Seattle’s Mercer Mess – and How to Fix It

Those that live in Seattle know that Mercer street has sucked for 40 years.

Over the past couple years, there has been an extensive effort to make Mercer better – and the street and surroundings have improved markedly … but …

Rush hour traffic, especially east-bound evening traffic, continues to suck and is actually considerably worse than ever.  This is not entirely the fault of the new design of Mercer.  This one lies entirely on humans, the traffic control officers employed by Amazon around the side streets of Mercer.

Seattle allows off-duty SPD to be employed by businesses to help their employees get out of parking garages and onto city streets.  They do this by stopping traffic on city streets.

Amazon has recently moved many of their offices to the new and revitalized South Lake Union area and employs a half-dozen or so off-duty SPD officers to direct traffic around the small side streets off Mercer.

This all comes to a head at Boren @ Mercer.

At Boren, there is an SPD officer who routinely stops all three lanes of eastbound Mercer to allow the 20 or so cars out of Boren and onto Mercer.  The officer tends to do this when the light at Mercer and Fairview is green.  So at a time when three lanes of incredibly backed up traffic, numbering hundreds of cars, should actually be moving – they are not.  And a domino effect occurs with all the blocks of Mercer heading west being full of cars, and the net result is one or two cars are able to advance a block.  And this leads to the 45 minute traffic time from lower Queen Anne to I-5.

I have attempted to call SPD, SDOT and the Mercer project and everyone is punting on this problem.  So since I can’t get anyone to acknowledge this problem, I am posting my current route to I-5 to try to exacerbate this problem and get some resolution.  My route is traced on the map below.

What should be done:

1. Close off Boren @ Mercer from 4-7pm weekdays.  Force South Lake Union (SLU) workers to make there way to Westlake or Fairview (when it opens) and then onto Mercer.

2. Eliminate left turns (east and westbound) from Mercer during morning and afternoon commute times (also after Fairview re-opens). I honestly don’t understand why these left turn lanes were designed at all.  They force 6 way stoplights further defeating any traffic flow on Mercer.

Below is my new rush hour route.  Staying in the right lane Mercer and doing the jog down 9th then Republican then Boren takes 2-5 minutes from lower Queen Anne. Staying in the middle or left lanes on Mercer all the way takes anywhere from 25-45 minutes.

View Route from lower Queen Anne to I-5 in a larger map