Followup: Bridge backup from hour-and-a-half tow-truck wait = Case of ‘confusion’

November 21, 2014 at 10:51 am | In Transportation, West Seattle news | 16 Comments

10:51 AM: Remember last week’s high-bridge backup, involving a lane blocked by a crash-damaged car that didn’t get towed for an hour and a half?

(Our screengrab from just before the tow truck arrived – note the police car toward the right)
City Councilmember Tom Rasmussen has just published his tale of trying to sort out how that happened, and the bottom line is:

SPD told him they thought they are legally at the mercy of whatever the driver wanted to do about getting towed.

But – the City Attorney told Rasmussen – they weren’t.

So, Rasmussen writes, SPD Chief Kathleen O’Toole promises she will “have officers trained to eliminate the confusion.”

You can go here to read what he went through to find this out (including the behind-the-scenes timeline of last week’s incident, which largely matches what we had reported, including a mention at one point of a possible 2-hour tow-truck wait).

P.S. Rasmussen adds that an even-longer delay from earlier this year – remember the 4-mile, 5-hour Highway 99 closure in June? – will get a review in the council Transportation Committee, which he chairs, at 9:30 am December 5th, along with “SDOT and SPD’s new emergency incident response plan for these types of major closures.” (You can read the “after-action report” about that incident here.)

ADDED 10:39 PM: Councilmember Rasmussen shares this forwarded e-mail sent department-wide by Chief O’Toole tonight:

From: O’Toole, Kathleen
Sent: Friday, November 21, 2014 5:33 PM
Subject: Impeding Traffic

The ability to move vehicles and people about the city can be seriously impeded by a single blocking vehicle. During a recent incident on the West Seattle Bridge, traffic was unnecessarily delayed for hours pending the arrival of a tow truck. Officers should know that a vehicle may be impounded WITHOUT prior notice if “the vehicle is impeding or is likely to impede the normal flow of vehicular or pedestrian traffic.” (SMC 11.30.040) If an owner’s selected tow company is not able to respond in a timely manner, the officer should request an impound via Communications to have the impeding vehicle removed from the scene promptly.
(http://www.seattle.gov/police/publications/manual/06_120_impounding_Vehicles.html)

If disabled vehicles are not impeding the flow of pedestrian or vehicle traffic, owners may request tow companies of their choice.

Kathleen M. O’Toole
Chief of Police

Arbor Heights microsurfacing: Last call to tell SDOT what you think

November 16, 2014 at 7:29 pm | In Arbor Heights, Transportation, West Seattle news | 9 Comments

It’s been spotlighted on the SDOT website … it was brought up at this month’s Westwood-Roxhill-Arbor Heights Community Council meeting … and we’ve received a nudge from the city about it: If you have anything to say to the city about the microsurfacing work on Arbor Heights this past summer, please take a few minutes and answer this online survey – which also gets into the broader topic of microsurfacing vs. chip seal vs. full road replacement (and even sidewalks).

Of bridges, buses, and boulevards: West Seattle Transportation Coalition’s November toplines

November 12, 2014 at 10:22 pm | In Transportation, West Seattle news | 25 Comments

(Photo tweeted by @reeseryan at 7:39 am Wednesday)
By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor

Just hours before this morning’s “high bridge” mess – one immobile car blocking a lane for more than an hour and a half because a tow truck wasn’t quickly available – the West Seattle Transportation Coalition was talking about exactly that kind of scenario, and whether transportation authorities were ready for it.

WSTC is now pushing even harder for solutions, not just for that, but for the often-in-tandem situation of the “low bridge” shutting down to non-vessel traffic during commute hours – something Councilmember Tom Rasmussen confirms to WSB that he is now formally pursuing, for the third time.

But we’re getting ahead of ourselves:

Click to read the rest of Of bridges, buses, and boulevards: West Seattle Transportation Coalition’s November toplines…

First-ever ‘strategic plan’ in place, to steer King County Water Taxi service’s future

November 9, 2014 at 10:13 pm | In King County Water Taxi, Transportation, West Seattle news | 19 Comments

By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor

While Metro bus funding and Sound Transit light rail have held the spotlight here lately, plans are being shaped for another transportation service’s future: The King County Water Taxis.

They’re in the just-approved, first-ever “strategic plan” for the King County Ferry District, which operates Water Taxi service on the downtown/Vashon and downtown/West Seattle runs – read the final version here or below:

One of the first steps to be taken is to end the Ferry District’s existence as a separate entity. The County Council is scheduled to vote on “assuming governance” of the district during its 11 am meeting tomorrow, one week after, sitting as the Ferry District Board chaired by West Seattle’s Councilmember Joe McDermott, it approved the strategic plan.

Another big decision ahead: Funding, with the plan describing the service as “”currently financially unsustainable given annual revenue, service costs, and current and near-term capital improvement needs.”

Consolidating the district into county government will help, according to the plan, because it “will eliminate redundant functions of the District and County. Separate District contracts for Legal and Accounting services can be terminated and Ferry District staff will not be needed. The annual savings from consolidation can go directly to providing services.”

But that won’t cover the gap, the report suggests. From the plan, here’s a chart showing what’s happened:

Click to read the rest of First-ever ‘strategic plan’ in place, to steer King County Water Taxi service’s future…

Fauntleroy talks traffic. City reps listen. But did they hear?

November 7, 2014 at 7:02 pm | In Fauntleroy, Transportation, West Seattle news | 25 Comments

From last night’s traffic/transportation forum organized by the Fauntleroy Community Association: Residents voiced frustration at what they saw as a history of all talk/no action, leaving them bringing up the same problems year in, year out. So here’s what was talked about, in that context:

Click to read the rest of Fauntleroy talks traffic. City reps listen. But did they hear?…

Election 2014: Transit taxes passing – what will your money buy?

November 5, 2014 at 1:51 pm | In Transportation, West Seattle news, West Seattle politics | 36 Comments

(WSB photos by Torin Record-Sand)
West Seattle Metro riders will get more buses with the money from Transportation Benefit District Prop 1, which got 59 percent of the first round of the November 4th vote. That’s according to the “framework of an agreement on transit funding and service delivery between Seattle and King County,” as distributed at today’s post-election briefing downtown, with city and county leaders including Mayor Ed Murray, County Executive Dow Constantine, and City Councilmember Tom Rasmussen, plus local transit advocates. We recorded it all on video (added, 3:05 pm):

Here are the West Seattle highlights, as promised in a 2-page doc distributed today (see it here):

*A list of “neighborhoods that will get more buses” includes Admiral, Alaska Junction, Alki, Arbor Heights, Delridge, Fauntleroy, Gatewood, Morgan Junction, Pigeon Point, Roxhill, Westwood Village

*”More buses on … chronically overcrowded routes” including RapidRide C Line, starting next June

*”Revised schedules on … chronically unreliable” routes including RapidRide C Line, 21X, 21, 37, 55, 56, also to start next June

*”Better frequency with more trips per hour on at least 28 high-demand routes” including RapidRide C Line and 125; this is to be “phased in between June and September 2015″

Also promised: An “expanded network of frequent transit,” defined as every 15 minutes or better.

So how will you be sure you’re getting something for your money? Another handout sheet (see it here) promises:

The agreement will:

-Require robust ridership and performance data reporting by Metro
-Allow for regular financial reviews and independent third-party audits of Metro finances and performance data
-Reduce city responsibility for county administrative overhead
-Credit Seattle for higher farebox revenue roduced on city trolleybus routes
-Pay only the annual share of new buses required for increased service
-Protect against supplanting

Constantine reiterated at today’s event that the extra funding is only a “bridge” until the Legislature fixes transportation funding someday.

Transit advocates who were there included West Seattleite Marci Carpenter:

(By the way, we learned today that Carpenter is now the president of the National Federation of the Blind-Washington – congratulations!)

P.S. In case you forgot the details of Proposition 1, here’s the heart of it, from the ballot:

To fund transit service in Seattle, the Seattle Transportation Benefit District seeks voter approval to impose an annual vehicle-license fee up to an additional $60 per vehicle, with a $20 rebate for low-income individuals, and an additional sales-and-use tax of no more than 0.1%. Each would expire no later than December 31, 2020. Combined, they would raise approximately $45,000,000 annually.

After administrative costs, including the rebate program, revenue will be used to fund: (1) Metro Transit service hours on routes with more than 80% of their stops within Seattle, with funding first being used to preserve existing routes and prevent Metro’s proposed service cuts and restructures scheduled to start in February 2015; (2) up to $3,000,000 annually, to support regional transit service on bus routes that enter or terminate service within the City of Seattle; and (3) up to $2,000,000 annually, to improve and to support access to transit service for low-income transit riders.

Any remaining revenues may be used to address overcrowding, reliability, and service frequency within the City of Seattle. Revenues will not supplant other funding for any routes partially or completely operating within Seattle that Metro would otherwise provide in accordance with the adopted Metro Transit Service Guidelines. More about this proposal can be found at: http://www.seattle.gov/stbd/documents/resolution_12_s.pdf

Highway 99 tunnel: Digging resumes at ‘rescue’ pit site

November 3, 2014 at 2:40 pm | In Alaskan Way Viaduct, Transportation, West Seattle news | 3 Comments

2:40 PM: A week and a half after the discovery of shells stopped excavation at the Alaskan Way Viaduct-side pit where the tunneling machine’s damaged cutter head will be pulled out, the digging has resumed. So announced WSDOT this afternoon, saying archaeologists gave the tunnel contractor clearance on Sunday to get going again. According to the announcement, they “believe the shell deposits are the product of commercial shellfish activities carried out by early Seattleites around the turn of the 20th century.” Therefore, they weren’t believed to be “culturally or historically significant,” and work was allowed to resume.

3:37 PM: Any further delay for the timeline? we asked WSDOT spokesperson Laura Newborn. Her reply: “STP has not given WSDOT an updated timeline. As recently as last month, STP said it expected it would get the front end of the machine up and out of the ground sometime in December, and that it still expected repairs to be finished by the end of March.”

Sound Transit light rail for West Seattle? Constantine, McDermott announce they’ll seek to get WS into ST’s updated plan

October 30, 2014 at 3:47 pm | In Transportation, West Seattle news | 40 Comments

Will light rail for West Seattle be written into Sound Transit‘s forthcoming long-range-plan update? Two West Seattle-residing elected officials said at a ST board meeting today that they will support amending the plan to call for “high-capacity transit service” for WS in that update: County Executive Dow Constantine (who chairs the board) and County Councilmember Joe McDermott (who’s a board member). Here’s the news release:

King County Executive and Sound Transit Board Chair Dow Constantine and King County Council and Sound Transit Board member Joe McDermott today moved to add future high-capacity transit service to West Seattle and Burien to the Long-Range Plan now being prepared for Sound Transit.

Click to read the rest of Sound Transit light rail for West Seattle? Constantine, McDermott announce they’ll seek to get WS into ST’s updated plan…

West Seattle scene: 35th SW meeting, afternoon edition

October 28, 2014 at 6:02 pm | In Safety, Transportation, West Seattle news | Comments Off

The second of two meetings for the 35th Avenue SW Safety Project has wrapped up at Southwest Branch Library. We stopped by during the feedback session, post-presentation (if you missed the former, our report on the first meeting includes both video of the entire presentation plus the slide deck). SDOT’s project manager Jim Curtin says about 40 people attended – that’s what we counted at meeting #1 – but this group had some different interests, including parking. Listening to attendees who were invited to look at drawings of the road and write their thoughts next to specific areas, we heard continuing concerns that a “road diet” is in the cards. And again, Curtin said no plan’s been drawn up yet, but if a road diet is tried and doesn’t work – as happened in The Junction some years back – it can be undone by repainting the road.

WHAT’S NEXT: SDOT plans to continue “outreach” while creating design concepts, November through January; then in February (no specific dates announced yet) design alternatives will be unveiled and reviewed during another round of meetings. Questions or comments? jim.curtin@seattle.gov is the address to use.

West Seattle sinkhole followup: Sewer-line repair under way

October 28, 2014 at 12:40 pm | In Transportation, Utilities, West Seattle news | Comments Off

(WSB photo from Monday morning as SDOT arrived to block off the sinkhole site)
Following up on the sinkhole first reported here Monday morning, on 45th SW between Alaska and Edmunds west of The Junction: Seattle Public Utilities confirms a broken sewer line is to blame, and says repair work is under way, likely to continue a few days. Here’s the notice they’re distributing in the neighborhood today:

Neighbors pointed out that the area had been patched before, but suddenly yesterday morning, it turned into what the city calls a “void.”

Highway 99 tunnel-machine rescue pit digging on hold after 3 days

October 23, 2014 at 6:47 pm | In Alaskan Way Viaduct, Transportation, West Seattle news | 38 Comments


As reported here just three days ago, WSDOT announced digging had begun for the pit going down 120 feet to rescue the Highway 99 tunnel-machine cutter head. Tonight, WSDOT has announced the digging is on hold. Here’s the entire update:

On Oct. 23, WSDOT archaeologists monitoring the access pit excavation observed a deposit containing shell material that requires further evaluation and may indicate the presence of cultural materials. No artifacts or human remains were found. WSDOT has very strict protocols when archeological material is discovered and those protocols were followed today. Excavation activities in the access pit have stopped and we are now coordinating with the Federal Highway Administration and tribal governments, and the Washington State Department of Archeology and Historic Preservation to determine the next steps. As more information is available to share with the public, we will pass it along.

The image above is a screengrab from the project’s monitoring cameras, which are online “live” here.

1,065 crashes in 10 years on 3 miles of ‘I-35.’ Safety project begins, to create a ‘more forgiving’ street

October 23, 2014 at 3:45 am | In Safety, Transportation, West Seattle news | 62 Comments

By Tracy Record & Patrick Sand
West Seattle Blog co-publishers

(September 2006 reader photo, memorial at 35th/Graham)
Susanne Scaringi

Oswald Clement

Gregory Hampel

Andrew Seffernick

James St. Clair

Their names weren’t all spoken during Wednesday night’s launch meeting for the 35th SW Road Corridor Safety Project. But the knowledge that five crashes on “I-35″ had ended their lives – five deaths in seven years – hung heavy.

“There are so many reasons we want to eliminate these serious crashes,” said SDOT‘s Jim Curtin, opening the first “issue identification” meeting for the project, which he is managing. “… We want to create a street that’s more forgiving, so when people do make mistakes, the consequences aren’t so tragic.”

What began Wednesday night – 8 months after it was promised – is intended to result in changes and improvements within a year, along the three miles of 35th between Avalon and Roxbury – three miles that have seen 1,065 crashes in the past 10 years, Curtin said.

(May 2013 crash at 35th/Roxbury: WSB photo by Christopher Boffoli)
Distraction is blamed for about a third of the crashes. After that: Speeding, impairment, failure to grant right-of-way. Despite the absence of a major safety campaign, there has been progress.

willowspeed.jpg

(October 2008 speed sign at 35th/Willow, where recent studies showed the highest average speed)
The speed limit along the project area is 35 mph; studies from the past year show that speeds have “come down considerably since 2007,” Curtin said, but they are still over the limit. 85 percent of the traffic is going almost 41 mph at SW Willow, 38.5 mph at SW Brandon, 36.5 mph at SW Roxbury. At those speeds, “we’re rolling the dice .. pedestrians do not typically do well” if hit at those rates of speed.

Backing up: He began with a presentation; not recommendations or suggestions, but instead, the project’s goals and facts. We recorded those first 46 minutes on video, including some Q/A:

Below, you’ll see the slide deck Curtin walked through during that opening presentation:

(PDF version is here.)

Curtin stressed that 35th is “a neighborhood” – 488 parcels along the three-mile stretch in the project zone, 73 percent of them single-family homes, 11 percent apartments/condos/townhouses – so when there are crashes, they are virtually (and sometimes literally) “in people’s front yards”:

(January 2010 crash at 35th/Cloverdale – WSB reader photo by Bruce)
While he stressed repeatedly that “tonight, we’re not jumping into solutions at all,” it was clear that some are eager, even ravenous, for solutions. One man who said he’s had two cars “totaled, absolutely totaled” decried people who drive on 35th SW “as if it were the Indianapolis 500,” particularly in the years since it became the last north-south two-lanes-each-way road through the heart of West Seattle.

(Seen April 2010 at 35th/Webster, shared by MAS)
He continued, “If you put 35th on a road diet, you won’t need more people to enforce (the speed limit).” (He was challenged loudly by other attendees and Curtin had to put the brakes on what almost accelerated into a shout-down.)

The speed van and radar trailers are among the measures implemented since 2007 that have brought speeds down somewhat, “but there is still room for improvement,” Curtin declared. (Our archives include this long list of changes made as of a 2008 discussion (note that a road-diet study was mentioned then, six years ago).

Police enforcement has brought some progress over the years.

(WSB photo: April 2011 emphasis patrol on 35th)
Southwest Precinct commander Capt. Steve Wilske told attendees about an enforcement period in which SPD made contact with 200 drivers over four months, with 70 pulled over for “talking on a cell phone while driving,” 40 for speeding, and the other 90 for “various violations” (including other forms of distracted driving). He said they might be back on 35th, and they are hoping to “do the same thing … in different areas.” The overtime is covered by grants they seek.

In Q/A, Curtin and Wilske were asked how road design might affect the stated major causes of crashes, distraction and impairment. “The way we design our streets have a huge impact on how people behave on our streets,” Curtin replied. “We have great big wide streets,” and, for example, that encourages people to speed, he says. “That’s why in Seattle our neighborhood streets are designed to be 25 feet wide with parking on both sides,” very little room to speed.

One resident of 35th mentioned that other drivers “don’t like their momentum broken” by, for example, his necessary turns into his own driveway, or buses slowing/stopping to pick up people. He suggested it would be worse “with three lanes” – referring to widespread suspicion that a “road diet” (rechannelization) is already decided. “Nobody’s said anything about three lanes at this point,” said Curtin, reiterating that this is the discussion stage, not the design stage.

But the topic came up again and again, and Curtin mentioned something he’s said before – that while Seattle has “done more than 30 road diets,” usually preceded by “gloom and doom,” the latter does not come to pass. (Fauntleroy Way SW, rechannelized in 2009, is a frequent example.)

Another point he made: While every intersection is a legal crosswalk – and you’re required to stop – SDOT won’t mark them “on roads like 35th” unless there is a signal. If they “change things significantly on 35th,” that would allow more marked crossings, he noted.

Was there ever a traffic change that didn’t work out? Curtin was asked. He brought up California SW, “which we put on a road diet twice, in 1970s and 1990s,” and while, he said, it worked well along most of the stretch, it did not work in the heart of The Junction, so they reversed it. “And that’s the beauty of a road diet – it’s just paint,” so if it doesn’t work out, the road can be repainted.

That led to a question about the state of SW Alaska, westward from 35th. Curtin pointed out its status as a bus route – “every time a RapidRide bus passes you, that’s hundreds of people who would (otherwise) be in cars” – as some solace for traffic concerns.

After those 46 minutes of presentation plus Q/A, breakout conversations were offered for topics including a proposed neighborhood greenway on 34th SW, which will be studied, Curtin said, next year – and what Curtin acknowledged might be “difficult choices” involving hot topics such as parking and channelization.

The 40-plus people in attendance were invited to offer their thoughts at three tables – broken geographically into the north, central, and south sections of 35th. Notes were written on huge sheets of paper mapping section of I-35.

WHAT’S NEXT: Curtin couldn’t stress enough that this is the input phase – offer your comments and concerns now, before something is designed/proposed. Next big chance to do that is meeting #2, same format as this one, though Curtin promised “tweaks”: 3:30 pm next Tuesday (October 28th), 3:30-5 pm at Southwest Branch Library, which, unlike Wednesday night’s venue, is on 35th (at SW Henderson) … a spot where we’ve covered a few crashes in the past year alone, including this one exactly one year ago:

(WSB photo: October 2013 crash at 35th/Henderson)
In February of next year, SDOT expects to unveil and circulate “design alternatives,” with a decision to be made in spring. In the meantime, if you have something to say, say it, urges Curtin: “If anyone feels they’re not being heard at these meetings, send me an e-mail at any time (jim.curtin@seattle.gov) … I’d be happy to come out and walk the corridor with you … I’d be happy to meet with you whenever and wherever.”

What would YOU do to make 35th SW safer? Come tell SDOT Tuesday – or via the contact options here.

Tale of two pits: Highway 99 tunnel-machine rescue update; Murray CSO tank site overview

October 20, 2014 at 12:47 pm | In Transportation, Utilities, West Seattle news | 18 Comments

Whole lot of digging going on around the city these days. Two new views:

TUNNEL-MACHINE RESCUE: WSDOT says digging has officially begun for the pit they’ll use to pull up the Highway 99 tunnel machine’s cutting head for repairs – the photo is a screengrab from one of their live construction cameras. Tons of info in this update. The pit will be 120 feet deep, which is twice as big as the West Seattle pit we’re updating next:

OVERFLOW TANK PIT, HALFWAY THERE: Last Wednesday night, in our coverage of the Morgan Community Association‘s quarterly meeting, we reported the county’s update on the excavation by Lowman Beach: They’re halfway to what’s expected to be a 60-foot-deep pit for the million-gallon Murray Combined Sewer Overflow Control Project storage tank. (It’s known as Murray after the nearby street, which also is namesake for the pump station beneath the southeast side of Lowman Beach Park.) So we went over for a look (map). We’re also checking on whether the delayed start of the extra digging sessions on Saturdays means a delayed end date.

ADDED 3:28 PM: According to county Wastewater Treatment Division spokesperson Doug Marsano, “Crews are making good progress – they’re over 40 feet down now (about 2/3rds of the way) – but the rains forecasted for this week could hinder their progress. Currently, the project team expects to work 2 more Saturdays, extending into early November.”

Fauntleroy Community Association invites neighbors to talk with city leaders about transportation challenges

October 17, 2014 at 2:48 pm | In Fauntleroy, Transportation, West Seattle news | 1 Comment

Ongoing transportation/traffic concerns in Fauntleroy will get an airing in front of city reps including SDOT’s new director in three weeks: Thursday, November 6th, is the time/date just announced by the Fauntleroy Community Association for its long-in-the-works community conversation about issues from speeding to sidewalks to parking, and beyond. FCA president Mike Dey says SDOT director Scott Kubly, DPD director Diane Sugimura, Mayor Murray’s transportation adviser Andrew Glass Hastings, and City Council reps have all confirmed they’ll be there, 7 pm at The Hall at Fauntleroy.

Making 35th SW safer: SDOT adds second community meeting

October 17, 2014 at 10:22 am | In Safety, Transportation, West Seattle news | 13 Comments

(WSB photo from 2008: One of many safety rallies/demonstrations on ‘I-35′)
Just in from SDOT: Two meetings are now planned to kick off the 35th SW safety-improvement program. The 6:30-8 pm meeting next Wednesday (October 22nd) at Neighborhood House’s High Point Center was announced back in August; now, they’re adding a meeting on Tuesday, October 28th, 3:30-5 pm at Southwest Branch Library. Plans for the “multi-year” safety project were first announced back in February, after years of crashes and concerns along what’s been dubbed “I-35.”

Touring the Junction/Triangle ‘walkshed’: Proliferation of plans

October 16, 2014 at 12:51 pm | In Development, Transportation, West Seattle news | 10 Comments

By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor

Seattle Comprehensive Plan

West Seattle Junction Hub Neighborhood Plan

West Seattle Triangle Streetscape Concept Plan ..

Seattle Transit Master Plan

Seattle Bicycle Master Plan

Seattle Pedestrian Master Plan

Seattle Right of Way Improvements Manual

Seattle Pedestrian Retail Areas plan

Fauntleroy Boulevard plan

One thing was clear during last Saturday’s “walkshed” tour of the Junction/Triangle area, with Seattle Planning Commission reps listening to local community reps: There’s no shortage of plans and documents covering the area, but there’s a shortage of understanding in how they interact, interface, intersect, and what they mean.

The tour itself was linked to the Planning Commission’s ongoing work on the city Comprehensive Plan update, dubbed Seattle 2035. The next big milestone for that is the environmental-impact statement, expected to be out early next year. And this is no bureaucratic bit of wonkiness to ignore: As was pointed out at the start of Saturday’s event, this type of discussion preceded the 1990s-generated plan for “urban villages” including The Junction/Triangle – much of which is only now coming to pass, as was underscored by the current, future, and recent development sites passed (and often discussed) along the way.

But the topic wasn’t just the dense heart of the Junction/Triangle, but also its single-family zones – like a stretch of 40th south of Edmunds and the major project sites bordering it on the north.

For backstory on the tour, see our coverage of last month’s Junction Neighborhood Organization meeting (which included a slide deck setting the stage). To see what happened during the tour – read on:

Click to read the rest of Touring the Junction/Triangle ‘walkshed’: Proliferation of plans…

Update: West Seattle Transportation Coalition votes to endorse transit-funding measure, but no position on monorail

October 14, 2014 at 9:06 pm | In Transportation, West Seattle news, West Seattle politics | 11 Comments

Two toplines so far from tonight’s West Seattle Transportation Coalition meeting: WSTC voted to endorse the bus-funding measure on the November 4 ballot, officially Transportation Benefit District Proposition No. 1. And it voted NOT to endorse the monorail measure on the ballot, officially Seattle Citizen Petition No. 1. More to come.

ADDED WEDNESDAY MORNING: More toplines from the WSTC meeting:

Click to read the rest of Update: West Seattle Transportation Coalition votes to endorse transit-funding measure, but no position on monorail…

Followup: RapidRide on California in The Junction? 2 briefings

October 7, 2014 at 2:06 pm | In Transportation, West Seattle news | 17 Comments

Back in August, following up on a reader tip, we reported that SDOT is considering moving the RapidRide C Line route in The Junction onto California between Edmunds and Alaska. At the time, SDOT told us “outreach” was planned in the fall. Now that it’s fall, what’s the status? we asked SDOT’s Marybeth Turner, who replied:

SDOT staff is scheduled to meet with the West Seattle Junction Association on Oct. 22, and the SW District Council on Nov. 5 about California and Alaska, including the needs of cars, buses, and pedestrians.

In November they will mail information to some of the nearby businesses and residents, and talk in person to some of the businesses.

Turner says the recent re-sequencing of the California/Alaska signal (reported here Saturday) is NOT related to this – she describes that as having been done to improve “safety,” and is still working to get us more information from department engineers.

UPDATED P.S., CORRECTING MEETING INFO The aforementioned WSJA briefing is for the group’s membership (businesses in The Junction), but the Southwest District Council meeting is open to everyone, 6:30 pm Wednesday, November 5th, at the Senior Center of West Seattle (Oregon/California).

Seattle, Tacoma ports to ‘unify management’ with Seaport Alliance

October 7, 2014 at 12:07 pm | In Transportation, West Seattle news | 15 Comments

(Photo by Peter West Carey, shared via Twitter)
On Thursday, the West Seattle Chamber of Commerce hosts Port of Seattle co-president Stephanie Bowman at its monthly lunch meeting. Questions about the future of shuttered Terminal 5 were already expected – and now there’s something new: Today’s announcement that the Seattle and Tacoma ports are forming a “single Seaport Alliance.” Here’s the news release from the Port of Seattle:

The Seattle and Tacoma port commissions plan to unify the management of the two ports’ marine cargo terminals and related functions under a single Seaport Alliance in order to strengthen the Puget Sound gateway and attract more marine cargo for the region.

The Seaport Alliance will manage marine cargo terminal investments and operations, planning and marketing, while the individual port commissions will retain their existing governance structures and ownership of assets.

This unprecedented level of cooperation between the state’s two largest container ports is a strategic response to the competitive pressures that are reshaping the global shipping industry.

Click to read the rest of Seattle, Tacoma ports to ‘unify management’ with Seaport Alliance…

Reader report: New sequence at ‘Walk All Ways’ intersection

October 4, 2014 at 10:22 pm | In Transportation, West Seattle news | 24 Comments


(“Walk All Ways” signage in 1956; click image to see full-size Seattle Muni Archives photo)
It’s not often news when a traffic signal is tweaked. But in this case, we’ve now received several reader reports of a sequencing change at the most-famous intersection in West Seattle – and since tomorrow is usually its busiest day of the week, with Farmers’ Market shoppers and brunchgoers (among others), we’re sharing the FYI. First word came from Kathleen, who explained:

The sequence of red/ green lights and “walk” signs has changed sequence. I walk up to the Junction nearly every day and it has always been: green light going east on Alaska across Calif.: then green light going west; and then green light for the traffic going north/south on Calif; THEN the walk all 4 ways signal.

(Thursday) I couldn’t figure why so many cars were running through the intersection at the wrong times. I almost missed going across the street because I was waiting for the north/south traffic to go before me. It has been changed so the 4-way walk is now BEFORE north/ south cars can go. Confusing to anyone who has done it the old way forever!

We’ll be asking SDOT about this on Monday.

P.S. The history of “Walk All Ways” here is part of this HistoryLink.org essay about The Junction, which says it was installed in 1952, removed in 1974, brought back in 1988.

5 ‘most pressing transportation issues,’ as the West Seattle Transportation Coalition sees it, starting Year 2

September 28, 2014 at 10:01 pm | In Transportation, West Seattle news | 35 Comments

The West Seattle Transportation Coalition is about to start its second year. After one year of meetings, conversations, discussions, and outreach, WSTC has announced a list of “the five most pressing transportation issues for the West Seattle peninsula, which are within the power of the City of Seattle to directly address and resolve,” and sent a letter about them to city leaders.

First, the WSTC list:

#1

(WSB file screengrab of SDOT camera looking toward bridge’s offramp to 99)
Expand vehicle capacity from the West Seattle Bridge to SR-99.

#2

(Photo by Long B. Nguyen)
Develop a “West Seattle Peninsula” emergency relief plan.

#3

(WSB file photo of the sign that marked the former 4th Ave. onramp spot until 2008.)
Increase access to the westbound Spokane St. Viaduct from SODO.

#4

(City file photo of Lander tracks)
Complete the Lander Street Overpass.

#5

(December 2013: De-icer-slick, closed-to-traffic bridge; WSB photo by Christopher Boffoli)
Immediate mitigation of traffic events to West Seattle peninsula chokepoints.

WSTC says it has sent a letter outlining “… these issues, possible resolutions, and (calls) for action …” to Seattle Mayor Ed Murray, City Council President Tim Burgess, and City Council Transportation Committee Chair Tom Rasmussen. It asks for a response with the “plan of action” by January 9, 2015. You can read the letter on the WSTC website, or below:

Agree? Disagree? Get involved! The WSTC meets on second Tuesdays and invites all to its next meeting, October 14th, 6:30 pm, at Neighborhood House’s High Point Center.

SIDE NOTE: This will also be a busy season on some of the problems for which WSTC and local neighborhood councils already have pushed for action – next launch is the 35th Avenue SW Road Safety Corridor project, with a community meeting October 22nd.

Bus a no-show? Metro staff reductions leading to missed trips

September 23, 2014 at 9:45 pm | In Transportation, West Seattle news | 57 Comments

None of the Metro routes scheduled for service cuts or deletions starting this Saturday are in this area. But you might have experienced some related, if temporary, effects of Metro getting ready for reductions. WSB reader Holly did: “I thought I’d pass this along since I wasn’t aware it was happening, until it happened to me. The 56 bus route from Admiral didn’t come last week and this is the response I got from Metro – basically that routes here and there are being canceled due to driver shortages.” Ahead, the reply Holly received after e-mailing a comment to Metro, and the results of our followup:
Click to read the rest of Bus a no-show? Metro staff reductions leading to missed trips…

Miss the Fauntleroy (Way) Boulevard open house? Here’s what you missed, and what’s next

September 23, 2014 at 6:20 pm | In Transportation, Triangle, West Seattle news | 5 Comments

6:20 PM: As of 6 pm, midway through the two-hour SDOT open house for the Fauntleroy Way SW Boulevard project, about 45 people had dropped by. You still have until 7 pm to go to the Senior Center of West Seattle and get a closer look at the newest renderings for how this project would change Fauntleroy Way between SW Alaska and 35th SW (they’re also now available on the official webpage), with project manager Thérèse Casper and others standing by to answer your questions, as well as several ways to comment (from sticky notes to computer terminals).

The project is on its way to 60 percent design; if the $500,000 that’s in the mayor’s budget for the remaining 40 percent is approved, that will proceed, and then the city has to figure out how to pay to build the project’s features.

7:02 PM: Here are the renderings that were up on boards around the room at the meeting:

This is the official updated project info-sheet:

Something to say? Say it sooner rather than later – here’s one way to do that. Casper says they’re continuing to meet with local businesses and organizations and have already met with some businesses multiple times, to go over points of concern.

Ferry update: WSF down one boat, trying to catch up, on Fauntleroy-Vashon-Southworth route

September 20, 2014 at 9:15 pm | In Transportation, West Seattle news | 2 Comments

M/V Tillikum remains out of service on Washington State Ferries‘ Fauntleroy-Vashon-Southworth route, explained only as “due to operational constraints.” In the newest update, WSF says it’s adding more sailings on M/V Evergreen State to try to catch up. This all comes on the eve of WSF’s fall schedule taking effect tomorrow; no word yet on whether they’ll be back to 3 boats by then.

What’s along ‘Fauntleroy Boulevard’? Highlights of JuNO’s briefing, before you get a look at next Tuesday’s community open house

September 19, 2014 at 8:43 pm | In Transportation, Triangle, West Seattle news | 12 Comments

It’s been six years in the making, but the “Fauntleroy Boulevard” plan is still in the “early design” phase – which is why, if you are interested in the future of Fauntleroy Way between the bridge and SW Alaska, you’re going to want to go to next Tuesday’s community meeting.

SDOT’s Fauntleroy Boulevard Project manager Therese Casper and consultant Mike Hendrix (from Perteet) came to this week’s Junction Neighborhood Organization meeting for one last community-council-level briefing before that meeting, which, by the way, will be in open-house format, so don’t worry if you can’t get there right when it starts at 5 pm – drop in for a look at the plans any time before 7 pm.

We’ve written about it before – going back to 2008 – and Casper noted that its origins go back even further, to the West Seattle Junction Plan of 1999, and now the Bicycle Master Plan‘s goals have been folded in, designating this as an area for protected bicycle lanes, as well as the “community needs” in the Triangle Streetscape Plan, and enhancement of Fauntleroy Way’s role as a gateway to West Seattle.

The Fauntleroy Boulevard plan has reached 30 percent design, and has funding through 60 percent design. The city budget process that kicks into high gear next week, with Mayor Murray presenting his proposal on Monday afternoon, will determine what happens next – will there be money to finish the design and build the project?

Its typical cross-section is the same one we first showed in July: 6′ sidewalks, 6′ protected bike lanes (asphalt), landscape strip, outside lanes of roadway maintained at 12′ (to facilitate freight needs), 10′ travel lane inside, then middle turn lane OR planted median. You can see it and the block-by-block concept on this info-sheet, also from July:

Here’s the latest on some key points – with many more details promised at next Tuesday’s open house:

Click to read the rest of What’s along ‘Fauntleroy Boulevard’? Highlights of JuNO’s briefing, before you get a look at next Tuesday’s community open house…

TUNNEL TOUR: Follow along on an 8-flight descent into what’s already been dug

September 19, 2014 at 2:42 am | In Alaskan Way Viaduct, Transportation, West Seattle news | 35 Comments

(EDITOR’S NOTE: Even if you agree with the advocacy group that has declared the Highway 99 tunnel a “boondoggle,” nine months after its boring machine stalled, you might be interested in a look at what’s already been done and what’s continuing to progress even before the upcoming repairs. WSDOT invited media to tour the site Thursday, and photojournalist Christopher Boffoli went on behalf of WSB. Here are his photos and narrative of how it went.

Photos, video, and story by Christopher Boffoli
Reporting for West Seattle Blog

The meeting point for our tour was an entrance at the end of South King Street just under the Alaskan Way Viaduct. After being issued safety clothes (hard hat, safety glasses, gloves, and reflective vests) we were greeted by Chris Dixon, Project Manager for Seattle Tunnel Partners, who led our group of about 7 or 8 journalists over to one of the engineering and orientation trailers.

This was a small meeting room with a lot of colorful schematics and cross-section geologic diagrams on the walls:

Dixon explained that – while the Tunnel Boring Machine (TBM) is idle – work is advancing at both the north end of the site (where a cut and cover tunnel is being prepared in the area where the TBM will eventually emerge) and the south end of the site, near the stadiums, where the future roadways are being prepared.

There is also a great deal of activity inside the existing tunnel itself. On a whiteboard Dixon drew a cross-section of the tunnel and explained how crews are busy installing structures called corbels along the tunnel floor:

These concrete structures are essentially footings that will bear the weight of the straight interior tunnel walls and the concrete road decks (southbound traffic above and northbound traffic below) that vehicles will drive over.

He said that by the time the TBM resumes its digging, they expect to have 450 feet of the tunnel’s interior complete. Dixon said that this work was originally set to happen later but that they have reconfigured the schedule while work is underway to repair the TBM.

We were joined by Matt Preedy, Deputy Program Administrator, WSDOT (and a West Seattle resident).

All of the journalists were issued numbered brass tags which were recorded on a ledger and that we pinned to our vests. As we left the engineering trailer and entered the site, there were a number of large boards with numbered dots painted on them. Dixon and Preedy went to the boards and attached their own brass tags to them.

They didn’t take the time to explain, but those ‘pit tags’ (also called check tags) are a system employed for hundreds of years to keep track of who is working inside a mine, or in this case, a tunnel. One of the first things we saw (at ground level) were piles of curved, pre-cast concrete panels that are arranged in place behind the TBM.

Bolted together into rings, they form the very strong, outer tunnel walls. Their tight-fitting gaskets are designed to keep ground water at bay.

There are ten panels in each ring and there are to be 1,450 rings in the complete tunnel.

We walked out over a concrete gantry from which we could look down on the launch pit below. To the south were the almost completed roadways that someday would carry traffic in and out of the SR-99 tunnel:

Turning around, we could see the entirety of the launch pit and the tunnel entrance at the end of it.

We descended about eight flights of steep, metal stairs to the floor of the site.

Behind us (to the south) was a completed section of cut-and-cover tunnel, with its neat, square walls, unlike the circular structure of the bored tunnel that we were about to tour.

Construction material (mostly rebar) was everywhere:

Along the sides of the pit, workers were busy covering the walls with Spray-Crete, a light, liquid form of cement.

To our right we could see the below-ground part of what we were told would become the South Operation Building. Water also seemed to be ubiquitous, seeping in all over the walls of the site.

Dixon said that, though some of it might be from nearby Elliott Bay, most of it was fresh groundwater.

We descended a ladder to an even lower section of the launch pit, level with the bottom of the tunnel.

Walking inside the tunnel at last, we could see large red concrete forms and workers installing structural re-bar along the bottom sides of the tunnel.

This is the corbel work we were told about.

Beyond the equipment and activity near the entrance of the tunnel, it was only when you walked a bit further into the tunnel that could you appreciate the impressive size of the space.

It was here that you could also appreciate the intricate puzzle of curved concrete panels.

Overhead was a large yellow ventilation shaft that brings fresh air into the deepest part of the tunnel and that can be reversed in an emergency to pull smoke from a fire out of the tunnel. Also above was part of the long conveyor belt on which tailings and slurry are removed to awaiting barges. Dixon explained that, as the TBM advances, sections of conveyor belt are added.

By the end of the project, the belt will be as long as the tunnel itself.

Outside in the open pit we had seen piles of coiled belt sections waiting to be installed in the future.

The first part of the TBM you see is the white-painted, rear superstructure of the
300 foot long trailing section.

Massive wheels support the entire machine, which includes all of the systems of wires and pipes for power and to pump chemicals and grout towards the face of the TBM. As you move forward, you encounter the system that receives the curved panel sections, picks them up, orients them to the proper position and location for installation when they are needed.

Moving forward still, you approach the section of the TBM that is behind the cutting face.

Everything there seems covered with some form of water or mud. There are hazards to footing and low clearances, making it a challenge to decide if you should watch your head or where you step. Everything was lit with fluorescent tubes, giving it a bright – if slightly green – cast. As we arrived to the most recently-installed ring of curved concrete sections, at the very bottom, Dixon and Preedy showed us the enormous pistons that the TBM uses to push against the edge of the course of concrete rings to advance itself forward.

As politicized as the bored tunnel has been and continues to be in Seattle, I must say that standing in the bowels of the machine, it is difficult not to be in awe of the scale and size of the complex machinery, the intricate tapestry of conduits, hoses, pistons, motors, fittings and beams – the sheer audacity of the technology involved in pushing through the earth blindly at 100 feet below sea level.

It is a level of technological complexity that I have only before seen when watching a Ridley Scott film set inside of a spaceship. It did not seem like a place that a group of human beings should be standing. And it was even more incomprehensible that people had designed and built it.

We climbed narrow staircases through a maze of passageways to see where the muddy tailings from the cutting face begin their journey out of the tunnel.

On another level we visited the control room with the screens and consoles from which workers can manage and monitor all aspects of the TBM when it is in operation.

Dixon explained that the numbers we saw on the primary displays indicated just over two bars of pressure (regular atmospheric pressure is one bar; most commercial espresso makers operate at 10-15 bars of pressure). Even though the TBM was not running he said that the instruments generally don’t read much more than that. He added that – when in operation – the cutting face of the TBM isn’t even all that loud, though Preedy added that all of the motors that power the conveyor belts for the removal of tailings do make the back of the machine very noisy.

Though the TBM was idle, Dixon said that workers are kept busy “exercising” and maintaining many of the parts of the machine that might atrophy or otherwise fall into disrepair if left sitting for a long time. It wasn’t uncomfortably warm inside the heart of the machine, though Dixon said that when the TBM is in operation it does get quite hot down there as the heat of friction is transferred through the cutting face to the surrounding spaces. Heat played into what went wrong, and what’s being fixed, he explained:

Adjacent to the control room – still inside the heart of the TBM structure – was a break room that, with coffee maker, microwave oven, long lunch tables, etc. would look at home in any factory. It was hard to believe it was at the center of an incredibly complex machine deep underground.

Nearby we saw a collection of cutting heads, each weighing 1500 pounds, that could be attached to an overhead rail for transport to the front of the cutting face for replacement. Various cutting heads are used, depending on the soil conditions.

The “rippers” we saw are best suited for the type of loose glacial soils that are expected in this section of the project.

At the very front of the TBM we could see the large blue motors that individually power each of the cutting heads.

On the same level we could see the central drive shaft, painted light green. And to the sides were large pressure vessels through which men and equipment could safely transition to the pressurized area on the other side of the cutting face, if needed.

With our tour complete we walked back through the various stairways and passages, back down to the tunnel floor at the rear of the TBM’s trailing gear, and out the way we came.

The palms of my light-colored gloves – which had honestly seemed like overkill at the start of the tour – had somehow become darkened.

After we had climbed the fairly treacherous ladders and countless treads of metal stairways, we were led back to the engineering and orientation trailers where, one by one, we turned in our numbered brass tags and were signed out of the ledger.

What happens next in the repair process? Here’s the latest update on the project website. For more on the project’s status, here’s what our partners at The Seattle Times published post-tour.

Port possibilities, crosswalk concerns @ Delridge District Council

September 18, 2014 at 3:15 pm | In Delridge District Council, Transportation, West Seattle news | 4 Comments

(Terminal 5, photographed earlier this week by Don Brubeck)
A triple bill of transportation-related guests at last night’s Delridge Neighborhoods District Council meeting – Seattle Port Commissioner Courtney Gregoire, City Councilmember (chairing its Transportation Committee) Tom Rasmussen, and just-confirmed SDOT director Scott Kubly, who, in his third West Seattle appearance in two weeks, heard about safety concerns outside two local schools.

First: With the expanse of closed-and-idle Terminal 5 in the line of sight for thousands of West Seattleites daily, its future was a major topic for Commissioner Gregoire.

Click to read the rest of Port possibilities, crosswalk concerns @ Delridge District Council…

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