The C is for Crank

Dangerous Intersections: One Reason to Accelerate Funding for the Ped Master Plan

By Erica C. Barnett November 16, 2010

Mayor Mike McGinn's proposal to raise the commercial parking tax to 17.5 percent, which the city council rejected, would have included $900,000 a year in funding to accelerate the city's pedestrian master plan, which is one of the top priorities called out in the mayor's Walk Bike Ride initiative. In rejecting McGinn's proposal, the council slowed implementation of the master plan, which pays for sidewalks, staircase improvements, pedestrian lighting, and crosswalks. (Next year's budget does include about $6 million for the pedestrian master plan, including $332,000 the council restored from the $900,000).

One such crosswalk is the intersection of 15th Ave. NW and NW 87th St., where the city installed, then removed, two lighted "crosswalk" signs over the intersection. Just two months after the city removed the signs, a driver ran into a 12-year-old boy, striking him with her side mirror and critically injuring him. The case has been in litigation for years; earlier this month, a state appeals court overturned a King County Superior Court ruling dismissing the case on summary judgment, finding that "removal of the crosswalk sign at 15th and 87th with neither a warning to the public nor installation of alternative safety measures arguably resulted in an increased danger to pedestrians at that intersection" and citing "genuine issues of material fact regarding the safety of the location of the accident."

That very intersection is listed as one of the city's "high priority" intersections in implementing the pedestrian master plan. The plan prioritizes projects based on where people walk (where demand for pedestrian improvements is high), which areas have the greatest need for pedestrian improvements in terms of socioeconomic and health factors, and how the street functions, in terms of land use and transportation.

My point isn't that the city, in reducing funding for the pedestrian plan, is neglecting this particular intersection: The transportation department picks its priorities, and they could choose to prioritize fixing dangerous intersections like the one at 87th and 15th over other projects. But by slowing implementation of the already-behind-schedule pedestrian master plan, the city is all but ensuring that dangerous intersections get fixed more slowly than they would have if the master plan was a higher priority, and that puts all pedestrians at risk.
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