15th & Columbian - Neighborhood Letter
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The letter attached is addressed to Seattle Department of Transportation asking them to stop their current design for the project at 15th & Columbian and create a design that meets (incorporates) the needs of the immediate neighborhood. Please sign in support.
- Elimination of signalized left at 15th and Oregon
- Increased cut through traffic forced down neighborhood streets, making them less safe
- Loss of access/parking for small, local businesses at this intersection
- Oregon St capacity for traffic vs Snoqualmie St
- Back ups as a result of 4 way stop at 15th & Snoqualmie
- To stop the current 15th and Columbian Way design (including the 4 way at 15th & Snoqualmie) proposed by SDOT
- Create a design that meets (incorporates) the needs of the immediate neighborhood.
- Collect 500 signatures in support of this letter
Link to project page : https://www.seattle.gov/transportation/NSF15andColumbian.htm
To Seattle Department of Transportation,
We are a coalition of neighbors of the 15th Ave S & S Columbian St. intersection who are deeply concerned about safety impacts to our neighborhood from by the Neighborhood Street Fund project proposed at this intersection. We are made up of longtime residents who are pedestrians, transit users, parents and motorists. We are writing to express our opposition to the 15th and Columbian Way project as currently designed, and demand the project is put on hold immediately and redesigned in a way that meets the needs of the immediate neighborhood.
While SDOT has heard the community’s anger and redesigned the project to restore access out of S Oregon St (but removed the signalized right-of-way), and has added a four-way stop at S Snoqualmie St as an access point to 15th Ave S, we believe that these changes create even more hazardous conditions for the neighborhood due to the likelihood of traffic diversion onto neighborhood streets and collisions from those trying to exit an unsignalized Oregon St.
For context, outreach on various installments of this project has been nonexistent until spring 2017, and has felt rushed and disingenuous since then to many of those engaged with SDOT on the project. Over the last two years, neighbors have been left with a very poor impression of SDOT’s ability to implement changes to the intersection, after witnessing a “Road Closed” sign being placed in the intersection that was continually knocked over, and bagged signals that caused a safety hazard to motorists. Once SDOT finally revealed plans for the intersection to the public at large, SDOT was met with overwhelming opposition and concern in public meetings held at the Jefferson Community Center and Mercer Middle School.
In summary, residents of the neighborhood still have the following concerns that have not been adequately addressed through the public engagement and redesign process:
The project removes the only safe access point for motorists to travel northbound on 15th Ave S between I-5 and Cleveland High School towards all major freeways and employment centers, and provides no realistic alternative for many residents.
Significant traffic backups currently occur on 15th Ave S between Oregon and Cleveland High School due to the school zones. We believe the added four-way stop at Snoqualmie will greatly exacerbate these backups by creating an additional chokepoint, in turn encouraging more motorists to bypass 15th Ave S by using the neighborhood streets. This will create hazardous situations for pedestrians traveling eastbound trying to reach the intersection, school children at Cleveland High and Maple Elementary, and neighbors along the corridor leaving their houses. SDOT has not shared any results of traffic studies that assess the impact of this four-way stop to the functionality of 15th Ave S.
The unsignalized left at Oregon will be hazardous for motorists due to blocked views to the north from the proposed plaza, and timed traffic from the south due to the four-way stop that will make northbound access extremely difficult for motorists. Any vehicle conflicts also create dangerous situations for pedestrians and users of the proposed plaza.
The new apartment building at the corner will increase the number of motorists traveling north. SDOT’s traffic studies used to scope this project did not factor in the increased level of motorists from this building.
The project removes parking access for several neighborhood businesses (the majority being minority-owned), which could be very damaging to the owners’ livelihoods and the neighborhood residents that enjoy having these businesses in the community. The parking spaces proposed to be added back are across a main arterial and are impractical, and those who attempt to access these businesses will likely use Oregon or 14th Ave S for parking instead, further increasing vehicle traffic to the neighborhood.
Residents feel that Beacon Hill has a history of “pass-through” traffic from I-5, causing significant impact that has not been mitigated. A new four-way stop will create additional congestion.
The project makes access to bus stops more arduous for pedestrians,
Traffic will likely be diverted onto the Beacon Hill Neighborhood Greenway on 13th and 14th Ave S, undermining the safety of the bicycle facility,
Residents of this area have felt impacts from several construction projects in recent years, including:
The VA expansion and parking lot construction which resulted in their employees using our streets as their parking lot, and
The apartment building construction, which resulted in years of lost sidewalks and increased traffic.
We don’t want to endure another construction project that will jeopardize our neighborhood residents’ safety and uses our tax dollars unwisely.
The process behind planning this project has been opaque and it is unclear who in the immediate neighborhood conceived of or supports the project and whether the removed protected left turn from Oregon St. is acceptable to them.
Results of the last public survey (which was conducted due to overwhelming opposition from residents) emphasize residents’ wishes for the project – over 60% of responders categorized vehicle access to the neighborhood as “very important” or “important”. The first “key theme” summarized in the results is that “the signalized left turn at S Oregon St is critical to access onto northbound 15th Ave S”. As signalized northbound access is removed from the project design, we believe that the public outreach and engagement process has been a charade and disingenuous. As such, please consider this letter a Public Disclosure Request subject to Washington State law for the following information:
Why SDOT did not choose to notify residents of the neighborhood when implementing restricted access in 2015,
A summary of all pedestrian/vehicle collisions in the intersection, including an explanation from SDOT as to how the current design of the proposed project would have prevented the collisions, and how the level of pedestrian/vehicle collisions at this location compares citywide to other major intersections,
Provide copies of any internal communications related to the removed left turn off S Oregon St, including acknowledged safety and neighborhood impacts by SDOT staff and any consultants,
Provide results of the Racial Equity Toolkit analysis, including impacts on existing businesses, impacts of traffic diversion on the neighborhood population, and how equitable outreach practices were utilized during prior alterations to the intersection as early as 2015,
Provide a description of low-cost strategies SDOT typically uses as safety/crossing improvements, and why these are not being implemented before drastically reconstructing the intersection at a multi-million dollar cost,
Why the project budget has increased from $2.38 million (according to prior presentation materials) to $3.5-4.4 million according to SDOT’s “Capital Projects Dashboard” (an increase of 47% to 85%!),
Provide historical data on traffic diversion to S Snoqualmie St caused by the removed left turn from S Columbian Way to S Oregon St, including before and after daily vehicle counts on this street,
Provide results of any traffic impact studies related to the proposed four way stop installation on 15th Ave S and S Snoqualmie St, including impacts to traffic on the 15th Ave S corridor; or if no studies have been conducted, why this was deemed not important by SDOT before proceeding with project design, and if this is standard practice to omit traffic operating plans from project planning efforts,
SDOT’s plan to prevent vehicle/pedestrian conflicts at uncontrolled intersections along 13th and 14th Ave S, alley exits onto S Nevada St from the new apartment building, and S Snoqualmie St & 15th Ave S resulting from forced traffic diversion of northbound drivers from S Oregon St,
What impacts SDOT foresees in delaying the current project schedule to address neighborhood concerns and redesigning the project to meet neighborhood needs (in other words, what is driving the fast-tracked schedule SDOT is seeking to implement?),
SDOT’s progress on the Beacon Hill traffic study proposed by Councilmember Bruce Harrell and adopted by full council during the 2017 budget process,
What other prioritized transportation safety investments could be made in Beacon Hill for this project’s current budget.
Frankly, it is ironic to call this a “Neighborhood” project when many of the residents of the neighborhood are in opposition and have felt left out of the scoping process. Our concerns are based on years and decades of experience living in this neighborhood and witnessing the behavior of commuters on a daily basis. Our property taxes have increased significantly as a result of SDOT’s transportation levy, and we are outraged these funds are being used to implement an ill-conceived and over-budget project that will reduce safety for our neighborhood. Please stop work on the current design of this project immediately, and commit to implementing a project that is satisfactory to all neighbors of the intersection.
District 2 Councilmember Bruce Harrell,Bob Hasegawa, Mayoral Candidate, Scott Kubly, SDOT Director
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