Rainier Ave S Corridor Improvements

What's happening now?

Updated May 4, 2018

After hearing from the community last year, conducting traffic analyses, and working with our partners at King County Metro Transit, we're moving forward with alternative 1 from S Kenny St to S Henderson St, which includes a business access and transit (BAT) lane (see details under "Recommended Phase 2 Alternative - coming this fall!" below). We're planning to start construction as soon as fall 2018.

A bus on the road
Rendering of the new street design for Rainier Ave S between S Kenny St and S Henderson St, through Alternative 1.

Project Overview

In 2014, we launched a collaborative process to review conditions along Rainier Avenue S. As safety is our number one priority, we are committed to preventing crashes and improving safety for all travelers. This project is part of Seattle’s Vision Zero program to reach zero traffic fatalities or serious injuries by 2030.

Project Need: Over the last 10 years, there have been nearly 3,600 total collisions along Rainier Ave S. On average, there is 1 crash per day that takes 45 minutes to clear. Rainier has almost double the number of crashes per mile compared to Aurora Ave N and Lake City Way NE even though they carry almost twice the vehicle volume.

Most people were driving at 38 mph, where the posted speed limit was 30 mph. Speeding increases the severity of crashes and makes it more difficult for people driving to recognize possible hazards.

In 2015, one mile of Rainier between S Alaska St and S Kenny St was redesigned from four to three lanes. This project successfully improved safety along Rainier Ave S in Columbia City and Hillman City. Highlights from our evaluation report include:

  • Collisions reduced by 15%
  • Vehicle speeds reduced by 16% northbound and 10% southbound
  • Transit travel times improved by 1 minute in the southbound direction during the PM peak hour
  • There have been zero serious injury or fatal crashes in the area we redesigned

Click here to read the full report.

Phase 2

This year we're continuing our work on Rainier Ave S from S Kenny St to S Henderson St. Here are our safety goals:

  • Reduce the average vehicle speed and incidents of speeding
  • Reduce the number of serious injury or fatal collisions
  • Improve intersections
  • Improve bus speed and reliability

Measures being considered include: traffic calming, traffic signal upgrades, pavement repair, and pedestrian and bicycle safety enhancements. We'll also develop educational materials that address behavioral issues like speeding, distracted driving, and impaired driving and perform area-specific outreach to help prevent crashes.

Map of Rainier Ave S project
Click to enlarge

Phase 2 Alternatives Presented in 2017

Alternative 1:

Alternative 1: Diagram

Benefits:

  • Northbound Business Access and Transit (BAT) lane may reduce bus travel times and increase reliability
  • Retains on-street parking and provides center-turn lanes along Rainier Ave S
  • Northbound BAT lane leverages past Metro Route 7 investments and supports future RapidRide Rainier implementation
  • Can be completed within existing budget

Challenges:

  • BAT and center lane may be used as an illegal passing lane
  • May reduce bus reliability in the southbound direction
  • Would consolidate parking to one side of the street

Alternative 2:

Alternative 2: Diagram between intersections
Cross section between intersections

Alternative 2: Diagram at intersections
Cross section at intersections

Benefits:

  • Provides a relatively flat parallel north-south bike route in Rainier Valley
  • Provides on-street parking

 Challenges:

  • May reduce bus reliability in both directions
  • In-lane bus stops and parallel parking maneuvers will stop and slow traffic
  • Full build-out of this alternative exceeds current project budget and may need to be constructed in phases with yet to be identified funds. Interim build-out may involve further research into innovative treatments
  • Travel lanes may not follow a linear path throughout the corridor, due to varying block lengths and center turn lanes at intersections
  • Implications to pavement conditions are yet to be determined

What We Heard

Below are the trade-offs of each alternative, and key points of feedback that we heard during 2017 outreach.

Alternative 1 (Dedicated northbound bus lane)Alternative 2 (Protected Bike Lanes)
Traffic Operational Impacts
  • Slight increase in delay at signalized intersections. The intersection with the highest delay is S Othello St, where drivers will experience wait an average of 34 seconds longer.
  • Substantial impacts to people driving, taking bus and freight along Rainier
  • Need for center turn lanes throughout the project area, due to side street access demand
What We Heard
  • Support for center-turn lane
  • Support for dedicated bus lane(s) to improve bus travel times
  • Desire for frequent and reliable transit on Metro Route 7 and future RapidRide
  • Senior populations preferred Alterative 1, but expressed concerns about potential bus stop consolidation due to mobility challenges
  • Generally, women with children expressed they preferred Alternative 1, but selected Alternative 2 because they support their children having bike lanes in the future
  • Support maximizing number of parking spaces for adjacent multifamily use

You can learn more about what we heard in our Outreach Summary and the results of the traffic analysis.

Recommended Phase 2 Route Alternative - coming as soon as this fall!

We're planning to start construction on alternative 1 between S Kenny St and S Henderson St as soon as fall 2018.

Through this design, we will:

  • Maintain on-street parking with a dedicated parking lane
  • Add a center left-turn lane
  • Provide a northbound dedicated business access and transit lane

The RapidRide Rainier project will construct new stations and may build other civil improvements. We're monitoring the street continuously and will make additional changes as we see fit.

We also considered changes at the S Henderson St intersection. Due to the complexity of the bus overhead wires at this location, we'll use the next year and a half to work on a design and identify funding so that improvements can be installed with the RapidRide Rainier project.

Alternative 1 lane changes
Cross-section illustrating new street design for Rainier Ave S between S Kenny St and S Henderson St, through Alternative 1. Note: the bus lane is shown in red for emphasis, although red paint is not currently planned for this section. Red bus lane paint may be installed after the project has been evaluated.

A bus on the road
Rendering of the new street design for Rainier Ave S between S Kenny St and S Henderson St, through Alternative 1.

Other projects happening along Rainier Ave S:

Phase 2 Schedule

Summer 2017: Share options for input
Fall 2017: Finalize concept for design
Fall 2018: Anticipated construction
2019: Project Evaluation

Funding

We received funding from the Real Estate Tax to fund the second phase of the Rainier Ave S Corridor Improvements Project. The project is also funded by the Levy to Move Seattle, a 9-year $930 million levy approved by voters in 2015.

Materials

Phase 2 (S Kenny St to S Henderson St)

Phase 1 (S Alaska St to S Kenny St)

Translation and Interpretation

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