Safety, Enforcement and Watching Out for Drugs and Explosives

SDOT’s Commercial Vehicle Enforcement division recently hosted 15 local, national and federal law agencies for training by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) on the latest technology and trends to root out criminal activity associated with the use of commercial vehicles, such as transporting narcotics, explosives, stolen goods or being involved money laundering.

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Local media talking to SDOT Commercial Vehicle Enforcement Officer Rodger Bleiler.

Local media crews had the opportunity to see officers use the latest technology including new mobile weigh-in-motion equipment that allows them to “go where the trucks are” to prevent some truck drivers from avoiding freeway weigh stations altogether. As a result, in the first 3 weeks of using the new mobile equipment, officers discovered roughly 40% of the trucks weighed were overweight and they were cited.

One truck was discovered to be 5,000 pounds over its permitted weight and the driver was cited on the spot.

Commercial Vehicle Enforcement Officer Rodger Bleiler says the new technology means they are busier than ever, but from a safety standpoint, it’s a good thing for all drivers. Their mission is to improve public safety in the Seattle area by reducing the number of unsafe commercial motor vehicles operating on our roadways through a process of education and enforcement.

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Mobile weigh-in-motion technology.

Other technology training included use of X-ray scanners and narcotics- and explosives-sniffing dogs.

SDOT’s top priority is safety and its Commercial Vehicle Enforcement Officers work to ensure safe travel, education and compliance of commercial vehicle operations throughout the city.

Products and goods move in, around, and out of the city every day. It is critical to ensure goods are moving in an efficient, predictable, and sustained manner so businesses and consumers receive deliveries on time to help maintain the economic health and vibrancy of the city.

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New Bilingual Street Name Signs!

The next time you’re in the International District you may notice some new signs. Crews recently installed new bilingual street name signs in the Little Saigon neighborhood. The signs are in English and Vietnamese, in the same style as existing bilingual street name signs in the Japantown and Chinatown neighborhoods.

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The new signs were installed at the request of the community and the Seattle Chinatown International District Preservation and Development Authority (SCIDpda). Community members worked to translate the English street names into Vietnamese, which maintain continuity with street name signs in Little Saigon communities across the US and in Vietnam.

Bonus:  they’ve been installed just in time for the Celebrate Little Saigon community event on Saturday, August 27th!

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This work is part of the Little Saigon Placemaking project. It was done in conjunction with the Office of Economic Development (OED) and the Office of Planning and Community Development (OPCD).

For more information about bilingual street name signs, please visit http://www.seattle.gov/transportation/new_streetsigns.htm.

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How a Checklist Helps Protect the Environment

What do parklets, streateries, and shoreline street ends have to do with the environment?

A lot, actually – often more than contractors, businesses, and even SDOT may think when proposing a project. For projects that impact the public right of way, one of the main tools that we use to examine potential environmental impacts is the State Environmental Policy Act (SEPA) checklist.

What’s on this checklist?

SEPA was created in 1971. At the time, people were frustrated that many government decisions didn’t seem to consider impacts on the environment or the people living and working nearby. SEPA provided the framework government needed, and the accountability that the public wanted.

The checklist is a list of mandatory questions that applicants must answer about the proposed development project. These help expose any potential disturbance the site may undergo, shine light on the local conditions, and more.

The checklist includes questions about local soil, potential air emissions, and impacts to local plant and animal life. SEPA even asks applicants if their proposed use of the site will limit opportunities, like solar installations, for neighboring landowners in the future. Depending on the results, projects may have to go through further SEPA steps, like making plans to mitigate negative impacts, to get approval.

What kinds of things does the SEPA questionnaire reveal?

Parklets and Streateries

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Parklets and streateries convert a on-street parking spots into public spots with plantings, benches, and tables. Although these only alter a few slabs of pavement, there can be hidden impacts, so filling out a SEPA Environmental Checklist is a must. During the 2016 Parklet/Streatery SEPA assessment, we found that:

  • During construction of parklets and streateries, vehicle emissions might rise due to the increased traffic and car idling, but that this increase would fall back to pre-construction levels when the project is finished.
  • Noise levels may increase during the construction period, but will drop upon completion.
  • Although Seattle is within the Pacific Flyway, a principal route for many migratory birds, the new parklets and streateries will not effect this migration.
  • Vegetation planted in planter boxes will add vegetation to the right of way, and no parklet or streatery location requires the removal of any vegetation.
  • One streatery design was located in a Landmark District, and required further approval.

Shoreline Street Ends

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Shoreline Street Ends are portions of the public right of way where streets end in areas that provide access to Seattle’s waterways. These street ends are peppered throughout the shoreline of city.

Many of these are slated for improvements that help with access, yet this type of disturbance and construction requires a SEPA assessment. During one recent assessment, we found that:

  • Areas on the site that are disturbed may be susceptible to erosion, so we need to be careful to protect the soil from washing into the waterway.
  • The improved Shoreline Street End will remove approximately 1,200 square feet of invasive species from the site, including Japanese knotweed and Himalayan blackberry.
  • Native plants, including red twig dogwood, red-flowering current and shore pine are all included in the proposed landscaping to help increase native plant density in this area of Seattle
  • Soil excavated from the site had levels of toxicity that require special handling and hazardous material disposal.

Without the SEPA checklist, many of these environmental considerations may not have been recognized. SEPA assessments help the right of way stay safe for all members of the public – including our plant and animal neighbors.

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Photo Contest for Updated Street Design Manual

What’s your favorite Seattle street? Is it 2nd Ave downtown because of the protected bike lanes? Ravenna Blvd because of the dense tree canopy? We’re holding a photo contest where you can share your favorite street, and win up to $300 in prizes!

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The contest is being held to celebrate the release of the updated Right-of-Way Improvements Manual (also known by its new name, Streets Illustrated). This manual is a design guide for improvements made to city streets. It will include street typologies, guidelines, and standards for street elements – such as sidewalk width, travel lane width, crosswalk design, bike infrastructure, street trees, landscaping, and street furniture. It also highlights opportunities for street art, parklets, streateries and more! Standards for these elements are tailored depending on street type. For example, a downtown street has different street elements and standards than an industrial access street, or a neighborhood curbless street.

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As you travel the city for your daily activities, think about the diverse character of Seattle streets, and which streets you like best. Don’t forget to take a picture and share!

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Contest Details:

  • Start date: Aug 22
  • End date: last submissions taken on Sep 19 at 5pm
  • Enter by posting the photo to Instagram, Twitter, or Facebook with the tag #StreetsIllustratedSEA (alternatively, send it in an email to streets.illustrated@seattle.gov
  • Label the street and tell us why you love it!
  • The top 12 photos will all receive prizes and be featured in our inaugural Streets Illustrated Calendar.
  • Grand prize of $300 to Glazer’s Camera Store, 2nd place prize of $100 and 3rd place prize of $50.

Visit the contest’s official webpage for more details: http://www.seattle.gov/transportation/photo_contest.htm.

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Family Friendly Transportation Improvements Coming to Wallingford

Seattle Neighborhood Greenways are safer, calm residential streets for you, your family and neighbors. The Wallingford neighborhood greenway was envisioned in 2009 by the community, funded in 2011 with Neighborhood Project Funds (now the Neighborhood Parks and Street Fund) and constructed in 2012. This was Seattle’s first greenway and helped shift the City’s approach toward safer streets.

In 2014, we evaluated the existing greenway, which met some of our current guidelines, but lacked speed humps to encourage calm speeds. It’s also missing another common feature, stop signs at streets crossing the greenway. Stop signs pause people driving and increase the likelihood they will see people walking and biking along the street. The greenway is located on N 43rd St from N Stone Way to Meridian Ave N and along N 44th St to Latona Ave NE.

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Speed humps encourage slower speeds so people see more of their surroundings and have more time to avoid crashes.

Project features:

  • Improve safety by installing 20 mile per hour speed limit signs and adding about one speed hump per block.
  • Benefits: People driving at slower speeds see more of their surroundings and have more time avoid crashes.
  • Make it easier to cross streets for people walking and biking by adding crosswalks at Latona Ave NE and NE 44th St and Thackeray Pl NE and NE 44th St. Also, new crossing beacons are being installed at N Stone Way and N 43rd St with the Neighborhood Parks and Street Funding.
  • Benefits: Supports affordable, healthy travel options that get you to local parks, schools, shops and restaurants.
  • Increase visibility of people walking and biking by installing stop signs and stop bars on streets intersecting the neighborhood greenway.
  • Benefits: More neighbors feel comfortable walking and biking, which helps create a sense of community.

Neighborhood greenways are not car free zones, do not add bike lanes and have minimal if any on-street parking impacts.

Construction is occurring between July and October. Here are some things to expect:

  • Short-term street closures
  • Possible detours
  • Noise, dust and vibration

Visit our neighborhood greenway page to learn more about what they are at www.seattle.gov/transportation/greenways.htm.

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Neighborhood Street Fund Concepts Completed

Streets, sidewalks, and everything in between are about to get improvements as part of our Neighborhood Street Fund (NSF) program!

This U-District proposal called for adding lights, a bike rack, and other improvements to turn this alley off 42nd into a common space for the community.

This U-District proposal called for adding lights, a bike rack, and other improvements to turn this alley off 42nd into a common space for the community.

Communities came together to come up with areas for improvement, decided which projects to prioritize through their Neighborhood District Councils, and sent us their top choices in May. Now, after reading proposals, visiting locations, and reviewing the data, we’ve finished turning those ideas into 65 conceptual designs which could help with safety, accessibility, livability, and more.

This Rainier Valley proposal called for building sidewalks and street calming improvements near S Charleston Street to improve safety for kids walking to school.

This Rainier Valley proposal called for building sidewalks and street calming improvements near S Charlestown Street to improve safety for kids walking to school.

The Neighborhood District Councils will now have chance to read the designs and rank their priority, before sending them to the Levy to Move Seattle Oversight Committee for review later this fall. The list of funded projects is expected by the end of October. Projects will be finalized in 2017 and constructed in 2018. Public engagement for each project will begin once the project list is finalized. We look forward to working with you!

This West Seattle proposal called for traffic calming with curb bulbs, pedestrian signals, and a new marked crosswalk to make the SW Oregon and 39th intersection safer.

This West Seattle proposal called for traffic calming with curb bulbs, pedestrian signals, and a new marked crosswalk to make the SW Oregon and 39th intersection safer.

The NSF Program is funded by the Levy to Move Seattle. The 9-year, $930 million levy provides funding to improve safety for all travelers, maintain our streets and bridges, and invest in reliable, affordable travel options for a growing city. The levy includes $24 million to continue the Neighborhood Street Fund program over the next 9 years.

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Traffic Signal Innovations

With the increasing demands of reliability and efficiency on the SDOT Signal system, the SDOT Signal Shop has started to experiment with new construction procedures and equipment that can make our system more robust and resilient.

We’ve begun using steel mast arm signal poles which can double the life expectancy of our signal equipment as well as decrease the amount of maintenance calls for things like wind storms.  They are also much more visually appealing than a span wire system.

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Have you noticed? New steel mast arm signal poles replaced the old signal poles at 2nd and University Street.

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How’d they do that? Vactor excavation.

In the downtown core, it can often be very difficult to install foundations for these new poles because there are many utilities running underneath the pavement.  One of the different construction procedures we have started using is vactor excavation which uses high pressure water to loosen the dirt and a vacuum to remove the debris instead of digging with a large auger bit.  Not only does this style of construction avoid damage to underground utilities but it is actually cheaper to perform because it only takes a few hours to dig even a 10’ deep hole.

We’ve also started updating our communication systems from copper to fiber and connecting signals that are currently not part of the system.  Fiber communication allows us to use our central systems to talk directly to devices in a redundant network rather than point to point.  This means that if one part of the system goes down it doesn’t take the whole network down.  Imagine this like going from the old incandescent Christmas lights to new LEDs.

Moving forward, we have started exploring new technologies like infrared and thermal pedestrian detection, real-time data collection, wireless communications between signals, solar power and materials with a smaller footprint to assist with more pedestrian and bike friendly urban designs.

If you have questions, you can contact Brian Forsythe at brian.forsythe@seattle.gov or at 206-386-1538.

For more information about SDOT’s Traffic Signal Program, please visit www.seattle.gov/transportation/trafficsignals.htm.

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Great Turnout in Magnolia to Talk About Interbay Trail Connections

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SDOT staffer Jason Fialkoff talks with residents about the proposed streets in Magnolia and Interbay that are part of the Interbay Trail Connections project.

We heard from more than 30 people at a ‘pop up’ event in Magnolia last Saturday to talk about two-way protected bike lanes that could connect Magnolia, Interbay and Ballard as part of the Interbay Trail Connections project. SDOT staff was there with a tent, table, and maps to connect with people who live, work, and travel in the area.

The weather was sunny and warm and there were dozens of people on bikes going up and down Gilman Ave NW as we talked with neighbors about the proposal and heard feedback.

Some people let us know that they were concerned about street safety where families ride bikes next to parked cars. Others were excited about a protected bikeway that will directly link them from the Ship Canal Trail to the Elliot Bay Trail. They talked about using the connection to get from Magnolia to work in South Lake Union, and to Myrtle Edwards Park and downtown for a fun weekend ride.

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Interbay Trail Connections Project Area Map

In addition to traditional community presentations and public meetings, we’re trying out pop-up events on the street where people can drop-in anytime, and online open houses and surveys so people who can’t make it to the event can still learn about our projects and weigh-in. So if you see a tent and signs in your neighborhood, please stop by and have a conversation about transportation with us!

To learn more about Interbay Trail Connections, visit the project website or contact Dan Anderson at 206-684-8105 or dan.a.anderson@seattle.gov.

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Commuting During Summer Construction

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Construction site in Seattle.

Seattle is one of the fastest growing cities in the nation right now, which means more construction projects, cars, and crowds as we share our streets with people on everything from zero to sixteen wheels.

Summer is a great time to try an alternate commute method, such as biking or taking the bus, but it’s also peak season for road and sidewalk maintenance. The rainy season can cause delays and difficulty on construction and repairs, so projects are trying to complete work while the sun is still shining.

All this can make commuting tricky, but we’re here to help.

 

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Seattle Mayor Ed Murray and SDOT Intern Ahlaam Ibraahim at a recent Vision Zero event.

Our Vision Zero team is hard at work to end traffic deaths and serious injuries by 2030 through educational outreach like the above event, and coordinating enforcement of traffic safety laws with the Seattle Police Department. Our Levy to Move team is implementing the taxpayer approved $930 million 9 year plan to improve safety for all travelers, maintain our streets and bridges, and invest in reliable, affordable travel options for a growing city.

And, through our All Aboard partnership with King County Metro, we’re improving or expanding 85% of the bus routes in Seattle.

We’re working hard to make it easier to get around Seattle, but it’s likely you won’t be able to avoid work zones completely as our city continues to grow.

Please be patient and cautious around construction, and remember, your fellow travelers – whether they be in cars, on bikes or buses – are also navigating the same obstacles.

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35th Avenue SW Safety Corridor Walk and Talk

While Seattle is a very safe city and is on-track towards meeting its Vision Zero goals by 2030, we can always do better.

SDOT recently held a walk and talk event for Phase 2 of our 35th Avenue SW Road Safety Corridor Project.  The event provided the community who regularly use 35th Avenue SW to share their experiences all along the corridor.

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We heard comments on speeding vehicles and the needs for safer crossings, additional enforcement and reviewing transit stops. Residents also expressed concerns about growth and developments that are in the works. And we heard feedback about the Phase 1 traffic conditions during peak hour, so we’ll be working to improve signal timing and coordination through the corridor.

The 35th Avenue SW Road Safety Corridor Project was launched in response to a number of collisions and long-standing community requests to reduce speeds and enhance pedestrian crossings. Unfortunately, traffic fatalities continue to happen on 35th Avenue SW. While we have made changes to the roadway over the years, conditions are right for more substantial changes.

The goals of this project are to reduce speeds, collisions and injuries; and improve conditions for users while maintaining acceptable transit and travel times on 35th Avenue SW.

SDOT continues to accept input and feedback on this project. If you have any comments about Vision Zero or the 35th Avenue SW Safety Corridor, contact Jim Curtin at jim.curtin@seattle.gov or at 206-684-8874.

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