It’s great to be reminded that government can respond, make a decision, and actually get implementation going – fast!

Several weeks ago I received a message from a constituent, expressing concerns about the crosswalk on Beacon Avenue South at the VA Hospital.  He noted that there was pretty consistent pedestrian traffic, that nearby crosswalks had been upgraded, and that this one did not have much to alert drivers and assist pedestrians.  I agreed, and passed the concern on to the Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT).

SDOT has been steadily improving its responsiveness over the last few years – as staff has been given more authority and responsibility for decision making and encouraged to provide better customer service.  Still, I was a bit surprised and very pleased by how fast they responded.  In a few days, they had surveyed the location, analyzed the options, and committed to a plan of action.

By early 2011, “SDOT will reinstall the white thermoplastic on the north and south side of the decorative crosswalk.  SDOT will also replace the existing signing with new fluorescent yellow-green pedestrian/crosswalk signs north and south of the crosswalk to alert motorists to the crosswalk as they are approaching.”  The review did not indicate that flashing beacons were needed at this time, but they considered that as a possibility.

When I became Chair of the Transportation Committee in 2002 there was an ongoing conflict between community members and SDOT over crosswalks.  Many communities sought crosswalk markings because they believed these would promote pedestrian safety.  SDOT was concerned because they saw crosswalks as marking the preferred location for pedestrian crossing, and studies have shown that in some locations, simply marking crosswalks did not provide significant protection for pedestrians.

We were finally able to develop a solution to this cross communication.  We crafted guidelines that allow crosswalks to be marked in conjunction with other elements, like signs, flashing lights, raised pavement, or other measures to make the crosswalk more visible to drivers, if these enhancements are needed at the particular location.   This Beacon Hill work is about responsiveness in implementing those guidelines.

Kudos to Tracy Burrows, Eric Widstrand, Brandon Bollinger, and William Burns of SDOT for their work on this.