File photo by Patrick Robinson
Looking west to the Olympics along S.W. Roxbury St. - the dividing line between West Seattle and North Highline. Three community groups sent a letter to the City of Seattle on July 22 asking them to perform a study on how to improve safety along the roadway.

UPDATE: Community groups ask Seattle to study improving safety on S.W. Roxbury St.; SDOT says study will happen

Update for July 26
After three West Seattle and White Center community groups sent a letter to the City of Seattle asking them to study possible safety improvements for S.W. Roxbury St., the city's Department of Transportation spokeswoman Marybeth Turner said, "SDOT will conduct a safety study on SW Roxbury Street in the near future in response to community concerns."

Original post on July 22
Acting as the boundary between West Seattle and unincorporated North Highline, S.W. Roxbury St. is known for its undulating hills that can make sight lines tricky while driving, vehicles exceeding speed limits on a regular basis, fender benders to serious collisions and a potentially dangerous gauntlet for pedestrians hoping to cross or walk alongside the road.

Add into the mix three elementary schools along the way, and the safety concerns only increase.

On July 22, three local community groups banded together in submitting a letter (available for full viewing here) to the City of Seattle and King County asking that Seattle’s Department of Transportation (SDOT) conduct a study on how to improve safety along the route often used for east-west travel in the area.

Using SDOT’s own speed and collision data for Roxbury, the Westwood/Roxhill/Arbor Heights Neighborhood Council, Highland Park Action Committee and North Highline Unincorporated Area Council called out for three specific areas of study, focused on the stretch from crossroads 35th Ave. S.W. and 8th Ave. S.W.

Expressing concern with speeding, the group wrote, “Vehicles routinely travel through the Roxhill Elementary and Holy Family school zones faster than 20 MPH during times when children are present, despite school zone flashing lights and warning signs.”

Citing SDOT statistics, the groups wrote data shows “the 85th percentile speed on Roxbury Street eastbound to be up to 37.9 MPH, well above the posted 30 MPH. Further east, near the Holy Rosary school zone, data shows a speed of 37.7 MPH (over the posted 30).

Part of the problem, they contend, is that eastbound travelers driving down the hill from 35th Ave. S.W. do not even encounter a 30 MPH speed limit sign until 28th Ave. S.W. which is beyond Roxhill Elementary.

“In general, with most drivers significantly exceeding the speed limit, the potential for accidents and pedestrian fatalities in the event of a collision is greatly increased,” the groups wrote.

Regarding pedestrian safety, the letter notes there are “no marked crosswalks between 35th and 30th Avenue, between 26th Avenue and 20th Avenue, and between 15th Avenue and 8th Avenue.”

“It is very difficult for pedestrians to safely cross four lanes of speeding traffic in these areas, forcing them to make lengthy detours to existing marked crosswalks or encouraging them to jaywalk.”

They also note several sections of Roxbury provide little buffer between pedestrians walking the sidewalks and vehicles flying by.

The groups received an SDOT report on all collisions along Roxbury over the course of four years (starting on Jan. 1, 2009). According to the SDOT table shared in their letter, there have been 294 wrecks over that time. 91 of those were injury accidents resulting in 141 total injuries. The group believes left turning vehicles off of Roxbury result in several collisions, as surrounding drivers speed and swerve to avoid slowing down.

The groups wrote they “feel that addressing these issues will contribute greatly to making Roxbury Street a safer environment for schoolchildren, pedestrians, motorists and all users of the street.”

Highland Park Action Committee Chair Carolyn Stauffer said her group was contacted by Chris Stripinis from the Westwood/Roxhill/Arbor Heights Neighborhood Council in May about co-endorsing the letter, which she said they did since the requested study reached to 8th Ave. S.W. (Highland Park area).

“It dovetails nicely with the ideas that we heard at the recent SDOT meeting about Greenways coming through Highland Park – as all routes being studied connect (or should connect) to Roxbury – so we’d like to makes sure that there is a safe connection,” Stauffer said in an email.

Amanda Kay Helmick, WRAHCC chair, said the “number one complaint” from communities they represent was excessive speeding, followed by “the condition of the pavement, sidewalks and crosswalks.”

Asked whether a specific incident sparked the final decision to send the letter, Helmick said, “This has been more of a slow simmer than a boil. Boiling would occur if some speeder had run over a couple of kids in front of a school or Safeway … we want to fix it before a tragedy pushes it over the boiling point.”

We have reached out to SDOT for comment and will update when we hear back.

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