Laurelhurst Community Club
Serving 2800 Households in Seattle’s Laurelhurst Neighborhood

February 15, 2002

Jon Layzer, Project Manager
University Area Transportation Study
Strategic Planning Office
300 Municipal Building
600 Fourth Avenue
Seattle, Washington 98104
Fax 233-0085

RE: University Area Transportation Study

Dear Mr. Layzer,

The Laurelhurst Community Club Board of Trustees has reviewed the Draft Final Report of the University Area Transportation Study. The draft report is excellent--well written and well organized. We were disappointed, however, that most of the problem areas we identified in our comments of November 29, 2001 were not studied or incorporated into the final draft. The plan seems to focus principally upon improving bicycle safety, bicycle linkages and creating new bicycle pathways where there has been no demonstration of community support in most cases, at the expense of addressing other compelling traffic and transportation issues.

We limit our comments to addressing issues relating to University Village, which we do not believe have received adequate attention in the Study. We have reviewed the comments of the University District Community Council and the Ravenna-Bryant Community Association and endorse those comments with regard to other parts of the Study.

Traffic and congestion, lack of parking and pedestrian safety in the vicinity of University Village are major problems for our community and northeast Seattle in general, as is gridlock on Montlake Boulevard. Because the University Area Transportation Study will likely serve as the basis of future funding decisions, it is critical that the following issues are addressed:

  1. 25th Avenue NE Center Lane Hazards: The center turn lane on 25th Avenue NE from the viaduct to NE Blakeley poses major safety risks to drivers, pedestrians and bicyclists. Your suggestion to consolidate driveway access is a good idea and consistent with the UCUC Plan, but does not go far enough in addressing the safety concerns associated with the center turn lane. The UCUC Plan calls for restricting left turns in selected areas on 25th Avenue NE. This has not been explored in the final draft report, nor are 25th Avenue center lane hazards even included in the listing of problems relating to University Village access in Chapter 6. This is despite the fact that a pedestrian was killed a couple of years ago during the Christmas holidays jaywalking across the center turn lane.

  2. Signalization along 25th Avenue NE: In addition to consolidation of the University Village/Office Depot driveways, signalization should be explored at this location. A left-turn signal should be added to the existing light on 25th and Blakeley southbound because northbound vehicles consistently run the amber and red light as it changes. Those unable to turn left backup on 25th or often experience near misses if they make the left turn on a yellow light.

  3. No Left Turn into/out of QFC: We find it difficult to understand why this extremely hazardous problem area is not included in the listing of University Village access problems in Chapter 6. Car seeking to enter the University Village QFC from Montlake Boulevard backup beyond the existing turn lane obstructing the flow of traffic as Montlake turns into NE 45th. Those seeking to turn left into QFC are confronted with heavy traffic proceeding up the NE 45th Street viaduct, cars tuning right into and out of the QFC parking lot and cars turning right into another entrance to University Village just a few feet away.

    The curbing on NE 45th Street dividing traffic lanes is invisible to drivers exiting QFC turning left and those cars often drive over the curbing. In some cases, when cars hit the curbing they bounce in the direction of cars attempting to turn left into the QFC entrance or cars that are in other lanes of traffic. There have literally been hundreds and hundreds of near miss accidents at this location. Problems with this location are major concerns to our community and other northeast Seattle neighbors and should be addressed.

  4. Parking: The study fails to address parking problems in any meaningful way. The study identifies unregulated parking in city rights-of-way in the vicinity of University Village, contrary to RPZ and U-Pass traffic management efforts as a problem. It's almost as if the study is saying that if bicycle and pedestrian safety issues are addressed, more people will ride their bike or walk and we won't need to address parking issues. Further, that the growth projected somehow will not impact parking needs.

    The study ignores the employee overflow parking problems at University Village that have resulted in congested residential streets behind University Village and behind Blockbuster Video. Although University Village is building a new parking garage, further retail expansion can be expected in the near future due to the City's approval of U Village's request to subdivide one parcel along NE 25th into eight separate parcels. All of this points to the likely possibility that the Code parking requirements for commercial zones may be insufficient and should be studied.

    A key example is the lack of adequate parking at the commercial complex at Five Corners housing Tully's and Kinko's. A very small parking lot is provided--insufficient to meet customer demands. A complicating factor is that about half of the parking spaces are designated for compact cars, a rarity these days with the increasing popularity of SUVs and vans. The delays in maneuvering around the parking lot result in backups on NE 45th from vehicle trying to enter the lot. The bottom line is that if customers have no place to park, they will eventually find another place to shop. That is what has happened in Wallingford and other areas of the city.

    Parking Code requirements for commercial areas should be studied with a view towards pedestrian and vehicle safety and adequate parking for customers. Even if you choose not to study the parking issue, it should at minimum be identified as a problem for future study.

  5. Five Corners: The study fails to examine the Five Corners intersection--a major access route to University Village. A November 2000 traffic impact analysis prepared in conjunction with the U Village garage project analyzed this intersection and determined excessive vehicle delays at Level of Service F. We understand that some changes will be made in conjunction with the U Village garage project, however, a total solution is necessary to resolve vehicle delays and pedestrian safety issues. Currently, there is insufficient time for pedestrians to cross from all corners before the light changes. There is also an ADA issue at this intersection due to the lack of a curb cut on one side of the corner abutting the Tully's complex causing wheelchairs to maneuver out into traffic to the curb cut on the other side of the corner. Even if the study does not analyze the intersection, at minimum it should be identified as a problem area.

  6. Sidewalks along 30th NE and NE 50th between NE 50th and NE Blakeley: When we reviewed earlier University Area Transportation Study materials, it was our impression that you had intended to include sidewalks on this stretch of nonarterial roadway, a main thoroughfare to University Village. Upon reviewing the final draft report, however, it appears that your focus is now on completing missing sidewalks, curbs and gutters on the arterial corridor in the Blakeley business district. There is no mention of much needed sidewalks on 30th across from Calvary Cemetery. This area is heavily used and lack of sidewalks is a serious safety concern.

    The street is a major thoroughfare to the Village for pedestrians, bicyclists and motorists. The street has no sidewalks on either side and poses a major safety risk to pedestrians who are forced to walk in the roadway. The volume of cars parked on both sides of the street creates visibility problems for cars entering NE 30th from side streets. The addition of sidewalks in this area is a key priority in the University Community Urban Center Plan and should be included as an improvement project in the study.

    As a result of a recent settlement of a hearing examiner appeal regarding the University Village garage project, the Village has committed $65,000 to pedestrian and traffic safety improvements in the vicinity mutually agreed upon by the Village, the Laurelhurst Community Club and the Ravenna-Bryant Community Association. This project was mentioned as our number one priority. Our goal is to use the $65,000 as leverage for additional funds to complete the project. In this regard, we have been working in cooperation with SeaTran. We are also working with our legislators, with the support of Councilmember Conlin to secure economic stimulus transportation funding during this legislative session. Failure to list this important project will hamper our efforts to secure funding for this much-needed project.

  7. Burke-Gilman Trail Crossing at 25th Avenue NE: The report notes that this project to enlarge the curb bulb on the west side of the intersection and install signage to increase bike visibility has received favorable community support. We question this conclusion. As active participants in the creation of Blakeley Crescent Park, we suggest working with Friends of Blakeley Crescent Park to determine whether this project will interfere with park plans. As part of the park project, sidewalks and curbs have been installed on the south side of Blakeley and curbs on the north side. Parking on the north side of the street has been eliminated to address the unsafe right hand turns from 25th. The project might be a good idea, however, those working most closely on Blakeley Crescent Park should certainly have been consulted.

  8. Lighting at the Burke-Gilman Crossing: The current overhead crosswalk sign on NE Blakeley and the Burke-Gilman Trail is inadequate to ensure pedestrian and bicycle safety. Lighting of the existing sign would assist in promoting safety. SeaTran estimates the cost of this improvement at $6,000. Your study proposes installation of a traffic signal, rerouting Burke-Gilman Trail crossing and consolidation of U Village and University of Washington housing driveways at a cost of $600,000. While this would address safety issues, it is doubtful whether funds would be available in the immediate future. Our lower cost solution should be included as an alternative.

  9. Right-Turn Only: In our earlier comments, we requested that you evaluate the concept of a right-turn only at the NE Blakeley exit from University Village. This issue was not addressed in the study. A right-turn only would reduce the number of vehicles crossing the Burke-Gilman Trail and thereby reduce the number of bicycle and pedestrian accidents.

  10. U Village Master Plan: The University District Urban Center Plan calls for development of a master plan for University Village. This key priority in the neighborhood plan, agreed to by University Village, was scheduled to be complete by 2000. To ensure adequate attention to transportation infrastructure needs and pedestrian and bicycle safety resulting from future University Village expansion, a master plan is critical to guide development. Failure to complete the master plan should be identified as a problem in the University Area Transportation Study. A strategy for completion of the master plan should be included in the Study.

In finalizing your report, we hope you will include our suggestions. We appreciate the opportunity to comment.

Sincerely,


Jeannie Hale, President
3425 West Laurelhurst Drive NE
Seattle, Washington 98105
525-5135 / FAX 525-9631
jeannieh@serv.net

cc: Councilmember Richard Conlin, Chair, Transportation Committee


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