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For 68-year-old William Wingert, a man with self-described “bad legs,” making his way across Rainier Avenue South in Columbia City is a challenge.

Crossings at South Edmunds, South Hudson and South Ferdinand streets are problems for Wingert, who said they present two issues: It takes too long for the signal to turn for pedestrians, and the time given to cross is too short.

“As it is now, just about every time when I get across the street, especially if somebody is trying to turn left onto Rainier Avenue, I’m forced to either rush or stop and wait for them to get there and it’s hard to make the light,” Wingert said.

The Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT) will be making changes to Rainier Avenue South this year that aims to improve the traveling experience for many types of users.

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Dongho Chang, city traffic engineer, said the Rainier corridor will be retimed this year. Rick Sheridan, SDOT’s communications director, wrote in an email that the effort was directed

at 30 intersections along the street.

Chang wrote in an email that traffic signals would be modified to lengthen the time of green lights for approaching buses, as well as to change to green earlier if a bus comes during a red light on Rainier Avenue South.

“The signal retiming is balanced to have the shortest wait time for all users, while providing for the best traffic flow at the intersection,” Chang wrote.

The retiming also will make sure the intersections meet the newest federal standard for pedestrian-walking speeds.

In 2009, federal standards for pedestrian-crossing speeds changed from 4 feet per second to 3.5 feet per second, Chang said.

“The majority of intersections will need to be updated as the retiming of this corridor’s signals was last completed in 2006,” Chang wrote.

In locations where there are more vulnerable populations such as older individuals, SDOT could decrease the figure to a speed less than 3.5 feet per second.

Alongside the retiming efforts, Chang wrote, SDOT will work with DKS Associates, a transportation-planning and engineering firm, to consider other changes at eight intersections on Rainier Avenue South: at South Dearborn Street, 23rd Avenue South, South Walker Street, South Henderson Street, South Ferdinand Street, South Alaska Street, South Edmunds Street and South Cloverdale Street.

The possible improvements could include new crosswalks, Americans with Disabilities Act crosswalk signals and curb ramps, Chang wrote.

SDOT has about $650,000 to make any improvements called for by the DKS study.

The contract with DKS starts this spring, Chang said. The changes should be put in place this year.

Safiya Merchant: or 206-464-2299

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