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 | No 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, fitting and beams – the sheer audacity of the technology involved in pushing through the earth 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 | 2 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…

As-it-happened coverage: Metro Transit budget briefing downtown; cuts beyond next spring now pushed back to 2016

September 17, 2014 at 10:02 am | In Transportation, West Seattle news | 20 Comments

(WSB photo of Dively & Desmond, substituted for originally posted Twitter image)
10:02 AM: We’re at King County’s King Street Center, where Metro Transit general manager Kevin Desmond and the county’s budget boss Dwight Dively are briefing the media on what County Executive Dow Constantine will propose for Metro in his budget, due out next Monday. Since Metro is of special interest to our transportation-challenged peninsula, we’re here to report the toplines live.

First, from the news release handed out:

*Beyond the September 2014 (no West Seattle routes involved) and February 2015 (that plan announced two weeks ago includes, for West Seattle, deleting Route 22 and changing the 21, 116X, and 125) cuts, 80,000 hours in cuts (half the March number) are suggested for March 2016 – so much in play, they aren’t saying which routes that might affect.

Dively says they’re creating budget efficiencies through health-care costs, saving $3 million for transit over the next two years. Also, diesel prices have gone down. Sales tax, though, he describes as “volatile” – and the forecast they’re using now came out in August, and isn’t much different than what they had in March.

Desmond is recapping some of the steps Metro has taken in recent years and insisting “We have not stopped for a second trying to find ways to keep service on the road, to stretch our dollars further, whether from our expense budget … or capital budget … We don’t want to cut service. Our mission is to transport people every single day …”

Here’s what he says has changed, leading to savings that in turn mean fewer cuts:

*Buying 40 fewer buses, saving $40 million in capital budget
*Negotiated better prices on buses they are buying, saving $50 million (also capital program)
*Job injuries/worker comp claims/lawsuit claims – saving $13 million
*Vehicle maintenance “process improvement” – $2 million
*Reducing service means fewer drivers, $3 million less spending, 335 jobs lost at Metro over next 2 years
*Fuel conversion saving $1 million
*Paratransit costs, “most expensive product that Metro operates” (Access service), $7 million savings
*Full list in news release

So bottom line, 400,000 service hours to be cut, instead of once-forecast 550,000. But Desmond says they know that’ll still be painful. First 151,000 hours kick in September 21st.

10:15 AM: Now he gets to the Seattle transit-money ballot measure in November. “If the Seattle measure passes, the February service changes will automatically be deferred until June 2015 to allow Metro and the city time to enter into service contracts – all of the cuts would be deferred, not just the Seattle cuts.” He says they still look forward to adding service sometime. August ridership figures show a 3 percent increase, and, says Desmond: “At the same time we are reducing the system, what we really should be doing is growing.” He acknowledges overcrowded buses around the county, unreliable buses because of traffic – “We need to solve these problems and this budget doesn’t allow us to do that.” He says the system is 900,000 hours short of what might help fix that.

Now Q/A – what about the transit workers who rejected wage freezes, how does that figure into this? Desmond says the situation now goes to binding arbitration. If the transit workers had accepted the freezes, that would have saved $8 million – equal to 80,000 hours of service cuts. “We do not expect to get an arbitration decision until the second quarter of next year,” Desmond said. Otherwise, the budget currently incorporates the “basic cost-of-living increase” for those and other workers.

Next question, “How do you respond to those who say you’re using scare tactics to get people to approve a tax increase?” Desmond points to the fact “we’ve been talking about this for six years. … We’ve not been hiding this from anybody through that entire six-year period.” (Editor’s note: Here’s a 2008 mention on WSB.) He talks about committees and task forces that have been going through the system and how it works, “totally out in the open” over those years. “We were the only transit system in this state in 2011 … that convinced the state Legislature to give us another tool to keep service on the road.” Though they’ve figured out how to save 150,000 hours in cuts, he says 400,000 hours worth are still painful, and “six years of kicking the can down the road in terms of stopgap measures and one-time savings … we’ve got to put a stop to that. … We don’t want to continue to lurch back and forth with the public.” He says they’re still at risk of having to keep cutting if the economy has a downturn at this point.

Desmond says they’re hoping that they can get to the point where they can “look at making some improvements” in Seattle lines that are currently overcrowded. Should downtown businesses chip in with head taxes or in other ways? Desmond says he doesn’t want to “get into that” but that there are already ways that the business community is helping, including pre-paid fare products. Dively also points out that head taxes are a city-only tool – not available to counties, in our state – and it’s up to the city to figure out how it wants to raise money. Desmond, then, turns back a question meant to elicit a “why should Seattle voters approve the ballot measure?” answer. He just mentions that the area is growing and transit should be growing, not contracting.

10:29 AM: Desmond mentions SDOT’s new director Scott Kubly, saying that Kubly is “really excited” about finding ways to improve the right of way for buses so they don’t get stuck in traffic and therefore delayed as often.

We ask about fare increases – Desmond points out the one scheduled for March of next year, and beyond that, he says that it would likely be a dialogue with the county council since the executive is not proposing another fare increase before 2018. He mentions the oft-cited stat that Metro’s basic fare will have doubled since 2008, when next year’s increase kicks in (at the same time a new low-income fare takes effect). “We always have to be thinking hard and struggling to find the right pricepoint …” appealing to “discretionary” riders as well as those who have no alternative.

10:35 AM: Briefing over – full complement of regional media was here too. If you want to read the full news release, it’s here.

Scott Kubly confirmed as SDOT director, due back in West Seattle at Wednesday’s Delridge Neighborhoods District Council meeting

September 15, 2014 at 3:02 pm | In Delridge District Council, Transportation, West Seattle news | No Comments

Scott Kubly has just been officially confirmed as the new Seattle Department of Transportation director. He’s made two official West Seattle appearances already, both covered here – last week’s West Seattle Transportation Coalition meeting (link includes our video) and the September 3rd Southwest District Council meeting. If you have a question or suggestion for Kubly, you have one more near-future chance in West Seattle: He’s scheduled to be at the Delridge Neighborhoods District Council meeting this Wednesday (September 17, 7 pm, Youngstown Cultural Arts Center at 4408 Delridge Way SW).

Traffic alert: Paving on East Marginal Way, north of the bridge, next week

September 12, 2014 at 4:00 pm | In Transportation | 1 Comment

A much-used West Seattle-downtown route, particularly for bicycle riders, is set for paving work next week, according to this announcement from SDOT:

Crews from the Seattle Department of Transportation will pave in the 3100 block of East Marginal Way South [map] on Wednesday, Sept. 17 from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. and on Thursday, Sept. 18 from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., weather permitting.

On Wednesday, bicycles may use the designated bike lane. On Thursday bicyclists may ride on the sidewalk, being cautious of pedestrians and giving pedestrians the right of way. For information on bus service, look for Rider Alert notices at bus stops.

This is an area where a deadly bicycle/truck collision last year led to city promises of safety improvements.

New leader announced for Washington State Ferries: Lynne Griffith

September 10, 2014 at 9:55 am | In Transportation, West Seattle news | 9 Comments

A new leader for the state ferry system is on the way: Lynne Griffith, currently CEO of Pierce Transit, a job she had held for eight years and had previously said she would leave at year’s end. Griffith’s appointment was announced this morning by state Transportation Secretary Lynn Peterson. The official news release notes that Griffith will be the first woman to serve in the role of Assistant Secretary for WSDOT’s Washington State Ferries division, and that she has more than 35 years of experience in the transportation industry. The previous assistant secretary, David Moseley, resigned six months ago after six years. Griffith starts next month. (Photo courtesy WSF)

West Seattle Transportation Coalition gets ‘prioritization’ promise from new SDOT director Scott Kubly; also hears about citizen’s T-5 idea, November ballot measures

September 9, 2014 at 9:06 pm | In Transportation, West Seattle news | 20 Comments

(ADDED WEDNESDAY AM: Our video of SDOT director Scott Kubly’s hour-long Q/A)

By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor

For the second time in a week, SDOT’s new director (confirmation pending) Scott Kubly was in West Seattle to answer questions – this time, from the West Seattle Transportation Coalition.

Among other things, Kubly said that one of the best ways his department can serve this area and others is to be clear about prioritization – what it can do, what it can’t do.

The 2 1/2-hour meeting ranged across a wide variety of other topics as well, including the two transportation-related measures on the November ballot, and a citizen proposal for the currently idle Terminal 5 site.

First, Kubly: After a brief introduction, he said that at any Department of Transportation, “safety’s going to be the first priority,” yet there have been five fatalities in the first three weeks he’s been on the job. “Where I come from is … wanting to protect the most vulnerable users of the transportation system. … I also think the city is growing tremendously quickly … it reminds me a lot of DC in that regard, similar sizes, similar growth rates.” Growth means the opportunity for more-walkable communities, he said, “but not without challenges … it stresses the transportation system, so what we need to do is .. how to make our transportation system work more efficiently.”

That means “giving people choices in how they get around the city.” People who walk to work, for example, have been shown in research to be the happiest people, Kubly said, but when in a car, he said, people somehow feel safe behaving aggressively, and he feels that’s because they don’t have a choice, so if they have a choice, they’ll feel happier. But he also recognizes that “most people are at one time or another going to have to drive someplace … it’s very rare that you can do everything (without driving).”

DC, he said, has more people but fewer cars than it used to have, he points out. And he talks again about options, enabling people to, for example, perhaps have one car instead of two. Regarding why people get frustrated with government services: “A lot of it comes down to choice.”

Click to read the rest of West Seattle Transportation Coalition gets ‘prioritization’ promise from new SDOT director Scott Kubly; also hears about citizen’s T-5 idea, November ballot measures…

Citizen idea for closed, empty Terminal 5 on Tuesday’s West Seattle Transportation Coalition agenda, along with new SDOT director

September 5, 2014 at 10:39 pm | In Transportation, West Seattle news | 31 Comments


This West Seattle view, tweeted today, shows a stark look at what so many continue to notice, especially driving westbound on the high bridge – the emptiness of the port’s Terminal 5, now in its second month of closure. It’s a discussion topic on next Tuesday night’s West Seattle Transportation Coalition agenda. But in case you’ve missed the backstory:

*In June, the Port Commission approved closure as the first step toward “modernization”
*The final ship, for now, called at T-5 in late July
*Commissioners voted last month to sell T-5′s cranes, too small for the ships they want to expand it to handle

The commission still has steps to take before its modernization plan would be fully in gear – not the least of which would be, deciding how to pay for its likely nine-digit price. So in the meantime, interested citizens have unofficially suggested alternative futures for the site. One is on the agenda for the West Seattle Transportation Coalition’s meeting next Tuesday, 6:30 pm at Neighborhood House’s High Point Center, 6400 Sylvan Way, everyone welcome. The agenda also includes Q/A with new SDOT director Scott Kubly, who spoke with the Southwest District Council earlier this week, as covered here.

1 West Seattle ‘deletion’ in newest Metro bus-cut plan – with a caveat

September 2, 2014 at 11:46 pm | In Transportation, West Seattle news | 22 Comments

Metro‘s next round of proposed cuts went public this evening, a list of proposals to kick in next February. But they come with a big caveat – if Seattle voters pass the mayor’s transit-funding proposal in November, the February cuts would be postponed until June, and might not happen at all.

First: Here’s the official announcement, with this list-at-a-glance:

As you can see, a few West Seattle cuts are on the list: Route 22, already a shadow of its former self (it once went all the way downtown and is now just a circulator), would be deleted. Part of its service area would keep transit via a change in Route 125, whose proposed revised map looks like this:

Cuts/changes would be also be in store for Route 21, which would be reduced from 15-minute intervals on weekday middays and Saturdays to 30-minute intervals, and for Route 116X, which serves West Seattle on its way to/from the Vashon ferry, cutting three trips a day.

Metro/county reps who talked with WSB via phone conference tonight, after the release of this plan, say the full list of cuts proposed for February equals roughly half what was originally set to be cut through September of next year. And they point out that the West Seattle proposals reflect changes made after public comment on earlier proposals – for example, Route 50 is being left alone.

But passage of the transit money measure in November wouldn’t guarantee cancellation of these cuts – the city and county could work out a different set of buybacks, for example, maybe even involving changes to be made this month (not involving West Seattle routes). And they don’t know what would be needed in terms of belt-tightening after February cuts – that would be worked out in the county’s September 2015 budgeting.

For now, these proposals are expected to go to the County Council within the next two weeks, so that action would be finalized before the council’s focus turns to the budgeting process. Something to say about this new plan? West Seattle’s County Councilmember is Joe McDermott, whose contact info is here; he’s also the council’s current budget chair.

West Seattle Labor Day 2014: Here’s helpful holiday info

September 1, 2014 at 6:30 am | In Transportation, West Seattle news, WS miscellaneous | 3 Comments

(Photo by ‘Hammerin’ Man,’ shared via the WSB Flickr group)
Happy Labor Day! Just a few notes about the holiday …

TRAFFIC/TRANSIT/TRANSPORTATION INFO
Since many people are off work today, we’re not publishing the usual daily traffic/transit roundup. You can see area traffic cams and get info (including a link to the city map with travel times) on the WSB West Seattle Traffic page.

*Metro Transit is on a Sunday schedule
*West Seattle Water Taxi is on a Sunday schedule
*Sound Transit buses are on a Sunday schedule
*Washington State Ferries‘ Fauntleroy-Vashon-Southworth route will be on a weekend schedule

TRASH/RECYCLING PICKUP: If you are a Monday customer, SPU says it’s a normal pickup day.

SEATTLE PARKS: Here’s the citywide Parks lineup for what’s open/closed. Including:

LAST DAY FOR WADING POOL/SPRAYPARK: It’s the final day of the season for the last wading pool in operation, Lincoln Park, and for Highland Park Spraypark. Both are scheduled to be open 11 am-8 pm today. (If you go to the spraypark, you can explore astronomy too!) **9:46 am update: It’s not wading-pool weather, so the pools won’t open, and are done for the season, the city says, but adds that the sprayparks WILL open today.**

THIRD-TO-LAST DAY FOR COLMAN POOL: West Seattle’s outdoor pool, on the shore in Lincoln Park, ends its daily operations after today, with just one encore, the post-season September 6-7 weekend. So if you’ve been meaning to get to Colman, here’s the schedule.

LIBRARIES: It’s a systemwide closure day for the Seattle Public Library.

‘PARKING HOLIDAY’: Though West Seattle has no pay stations/meters on city streets, in the neighborhoods that do, this is a “parking holiday” – no charge.

BUSINESSES OPEN TODAY: Though we didn’t put out a general call for info, several businesses did take the time to message us with word they’re open (thank you!):

*Hotwire Coffee (WSB sponsor) – Open 7 am-6 pm
*The Bridge – Open for brunch, 9 am-2 pm “with both of our patios open” (and then open with regular menu until usual close)
*Pizzeria 22 and Quadrato – Both open regular hours
*Avalon Glassworks – Open 10 am-6 pm

EVENT CALENDAR: Quiet for the holiday, but you’re welcome to take a minute and browse ahead.

Fauntleroy ‘Boulevard’ plan update: Community meeting set for September 23rd

August 20, 2014 at 6:21 pm | In Transportation, Triangle, West Seattle news | 21 Comments

The date is now set for the promised community open house about the Fauntleroy Way SW Boulevard Project in The Triangle, currently in “early design,” tentatively scheduled for construction late next year if city leaders approve project funding: 5-7 pm Tuesday, September 23rd, is the date for that communitywide discussion of the project, proposed for Fauntleroy Way SW between 35th and Alaska. SDOT’s Maribel Cruz tells WSB they’ve had briefings in recent weeks with:

· Seattle Pedestrian Advisory Board
· Seattle Bicycle Advisory Board
· Freight Advisory Board
· Washington State Ferries
· West Seattle Transportation Coalition
· West Seattle Bike Connections
· West Seattle Junction Association

We were at the WSTC/WSBC briefing last month, along with one member of each of those groups. No major new details emerged, but the question that arose in comments on our July 15th report, “what about the Trader Joe’s onstreet loading zone?” was asked, and the reply was that they’re still discussing options. As a “boulevard,” that section of Fauntleroy will have “no loading zones and no parking,” the project team said.

Background on the project, as well as details of its status, are on the official SDOT webpage. The September 23rd meeting will be at the Senior Center of West Seattle (Oregon/California).

47th/Admiral signal: Design’s done; construction set for this fall

August 19, 2014 at 12:21 pm | In Safety, Transportation, West Seattle news | 64 Comments

SDOT has announced that design is done and construction will start this fall – possibly as soon as October – on the long-sought signal at 47th SW and Admiral Way, and that it will be accompanied by four striped crosswalks, as seen in the new design graphic above. This fall will mark three years since the Admiral Neighborhood Association ramped up its campaign for the signal with a rally in memory of 26-year-old Tatsuo Nakata, killed at the intersection in fall 2006. It took a lot of pushing to get funding committed – in early 2012, SDOT was still saying 47th/Admiral wasn’t high on the list. Then last year, the City Council made changes in then-Mayor McGinn’s spending plan in order to find full funding for the signal.

Here are key parts of the finalized plan, according to SDOT:

*Installing a new traffic signal
*Adding four additional striped crosswalks
*Upgrading six curb ramps at key corners of the intersection to be compliant with current American Disability Act (ADA) standards
*Replacing the existing center-turn lane with left-turn-only pockets on SW Admiral Way
*Removing minimal parking up to 50 feet from the intersection approaches on the north and south sides of 47th Avenue SW and SW Waite Street
*Removing the existing pedestrian signal

According to SDOT’s Maribel Cruz, “We anticipate construction will begin late this fall and will last for approximately three months, depending on weather conditions. The project team plans to host a community drop-in session at a nearby café in October, prior to the start of construction, and will continue to keep the community informed as the project progresses.” More information is online at this newly updated project page.

P.S. We should note that this intersection will be a lot busier soon, with Aegis Living planning to build a new retirement center on the 4700 SW Admiral Way site of the former Life Care Center, proposed to include 48 assisted-living apartments and 33 memory-care apartments..

Ferry-alert update: Fauntleroy-Vashon-Southworth back to 3 boats

August 18, 2014 at 12:51 am | In Transportation, West Seattle news | Comments Off

We noticed on Washington State Ferries‘ VesselWatch that the M/V Evergreen State, which broke down on Saturday, was back on the move as of earlier this hour – and now, WSF has sent official word that it’s back to the three-boat Fauntleroy-Vashon-Southworth for today’s morning commute:

Necessary repairs on the Evergreen State have been made and the route will return to the three boat schedule on Monday, August 18 beginning with the 4:05 am sailing from Vashon.

Without the Evergreen State, the “Triangle route” had been down to 2 boats all weekend, with long waits.

2-wheel tour: West Seattle Bike Connections ride with councilmember

August 17, 2014 at 12:09 pm | In Transportation, West Seattle news | 6 Comments

(At new Junction ‘bike corral,’ last stop on the tour)
West Seattle Bike Connections members spent part of their weekend taking City Councilmember Tom Rasmussen, who chairs the council’s Transportation Committee, on a tour “to get a first-hand look at some of the routes and intersections in the Seattle Bicycle Master Plan that we think are high priority for funding and implementation,” according to WSBC president Don Brubeck, who shares photos and this report from Saturday’s tour:

We started at Highland Park Improvement Club. First stop: The crosswalk at 11th Ave SW (a planned Greenway route) at SW Holden St, a busy arterial. We are supporting the Highland Park Action Committee’s application to SDOT for flashing beacons to help make this a safe crossing for kids going to schools and playgrounds in Highland Park and Riverview.

Then south on 10th Ave to SW Thistle at Highland Park Playfield. These are mapped as future Greenway routes, and seem ideal low traffic streets for walking and riding bikes. A set of public steps at 14th allows pedestrians to continue through on Thistle, but stops cars and bikes. We’d like to see a “runnel” gutter for bike wheels added to the steps, which are under construction now.

Then north on 17th Ave SW, which is a neighborhood Greenway route currently in the planning and design stage. The proposed route jogs over to 15th Ave on Kenyon, then back over to 17th at Webster. These jogs did not seem realistic to our group. Who would want to go 2 blocks east out of their way, and then 2 blocks west back to their route? And the intersections of Kenyon & 16th, 15th & Holden, and Webster & 16th would all need marked crosswalks and signals to be safe Greenway crossings. It looks much easier to just improve Holden for the short block from 17th to 16th, and then 16th to Webster, to get around the block that does not go through on 17th.

Click to read the rest of 2-wheel tour: West Seattle Bike Connections ride with councilmember…

How will Metro’s low-income fare work? New details today

August 14, 2014 at 11:41 am | In Transportation, West Seattle news | 15 Comments

While other potential changes for Metro next year aren’t yet finalized, two things are certain – a reduced fare for low-income riders will take effect on the same day as a 25-cent general fare increase. Today, King County Executive Dow Constantine announced how it’ll work, based on recommendations from a task force:

*The reduced fare will take effect March 1, 2015, and will be $1.50 a ride.

*Riders who qualify must use an ORCA card and cannot pay with cash. No fee will be charged for a new card or renewal. A $5 fee will be charged to replace a lost or stolen card.

*The eligibility threshold for a person to qualify for the low-income fare is 200 percent of the Federal Poverty Level, currently $23,340 for an individual.

*Eligibility must be re-verified every other year. The low-income fare will expire 24 months after the card is issued.

*After expiration, it can be used as a regular adult fare card.

*The low-income fare will be limited to one card per person. Each card must be registered in the ORCA system to an eligible adult.

You can read the full announcement here.

Sound Transit light rail for West Seattle? Another discussion, this time @ City Hall

August 12, 2014 at 2:48 pm | In Transportation, West Seattle news, West Seattle politics | 73 Comments

Cup-half-full version: West Seattle could have light rail as soon as 2026.

Cup-half-empty version: West Seattle won’t get light rail any sooner than 2026.

That was the bottom line of a briefing that was part of the City Council Transportation Committee‘s meeting this morning. Potential West Seattle light rail wasn’t the only topic – in fact, it was the last part of the Sound Transit guest appearance, which in turn was only part of a busy agenda (above is Seattle Channel‘s video of the entire meeting – the briefing starts 35 minutes in). The briefing followed the order of the slide deck. And however you view that potential date, it would depend on West Seattle being written into Sound Transit’s Long-Range Plan when it’s updated later this year; it didn’t make it into the plan previously, ST reiterated today, because of the since-scrapped plan for monorail service between West Seattle and downtown.

The slide deck itself didn’t contain the potential 2026 date – West Seattle-residing Councilmember Tom Rasmussen, who chairs the committee, asked for a date, and all ST reps would give him was that 2016 would be the earliest a “Sound Transit 3″ measure could go before voters. Perhaps a “board member” could speculate further, they said, with all eyes turning to Councilmember Mike O’Brien, a board member who happened to be right there at the table.

Click to read the rest of Sound Transit light rail for West Seattle? Another discussion, this time @ City Hall…

Followup: How new SDOT director answered Councilmember Rasmussen’s questions; plus, another Sound Transit light-rail discussion

August 8, 2014 at 1:21 pm | In Transportation, West Seattle news | Comments Off

Back on July 25th, we published the 17 questions City Councilmember Tom Rasmussen had sent to new SDOT director Scott Kubly, looking ahead to his confirmation hearing before the Transportation Committee, which Rasmussen chairs. That hearing is part of the committee’s agenda for next Tuesday (August 12th, 9:30 am, City Hall). From the agenda, here’s the full document with Kubly’s answers inline.

You’ll notice he also promises the requested analysis of June’s “4 miles, 5 hours” Highway 99 shutdown (most recent followup here) by September 30th.

Also on the agenda for that same meeting: Another discussion of Sound Transit‘s Long Range Plan Update. The comment period on its draft environmental-impact statement is now closed, but this is still another opportunity for questions/answers about whether the update will include a proposal for light rail serving West Seattle. Here’s the slide deck that will be shown during the Tuesday meeting – note that it also discusses the potential Ballard service, as well as “South King County,” which includes West Seattle. ST’s presenter will be Rachel Smith, whose recent West Seattle Chamber of Commerce appearance was covered here.

West Seattle road work: SW Roxbury paving next week

August 7, 2014 at 6:21 pm | In Transportation, West Seattle news, West Seattle traffic alerts | 1 Comment

During this past week’s two meetings on the SW Roxbury Safety Project (WSB 7/31 coverage is here, 8/4 coverage here), SDOT’s Jim Curtin mentioned that paving was imminent for the stretch between 25th and 27th SW. And indeed, the announcement has just arrived:

Paving crews from the Seattle Department of Transportation will work on Southwest Roxbury Street on Tuesday and Wednesday, Aug. 12 and 13 of next week. They will pave the stretch of Roxbury between 25th Avenue Southwest and 27th Avenue Southwest, working from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. each day. One travel lane in each direction will remain open. A Police Officer will be stationed at each intersection to assist traffic. All sidewalks and crosswalks will remain open.

Move RapidRide route to California SW in The Junction? SDOT is looking at it

August 7, 2014 at 3:48 pm | In Transportation, West Seattle news | 64 Comments

Should the outbound RapidRide C Line run on California in the heart of The Junction instead of jogging onto Edmunds, 44th, and Alaska? Checking out a reader tip that this was under consideration, we asked Metro – which in turn pointed us to SDOT, whose Marybeth Turner confirms it:

We have been looking for projects to improve the speed and reliability for the RapidRide C Line. One of the projects that was identified is to move the stop on California and Alaska to the east so the RapidRide bus can use California Avenue. This would save about a minute of travel time.

We are currently conducting a feasibility analysis to see if there is enough room and the what costs are involved. No decision has been made on whether this project will go forward. … We plan to reach out to the community to discuss the options this fall.

Back in 2008, when RapidRide’s West Seattle route was still under development, there was some talk of having it turn onto Alaska from California, but concerns voiced at the time included how it would affect the walk-all-ways intersection.

SW Roxbury Safety Project meeting, the sequel: What was asked last night

August 5, 2014 at 4:51 pm | In Safety, Transportation, West Seattle news | 12 Comments

By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor

The proposal for rechannelization – aka “road diet” – for Southwest Roxbury’s westernmost arterial mile was no longer a surprise when it was explained last night for the second time in five nights. At least some of the ~30 people at the second meeting about the design proposals for SDOT’s SW Roxbury Safety Project had clearly checked out news of the plan that circulated after the first meeting last Thursday.

Road diets have their critics, but this proposal did not draw an angry crowd to last night’s meeting at the Greenbridge YWCA in White Center, led by SDOT’s Jim Curtin, who also presented last Thursday’s briefing. One person voiced open concern about possible traffic congestion as a result. Several others, though, asked why the rechannelization couldn’t cover the entire arterial stretch of Roxbury, all the way east to Olson. And the general mood of questions/comments was in favor of something even more restrictive than SDOT is suggesting.

But before we get to that: In case you missed it, rechannelization – one lane each way, with a center two-way turn lane, west from 17th to 35th – is part of what SDOT is proposing. We detailed the entire plan in our coverage of last week’s meeting – please read that for full details; we went to last night’s meeting mostly to check out the questions/comments the second time around – it was scheduled as a rerun rather than a followup. Here’s the SDOT slide deck, same thing last night that was shown last Thursday:

Click to read the rest of SW Roxbury Safety Project meeting, the sequel: What was asked last night…

From the ‘yes, they’re working on it’ file: 35th SW kickoff date

August 1, 2014 at 11:20 am | In Safety, Transportation, West Seattle news | 11 Comments

One more note from last night’s meeting about SW Roxbury – a stack of cards casually announced the launch date for the other major “road-safety corridor project” in the works: 35th SW. You have almost three months’ warning for this one – 6:30 pm October 22nd at Neighborhood House‘s High Point Center. Meantime, browse the background links on the left side of the project page.

Rechannelization proposed for 1 mile of SW Roxbury, and other safety-improvement proposals unveiled at 1st of 2 meetings

July 31, 2014 at 7:32 pm | In Safety, Transportation, West Seattle news | 81 Comments

By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor

Rechannelization (aka a “road diet”) for the mile of SW Roxbury between 17th and 35th SW (map) is a big part of what SDOT is proposing to do, to fix what it acknowledges are “horrible” conditions for everyone from drivers to pedestrians:

Other proposals and plans for the road, between Olson and 35th, have just been revealed too – a mix of paving, painting, signage, and signals.

It was all unveiled by SDOT’s neighborhood traffic liaison Jim Curtin (who also happens to live in the area) in a meeting tonight at Southwest Library, with more than 20 neighbors in attendance, including leaders of neighborhood groups that campaigned for the city to finally get something done. (See the full slide deck here.)

As Curtin prefaced, SW Roxbury from Olson to 35th is a very busy road, a “principal arterial,” with 13,000 cars a day on average at 35th, almost twice that (25,000) at Olson Place SW. Speed studies show that most drivers are going at least five mph over the speed limit, Curtin said, adding that alongside Roxhill Elementary, 85 percent of vehicles are going more than 11 mph over the 30 mph limit, and, as he pointed out, speed is the number one factor in crashes – of which there have been 223 in the past three years, with 112 people hurt. The eastern section is more crash-prone than the western section. 11 crashes involved vehicles and pedestrians; two involved vehicles and bicycles.

Long-term proposals unveiled, under design right now into early 2015, with the “final determination” to be made before year’s end, and work to be done next year:

They’ll look at the corridor in three sections, he said, western, then White Center, then eastern. For the western segment, the most dramatic proposal:

*Rechannelization between 17th SW and 35th SW, one lane each way, middle lane for turns, shared bus lane with a potential new bus-layover zone near Roxhill Elementary, signage improvements, spot pavement repairs, but no “bike facilities” yet. He says that stats show that rechannelization works well on streets carrying fewer than 25,000 vehicles per day – and as noted above, that defines this stretch (16,000 at the most along the rechannelization-proposed segment). As if on cue, an attendee said, “This is the same thing that was successful on Fauntleroy, right?” and Curtin had a slide ready for that:

It showed 31 percent fewer collisions on Fauntleroy Way after that change five years ago, while it carries a bit more than the 17,600 vehicles a day that it did before the rechannelization. Travel times are unchanged, from four more seconds to 1.2 minutes; “top-end speeders” are down 13 percent.

Curtin says this will make for a better pedestrian situation, eliminates the “multiple threat” collision danger, so more crosswalks might result. Right and left turns will be safer too, he says. He also points out a five-foot buffer planned for each side of the road – and acknowledges that could be the future bike-lane space, after a question from an attendee.

Why can’t this stretch through the White Center area at 15th-17th? he was asked. Travel times there would go up “to unacceptable levels,” Curtin says they found out, through an analysis. But they do plan pavement repair between 17th and 18th, plus “new curb ramps and accessible pedestrian signals at 17th,” as well as signage improvements (like the ones now up at Fauntleroy/California, warning that turning vehicles need to stop for pedestrians and bicycles). “We’re going to go out there and take care of business,” Curtin declared. And yes, he told an attendee who asked, they are in communication with the county (SDOT is actually responsible for Roxbury up until the curb on the county side of the road, even though the boundary technically goes through the middle). A “crosswalk design” might be possible at that spot, Curtin suggests – not part of the formal plan but “if anyone’s interested in talking about it … we can partner up and make it happen.”

The parking alongside Roxbury right by downtown White Center will not be affected by this – business owners “fought really hard to keep it,” Curtin notes. In addition, the parking has NOT been a factor in any crashes, he said.

Now, for the eastern section of Roxbury:

Click to read the rest of Rechannelization proposed for 1 mile of SW Roxbury, and other safety-improvement proposals unveiled at 1st of 2 meetings…

One more nudge: 1st look at Roxbury possibilities Thursday night

July 30, 2014 at 9:47 pm | In Safety, Transportation, West Seattle news | Comments Off

It’s the road with two of West Seattle’s three most-crash-plagued intersections – and after two neighborhood councils said, “Enough!”, the city committed to making changes on SW Roxbury. As announced a week and a half ago, tomorrow’s the night you can get the first look, and offer some first comments, at the first round of possibilities. 6 pm, Southwest Library (35th/Henderson), upstairs meeting room – early enough you can still get out in time for a sunset walk/ride/drive.

West Seattle’s first bike corral now in place in The Junction

July 30, 2014 at 3:50 pm | In Transportation, West Seattle news | 56 Comments

West Seattle’s first city-installed bike corral is in place today in The Junction, one month after this open letter expressing concern that the city and the adjacent developer were delaying a project that had been in the works for more than a year. Less than two weeks after that letter, SDOT and West Seattle Bike Connections announced a breakthrough would lead to the long-awaited on-street bicycle-parking zone being installed by month’s end – and today, it’s done. It’s on the east side of California just south of Alaska, in a spot that was already off-limits to vehicle parking.

17 questions from Councilmember Rasmussen for new SDOT boss Scott Kubly; anything missing?

July 25, 2014 at 3:11 pm | In Transportation, West Seattle news, West Seattle politics | 9 Comments

A short time ago, Scott Kubly, Mayor Murray’s choice for SDOT director, tweeted that he’s arrived:

Next month, he faces confirmation hearings before the City Council. The chair of its Transportation Committee, West Seattle-residing Councilmember Tom Rasmussen, shared with us the questions he wants Kubly to answer. See them here. You’ll note that they include a request for Kubly to review the June 10th five-hour, four-mile Highway 99 crash-investigation-related closure (here’s our most-recent followup) and whether policies should be changed as a result. But that’s just one of 17 questions Rasmussen has asked Kubly to answer by August 5th, in advance of his August 12th hearing. Anything you think he’s missing?

After 2+ years, new monorail initiative reported to be ballot-bound

July 24, 2014 at 5:20 pm | In Transportation, West Seattle news, West Seattle politics | 43 Comments

In spring 2012, we reported on activist Elizabeth Campbell‘s proposal for a new monorail company, to be called the Century Transportation Authority, CenTran for short, with a line running from Ballard to West Seattle, like the last monorail proposal. Haven’t heard much about it in the interim, but today, PubliCola reports that Campbell has gathered enough valid signatures – just under 4,600 – to get this on the Seattle ballot in November. If voters say yes, CenTran’s website says, it would start out with a $5 license-tab tax to raise money to plan the monorail system.

County Council changes Metro bus-cut plan; West Seattle ‘deletions’ no longer certain

July 21, 2014 at 6:50 pm | In Transportation, West Seattle news | 14 Comments

Separate from the November vote on Seattle taxes to avoid Metro Transit cuts in the city limits, the King County Council has reached a deal today that changes the timetable for cuts. While the September cuts are still on as planned, and the number of hours scheduled to be cut February are to stay the same, here’s the biggest news for West Seattle: The round of cuts that was going to hit our area the hardest – originally scheduled for September of next year, involving route deletions – is not necessarily a sure thing; it will be worked out during the next round of county budgeting. (Here’s a document from last May showing which routes were to be affected in which phases.) The February cuts will be examined by a newly created committee, according to King County Executive Dow Constantine‘s version of today’s announcement. Here’s the County Council‘s version of the announcement, which includes the following explanation:

Click to read the rest of County Council changes Metro bus-cut plan; West Seattle ‘deletions’ no longer certain…

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