Mercer street is now a two-way as part of the long-running Mercer Cooridor Project. Photo by Sarah Radmer
Mercer street is now a two-way as part of the long-running Mercer Cooridor Project. Photo by Sarah Radmer
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Mercer and Roy streets switched to two-way streets on June 1, as part of the continued progress of the Mercer Corridor project.

As is expected, there has been some confusion when the streets changed from one-ways to two-ways overnight.

Eric Tweit, project manager for the Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT) Mercer Corridor project, said he met with community groups and stakeholders in the area in the weeks before the switch. SDOT also sent out media advisories a few weeks prior to the switch.

The agency also put out changeable-message signs, which grabs attention more than standard signs. Those temporary signs were on eastbound Mercer in South Lake Union, Queen Anne Avenue and Roy Street and one on Elliott Avenue north of Mercer. They were removed on Sunday, June 8.

Even though people may have been confused with the change, there haven’t been any major incidents or collisions, Tweit said.

SDOT has received a few complaints about the additional congestion and longer travel times — something the agency expected, he said.

Enough notice, signage?

Scott Strickland lives in the area and often walks to work. When the streets first changed, he didn’t notice and was honked at by a car going in a direction he wasn’t used to.

Changing a road from a one-way to a two-way is such an infrequent change, that Strickland thinks there should be more signage to show the new routes.

Strickland said his request to SDOT for signs was ignored. Because this is a busy corridor that’s highly used by pedestrians, he thinks this is a safety issue.

“What’s more outrageous is a [person] can’t make a suggestion to the bureaucracy,” Strickland said. “I wouldn’t want to see someone injured with their headphones on, walking in the crosswalk and not looking the other way.”

SDOT followed the standard approach, which is a national standard, for determining the signage, Tweit said. For these streets, the streets were marked with road lines and the regulatory signs, like stop signs, and everything was consistent with the new street configuration, Tweit said.

He also mentioned that the changes were phased in so that even before the two-way streets opened, eastbound traffic was following the two lanes that it uses now, “to get people used to using that side of the street,” he said.

Strickland, frustrated by the response, said he feels like he should just make his own sign and “tape it to the phone pole.”

“To me, that’s a significant omission that could cost someone their life,” he said.

In the long term, the Mercer Corridor Project is expected to alleviate some of the congestion in the area, but for now, Mercer is only two lanes per direction, and it’s “still pretty constrained,” Tweit said.

Learning the streets are two-ways is pretty quick, but habits might take some time to catch up. Tweit noticed that people seem to be used to going westbound on Roy, making for light traffic on westbound Mercer near Uptown.

More changes coming

This phase of the project met the scheduled targets. The next portion of the project will be to fill in Broad Street, Tweit said. Crews will build a temporary intersection on Mercer Street and Dexter Avenue North to replace the current intersection.

Tweit said it would be a good idea for drivers to avoid the area as this construction happens throughout the summer, since Mercer will continue to be restricted there.

The Queen Anne community has been good about adjusting to the new two-way streets and the continued construction through the area, Tweit said.

He understands it’s taking more time to reach Interstate 5 from Queen Anne, but people are making do.

“Given that we haven’t had a lot of complaints,” Tweit said, “I think they’re hanging in there. I know it’s not ideal.”

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