road diet1.jpg
Since Mayor Mike McGinn started pushing "road diets," they have generated controversy , especially among people who see them as a blatant anti-car maneuver and

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Road Diet's Latest Critics: South Seattle Residents Worried Police Cars Will Slow Down

road diet1.jpg
Since Mayor Mike McGinn started pushing "road diets," they have generated controversy, especially among people who see them as a blatant anti-car maneuver and sop to the spandex crowd. Now a South Seattle group has a new complaint. It fears a planned road diet will endanger public safety.

The road diet will remove a car lane and add bike lanes for some seven blocks along Othello and S. Myrtle streets, including right in front of the Seattle Police Department's South Precinct.

Seattle Department of Transportation's Therese Casper says the restructuring--part of a larger, $725,000 project that will add a variety of road improvements--is intended to improve safety. Documented speeds on that stretch of roadway average 10 miles above the 30 mile-per-hour limit. There were 112 collisions between 2008 and 2010, according to SDOT figures.

But Pat Murakami, president of the Southeast Crime Prevention Council, worries that the road diet "will slow down police response time--which is already slow."

Not only might the South Precinct's officers get stuck on their own block, Murakami says, but they will have a harder time reaching other parts of their territory.

"Look at a map," she urges. There are very few arterials that run east-west, as does Othello and S. Myrtle (one road turns into the other a few blocks west of Martin Luther King Way), she points out. And she says it's a problem compounded by light rail, which bisects the few east-west routes there are.

The concern is heightened by a recent crime spurt in South Seattle, which has seen a spate of muggings and assaults, including one leading to the death of gay Filipino hairdresser Danny Vegas.

South Precinct Captain Mike Nolan says he expressed concern about the road diet too--initially. The city drew up plans for the project before he arrived at the South Precinct last year. "It was news to me until about a month ago," he tells Seattle Weekly.

Since then, SDOT officials came down to the precinct for a meeting and showed him their maps. He says he saw that although there will only be one car lane in each direction, there will be a center turn lane over much of the road diet that he believes will allow his cars some wiggle room.

There will not, however, be a turn lane on the precinct's own, narrower block. But Nolan says the block is not that busy and on the rare occasions that it is, his officers can use a bike lane to pass.

"I gave it my blessing," the captain says of the project. "If it is problematic, know this: I will be going back to SDOT and requesting that something be done."

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