You may have noticed some of the new signs that have gone up recently on I-5 through South Seattle and on places such as the Columbian Way approach to the I-5 on-ramps. These are part of the new Smarter Highways active traffic management system that is going live on Tuesday, August 10. The electronic signs will help improve highway safety by alerting drivers when they need to change lanes because of blockages ahead, or when they need to reduce their speed before reaching a traffic backup.
View Larger Map. Expect construction delays at this location next week as new dynamic signs are installed.
The Seattle Department of Transportation will be installing new dynamic (electronic) messaging signs at several locations in the city next week, including South Columbian Way/14th Avenue South near the freeway ramps. The new electronic signs will provide improved traffic information to travelers.
The signs will be installed during the daytime next week, March 8 to 12. The work will start in Crown Hill and progress down the list to Columbian Way, which is last, so we can probably expect lane closures and construction slowdowns at Columbian and 14th from the middle to end of next week. Expect some delay and congestion during this time.
The other locations that will receive the new signs are in Crown Hill at 14th Avenue NW and Holman Road NW, 15th Avenue NW just south of Ballard High School, and on 15th Avenue West near the Magnolia Bridge.
We’ve heard neighbors complaining lately that it is sometimes difficult to cross Beacon Avenue South in front of Beacon Hill Station–cars just don’t see pedestrians, or just don’t stop for them. Sometime in the last week or so, the city added new signs to Beacon Avenue in an attempt to make this crosswalk safer, along with warning lights. With the opening of the light rail station, this crosswalk is even more heavily used than it was before, so this new signage has been needed.
The First Choice Car Wash at 15th and Beacon has been granted an extension on their compliance deadline for filing permits for the business. The new deadline is June 1. The building currently is permitted for a retail use, not for car washing, detailing, and stereo installation. However, as posted earlier, the building is also zoned NC2P-40 (Neighborhood Commercial 2, Pedestrian-Designated Zone, 40-foot height limit), which means that no drive-in or drive-through businesses are allowed. A change-of-use may not be possible in this location.
Beacon Hill cannot have these signs, legally, unless a Business Improvement Association, historic district, or Chamber of Commerce is formed here. The district group would then need to get 60% of the businesses in the area to sign on, carry $1 million in liability insurance, and then obtain a Street Use Annual Permit from the city. Who knew?
Even in districts that allow such signs, it is illegal to have more than one sign per business, and they have to be directly in front of the business. First Choice has had up to three signs in front of their shop, and one across the street.
Sidewalk signs are relatively harmless, but one can see why limiting each business to one would be a good idea. The signs are taking up space in the public right-of-way, after all. In the case of the car wash, the signs are right in the entrance to two crosswalks. This is probably not an ideal location for pedestrian safety. (Nor is their driveway, as can be seen in the photo with this post.)
Since Beacon Hill’s Chamber of Commerce has gone dormant, it’s not likely that sidewalk signs will be made legal on the Hill anytime soon. In the meantime, First Choice and several other local businesses are violating a law that most of us have probably never even heard of.
The sign replacement program is now planned to run through 2016, and the old signs are being sold to the public. You can see more of the old street signs here — and, of course, there’s one in the header graphic of this page.