50th St / 9th Ave NE, map
Respondent #2, 5/19/08
There is, on average, 2-3 accidents at this intersection every month. It's extremely dangerous as there is no left hand turn signal so people turn left blindly since they cannot see oncoming traffic. This is how the accidents almost always happen. I pick up glass, bumpers and other car parts from this corner every month. This (photo) is heading East so cars make a left-hand turn into oncoming traffic.
Seattle Department of Transportation (SDoT) Response
I would like to thank you again for writing last summer with your comments and suggestions for safety improvements at the intersection of 9th Avenue NE and NE 50th Street. You may recall that at the time I first responded to your concerns, I had requested additional traffic data so that I could review options for possible changes.
In my previous letter, I mentioned that the reported collision history showed a very low number of collisions for the eastbound left-turn movement. However, after reviewing the latest collision history, the number of eastbound left-turn vs. westbound through traffic collisions has increased. I cannot offer an explanation of why this would be, as we did not make any changes to this intersection.
I have driven through this intersection myself, and with the staff from our Traffic Operations section, and our observations were that if we move into the intersection, we had very good visibility of the westbound through traffic. I could easily and safely make my eastbound left turn, after yielding to oncoming traffic.
An option to consider would be installing a protected left-turn phase (a green arrow). However, this would require a dedicated lane for this movement. Restriping NE 50th Street to provide a left-turn lane would mean we would only be able to have one lane for through traffic, rather than the two we have currently. This would increase the delay and congestion to unacceptable levels.
Another option considered was restricting the left-turn movement at this intersection and allowing the eastbound left turn to take place at the unsignalized intersection of 7th Avenue NE. Unfortunately, this is not a good solution either, as at times the traffic queue from the signals at the I-5 ramp extends beyond 7th Avenue NE, resulting in the blockage of this intersection.
Although I am not able to offer you a definitive solution at this time, I wanted to touch base with you and let you know that I have not forgotten you, or your concerns, and that I will continue to work with our Traffic Operations section to see if we can develop a more viable solution.
Original SDoT response
In response to your comments, SDOT reviewed collision history and vehicle volumes for this intersection. The number of reported accidents is quite low; however, we do know that often minor "fender benders" do not get reported to the Seattle Police Department, which is our source of recorded collision history. Traffic volume data reflects that the number of turning movements is low as well.
A staff visit to the site suggests that further investigation is warranted. I have requested additional data, including traffic speed studies, and will be working with the community to discuss possible alternatives, such as restricting the turn movement. There is also the proximity of this intersection to I-5 - this condition makes for greater complexity in choosing the best solution for all concerned. Therefore, it will be another month before SDOT can inform you how we intend to proceed to improve safety at this location.
Thank you again for writing. I will contact you when my studies are completed.
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