Rainier Avenue, one of two main arterials in Seattle’s southend has a notorious problem with aggressive, speeding drivers.
Some residents say they’ve known about it for years, and their complaints about it to the city have gone unanswered.
New collision and injury data from the Seattle Department of Transportation shows those residents were right – more than a thousand people every day drive 10 miles or more over the 30 mile-an-hour limit.
A Near Miss
Late last summer, Phyllis Porter was walking down Rainier Avenue to have lunch at The Grecian Deli. She changed her mind, though, and stepped back out.
“As soon as I stepped on the curb, all I could see was an SUV coming at me," she said.
Seconds later that SUV crashed head on into the Carol Cobb Hair salon and the Grecian Deli. Porter remembers screaming. Debris flew everywhere. People in the deli were pinned to a wall inside.
Seven people were injured, including children.
As it happens, Porter is an advocate for street safety in the community. The accident that nearly took her out is what she tries to prevent.
"It’s really hard because I work in this area,” Porter said. “I'm at the point where I really don't want to walk on Rainier Avenue."
Alarming New Data
Porter was at a community meeting, hosted by the city transportation department, that revealed new statistics about collisions in the area. The data made one thing clear: There's a lot of speeding going on through South Seattle.
Dongho Chang, Seattle’s traffic engineer, said the focus is on controlling speeding behavior.
“If you look at a similar corridor like Lake City Way -- that has much more volume but significantly less collisions,” said Chang. “That tells us that this roadway needs some attention."
Speeding is a problem on Rainier, but the biggest issue is the number of collisions. There have been 1,243 collisions between Columbia City and Seward Park on Rainier Avenue in the last three years. Those have resulted in 630 injuries and two deaths.
In the last decade, there have been 11 deaths due to traffic accidents on Rainier.
Residents have a long list of safety ideas for SDOT. They include improved signal timing, better police enforcement, and adding traffic cameras along the corridor. City officials said they expect to put solutions in place by spring of next year.
For Phyllis Porter, those changes couldn’t happen soon enough.
"The things that are happening in Rainier Valley, Columbia City, Hillman City,” she said, naming the neighborhoods off Rainier Avenue, “these things are unacceptable. And something needs to be done now."
SDOT will hold another community meeting on the Rainier Traffic Safety Project at 4:30 p.m. on Tuesday, Nov. 18 at the Ethiopian Community Center, 8323 Rainier Ave. S.