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More changes coming for Seattle’s most dangerous street

A crosswalk along Rainier Avenue South. (KIRO 7)

If I asked you what the most dangerous street in Seattle is, would you guess Rainier Avenue South? Probably not.

Have you noticed this change at Seattle intersections?

Rainier Avenue South racked up 3,600 collisions between 2005 and 2014. The following year, the city reported Rainier Avenue South averaged one crash a day, with the average time to clear at 45 minutes. In response to those numbers, the city redesigned about a mile of the street from Columbia City to the south. The project removed one lane of traffic and added a center turn lane, making the former four-lane road into one lane in each direction.

The Seattle Department of Transportation’s Sara Colling said the results were immediate.

“Injury collisions, in particular, decreased by 30-percent,” she said.

Overall collisions dropped by 15-percent.

Now, Colling says work to make the same changes to another two-and-a-half mile stretch to Rainier Beach is about to start. It will likely take just few weekends to do the re-striping.

One of the newer tools the city is using to help make Rainier Avenue South safer is the leading pedestrian interval signals. These signals give pedestrians the walk sign 3-to-7 seconds ahead of the green light for cars.

“They give people walking a head start in the crosswalk,” Colling said. “That just makes pedestrians more visible, especially to drivers who are turning.”

These LPIs, or “get-ahead” signals as I call them, are already making Seattle streets safer.

“We already have them at about 50 intersections around the city, and we’ve seen a reduction in pedestrian-vehicle collisions,” she said.

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A half-dozen of these new walk signals have gone-in along Rainier Avenue South, and more are planned for that corridor. The Federal Highway Administration reports these signals reduce car versus pedestrian crashes by 60-percent.

But it’s not all good news. Drivers should expect to see their travel times increase through the corridor, once the re-striping has finished. When the changes were made in 2015, drivers saw their speeds drop by 10-16 percent.

The trade-off? The city reports no serious or fatal crashes on the redesigned Rainier Avenue South in the four years since the changes were made.

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