Pedestrians will be given a few seconds head start to enter crosswalks before cars and trucks, through new signals being implemented around the city.

The Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT) plans to install the new signals at 144 intersections over the next three years. The signals are in place now at 53 intersections, mostly in Belltown, downtown, on Mercer Street and Rainier Valley.

By the end of June, SDOT will install signals at every intersection on Rainier Avenue between South Kenny Street and 57th Avenue South — eight intersections in total. Also in June, SDOT will install signals at North 90th Street and Greenwood Avenue North as well as at Fremont Avenue North and North 36th Street.

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The new signals, called leading pedestrian intervals (LPIs), display the walk symbol for three to seven seconds for pedestrians crossing the street before drivers are given the green light to move forward or turn. The head start is intended to make pedestrians more visible and to encourage drivers to yield the right of way.

Current work is funded by a $450,000 grant awarded in November from the Washington State Department of Transportation’s City Safety program. WSDOT provided another $1.2 million grant to make additional work possible.

A 2018 study from the Federal Highway Administration that analyzed data from Chicago, New York and Charlotte, North Carolina, found that intersections with LPIs had fewer pedestrian-involved crashes. An analysis of 10 intersections in Pennsylvania where LPIs were implemented suggested a nearly 59% reduction in crashes between pedestrians and vehicles.

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Intersections in Seattle may be selected for LPIs if they are within urban villages and urban centers, the site of a serious injury or fatal pedestrian crash within the last three years, or near parks, community centers, and public and private schools.

SDOT has identified five other locations for the signals but has not yet set a timeline.

  • Renton Avenue South and South Kenyon Street
  • 15th Avenue East and East Denny Way
  • 18th Avenue and East Yesler Way
  • 23rd Avenue East and East Aloha Street
  • Airport Way South and South Holgate Street

For intersections that already have pedestrian walk signals, LPIs will be evaluated for installation any time crews retime or upgrade signal systems. And intersections where crews install new pedestrian signals will be evaluated for LPIs.

“In general, we’ll install an LPI unless there is a specific reason not to in a particular location,” said SDOT spokesperson Ethan Bergerson.

In some cases where LPIs are installed, drivers will be given a few extra seconds to turn after pedestrians clear the crosswalk.

LPIs are listed in the Seattle Pedestrian Master Plan as a tool the city can use to improve safety at intersections. In April, SDOT implemented a new policy to expand LPIs throughout the city.