look like.

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