Q: Dave Handa is no Scrooge. He loves the holiday season, when horse-drawn carriages flourish in downtown Seattle. But he has a problem with them parking too close to intersections...
Dave Handa is no Scrooge.
He loves the holiday season, when horse-drawn carriages flourish in downtown Seattle. But he has a problem with them parking too close to intersections and impeding the flow of traffic.
Headed south on First Avenue a few days ago, Handa witnessed two lanes of vehicles backed up, partly because a carriage had parked at the curb at the Pike Street corner, near the entrance to Pike Place Market. Vehicles in the outside lane were blocked by the carriage, while drivers in the inside lane — including Handa — were at a crawl, waiting for pedestrians to cross the street before being able to turn right.
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A similar phenomenon occurs a few blocks away at Fourth Avenue and Pine Street, says Handa, a longtime resident. Horse carriages parked at the curb close to the corner make it difficult for vehicles turning left on Pine.
Handa suggests a possible remedy could be to have carriages park midblock instead of so close to the corner. That way, vehicles could veer around them with enough space left to return to the proper turning lane.
With all the foot traffic around Pike Place Market, First and Pike is a pretty lucrative spot for the horse-carriage business. But that doesn’t mean it’s the proper place for them to park.
The west side of First Avenue at Pike Street is a no-stops, tow-away zone at the corner and also at midblock, except for a couple of hours midmorning when it is a 30-minute load zone for commercial vehicles.
But horse carriages do wait at First and Pike from time to time, says Laura Gildersleeve, who manages a flower shop at the intersection’s northwest corner. Besides vehicles trying to turn right, she’s seen traffic held up waiting for horse carriages to turn left at Pike, despite a posted sign that prohibits left turns except for transit.
“People start honking, and I have seen the horses really freak out,” she says.
Katherine Casseday of Seattle’s Department of Transportation says horse carriages have permits for staging in designated locations. First and Pike, though, isn’t one of them.
Fourth Avenue is a different story. Casseday says carriages are permitted to use the west side of Fourth Avenue between Pine and Pike streets as a staging area during the holiday shopping season. Other times of the year, they are expected to obey the rules of the road, just like other vehicles, she says.
Carriage operators may be ticketed for parking illegally. They also are expected to obey time limits in loading zones outside their permitted staging areas, obey traffic signals and avoid blocking intersections.
Casseday says the city will be contacting horse-carriage operators — there are four companies working downtown — to inform them to stay from 40 feet to 50 feet back from the corner.
Chuck Reichert of Bellevue has been stuck in slow-moving morning-rush-hour traffic along 148th Avenue Southeast near Bellevue Community College more times than he cares to remember. The reason, he says, is road construction.
That street, a major arterial, feeds into Interstate 90’s westbound lanes. Reichert says it seems crews are at work by 7 a.m., and many mornings one lane is closed, causing southbound traffic backups.
“A 15- to 20-minute delay getting to the freeway is grating on everyone’s nerves,” he said. “Any chance they can hold off on the lane closures during rush hour?”
The 148th Avenue Southeast Improvement Project, managed by the city of Bellevue, is adding one southbound lane from Southeast 24th Street to the westbound I-90 onramp. The project also has changed access to the community college’s upper campus.
The question is always raised about the possibility of doing work at night, when traffic volumes are much less, says senior project manager Nancy LaCombe. But it’s not feasible for this project because it is close to residential areas, she says.
“Restrictions have been placed on the contractor for lane closures during peak traffic times, meaning that two lanes must remain open in the direction of travel that has the most vehicles,” she says.
During morning hours, most vehicles are headed north, so two northbound lanes are open from 7:30 to 8:45 a.m. In the evening, most vehicles are headed south, so two southbound lanes are open from 4:30 to 6 p.m.
To place restrictions in both directions for both morning and evening would reduce the number of hours the contractor could work, and thereby extend the length of time it takes to complete the project, LaCombe says. “When the project takes longer, it means frustrating drivers for an even longer time period.”
New ferry schedule: The state ferry system’s winter sailing schedule goes into effect today with seasonal cuts or changes in service.
Weekend service for the Fauntleroy-Vashon-Southworth route will decrease from three vessels to two. There also are several changes to Anacortes-San Juan Islands routes, and during the winter there is no service between Anacortes and Sidney, B.C.
The winter schedule will be in effect through March 19.
Schedules are available at all ferry terminals and local libraries, and on the ferry system’s Web site: www.wsdot.wa.gov/ferries