SEATTLE - It's one part of Seattle that has experienced a boom. But as this part of town grew, so did the problems:
- Eight cars crashed into buildings in a year
- More than 1,200 collisions in a three-and-half-mile stretch
- Twelve traffic-related fatalities in a decade
"Completely frightening," acknowledgeD Beau Hebert, who owns Lottie's Lounge on Rainier Avenue S. He says the vvenue has always been a main road. "It cuts diagonally through the city. It's the main corridor through southeast Seattle, used to be a highway."
He's owned the Lounge for six years and said high speeds and four lanes contributed to many of the problems, including the collision across the street which permanently knocked down walls and closed doors for three of his business neighbors.
Hebert, among others, asked the city to put the road on a diet.
Last August, it agreed.
"Rainier Avenue has been the undisputed king of crashes," acknowledged Jim Curtin, the traffic safety coordinator for Seattle's Department of Transportation. "A crash occurred there every single day."
The city, as part of a pilot program, went in and reconfigured a one-mile stretch of Rainier from Columbia City to Hillman City. The four lanes were reduced to three, with a turn lane, and the speed limit dropped from 30 mph to 25 mph.
"Since then, we've seen a good improvement," said Curtin, noting there has not been a death on Rainier since the diet has been put into place.
According to SDOT, since August, collisions are down about 15%. Injuries are down about 31% and crashes involving pedestrians and bikes are down 40%.
It's gone so well, that the city is now thinking of expanding the diet to include a larger swath of Rainier. However, Curtin says, SDOT is aware of the fact that the Route 7 is one of the busiest bus routes in all of Seattle, with 13,000 riders a day.
"We're mindful of the rechannelization," said Curtin.
Hebert says he's seen an uptick in traffic because of the lane closure, but the diet did what it was supposed to do and trimmed a threat to public safety.
"The road diet has really improved the quality of life," said Hebert. "The benefits far outweigh the downside."