Safe Crossing

The Goal

To make crossing Interstate 5 on NE 45th Street safe for pedestrians and bicyclists, especially as the last mile to/from the new U District light rail station.

The Problem

More coordination between SDOT and WSDOT is necessary to deliver on a top priority in the voter-approved Move Seattle Levy of 2015, mandating SDOT to fix the crossing in preparation for the U District light rail station, which already opened over a year ago.

The project has the overwhelming support of the linked communities, political leaders, and advocacy groups; and has $500,000 in secured project funding. Just in December $1.5 million was allocated to the project in this year's city budget! 

Seattle woman who fell from overpass, hit by car and killed, identified

A woman was killed when she fell from an overpass onto Interstate 5 and was hit by a car early Friday, April 26, 2024.  Read more on KIRO News 7

Steel Beam Thrown from Overpass

The windshield of a man driving on way to work was hit by a 51" metal beam thrown from an overpass. View video from KIRO News 7

The Solution

We're making progress on the project, but we're not across the bridge yet (pun intended):
  • Funding: Secured funding to model and design a safer crossing - Success! - Funded by City Council in November 2021
  • Transit: Route 44 work coordinates with these pedestrian & cycling improvements - Happening now!
  • Crosswalk​: Add a safe crosswalk on NE 45th Street at 8th Avenue NE for pedestrians & cyclists - Happening now!
  • Fencing: Add safety fencing for pedestrians on bridge over the I-5 bridge - Success! - Funded by City Council in December 2022
  • Bike Lane: Install a protected bike lane on uphill, westbound side of NE 45th St, connecting to bike network - Next focus

Act Now!

Sign the online petition to demand a safe crossing over I-5 on NE 45th Street for pedestrians and bicyclists. Read comments from supporters

Better Design Is Safer for All Users, Maintains Throughput

Cyclists gain a protected bike lane for uphill trip from 7th Ave NE to Latona Ave NE. Driver throughput is unaffected, while westbound through drivers gain safety and predictability by consolidating in the right hand lane.
The only intersection with changes is at NE 45th and 5th Ave NE. This view shows first signal phase, which works the same as today, with all southbound traffic going.
This second signal phase permits westbound through traffic to go at same time as all eastbound traffic, which maintains throughput at current levels, particularly for transit. It works like a bus-only signal or freeway meter.
This third signal phase allows all westbound vehicles to go, either continuing into Wallingford or turning left on I-5 southbound. Since right lane has already had time to clear out before this phase, traffic that continues straight and merges right will have fewer risks of side swipes.
Westbound view of signal at NE 45th St at 5th Ave NE, shown at the time eastbound traffic can go and only the right lane can go westbound. Note the standard “Left on green arrow ONLY” sign, to eliminate the risk of vehicles going early.
Westbound view of signal at NE 45th St at 5th Ave NE, shown at the time all westbound traffic can go, so that center lane can go straight or left. Cameras and signs can be added to address concerns about vehicles blocking the intersection.
Only change at westbound at NE 45th and 7th Ave NE adds the protected bike lane in the vacated bus stop (green) with overhead sign suggesting vehicles get into the right lane for Wallingford. Currently, traffic already blocks left lane while right lane underutilized.
New sign at northbound 7th Ave NE on I-5 off ramp can direct vehicles to the right lane for NE 45th without requiring that they do so. There is no trap lane in this design.
Northbound 7th Ave NE at entrance to I-5 off ramp: Metering or HOV restrictions could be added here (replacing the stop sign) if there are backup concerns, although we do not believe any changes here will be necessary.

Our Successes

With your past support we did achieve these goals: 

Funding: Through our advocacy and your public support, we were successful in securing City Council funding to supplement the allocation from the 2015 Move Seattle Levy, for a total of $500,000 to improve the crossing for pedestrians and bicyclists. 

Fencing: In coordination with Councilmember Pedersen, SDOT, and WSDOT, $1.5 million in funding was approved in this year's budget to add safety fencing to the overpass to protect all modes, those pedestrians and bikers crossing the overpass, and the vehicles traveling below. The fencing option is similar to existing fencing in Portland.  ​This is happening!

Remaining Challenges

With your continued support we can address these remaining obstacles:

Vehicle Safety: SDOT chose not to model our proposed design for the Protected Bike Lane (PBL) because they believed the design was not standard and could cause increased vehicle side swipes. In response, we modified our proposal to make it more typical of other intersections with clear signage and signals. Our design consolidates NE 45th westbound through traffic into a single lane, which we believe is safer than having vehicles weave back and forth between the two through lanes from the bridge to Latona.

Vehicle Throughput: SDOT had claimed that a Protected Bike Lane (PBL) will reduce vehicular throughput, but this is based on their alternative proposal with inferior signal design, which we did not endorse. It has now been modeled twice and rejected. Instead, our proposed design maintains signal timing at all intersections and only reduces the westbound through lane into Wallingford two blocks earlier, not impacting throughput. Furthermore, we have suggested additional options to improve throughput separate from the PBL proposal if they are genuinely concerned about this issue.

NE 47th Street Bridge: Although the 2015 Move Seattle Levy proposed a pedestrian- and bike-only bridge crossing over I-5 at NE 47th Street, like the one we now have at Northgate, there is absolutely no funding allocated for the project and it remains a decade away from opening. We must have a safe crossing in the interim and the current alternatives of the bike trail (1/2 a mile downhill) and NE 65th Street (1 mile north) are unreasonable.

Why Is It Important?

Approval of the 2017 U District high-rise upzone was contingent on the promise of transit-oriented development. This crossing is critical to supporting alternative modes to travel the last mile to/from the station. Underused right-hand traffic lanes, vacated by transit, can be repurposed.
The safe crossing is a mandated commitment in the Move Seattle Levy (2015) and reflects a top priority from the community-led U District Station Area Mobility Plan (2018). With a successful vote on Thursday, the project is fully funded. This image is an example of what could be.
Perilously low barrier railing on bridge where it is possible to topple over into I-5 below for pedestrians and bicyclists. There have been instances where objects have been dropped over the edge.
As an example, these fences were simply bolted into place long after the initial bridge was installed. The original Portland bridge design is almost identical to the bridge in Seattle.
There are no reasonable alternative routes from A to B for pedestrians and bikes that can be realized within the budget allocated and the immediate timeframe. Any other solutions like a new bridge on 47th (C) are decades away and will cost tens of millions of dollars.
The map indicates frequency of cyclist use and lack of alternative crossing to the bridge. This unsafe stretch of street has resulted in 25 injury collisions involving pedestrians or bikes in the last decade, bookended by 2 of city’s 10 most dangerous intersections.
The planned pedestrian improvements included in the Route 44 Multi-Modal Corridor project will conflict with essential bike left turn down 8th Ave NE, and should be postponed to coordinate holistically with this project to support all modes.

Act Now!

Join hundreds of your neighbors and sign our petition to the City and State to fulfill the 2015 promise in the Move Seattle Levy to make access to/from the new light rail station safe for all modes, ages, and abilities. Demand that SDOT model the proposed design for a safer crossing. Talk it over with your friends to see if they might sign the petition as well.
If you have a few more minutes, please consider contacting:

Mayor Bruce Harrell

We have an opportunity with Mayor Harrell’s pending appointment of a new Director of SDOT to demonstrate the priority of safe crossing over the interstate for all modes of traffic, connecting the U District urban center with the Wallingford urban village, to leverage the investment in the U District light rail station. You may call the mayor’s office at (206) 684-4000 or tweet @MayorofSeattle in support of “Safe Crossing Over I-5 on NE 45th Street” - #safecrossingoveri5.

Councilmember Alex Pedersen

The councilmember who represents the twin neighborhoods of Wallingford and the U District also chairs the Council’s Committee on Transportation. For these overlapping reasons, it is imperative that Alex Pedersen hear from constituents about the importance of improving the safety of this crossing. Call his office at (206) 684-8804 or tweet @AlexIsListening in support of “Safe Crossing Over I-5 on NE 45th Street” - #safecrossingoveri5

Councilmember Dan Strauss

The 44 bus route is very important to Councilmember Strauss as it connects his 6th District constituents to the U District light rail station. He is also the vice chair of the Council’s Committee on Transportation. Call his office at (206) 684-8806 or tweet @CMDanStrauss in support of “Safe Crossing Over I-5 on NE 45th Street” - #safecrossingoveri5.

Senator Jamie Pedersen

Our State Senator was helpful with the addition of safety fencing on the overpass and offered to support funding for the project in the next transportation package. You can thank him for his support of #safecrossingoveri5 by email or phone at (360) 786-7628.

Broad Support

In addition to $500,000 in secured funding, and the $1.5 million in this year's budget, this project has the support of:
General Public:
Signers of the Petition

Elected Officials:
Alex Pedersen, Councilmember District 4, sponsor
Dan Strauss, Councilmember District 6, co-sponsor
Teresa Mosqueda, Councilmember Position 8, co-sponsor

The Urbanist​

"Giving up safety of the people who walk and bike in favor of throughput of single occupancy vehicles is a terrible choice." 

Objections Raised

Expand each to consider the objections raised and our rebuttals:
Objection: A protected bike lane on NE 45th Street was not included in the original Bicycle Master Plan.

Rebuttal: In May 2021 the Seattle Bicycle Master Plan 2021-2024 Implementation Plan was updated to include the NE 45th crossing of I-5 as a planned project. The crossing is a critical connection for people biking and walking between these two areas for work, school, medical appointments, grocery shopping, and other daily needs or to access the new link station and its regional connections.

A new pedestrian and cyclist bridge at NE 47th over I-5 will cost many tens of millions of dollars and is entirely unplanned and not budgeted, and at least a decade away. We need a safe route as soon as possible. Even if a crossing at 47th is eventually added, pedestrians and cyclists will continue to use NE 45th over I-5 as it is the most direct connection between the Wallingford urban village, the U District urban center, UW campus, and light rail.
Objection: A protected bike lane was added to the Route 44 Multimodal Corridor project after it was “already part-way through the design phase."

​Rebuttal: As The Urbanist points out, "this SDOT excuse conveniently sidesteps the commitment in the Move Seattle Levy and the U District Station Area Mobility Plan". The Levy to Move Seattle, which funded route 44, explicitly demanded that route 44 "Develop plans and complete improvements to enhance the NE 45th St corridor for pedestrians and cyclists between 4th Ave NE and Brooklyn Ave NE by the time University Light Rail opens in 2021". The fact that SDOT ignored requirements of legislation is not an excuse to skip the work, it is a reason to get back to work and do the job right.
Objection: SDOT’s traffic models indicated a number of operational concerns for the local transportation network (for vehicles and transit at least): backups onto I-5, east-west travel conflicts on the overpass, and transit delays.

Rebuttal: We have modified designs to eliminate the throughput concerns SDOT raised, and we need the project reopened so SDOT and WSDOT can study this. With the new approach, there is zero change to NE 45th eastbound flow, so no anticipated change to any eastbound backups.

For westbound NE 45th flow, current backups are for cars going onto I-5 southbound, and that capacity is maintained when the PBL is added. The only lane space that's turned over to the PBL is for the double lane going through into Wallingford, which collapses to one lane earlier than it does now. The double lane into Wallingford is not at capacity, so this change just simplifies traffic flow rather than reducing it.

If accessing I-5, a driver will use the left hand lane on NE 45th and fork into the double left hand turn as currently. If driving to Wallingford, one can go straight from the right hand side of the double left turn and then merge once in Wallingford (so the turn is not a "trap lane"). If there are backups going onto I-5 then through traffic will merge to the right earlier to avoid the backup, as it does currently.

​​A failure to acknowledge that pedestrians and cyclists are, in fact, part of the ‘local transportation network’ does not waive the obligation to make the crossing safe for all modes.
Objection: WSDOT believes that two westbound through lanes on the bridge are required to clear the dual northbound left turn lanes from the I-5 off-ramp, to avoid delays and permit freight trucks.

​Rebuttal: The westbound, leftmost lane across the bridge does not have to be a trap lane; there is space for cars going straight to be in that lane and then merge right after going through the intersection. Additional partial lane in both directions are now available since Metro removed the bus stops on the bridge.
​​Objection: Bikers and pedestrians can cross I-5 instead on the Burke-Gilman Trail or at NE 65th Street where it is safer.

​​Rebuttal: Depending on one's starting or destination point and their level of confidence, those alternative crossings may work. However, the Burke-Gilman Trail is about a half mile detour from 45th plus over a 100 foot difference in elevation. Similarly, taking the 65th underpass is a 1 mile (20 block) detour to the North, although at least the elevation is similar.

The most direct connection between the Wallingford urban village to/from the U District urban center, its new light rail station, or to UW campus remains across NE 45th Street.

This change is also a major improvement for pedestrians, for whom a detour is even less practical. The protected bike lane will be a buffer to the sidewalk on the north side of the bridge. The proposed addition of railings to the bridge will make it safer for pedestrians, cyclists, and even the vehicles on I-5 below.

Next Steps

  • SDOT > Comply with mandate from Move Seattle Levy and work with WSDOT to make this crossing safe for all modes
  • King County Metro > Temporarily suspend bidding on project to add concrete islands at 8th Avenue NE to coordinate work
  • ​​Communities > No opposition to proposed changes as parking, vehicular throughput, and business access are not impacted


Complete a 45th Street Bikeway Before Light Rail
By Green Lake & Wallingford Safe Streets
Support a Safe Crossing Over I-5 on NE 45th Street
By ​Natalie Bicknell Argerious, October 27, 2021


U District Community Council: Letter in support (Letter, September 15, 2021)

Wallingford Community Council: Letter in support (Pending)

Wallyhood: "Recent City Council Action on Proposed NE 45th Improvements Over I-5"​  (Article, January 11, 2022)

Advocacy Groups: Joint letter from The Urbanist, Transit Riders Union, Cascade Bicycle Club, & Seattle Neighborhood Greenways (Letter, October 5, 2021)

U District Mobility Plan“A safe and convenient pedestrian and bicycle route is needed between Wallingford on the west side of I-5 and the light rail station.” (Page 52, U District Mobility Plan)

Move Seattle Levy 2015 commitment: “develop plans and complete improvements to enhance the NE 45th St Corridor for pedestrians and cyclists between 4th Ave NE and Brooklyn Ave NE by the time University Light Rail opens in 2021” (page 30, Move Seattle Workplan)

Seattle City Council Bill“Add $400,000 of General Fund to SDOT for bicycle and pedestrian improvements along NE 45th Street across Interstate 5 and impose a proviso” (CBA SDOT-013-A-001, Unanimous support) 

SDOT Modeling Report: “Westbound PBL is determined feasible from 8th Ave NE to Latona Ave NE. While separation would be dropped at applicable driveways and Metro bus stops, protection would be complete throughout extents without impacts to parking.” (Page 6, NE 45th Street Bridge PBL Evaluation)

SDOT Modeling Report: “General traffic operations along the corridor are maintained or otherwise not exacerbated by the implementation of a proposed westbound PBL between 8th Ave NE and Latona Ave NE.” (Page 12, NE 45th Street Bridge PBL Evaluation)

Metro“King County Metro operates two bus stops along NE 45th St Bridge. Transit operations at these stops would encroach on a westbound PBL. These stops were evaluated for potential closure.” (Page 14, NE 45th Street Bridge PBL Evaluation)

WSDOT: “WSDOT has been notified of the proposed PBL concept design and desire for feedback. No response has been received at this time.” (Page 14, NE 45th Street Bridge PBL Evaluation)

Wallyhood: "Pedestrian and Cyclist Crossing of I-5 on NE 45th" (Article, October 27, 2021)

The Urbanist: "Support a Safe Crossing Over I-5 on NE 45th Street" (Article, October 27, 2021)

The Urbanist: “SDOT Drops Protected Bike Lane from NE 45th Street Bridge Plans, Citing Traffic Impacts” (Article, October 14, 2021)

Seattle Times: “The most dangerous intersections in Seattle for bicyclists and pedestrians” (Article, August 17, 2017)

Green Lake & Wallingford Safe Streets: "Complete a 45th Street Bikeway Before Light Rail" (Article)

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