Readers raise safety concerns at busy Smokey Point interchange

Drivers and pedestrians both have issues over who’s got the right of way.

We recently fielded two safety-related questions from readers about Highway 531 (172nd Street NE) in the bustling Smokey Point business district.

Make traffic coming off I-5 yield?

Street Smarts reader Mark Bodtker wrote: “I am wondering why there is not a yield sign at the end of the northbound I-5 off-ramp at Highway 531 (Smokey Point) for drivers heading east. It is very dangerous for drivers already on Highway 531 heading east and cars speeding off the off-ramp into their path — when the light is green on Highway 531. Also, it is hard for Highway 531 drivers to get into the far-right lane to access Lowe’s and other businesses that are located just beyond the off-ramp.”

We pitched the idea to the Washington State Department of Transportation.

Spokeswoman Nicole Daniels responded: “Adding a yield control to what becomes an added lane on eastbound Highway 531 has the probability of significantly impacting the traffic flow on the northbound I-5 off-ramp.”

In other words, no dice.

OK, so how about this one …

Mark the crosswalk that’s already there?

Street Smarts reader Bruce Englehardt wrote: “Just wanted to write about a persistent problem that I’ve had while walking across I-5 at 172nd Street NE.

“Walking along the north side of the bridge, which is the most convenient way for me, involves crossing the loop ramp for westbound-to-southbound traffic. The slip lane for the ramp has a crosswalk, complete with a dimple for wheeled users and tactile strips, but is unmarked. There’s no paint on the ground, and there’s no sign warning drivers that pedestrians have the right-of-way (as they do at all unmarked and marked crosswalks), so I routinely have to wait for a dozen or more cars to cut me off and clear the lane. The slip lane is also a bit downhill from the overpass’s highest point, creating a blind spot that has amazingly not caused a fatal collision with a pedestrian.

“Has WSDOT considered doing anything to improve safety at this slip lane? A sign can help a pedestrian assert their rights and maybe cause drivers to slow down earlier (as they’re hitting the brakes on the ramp anyway).”

Daniels from WSDOT: “We don’t have the specifics yet, but we are currently working on options to improve pedestrian comfort at this location.”

Stay tuned …

Street Smarts: streetsmarts@heraldnet.com, 425-339-3432

Update, Oct. 25, 2018: WSDOT crews will be installing new crosswalk signs within the next few weeks at that spot, Daniels said. The timing of the painted stripes is more iffy. “The crosswalk striping is weather-dependent,” Daniels noted. If dry, warm weather comes along, it could happen in the next few months. “If that doesn’t happen, the crosswalk striping will occur in the spring.”

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