SEATTLE - Capitol Hill’s iconic rainbow crosswalks, which have been a symbol of community pride since 2015, could be unsafe for pedestrians, according to the Federal Highway Administration and U.S. Department of Transportation. According to Seattle’s Department of Transportation’s top traffic engineer, the crosswalks are statistically far safer than the ones mandated by the federal government.
“We made them very vibrant so you can't miss that they're crosswalks,” said engineer Dongho Chang, who cited a three year SDOT study looking at pedestrian safety before and after the colorful crosswalks.
SDOT called their safety performance "phenomenal."
“For these locations, we're seeing a reduction in pedestrian collisions to the point that they're not really happening,'' he said.
The NHA told Seattle if the city asked for federal funds for roads involving the crosswalks, SDOT would have to remove them. “Any intersection where multi-colored crosswalks have been installed, the markings would have to be replaced,” NHA’s letter the city said.
KIRO-7 learned weeks after eleven of the multicolored crosswalks were installed in Seattle's Capitol Hill neighborhood, Seattle’s Department of Transportation received a letter from the Federal Highway Administration warning the crosswalks would have to be restored to federal guidelines if Seattle asked for federal funds for programs involving those specific streets. “The use of crosswalk art is actually contrary to the goal of increased safety,” the letter said, adding: “It could most likely be a contributing factor to a false sense of security for both motorists and pedestrians."
Similar crosswalks were painted in Ames, Iowa, in September of this year, but a week after a ribbon-cutting ceremony was held, The New York Times reports the Iowa city received a letter from the government saying the intersection was a safety concern.
In its letter to Ames, the FHA made a "request" that the crosswalks be removed.
The New York Times reports the highway administration said that crosswalk art "diminishes the contrast between the white lines and the pavement, potentially decreasing the effectiveness of the crosswalk markings and the safety of pedestrian traffic."
However, according to the Times, the Ames City Council voted unanimously to ignore the letter.
"(The letter) informed us that in the future, if we applied for federal funding at an intersection with a multicolored crosswalk they would ask us to remove the markings and replace them with a standard crosswalk marking," Ethan Bergeson, of SDOT, told KIRO-TV.
Bergeson went on to say that so far, none of the 41 artistic crosswalks in Seattle have been affected.
Eleven rainbow crosswalks were installed in Capitol Hill before Pride week in 2015 – costing $66,000.
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