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LEVY DOLLARS AT WORK! Try out the new protected bike lanes on the Jose Rizal Bridge!

Image courtesy of Seattle Municipal Archives Digital Collection 77699

Last month we added new protected bike lanes to the Jose Rizal Bridge as part of our 12th Ave S Vision Zero safety project! This work is funded by your tax dollars through the Levy to Move Seattle

You may not know it by name, but you’ve likely seen the iconic Jose Rizal Bridge that connects Chinatown International District to Beacon Hill. (And even if you haven’t seen the bridge, you’ve definitely seen photos of Seattle taken from the bridge.)  

Originally built in 1911, the Jose Rizal Bridge, formerly known as the 12th Ave S Bridge, is Seattle’s oldest steel bridge. It connects the Little Saigon neighborhood of the International District to Beacon Hill over a manmade ravine that is now Dearborn St. Yep, you read the correctly – that ravine is manmade! Before white settlers in late 1800’s/early 1900’s started regrading the Seattle landscape, there was a continuous ridge between Capitol Hill, First Hill, and Beacon Hill. The dirt that was removed from this ravine was used to fill tidal flats in what is now SODO. The ravine they created was so vast, they needed to build a bridge to connect 12th Ave S from one side to the other.

Dearborn St regrade looking west from 13th Ave. Image courtesy of the Seattle Municipal Archives Item 6070, Engineering Department Photographic Negatives (Record Series 2613-07)

Over the past century, the bridge has had various upgrades – including swapping out the original timber approaches with concrete in the 1920’s and changes in the 1960s to accommodate the I-90 and I-5 interchange.  

Last month we completed the latest upgrade to the bridge: we rechannelized the roadway.

Don’t worry, no dirt was displaced when we rechannelized the roadway. Instead, rechannelizing refers to changing the lanes on the roadway.

Just north of the bridge, on 12th Ave S, we added a northbound protected left turn at S Weller St to increase safety at the intersection. To accommodate the new turn lane, we reduced the number of travel lanes from four to two. This change also allowed us to add new protected bike lanes on 12th Ave S from S Charles St to King Street – including across the Jose Rizal Bridge.

The new protected bike lanes on the bridge are marked and open to people on bikes. Later this year, when the weather is warmer and drier, we will install tuff posts. 

New northbound protected bike lanes on the Jose Rizal Bridge as part of our 12th Ave S Vision Zero safety project.

The updates to the Jose Rizal Bridge are part of our 12th Ave Vision Zero project

Funded by your tax dollars through the Levy to Move Seattle, this project aims to reduce vehicular speed on 12th Ave S and reduce crashes that injure people walking, rolling, and biking. 

Between 2009 and 2019, there were a total of 171 reported collisions on the 12th Ave S corridor between S King St (a street a few blocks north of the bridge) and S Charles St (the street south of the bridge)! 

34 collisions were where 12th Ave S intersects with S King St, S Weller St, or S Charles St and involved a person walking, rolling, or biking. In each of those cases, the pedestrian or biker had the right of way and were hit by a moving vehicle! The new northbound protected left turn at S Weller St and other intersection improvements aim to reduce crashes that injure people walking, rolling and biking. 

In addition to providing a separate lane for people to ride bikes in, the new protected bike lanes on the Jose Rizal Bridge should encourage drivers to slow down and drive the posted 25 MPH speed limit.  

Narrowing streets is a common traffic calming measure that has been shown to reduce speeds.   

Prior to the new protect bike lanes, people riding bikes often didn’t feel safe riding on the road with vehicles traveling at such high speeds. Instead, many opted to ride on the sidewalks. Now, fewer people should ride on the sidewalks, keeping them more clear for pedestrians. Also, sidewalks feel much safer when there are bike lanes next to them – especially when the sidewalk is going across a tall bridge! 

New southbound protected bike lanes on the Jose Rizal Bridge as part of our 12th Ave S Vision Zero safety project.

The 12th Ave S protected bike lanes will create an all-ages-and-abilities bicycle connection between the S King St Neighborhood Greenway and the Mountains to Sound/I-90 Trail at S Charles St. 

This increases mobility through the city and adds safe connections for people traveling to Little Saigon, Chinatown International District, Capitol Hill, and Beacon Hill. We’re continuing to engage the community as we explore options to extend comfortable bike facilities south. 

New shared ramp for protected bike lane and bus stop just north of Jose Rizal Bridge.

12th Ave is also an important bus route.

Our project was able to design shared ramps for bus stops and bike lanes so that we could retain both northbound and southbound bus stops at S Weller St, as they were identified as priorities by the community. 

As part of the project design process, we conducted modeling to see what impact the proposed roadway changes may have on vehicular traffic based on pre-pandemic volume (2019). While the models showed slight delays for vehicular traffic on 12th Ave S during peak hours, especially when buses are loading/offloading passengers, the delays would not cause queuing passed the Jose Rizal Bridge for northbound vehicles nor would it impact streetcar operation on S Jackson St for southbound vehicles.  

The goal of the 12th Ave S Vision Zero project is to improve safety for all right-of-way users on and near 12th Ave S. The new improvements will further reduce speeds of vehicles, creating a safer and more comfortable experience for users of all ages and abilities. 

The entire 12th Ave S Vision Zero project construction is more than halfway complete.  

Read about other safety and transit improvements coming to the corridor in this blog post from last October.  Here are some bike improvements still to come along 12th Ave S: 

  • Southbound protected bike lane will be extended between S King St and S Weller St 
  • Posts will be added along the protected bike lanes 
  • Green bike lane markings will be added by driveways 
  • Biking improvements will be made at 12th Ave S and S King St to complete the S King St Neighborhood Greenway connection and to provide space for NB bicyclists to queue to make a left turn to head to downtown

Currently, construction is temporarily suspended in accordance with the Lunar New Year moratorium. We will resume work in early March and anticipate the project will be complete this summer.