Rainier Avenue Undergoes Safety Improvements; Some Residents Say It Took Too Long

by Leija Farr

According to the city of Seattle, “Over the last 10 years, there have been nearly 3,600 total collisions along Rainier Ave S.” As population grows, safety along Rainier Avenue is becoming more jeopardized. It’s an issue that impacts drivers as well as pedestrians.

On Aug. 9, two 10-year-old girls were hit by a car and seriously injured at the intersection of Rainier Avenue South and South Henderson Street. This example adds on to the list of the nearly incessant incidents along Rainier Avenue South throughout the years. As a result, the city is strengthening a strategy to repel this deadly trend.

On August 18th, board members of the Seattle Pedestrian Advisory Board and Rainier Beach Action Coalition, organizers, politicians, and local residents met on the corner of Rainier and Henderson, where the tragedy had occurred fewer than 10 days earlier. They carried signs that read “Safe Streets Now” and “Stop For Pedestrians.”

Henderson Safety
A community member supports safety measures along Rainier Avenue South. (Photo: Leija Farr)

Mayor Jenny Durkan passed through the community gathering with a few words to say about the status of the plan.

“We’re working to do everything to make this intersection safer,” Durkan said. “We will make sure that as a we grow as a city, no parts of the city are left behind.”

The city is implementing a number of improvements, including wider sidewalks, camera enforcement and longer pedestrian signals, so that pedestrians will have a head start at crossing before cars are able to turn. Others plans include a business access and transit (BAT) lane, a lane specifically for buses and for people to drive into nearby businesses that will begin construction in 2019.

Some residents in the area say that this plan has come to fruition later than it should’ve.

Mahogany Villars, a South Seattle resident for a few years now, takes offense to how long it took for the city to take action.

“Why now, when we are being priced out if the area?” Villars inquired, adding that she appreciates Durkan acknowledging the neighborhood has been overlooked. She also hopes that people in power will truly enforce their privilege on the safety of this community.

As people gathered for the rally and discussion, a car nearly struck an elderly man crossing the street. An eerie omen, it reminded everyone attending why action is so important in increased security for all who pass along Rainier Avenue.

Featured Image: A Google Map showing the intersection of Rainier Avenue South and South Henderson Street.