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City of Seattle Breaks Ground on Martin Luther King Jr. Way S Safety Project

Sam Smith Park, Seattle Department of Transportation, Martin Luther King Jr. Way S Safety Project, MLK Jr. Way S Safety Project, Franklin High School, Washington State Department of Transportation, Puget Sound Regional Council, Seattle, Puget Sound, Sound Transit, Cascade Bicycle Club

SEATTLE – Today, Mayor Bruce Harrell joined city leaders, partners, and community advocates at Sam Smith Park to break ground on the Seattle Department of Transportation’s (SDOT) Martin Luther King (MLK) Jr. Way S Safety Project. This Vision Zero project restripes portions of the street to help calm speeding, adds ADA curb ramps, upgrades a signal near Franklin High School, and installs a protected bike lane.

This project is funded in part by the Levy to Move Seattle with significant support from the federal government, Washington State Department of Transportation, and the Puget Sound Regional Council. Construction on the MLK Jr. Way S Safety Project is expected to be completed by late 2024.

“As we continue to design and deliver transformative investments to strengthen Seattle’s transportation system, safety is our top priority,” said Mayor Harrell. “Informed by the community and with critical help from local, state, and federal partners, we are continuing to deliver on our One Seattle commitment to create a transportation system where every person can travel safely – no matter how they get around. This thoughtful plan and targeted investment will increase safety for everyone who uses Martin Luther King Jr. Way S.”

The MLK Jr. Way S Safety Project will add wider sidewalks and crosswalks, ADA improvements, a mile of concrete protected bike lanes, upgraded crossings, and vehicle lane reductions. These improvements aim to calm traffic and prioritize safe walking and rolling in this high-injury corridor, and are guided by our Vision Zero Top to Bottom Review and the USDOT’s Safe System Approach to help us achieve our commitment to ending traffic deaths and serious injuries on Seattle streets.

MLK Jr. Way is currently a high traffic, multi-lane arterial in South Seattle and part of our city’s high-injury network. According to data analysis from our Vision Zero Top to Bottom Review:

  • 93% of pedestrian fatalities in Seattle occur on arterials.
  • 74% of pedestrian fatalities in Seattle occur on arterials with more than one lane in each direction.
  • 80% of people killed while biking in Seattle were biking where no biking facility was available.

The MLK Jr. Way S Safety Project aims to improve safety, accessibility, and access to transit and local destinations for people walking, rolling, and biking between Mount Baker Station and the future Judkins Park Station north of I-90. The project is funded through a combination of the Vision Zero program, the Bicycle Master Plan, the Accessible Mount Baker Project, the Connecting Washington Grant, federal grants, and the 9-year Levy to Move Seattle.

Conclusion of construction in 2024 will result in the following improvements:

  • One lane in each direction with a center turn lane between S Holgate St and S McClellan St, instead of two travel lanes in each direction. Reducing travel lanes to two-way is a NACTO-recommended tool for encouraging drivers to drive the posted speed limit.
  • Wider sidewalks and crosswalks to better separate pedestrians from traffic and encourage walking.
  • New crosswalks at the south and east crossings of MLK Jr Way S & Rainier Ave S, and at the south crossing of MLK Jr Way S & S Bayview St.
  • One mile of concrete-protected bike lanes connecting people to destinations like I-90 Trail, Rainier Valley Neighborhood Greenway, Franklin High School, Mount Baker Transit Center, and the Mount Baker and future Judkins Park Link light rail stations.
  • Bike detection at the following intersections of MLK Jr Way: S Judkins St, S Massachusetts St, S McClellan St, and Rainier Ave S.
  • Adding or upgrading 30 curb ramps throughout the project area to meet the most current ADA design recommendations.
  • Updated pedestrian walk signals between S Judkins St and Rainier Ave S. 
  • Some parking revisions and parking removal to support bike lane installation while maintaining access to local businesses.
  • A fresh coat of roadway paint to improve visibility and safety conditions for pedestrians, vehicles, and bicycles.


“Breaking ground on MLK is a great milestone- it’s the first of many bike safety projects SDOT will be constructing over the next two years in the South End. We are committed to creating safe, convenient, and enjoyable cycling routes across South Seattle in close collaboration with community.” – SDOT Director Greg Spotts

“Many people get around Seattle by bike, for recreation or commuting, and the number of cyclists is growing along with the city. The number of people who bike to work climbed nearly 20 percent last year. The new protected bike lanes along Martin Luther King Jr. Way will help them all ride safely. I was glad to support increased federal funding for local governments in the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, to make important safety projects like this possible and save lives.” – Senator Maria Cantwell

“The MLK Jr. Way Safety Project will make our transportation system in Seattle more safe, efficient, and reliable. The improvements made to this notoriously busy and dangerous corridor will reduce speeding and collisions to improve safety for people in the neighborhood. The MLK Jr. Way Safety Project also plays an important part in building a more sustainable and interconnected transportation system by improving crosswalks, sidewalks, and bike lanes and creating connections to other important destinations in the region. Today’s groundbreaking is another exciting example of the investments being made in Washington and across the country to upgrade and modernize our transportation and infrastructure to build stronger, more resilient communities.” – Representative Adam Smith (WA-09)

“Today’s groundbreaking is coming at the conclusion of the 3rd annual National Week Without Driving challenge and there could hardly be a better time to celebrate this new mile-long protected bike lane. This investment will create a safer, more accessible, more direct connection to the new Judkins Park Light Rail Station opening for this community in 2025 as part of Sound Transit’s new 2 Line to the east side.” – Julie Timm, Sound Transit CEO

“Cascade is excited to see this investment in South Seattle. This new bike connection will open the doors for youth to safely travel around, explore, and experience their communities and the city.” – Lee Lambert, Cascade Bicycle Club