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After another car accident, neighbors urge city to confront the dangers of one QA intersection

February 3rd, 2010 by Thea

Several neighbors are calling on City Council, and specifically fellow neighborhood resident Councilmember Tim Burgess, to take action after a car accident early Saturday morning rehashes a two-year conversation concerning the dangers of one Queen Anne intersection – W McGraw Pl, specifically where it intersects with 1st Ave W and W Smith St.

Reader Julia Reitz wrote,

Yesterday morning (1/30/10), there was an accident at the intersection of 1st Ave W and W McGraw Pl (W Smith) in Upper Queen Anne. I don’t know the specifics but I heard a loud, awful noise from my living room and looked out the window to see a blue car had driven up and over the curb, onto the boulevard at the end of my street.

Julia also sent links to an album of pictures that her neighbor took of the accident and its aftermath, which clearly shows tire treads through the island and a sizable tree and two signs knocked over. (Maria Kaufman, who took the photos, gave us permission to re-post them here).

According to Julia, this accident occurred during daylight hours, at an intersection that her and many of her neighbors have been expressing concern about to City Council and SDOT for over a year.

Jedediah Kaufman is one of the neighbors who has taken to contacting local representatives concerning the intersection. Starting with an email sent to Councilmember Tim Burgess in October of 2008, Jed outlined the many problems contributing to the danger of the intersection, sighting his first hand knowledge as a resident living on the street and his medical expertise as a surgeon. Jed attributed the dangers where W McGraw Pl meets 1st Ave W to the following (taken from his letter):

  • Excessive Speeds Going Around a Blind Corner: Heading northeast on W. McGraw Place is a straightaway that encourages vehicles to speed up to 40-50 mph. There are no speed limit signs or impediments that slow vehicles down before the blind corner. And, cars heading west, away from QA Ave cross over the yellow lines as they speed, increasing the risk of a head-on collision with speeding cars coming around the blind curve.
  • Poorly Marked Handicapped Crosswalk at the Blind Corner: Heading east on W. McGraw Pl. towards QA Ave is the blind curve, at the apex of which is a handicapped crosswalk designated by two (2) small signs. There is no crosswalk paint, no lights, no speed calming measures, or any other early signage. Cars fail to stop for people attempting to cross at the handicapped crosswalk coming and going to Rodgers Park. In fact, they often HONK at people attempting to cross
    with strollers or pets. Many elderly and young people cross here, those at greatest risk of being struck.
  • Multiple Entry Points Near Blind Corner: The north alleyways (at the end of 1st Ave W block, not shown on the map) exit just east of the blind curve, so vehicles going around the blind curve barrel into vehicles leaving or entering the alley (this happened a few months ago to our neighbor’s son). The alley is very steep, so you either proceed slowly, increasing your risk of being broadsided, or go quickly and bottom out your car.
  • Highly Trafficked Alley with Excessive Speeds: Proven by the City’s brief speed study, the alley (2400 block between 1st Ave W and QA Ave, exiting at the blind corner) has 30-40 vehicles each day, some travelling up to 35 mph. McCarthy and Schiering’s and A&J’s customers utilize the alley to avoid QA Ave traffic.
  • Drivers Ignoring the 1st Ave W. Stop Sign: With increasing usage of the QA Boulevard, pedestrians coming west nearly get hit because cars going East never look East, and the drivers almost always run the stop sign, treating it more like a yield. 1st Ave West enters at the blind apex
    and it’s very difficult to see around the corner for cars heading west. A vehicle accident occurred there just last week.

Jed also included a lit of community members eager to take action to improve the safety of the intersection and a number of ideas for what could be done, including the installation of speed bumps and/or more warning signs along the roadway. He also included a link to the following video, created by a few neighbors who live near the intersection, that demonstrates the excessive speeds, blind corners, poorly marked crosswalks and overall dangers of this particular stretch of what is known as the historic Queen Anne Boulevard.

A few days later Burgess emailed Jed back, informing him that he had forwarded the letter to the director of SDOT and SDOT’s liaison the City Council. The next step, he said, would be waiting for SDOT to come back with an assessment. According to Jed, this never happened. Since the most recent accident on Saturday, Jed and his wife, Maria, have sent two more letters to Burgess, providing an overview of the issue, listing their past actions, and asking, again, for support and advice on how to move forward. They wrote (taken from one of their letters to Burgess),

We urge you to take action: The intersection needs speed calming measures (speed humps or other permanent, impactful speed-reducing measures–the occasional speed measuring device is ineffective), white striping at the crosswalks, and better signage.

We’re lucky that today’s accident wasn’t more tragic, and we’re looking to you and your team members to create a permanent solution quickly. Let us know if there’s anything else we can do to elevate the intersection’s priority.

Jed said all his messages went unanswered, so he moved on to contacting people in various city offices, where he was passed around. The only information he got were the results from a speed study done on McGraw Pl. and the alleyway behind it, indicating that that average speeds on this street were higher than the posted limits. He wrote,

Our alley had something like 35 cars per day using it at 19 mph average. Highest speed was 35 mph. This is paramount because the alley exit/entrance is directly in the line of the blind corner. People come around the Mcgraw Pl/ Smith street corner heading east at 30-40 mph or higher. Crossing midline and hit or nearly hit people leaving my alley.  My alley which is being used by customers of several shops as a STREET.  One block north Avg # is closer to 10 vehicles per day.  All we asked the city to do is put in speed bumps or humps or chicanes in the street and humps in the alley. Even ones divided especially for water drainage.

According to Jed, the city responded saying that “pedestrian and bike safety would suffer due to visibility of the speed bumps,” a conclusion he finds ironic.

Bumps can be outfits with ultrabright reflective coating and City of Chicago saw dramatic drop in car vs ped deaths due to alleys by using these exact bolt down, water drainage friendly speed bumps.  And Chicago gets some BIG storms and lots of melt off.

In the meantime, Jed, Maria and many of their neighbors hope to gather more community support behind improving the speeds, signage and visibility for pedestrians and drivers along W McGraw Pl near 1st Ave W and W Smith St. They encourage residents interested in the issue to contact their city representatives. (Try City Council, WA State 36th Legislative District democrats and republicans, and the Mayor’s office, etc.). See SDOT’s contact page for a list of direct contacts for street maintenance, signs, pedestrian safety and traffic studies. If you have ideas for improving this intersection, please comment below.

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