By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor
A show-stopper-of-sorts statement from SDOT was part of last night’s Southwest District Council meeting:
SWDC co-chair David Whiting of the Admiral Neighborhood Association led the meeting, which featured multiple meaty topics despite the day-after-holiday scheduling.
AVALON PAVING PROJECT: Dan Anderson and project manager Luke Peters of SDOT came to speak to the group about the repaving and rechannelization project, one month after Avalon entrepreneur John Bennett brought merchants’ concerns to the SWDC, which agreed to support them (WSB coverage here).
“We were tasked with managing a paving project,” Anderson began, “(but) you’ll notice that a lot we’re talking about is not just paving – we’re trying to implement the city’s master plans for the different modes. … So when we come out and repave we want to put out the striping .. that meet the city’s long-term goals.”
(Displays from Avalon project “open house” in May, starting with the current proposed alternatives for lane reconfiguration)
That includes sustainability and congestion-reduction goals, “to move as many people as sustainably as possible,” including “increasing the number of people who walk and bike.” Protected bike lanes help toward that goal, Anderson said, and that’s why they’re in the Avalon proposal. Right now, the non-protected uphill bike lane that’s the only one currently on Avalon is considered a “door-zone lane,” posing various dangers to riders. That “doesn’t encourage the kind of all-ages-and-abilities network” that the city wants to encourage. “We want everyone to feel comfortable biking and walking in Seattle.”
The space to add the protected bike lanes comes from the center turn lanes, Anderson acknowledged. The existence of that lane currently facilitates “high speeds” on Avalon, he added.
Then he addressed the downhill transit lane, and concerns about how it’s used. They want to be sure it’s kept, Anderson said, with improvements. “The major tradeoff that’s brought the most concern from people we’ve talked to is the stretch with no center turn lane …. and that’s where we propose eliminating on-street parking … basically, Yancy to Bradford.” The city calculates 23 spaces will be removed, on the east side of the street.” (Bennett calculates it at up to 30.)
Whiting wondered if there was a way to have a two-way protected lane on one side of Avalon. Peters said that two one-way protected lanes are considered to be better. “We would have to signalize all the intersections,” among other things, “which increases the costs a lot,” he said, and he’s not sure that would “preserve the parking” anyway.
Anderson picked it up. “What we heard is concern about the loss of parking, specifically for customers of the Luna Park merchants … we also heard that people are really excited about having a better bike connection to the Alki Bike trail, the low bridge, the Luna Park businesses … and people are concerned about speeding … People also recognize that this street is in need of repair. We think our current proposal can address (most of that)” but they acknowledge that the loss of parking is a major concern. “And we want to know more about those concerns,” said Anderson.
Peters referred to the letter of concern sent by SWDC. The uphill protected bike lane is considered most important, for example. “There is space to do that and make no improvement to the downhill configuration,” he acknowledged. “We could do that for just the southern section,” from Yancy north, “and we could have a protected bike lane from 35th to Yancy and just remove the center turn lane in that section.” He said they’re talking with advocacy groups including West Seattle Bike Connections and the city Bicycle Advisory Board, and will “circle back with the Luna Park merchants.”
Anderson said that if the WS Greenway and fauntleroy Boulevard project get built too, this would all comprise “a pretty amazing connection,” all the way to the East Marginal Way project and the Seattle Waterfront project, with a protected bike lane all the way from the West Seattle Junction to Ballard.
But, he said, “we don’t do public outreach (in order) to do projects that people don’t want to have done … if people hate what we’re proposing and think it’s going to result in a losing project,” SDOT could focus its efforts elsewhere, and drop the plan for the downhill protected bike lane.
Whiting all but stopped down the meeting to urge that everyone “savor that comment” about the purpose of outreach.
Bennett, who was back at the SWDC meeting for this item, said he is a bicycle rider (as is Whiting), and “you have to take the lane” when you’re headed downhill, “which is why we think we don’t need that protected bike lane” north of Yancy; taking that out would mean businesses wouldn’t lose access to those street parking spaces. Bennett said online reviews of his restaurant tend to say “we love Luna Park Café but good luck finding a parking space.” Peters noted that no parking would be removed, even in the full two-protected-bike-lane plan, on the west side of the street, which is the side where the café and other businesses including Avalon Glassworks and The Shack are located.
Parking studies, Anderson said, showed the spaces in question only utilized around 70 percent. “Then you came at the wrong times,” Bennett countered. “We did come out multiple times,” said Anderson. “We don’t think the original proposal would kill the businesses – we want to keep businesses vibrant … I think it’s really exciting to think about how many people could be biking to and from destinations all over, including Luna Park merchants.” But, he reiterated, they do take the concerns seriously, and will consider “the data, the plans, and people who live and work in the areas.”
Bennett noted that his restaurant – which specializes in breakfast – and the coffee shop “survived” the 6-10 am loss of parking, yielded to the transit lane across the street, but “I guarantee you … if we lose 23 to 30 parking spots, it’s going to put a huge hurt.” He mentioned businesses such as the veterinary clinic – difficult to take your pet on a bike, he said – and salon – you don’t often wear a bike helmet to the hairdresser – and the fact that he continues to see most bicycle riders turn onto Yancy rather than continuing down on Avalon.
SWDC member Tamsen Spengler from the West Seattle Timebank also noted that the left-turn lane will affect people turning – others will be stopped behind you – and deliveries. “And there’s no crosswalk.”
Anderson noted that the redesign of the street will include looking at where to put in crosswalks.
Next steps: After more outreach, they’ll have a “final concept” this fall, and then work toward 10 percent design at year’s end. Construction is still expected to start in 2019.
Also last night:
ABOUT THAT PORT TRUCK TRAFFIC… Zachary Thomas talked about the factors resulting in the port-truck troubles, especially along East Marginal Way, centered on the Northwest Seaport Alliance‘s “pretty big shift of cargo from the south [Tacoma] to the north [Seattle]” – specifically, T-18, which in turn shifted some business elsewhere.
Thomas said it was a 50 percent volume increase for T-18, which is operated by SSA. They brought in more equipment, hired more people, added more hours, but “those improvement measures take time” – the alliance changes were immediate, but catching up took a month or so.
T-18 did 20,000 vessel lifts in a week – double the usual volume – at the peak of all this, Thomas said. “A terminal’s going to struggle for that, it’s like a building designed for 50 people and 100 people show up.” Schedules have since “normalized,” with ships “showing up when they are supposed to,” back to 10,000 or 11,000 lifts a week, working almost nonstop with the machinery needed to “get trucks serviced.” There’s a free, available-to-all app called Dray Q to see what’s happening at the ports, via Bluetooth signatures from the trucks, to “tell you how they’re doing” regarding “turn times” – which were at one point up to 4 hours, but should be 1 hour. That’s a key performance indicator, he said – if they’re at an hour, there’s little or no congestion on the street. “What I hope people see down there around T-18, T-46, T-30, that there has been an improvement … we’ll continue to work with them.” They’ve also opened gates weekends and overnights when needed to reduce.
Asked about trucks idling while waiting to get into the port, Thomas said some terminals are opening gates early so trucks can get in and wait off the street until processing begins.
Whiting asked about what’s going on when ships are at anchor, such as the Cosco container vessel that’s been out in Elliott Bay, off West Seattle. Ships doing that are burning “ultra-low-sulfur diesel,” he was told.
Also from the port/NWSA:
TERMINAL 5 MODERNIZATION UPDATE: Asked about this, the port reps said they’re not at the stage of negotiating with potential tenants yet – just “some very preliminary discussions” with potential tenants. Would they start construction on the expansion without a tenant? Port of Seattle spokesperson Mick Shultz said he didn’t think so. Area resident Jim Wojciechowski brought up the issue of shore power. Port/NWSA reps said the city approved a goal of at least 30 percent shore power equivalence for the first 10 years and that’s still what they have on the books. The full plan would be in place before a certificate of occupancy was granted. With China taking a more-active interest in reducing greenhouse-gas emissions, he said, they’re hopeful that will force the issue globally.
Are there plans for shore power at the other terminals? Shultz said “that’s the direction (in which the commission) want to move,” but no “specific plans right now.”
“It’s all part of one big picture,” SWDC board member Vicki Schmitz Block of the Fauntleroy Community Association said, adding that she’d love to see Washington State Ferries move in that direction too.
NOISE STUDY: Jesse Robbins discussed this in detail at the most recent Alki Community Council meeting – so please see our coverage there, which includes links to results of noise surveys. His project targets vehicle noise from vehicles’ (particularly motorcycles’) loud/unmuffled exhaust, which he says is illegal, though police departments are “ill-equipped to enforce that law.” People want them to issue tickets, they would like to issue tickets, but the law is “weird,” so a technological solution is needed, Robbins contends. They are working with the Alki CC on a pilot project later this summer before escalating it upward, potentially even to the City Council this fall. He said he’s still not willing to discuss the technology publicly – he and his co-founder are working on finalizing a patent, for example.
ANNOUNCEMENTS … made at the start of the meeting:
WEST SEATTLE GRAND PARADE: Co-coordinator Jim Edwards visited the meeting to make sure everyone knows this year’s West Seattle Grand Parade is coming up at 11 am Saturday, July 22nd, following the 6th annual Float Dodger 5K. The West Seattle Rotary Club Service Foundation presents the parade, and he said there are lots of applications in already for participation.
WEST SEATTLE BIG BAND CONCERT IN THE PARK: Jim also leads the West Seattle Big Band, and its free Concert in the Park is coming up at 7 pm Tuesday, July 18th, on the east lawn at Hiawatha Community Center. This year, it has new co-sponsors, including WSB.
WEST SEATTLE SUMMER FEST: Lora Swift from the WS Junction Association reminded everyone that (as reported here on WSB earlier) Summer Fest Eve is Thursday, July 13rd, and you’ll find entertainment in the street as well as WS Art Walk venues – then the three-day festival is Friday, July 14th through Sunday July 16th. New this year, a “fully activated kid zone” thanks to a $5,000 city grant. “Lots of fun stuff to do for kids and adults!” she promised. (WSB is a festival co-sponsor too and will again be reporting live from the Info Booth throughout the festival)
MORGAN COMMUNITY ASSOCIATION … has its next quarterly meeting at 7 pm July 19th (The Kenney).
FAUNTLEROY COMMUNITY ASSOCIATION … will meet on July 11th (7 pm, Fauntleroy Schoolhouse) as usual.
ADMIRAL NEIGHBORHOOD ASSOCIATION … is presenting the free Summer Concerts at Hiawatha series starting Thursday night, July 20th, 6:30 pm at Hiawatha; still awaiting the final lineup.
Southwest District Council won’t meet in August, so the next meeting will be 6:30 pm Wednesday, September 6th. Topics will include future leadership, as the SWDC’s current board members all are in their third terms.