Streets and trains

Left out on Graham Street

Rainier Valley merchants protesting traffic blockages threaten to block Sound Transit’s launch.

By Eric Scigliano July 12, 2009

Sound Transit’s light rail line is still in trial mode, but Rainier Valley motorists and pedestrians are already fuming over long delays crossing and turning left onto MLK Way South. A recent Met Files post recounted a five-minute delay at MLK and Graham Street; two Hillman City residents report getting stuck at MLK and Orcas for more than 10 minutes. Now some merchants at the busy Graham Street junction are raising a ruckus about another traffic-blocking "improvement" at that intersection, this time from the Seattle Transportation Department: yellow C-curbs, concrete dividers installed down the middle of Graham Street just east and west of MLK to prevent left turns, which were formerly barred merely with widely ignored paint stripes. SeaTrans officials and residents say illegal turning slowed traffic on Graham and caused collisions. Merchants contend turning was the only easy way to get to high-traffic businesses—McDonald’s, Starbucks, the Viet Wah supermarket, a gas station—from some directions, especially since the rail line blocked left turns along MLK.

The debate has simmered for weeks on the Rainier Valley Post. Merchants recently rallied in front of Viet Wah to complain; one mayoral candidate, James Donaldson, joined them. They’ve threatened to block the tracks this Saturday when the light rail line opens to passengers.

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