FOLLOWUP: Operation complete – Highway 99 tunnel machine’s front end fully lowered into pit

August 25, 2015 at 3:43 pm | In Alaskan Way Viaduct, Transportation, West Seattle news | 11 Comments

(The webcam view 24 hours ago, when part of the repaired front end was still visible above the pit’s rim)

Just in from WSDOT:

Seattle Tunnel Partners and crane crews from Mammoet have successfully lowered the 2,000-ton front end of the SR 99 tunneling machine to a platform at the bottom of the access pit.

Crews will now use the crane to fine-tune the position of the piece. When that process is complete, they will begin reconnecting the piece to the portion of the machine that remains in the ground.

The effort to return the tunneling machine’s front end to the 120-foot-deep access pit began early Monday morning. Crews started by vertically lifting the piece, which includes the machine’s cutterhead, motors and the new main bearing assembly. The crane then moved horizontally on its rails to the north. When the piece was above the pit, crews rotated it to a semi-vertical position and lowered it partway into the pit before breaking for the evening. Work resumed early Tuesday morning, with the piece reaching the bottom of the pit Tuesday afternoon.

Three pieces of the machine’s shield that remain at the surface will be lowered and reinstalled in the coming days, according to STP’s latest schedule. After the machine has been reassembled, STP and manufacturer Hitachi Zosen will conduct a series of tests will follow reassembly to ensure the machine is ready to resume mining.

STP has said it hopes to do that in November, by which time it will be almost two years since the machine overheated and was stopped – longer than the tunnel-boring itself is supposed to take.

FERRY ALERT UPDATE: Fauntleroy terminal outage over, service back to normal

August 25, 2015 at 1:45 pm | In Transportation, West Seattle news | No Comments

1:45 PM: A relatively brief power outage that closed Washington State Ferries‘ Fauntleroy terminal is over, according to WSF, but it’ll take a while for service to get back to the normal three-boat schedule – one run had to be routed to downtown because of “an emergency medical transport.” That run was with the route’s biggest vessel, M/V Issaquah, so WSF says that until Issaquah’s back, “the Evergreen State and the Tillikum will provide non-schedule service.” (The “live” online VesselWatch map shows Issaquah now at Vashon, so that might not take too long.)

2:53 PM: WSF says that 3-boat service has been restored, as of the “2:15 pm departure from Fauntleroy, 2:20 pm from Vashon, and a late 2:45 pm departure from Southworth.”

HAPPENING NOW: Highway 99 tunnel machine’s repaired front section headed back into the pit

August 24, 2015 at 11:43 am | In Alaskan Way Viaduct, Transportation, West Seattle news | No Comments


If you’ve been southbound on the Alaskan Way Viaduct recently, you’ve probably seen the Highway 99 tunneling machine’s repaired/reassembled front end sitting by the “access pit,” as WSDOT’s contractor Seattle Tunnel Partners prepared it to be lowered into the pit for reattachment. This morning, WSDOT says STP has started the process, which could last at least 14 hours:

Contractor crews will use the super crane next to the Alaskan Way Viaduct to:

-Lift Bertha’s repaired cutterhead and cutter drive unit from its surface-level platform
-Move the entire piece horizontally over the access pit
-Rotate it into a vertical position
-Slowly lower the cutterhead and drive unit on to a platform inside the access pit

“Lifting more than 2,000 tons is a long, slow process,” notes WSDOT in its announcement. If you want to check in from time to time, here’s the link to the webcams, whose images update frequently. It’s been five months since the machine’s front end was brought out of the pit to be fixed.

Curious about city’s new plan to clear traffic incidents sooner? SDOT & SPD @ West Seattle Transportation Coalition this week

August 23, 2015 at 5:44 pm | In Transportation, West Seattle news | 5 Comments

Most West Seattle community groups skip meetings in August, but not the one dealing directly with what many consider the peninsula’s biggest challenge. Next Thursday (August 27th), the West Seattle Transportation Coalition will hear from SDOT and SPD about the city’s new plan for traffic-incident management, detailed in a downtown briefing on August 3rd (WSB coverage here) and a City Council committee briefing August 13th (WSB coverage here). Also on the WSTC agenda, reps from the advocacy group Seattle Subway. The meeting’s at 6:30 pm Thursday at Neighborhood House’s High Point Center (6400 Sylvan Way SW).

5 years in the making, Metro’s battery-powered-bus test gets up to speed

August 18, 2015 at 11:14 am | In Transportation, West Seattle news | 17 Comments

Your chance to commute via a battery-powered bus like that one is getting closer. At a media event today that otherwise was about its new electric trolley buses, Metro also had an update on the battery-powered-bus test that’s been on the way since a federal $4.7 million grant was announced five years ago:

… Over the next four to six months, Metro will take delivery of three 40-foot prototype heavy-duty battery-electric buses with fast-charging batteries, manufactured with a composite body by Proterra, Inc.

The new 38-seat buses can travel up to 23 miles between charges, and remain on the road up to 24 hours a day. Batteries take 10 minutes or less to charge. The prototype bus is expected to get 15 miles more from an equivalent unit of energy than a diesel-hybrid coach. A battery-charging station has already been set up at the Eastgate Park-and-Ride lot.

Metro will test the performance and efficiency of the new technology for up to a year on local streets and roads, to determine whether battery electric buses can be a future replacement option for Metro. The three prototypes will likely be tested on short routes serving the Eastside and downtown Seattle.

You can read today’s full announcement and see videos on this county webpage. The Proterra website says Metro is one of 10 agencies in 9 states that is, or will be, using its buses.

Oops: City safety campaign touted on signs showing helmet-less bicycle riders

August 14, 2015 at 8:30 pm | In Safety, Transportation, West Seattle news | 44 Comments

Maybe it’s just something about north West Seattle and SDOT signage. First came the “HPM” speed-limit-sign saga, and now:

Among a series of new SDOT-placed signs staked beside the bicycle/foot trails along Harbor and Alki Avenues are at least two with that design – silhouettes of two people on a bicycle, without helmets, which are required by law.

After the signs were pointed out by Jackie from Upper Alki, which has a safety controversy of its own going on, we went out to see for ourselves, and then asked SDOT about the signs. Marybeth Turner said they’ll be fixed:

This sign is one of a set of five signs, each with a different image. One of the signs shows a silhouette with a retro image of two people without helmets on a tandem bicycle. My understanding is that sets of five signs were placed at six trails around the city. The signs inform people about the Seattle Trails Upgrade Plan (see SDOT web page about this).

A different bicycle image was originally planned for the set, but was replaced by the image you’ve seen by project staff and did not get our usual thoughtful review for public information materials. Although the image seems to portray bicyclists at a time before helmets were commonly used, we definitely want to promote helmet use, and would not normally approve an image of bicyclists without helmets. We are adding helmet stickers to the signs.

Only one of the sign designs we saw was clearly a promotion for the trail:

The others (including silhouettes of a runner, a dog walker, and someone with a small child on their shoulders) bore only the logos for SDOT and for the city’s Vision Zero safety campaign, including the one with the unhelmeted riders.

FOLLOWUP: SDOT says it’s making post-critique progress on traffic-incident management

August 13, 2015 at 1:52 pm | In Transportation, West Seattle news | 4 Comments

That slide deck shown to the City Council’s Transportation Committee today shows the progress SDOT says it’s making after the critique that basically said the city had no coherent plan for Traffic Incident Management (TIM) – the overall science of having policies in place so crashes, stalls, and other backup-inducing problems can be cleared as quickly as possible.

The critique by a consulting firm was presented to the media two weeks ago – we went to the briefing downtown; our subsequent story includes video as well as the consultants’ full report. SDOT director Scott Kubly told councilmembers today that nine of the nearly 70 recommendations have already been implemented. A few that stood out have to do with management accountability – for one, he spoke of having a “duty officer” assigned at all times, someone from SDOT management who is on call to be point person in case of a serious traffic incident, no matter when it happens. This job is rotating between SDOT managers, one week at a time. He also said SDOT is hiring an urban-traffic-corridors expert from WSDOT, Mark Bandy, to lead the department’s newly stepped-up “day-to-day transportation focus.”

In the big picture, the long list of recommendations is being worked on with the goal of a January update on what more will be done and when. But in the short term, the city says, it’s already proceeding with the new priority of getting traffic moving again in case of an incident instead of focusing on preserving property.

(Side note: Anecdotally, we’ve noticed this in a variety of ways in the West Seattle traffic incidents we’ve monitored/covered in recent weeks – including more-urgent radio discussion of what needs to be done to clear the road and how soon it’ll happen, and SPD’s automated tweetstream now including far more traffic-collision information than before.)

New West Seattle water taxi Doc Maynard launches, starts sea trials

August 11, 2015 at 11:13 am | In King County Water Taxi, Transportation, West Seattle news | 8 Comments

If you ride the King County Water Taxi‘s West Seattle-to-downtown route, that’s the new vessel you’ll be on starting sometime this fall. M/V Doc Maynard is being built at All American Marine in Bellingham, as was the new Vashon Island Water Taxi M/V Sally Fox; the photos are from Doc Maynard’s launch into Bellingham Bay last week to start sea trials.

According to an online update from Water Taxi management, M/V Doc Maynard will arrive in Seattle in about a month. Here’s what the county says will happen after that:

After the Doc Maynard arrives in Seattle, the King County Marine Division will familiarize the crew with the vessel, conduct route-specific training, and go through U.S. Coast Guard safety drills. Following a dedication event, the Doc Maynard will be put into service on the Vashon route for up to four weeks while the Sally Fox returns to Bellingham to undergo warranty work. When the Sally Fox returns, the Doc Maynard will go into service on the West Seattle route, increasing the capacity and comfort of this service.

Federal grant money covered 80 percent of the nearly $12 million cost of the two new passenger ferries.

More water taxi news from the summer newsletter – ridership is up:

And the newsletter also notes that the county is continuing to look at possible expansion: “King County has asked the Marine Division and our consultant, KPFF Engineering, to look at future route opportunities on both Lake Washington and Puget Sound. A report of viable options is expected by year’s end.”

SW Roxbury and 35th SW updates: Timeline moved back; comment time for ‘environmental’ document covering both projects

August 5, 2015 at 1:43 pm | In Transportation, West Seattle news | 6 Comments

Two updates on the upcoming SW Roxbury Safety Project, and one also involves the 35th SW project:

NEW START DATE FOR ROXBURY: The Westwood-Roxhill-Arbor Heights Community Council has learned from SDOT that the work will start next month instead of this month. WWRHAH transportation chair Chris Stripinis checked with project manager Jim Curtin, who says the new start date is September 14th, so SDOT can “mobilize for both Roxbury and 35th.” Curtin told WWRHAH that “a new kind of technology to remove the existing pavement markings that is less intrusive and much faster” will be used on both projects, hydro-blasting. He added, “We will also do most of the removal work at night and on the weekends to ensure that we do not disrupt classes at Roxhill and Holy Family.” This method is being used on Rainier Avenue right now. One more update from Curtin, forwarded by WWRHAH: “Also important to note is that the paving work between 17th and 18th on Roxbury will not occur before we restripe the roadway. We need to purchase some land from King County in order for us to construct ADA compliant ramps on the south side of Roxbury at 18th. We are in the process of obtaining the land now and this work will still move forward as soon as possible.”

DNS COMMENT TIME FOR ROXBURY AND 35TH: Getting ready to write about all that, we checked the SDOT project webpage for Roxbury, and discovered that a comment period is under way for part of the preparation process, a Determination of (Environmental) Non-Significance. This covers both the Roxbury and 35th SW projects. You can see the DNS document here; then go here (or scroll through the embedded version, above) to see the SDOT State Environmental Policy Act-mandated checklist used to generate it – that’s a very detailed document with some project information you might not have seen before. While the first document says comments will be taken through August 14th, the Roxbury webpage says August 21st is the deadline, and explains how to comment.

VIDEO: Fish-truck crash spawns new city plan for managing ‘traffic incidents’

August 3, 2015 at 8:37 pm | In Transportation, West Seattle news | 7 Comments

By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor

Before the next bridge-snarling crash – or a stall that takes hours to clear – city leaders vow to go the extra mile to work on how they deal with traffic trouble.

The promises were made in the middle of a midsummer Friday afternoon, with the Blue Angels roaring overhead – a time when many in all lines of work do their best to call it quits early and head out to revel; instead, media were summoned to SDOT‘s Traffic Management Center (and an adjacent conference room) to hear details of a consultant’s critique of the city’s traffic-incident-management (TIM) policies.

Or, relative lack of them, per this key conclusion of the report:

A lack of coordination among agencies in Seattle – including but not limited to the Seattle Police Department (SPD) and the Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT) – was immediately identified as a recurring problem in Seattle’s TIM response.

The report was ordered after the infamous tipped-fish-truck fiasco on southbound Highway 99 last March, a crash that took nine hours to clear, though no one was seriously hurt, and that caused chain-reaction backups around the city while turning the highway itself into a walkway for some.

(Reader photo texted during March 2015 fish-truck blockage on SB 99)
Throughout those nine hours, we featured as-it-happened coverage, and followed up the next day here; Councilmember Tom Rasmussen promised followup reports. By May, Mayor Ed Murray had ordered the review and recommendations that he and Rasmussen unveiled Friday.

Atop this report is our video of most of Friday’s briefing (we were a few minutes late so it starts as the mayor was wrapping up his introductory comments). Below is the report by consultants TransSafe Consulting and Sam Schwartz Engineering, whose proprietor Annette Sandberg, a former Washington State Patrol chief, presented a slide deck of highlights during the briefing – or browse the embedded version below:

Ahead – key points of what’s being recommended, and what happens now:

Click to read the rest of VIDEO: Fish-truck crash spawns new city plan for managing ‘traffic incidents’…

ROAD WORK ALERT: Paving ahead for parts of Alki SW (with semi-mystery cross-streets) and Beach Drive SW

July 31, 2015 at 7:29 pm | In Transportation, West Seattle news | 6 Comments

Announced at day’s end by SDOT:

Seattle Department of Transportation crews will intermittently close lanes to restore pavement in two areas of West Seattle next week if the weather is favorable. Drivers should plan for congestion and consider alternate routes.

Crews will close one lane at a time on Alki Avenue Southwest between Southwest Arkansas and Southwest Hampshire streets, 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily, from Tuesday, Aug. 4 until Thursday, Aug. 6.

Crews will also close one lane at a time on Beach Drive Southwest between Southwest Spokane Street and 61st Avenue Southwest, 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily, from Thursday, Aug. 6 until Friday, Aug. 7. Bus stops in this area will be temporarily relocated outside of the project site.

Traffic flaggers will direct street traffic at both locations. Pedestrians will not be affected by these closures.

These projects are part of the 2015 Arterial Major Maintenance program, which aims to maintain busy streets with strategic small-scale pavement repairs.

ABOUT THOSE ‘CROSS-STREETS’: If the Alki cross-streets don’t sound familiar – you’re not alone. As reported here following a similar notice last year (with much help from commenters), in the Alki area, SDOT uses names of cross-streets that were platted but never built. So unless the telltale “No Parking” signs are up already (we’ll check), our best guess is the 1200-1500 block vicinity (you’ll see Arkansas and Hampshire on this very old map).

West Seattle Bridge Corridor recommendations due in September

July 31, 2015 at 3:08 pm | In Transportation, West Seattle news | Comments Off

(WSB photo: Rasmussen at podium, Mayor Murray and SDOT director Scott Kubly at right)
3:08 PM: Recommendations for improving traffic management along the West Seattle Bridge Corridor will be out in September. So said Councilmember Tom Rasmussen this afternoon during a briefing we covered downtown. Main topic of the briefing was a consultant’s new report critiquing Seattle traffic-incident management in general, following the disastrous Highway 99 fish-truck crash. We’ll have full details on the recommendations once back at HQ; for a preview, see what we tweeted during the briefing, which was followed up by a tour of the city Traffic Management Center on the 37th floor of the Municipal Tower downtown.

5:13 PM: A little more backstory – it was January when Rasmussen announced the West Seattle Bridge Corridor Task Force would be launched. That in turn was about four months after the West Seattle Transportation Coalition announced a list of priorities including a bigger-picture plan for dealing with bridge-related issues, and one month after Rasmussen assistant Evan Clifthorne told the WSTC about pursuit of a corridor designation for the WS Bridge.

VIDEO: SW Admiral Way Safety Project ‘changes’ in the works, SDOT director tells council Transportation Committee

July 28, 2015 at 12:05 pm | In Safety, Transportation, West Seattle news | 40 Comments

(ADDED: Seattle Channel video of committee meeting – SDOT director’s report starts 1:44 in)

SDOT has “already started making some changes” to the SW Admiral Way Safety Project plan, director Scott Kubly just told Councilmember Tom Rasmussen and the rest of the City Council’s Transportation Committee.

Rasmussen had told us that a briefing would be part of today’s meeting; it happened during Kubly’s periodic “director’s report” presentation, which as usual addressed multiple issues, though only two were discussed before the committee, including this one. (See the full pre-submitted written version of his report above.)

Rasmussen expressed an overall concern about the public-input portion of projects like this – suggesting, as residents have said, that it would be better for agencies to come out and say, there’s an issue we want to address in your neighborhood, and ask for ideas on addressing it, rather than beginning the public-input process by showing up with a proposed plan that invariably draws a negative response, with some walkback invariably following.

Kubly’s response to that was to say that it could stretch out a process for so long that people would lose interest – and/or that an entirely different set of participants/stakeholders might turn up if a year or so elapsed between the start of the discussion and the presentation of a plan. He also pointed out that some projects, like this, are outgrowths of existing “modal plans” (in this case, the city’s Bicycle Master Plan).

But he did acknowledge that community input is leading to some changes already in the plan, which was first presented in April with changes to Admiral Way west of California SW including addition of a bicycle lane, other channelization changes, and removal of 200 on-street parking spaces. When SDOT said it had done parking studies in December to generate its contention that the parking wasn’t needed, community members’ jaws dropped, pointing out that peak parking season in the area is summertime because of Alki Beach Park usage. SDOT agreed to study the parking again in mid-summer; Kubly indicated that “data collection” is under way (as project manager Emily Ehlers had told WSB last week).

“Allow us to collect the data in July, see what that data suggests is the right solution for meeting all of our goals – predominantly safety, for all users,” implored Kubly, adding, “We’ve already started maing some changes based on what we’ve heard … We’ll add back a lot of the parking in the highest-demand areas but without sacrificing some of the safety improvements that we’re making – we’re going through an iterative process … we’ll go back to the public with some design modifications we’ve made,” including changes to where the bicycle lane would be buffered from parked cars and where it would be buffered from the travel lane. The written version of his report says the next public meeting might not happen until September.

More than an hour and a half before Kubly’s appearance at meeting’s end, Admiral Way residents Jackie Ramels, Chris Thayer, and Brenda Gage spoke during the general-public-comment period that started the committee meeting. Thayer mentioned that Alki and Schmitz Park are both parks “with no dedicated off-street parking,” as even acknowledged by the city website. Gage mentioned that she and her three small children would have to cross Admiral Way if parking is removed in front of her house. She voiced a wish that “SDOT (would have been) more collaborative with us.” She also expressed gratitude for the 47th/Admiral light and crosswalks that opened recently, and mentioned that the group’s online petition is up to almost a thousand names. (Rasmussen also mentioned the signal/crosswalks before the meeting concluded – he and Kubly were there for its “completion celebration” two weeks ago, as reported here.)

When this meeting’s archived video is available online via the Seattle Channel, we’ll add it to this report. (NOTE: As of late night, it’s been added.)

Bigger ships but not bigger volume? Port of Seattle talks Terminal 5 at West Seattle Transportation Coalition

July 28, 2015 at 5:04 am | In Transportation, West Seattle news | 19 Comments

(UPDATED Tuesday night with added comment from Port of Seattle)

(Port of Seattle graphic with modernization-plan toplines, from 2014 slide deck)

By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor

Exactly one year to the day after the last cargo-ship call at Terminal 5, two Port of Seattle managers faced the West Seattle Transportation Coalition to answer questions about T-5′s future.

Among the more than 30 people in attendance were residents of East Admiral, neighbors of T-5, concerned about port-related issues with which they’ve long dealt.

One major question of the night: Why the port felt it does not need a new environmental-impact review for the upcoming modernization project. A related city comment period was coming to a close as the meeting was held, but it didn’t involve a full-fledged review.

Port managers contend one isn’t needed because T-5 won’t be handling more volume. That’s a contention the residents are challenging with an online petition, and a stack of formal comments (see their letters by going here and choosing the “documents” tab).

Click to read the rest of Bigger ships but not bigger volume? Port of Seattle talks Terminal 5 at West Seattle Transportation Coalition…

ALERT: ‘Noisy overnight work’ next week at Fauntleroy ferry dock

July 25, 2015 at 11:06 pm | In Fauntleroy, Transportation, West Seattle news | 4 Comments

Thanks to the Fauntleroy ferry dock neighbor who shared a notice that’s just been circulated in the area: “Noisy overnight work” is planned four nights next week, Monday through Thursday, 7:30 pm to 5:30 am, to fix pavement problems on the dock. (If you live nearby, you are probably aware of some work this past week – we don’t know yet if that was related.) See the notice here; it says in part, “Existing asphalt pavement around deck drains is failing, exposing underlying timber deck to rain water and potential rotting.” No WSF website alert about this yet.

Caught in a backup this morning? Might have been the pre-parade

July 25, 2015 at 10:19 am | In Transportation, West Seattle news | 2 Comments

(The view from inside the West Seattle Hi-Yu float during the Saturday move)
Around 9 am, someone texted us wondering about backups on Admiral and Avalon, trying to get to the bridge. We checked – no crashes, no stalls, and by the time we headed out for a firsthand look, all looked normal.

(Added: Photo courtesy Joy, as floats including Hi-Yu passed through downtown)
The mystery was solved, indirectly, shortly thereafter, when we saw local broadcaster Brian Westbrook‘s tweet about floats for tonight’s Seafair Torchlight Parade arriving downtown. That jolted our memory about a comment in discussion of last Wednesday’s daily traffic report: Ex-Westwood Resident” mentioned that floats were stored at Terminal 5 this year and would be moving out Saturday morning, headed for the pre-parade Fan Fest at Seattle Center (noon-6 pm) and then, tonight, the parade. We failed to calendarize it for a later heads-up, or else we would have published an advisory (and photographed the floats! if you got a photo of them heading out, we’d love to see it – editor@westseattleblog.com). Meantime, as mentioned in our daily preview, the parade is tonight – lots of downtown road closures – followed by the Seafair Pirate Run, which will close the northbound Viaduct approximately 5:30-7:45 pm.

ADDED 5:04 PM: Thanks to Joy for sharing photos as the floats continued their journey northbound on 4th Avenue downtown after leaving West Seattle. The parade starts at 7:30 pm.

ADDED SUNDAY: Thanks to Thomas for sharing the view of the Saturday morning “parade” under the bridge from inside the Hi-Yu float!

Sound Transit light rail for West Seattle? Survey says …

July 23, 2015 at 9:28 pm | In Transportation, West Seattle news | 21 Comments

Quick note from the West Seattle Transportation Coalition meeting that just wrapped up in High Point: Co-chair Amanda Kay Helmick mentioned that Sound Transit has released results of its recent survey seeking input on prioritizing what might go into its next ballot measure, and she pointed out that a potential West Seattle light-rail route had received the most support in the survey. Here’s what we subsequently found online: You can see all the results here. (Or embedded below:)

From page 10: The potential route that had more supporters than any other, anywhere in the region, was an elevated line between West Seattle Junction and Downtown Seattle, with 5,198 votes. In second, light rail between Ballard and the U-District, with 4,751 votes. Sound Transit says 25,000 people took the survey, which we mentioned here several times before it closed two weeks ago. Next step for Sound Transit: Deciding what to include in the “ST 3″ ballot measure that’s expected to be sent to voters next year.

P.S. Main topic of tonight’s WSTC meeting was the Port of Seattle’s Terminal 5 modernization plan; full report coming up.

FERRY ALERT: Fauntleroy-Vashon-Southworth returning to three-boat schedule by mid-morning Thursday

July 22, 2015 at 5:46 pm | In Transportation, West Seattle news | 4 Comments

After three days on a 2-boat schedule because of repair work elsewhere in the system, Washington State Ferries says the “Triangle” route will be back to 3 boats tomorrow:

The Tillikum will rejoin the Fauntleroy/Vashon/Southworth route by mid-morning, Thursday, July 23. The route will return to the regular, three-boat schedule at that time. Thank you for your patience during the recent temporary downsizing of this route.

FOLLOWUP: Admiral Way Safety Project expects next parking study soon, updated plan in ‘late August’

July 20, 2015 at 4:06 pm | In Safety, Transportation, West Seattle news | Comments Off

If you’ve seen temporary traffic cameras up along west Admiral Way in the past week or so – yes, they’re related to the SDOT proposal for changes along the road between California and 63rd, including removal of 200 parking spaces and channelization changes. In our followup published last week featuring one of the meetings City Councilmember Tom Rasmussen has had with local groups both pro and con, we mentioned we had questions out to SDOT. Today, we talked with project manager Emily Ehlers. She says they’re expecting the promised followup meeting with the community to be in “late August.”

Between now and then, they’re expecting two sets of data – one gathered by temporary cameras like the one you see above, five of which she says are in place, recording pedestrian activity in the project zone. That data, according to Ehlers, will help them decide if new crosswalks and flashing-beacon-type signage are needed. The other set of data will involve the next parking study, which she says has not started yet – you might recall that SDOT raised eyebrows by basing its first round of recommendations on parking-usage studies done in the winter, so, agreed to community demands to do a study in the summer too. She says they’re working with a consultant to get going on that and she expects it to happen soon. Ehlers added that they are receiving lots of community feedback and said that’s part of what they’re working with, too – so you have plenty of time to e-mail her at emily.ehlers@seattle.gov.

UPDATE: New speed limit on Fairmount Avenue – 20 hours per mile? Signs quickly fixed

July 19, 2015 at 9:44 pm | In Transportation, West Seattle news | 53 Comments

When SDOT announced the Vision Zero safety strategy earlier this year, the announcement included a map showing plans for several streets in the Admiral area to be slowed to 20 mph (see page 15). Some street painting pointing out the new maximum was done today – but, as you can see in the photo sent by Ramona, some of the new street markings came out backward – 20 HPM instead of 20 MPH. We went over to see for ourselves before reporting this, and indeed, two sets with “HPM” instead of “MPH” are on the northbound (downhill) side of Fairmount Avenue through the ravine, north of the bridge. Ramona noted that others are in the correct order, but as to why these two were left backward – or not even caught – we’ll be checking tomorrow with SDOT. (We asked Ramona if she was certain it was a city crew; she said her surveillance camera shows the truck was in the area from 12:43 pm to 1:33 pm today.)

MONDAY 12:52 PM UPDATE: While SDOT has yet to respond to our questions about this, Ramona let us know late this morning that crews were there to fix the mistakes; we subsequently traveled the length of Fairmount and confirmed that everything now reads MPH rather than HPM.

2:22 PM: Here’s the SDOT response, from spokesperson Rick Sheridan:

Over the weekend employees of the Seattle Department of Transportation applied roadway markings in eight locations to highlight neighborhood speed limits of 20 miles per hour. The employees incorrectly marked two locations. We are in the process of correcting these markings now and will complete the work by midday Monday. The department will reinforce with its markings crew members and supervisors the need for accuracy in completing this and other work.

FOLLOWUP: What’s next for SW Admiral Way Safety Project? Neighbors ask councilmember to get SDOT to work with them

July 16, 2015 at 3:22 pm | In Safety, Transportation, West Seattle news | 21 Comments

By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor

Tonight’s Alki Community Council meeting tonight is scheduled to include an informational item about the Keep Alki Safe campaign opposing SDOT‘s planned changes to SW Admiral Way west of California SW.

With no date yet for SDOT’s next move, two months after the last meeting about the proposal, those with potential stakes in the proposal for lane-configuration changes on Admiral west of California are not just watching and waiting. At least two groups have met with City Councilmember Tom Rasmussen. One of them invited us to sit in.

The Keep Alki Safe group is primarily from the blocks where SDOT proposes consolidating parking on one side while removing about 200 spaces, to “encourage slower speeds and reduce collisions, as well as add a buffered bike along most of the corridor.” The meeting to which we were invited was held in a living room last week, in the 5700 block, where some of the yards held the signs they had designed and printed to let passersby know what is going on.

As much as opposing the details of the city plan, their primary concern seemed to be that SDOT wasn’t working with or even communicating with them. The agency “is blowing us off,” one neighbor declared. They asked Rasmussen to help them get a chance to voice their concerns; he promised to do what he can.

But first – he listened.

Click to read the rest of FOLLOWUP: What’s next for SW Admiral Way Safety Project? Neighbors ask councilmember to get SDOT to work with them…

AS-IT-HAPPENED COVERAGE: What SDOT announced for 35th SW: Two-phase plan, starting with rechannelization this year between Roxbury and Willow

July 15, 2015 at 6:03 pm | In Safety, Transportation, West Seattle news | 92 Comments

(Video of entire meeting, unedited, added 2:58 am Thursday)

FIRST REPORT, 6:03 PM: At 7 pm, SDOT leaders and Mayor Murray will be at Neighborhood House’s High Point Center to announce the plan for 35th Avenue SW. According to the slide deck that’s already live online, here’s what they’ll announce:

It’s a two-phase plan, rechannelizing 35th this fall between Roxbury and Willow, with one lane each way and a center turn lane. The features of the first-phase Roxbury-to-Willow plan are shown and described as:

* More space for parking
• One lane in each direction
• Center turn lane
• Bus and turn lanes (BAT) at Barton, Thistle, Holden and Webster
• 30 mph speed limit
• Signal optimization
• Channelization improvements on SW Barton Street
• No changes on approaches to SW Roxbury Street

Then after an evaluation period, and “project information sessions” next spring, rechannelization between Morgan and Edmunds is planned for summer of next year. The slide deck also says no rechannelizing would be planned on 35th north of Edmunds, and that “repaving and new curb ramps” would be planned if the “Move Seattle” transportation levy passes.

Again, this is all according to the slide deck just posted on the project page in advance of the meeting (which is what SDOT usually does) – also posted is a public-comment log regarding the project; come to the 7 pm meeting (or tomorrow’s 6 pm edition at Southwest Library) for full details plus Q/A – we’ll be updating live.

7:11 PM: After a brief introduction from project manager Jim Curtin, SDOT director Scott Kubly spoke briefly. Even before mentioning details of the plan, someone from the audience called out that they wanted to ask questions immediately.

(Some of the 60+ people at the meeting)
Kubly asked them to wait until some others had spoken. Councilmember Tom Rasmussen then took the microphone, mentioning how many years this has been in the works.

Mayor Murray then speaks, saying they’re trying to find a balance between doing what needs to be done, and listening to everyone.

He refers to a stat you will see in the presentation deck – calling 35th SW the fourth-most-dangerous street in the city. “You’ve got my attention, trying to address these issues,” he says, also talking about having been hit by a car himself.

7:22 PM: Curtin is now presenting the slide deck, same one you see above. There’s a lot of backstory, much of which has been reviewed in the public meetings already held in relation to 35th. It includes a recap of the Vision Zero plan. Man in the front row looks at stats on screen and asks how many of the deaths on city streets are because of drunk driving; Curtin says, in a given year, anywhere from a third to half. Subsequent slides include “recent speed studies” – the average speed has come down a bit in recent years from 42 mph on average (7 mph above the speed limit). A bit of point/counterpoint breaks out in the crowd on that topic (if you’re not here, you’ll hear it in our video later, as we are recording the meeting). Curtin mentions 15 pedestrians have been hit on 35th in the past few years; a woman interjects, “How many were in crosswalks?” Shortly thereafter, Curtin mentions the five deaths on 35th in the past decade (actually in less than nine years).

New traffic data shows that vehicle volume has gone up a bit in the past two years – from 16,500 at Roxbury in 2013 to 16,37 now, 24,600 in 2013 at Alaska to 24,631 now. As Curtin starts to go through this, someone starts to ask questions, and Councilmember Rasmussen comes back to the front of the room (he and others including Mayor Murray went to the back after their initial remarks) to ask people to please wait for the Q/A period so everyone could hear the presentation. That’s greeted with applause.

Next, pedestrian volumes – they counted 15 locations at peak and midday periods; 313 in the morning, 239 at noontime, 561 at PM peak.

Showing again the stats – 1,065 total collisions in the past decade, 412 injuries, 5 fatalities – Curtin says, “if this were a disease, we’d be clamoring that something be done about it.” Four of the five fatalities in the past 10 years were pedestrians or bicyclists, says Curtin, while also noting: “These are your neighbors.” Most-common type of crashes, rear-end, followed by angles, followed by left turns, followed by parked cars, followed by sideswipes. (Again, you can see all this in the slide deck embedded and linked above.) The collision rate, acknowledges Curtin, is slightly below the citywide rate. But for deaths, he says, it’s higher.

7:39 PM: The Seattle Neighborhood Greenways-initiated safety petition, launched after the death of pedestrian James St. Clair in 2013, has just been presented to the mayor here in the room. Now Curtin has brought up proprietors of The Westy and Locol, after saying the business owners in the 35th/Kenyon node had made a compelling case for safety improvements. (Not that many years ago, the city removed a crosswalk there.)


JP from The Westy said, “I don’t want to see somebody die there.” After complimenting them on enlivening the corridor, Curtin gets closer to unveiling the plan.

7:49 PM: He finally brings out the Roxbury-to-Willow first-phase rechannelization plan. No gasps, no boos, in case you were wondering. No reaction in general; people continue to listen. He says signals will be optimized along the entire corridor. Note that the speed limit will drop to 30 mph only as far north as Willow, this year. The Roxbury/35th intersection “functions really well,” so that is not being changed. Then in 2016, “We are going to evaluate what we do this year … we are going to launch a neighborhood greenway study (too).” He mentions the big new development planned at 35th/Graham (vicinity of two of the deaths in the past nine years) and that it will be starting next year. “There are a few unknowns on the north end of the corridor that we need to wait until 2016 to see what’s happening there.” SW Morgan will be rechannelized, he mentions, calling it “a longstanding request from the community,” saying it will get “the Barton treatment.”

He reiterates that no changes are proposed, this year OR next, for the busiest part of 35th, north of Edmunds. And he mentions plans for increased enforcement, which does draw applause. He’s summarizing: “We know this will improve safety” and brings up stats of other rechannelizations again, including Fauntleroy Way SW. “You didn’t change the speed limit,” an attendee calls out. Curtin acknowledges that, while going on to note that Fauntleroy has 31 percent fewer collisions now, has dropped the percentage of 10 mph+ speeders by 13 percent, and that volume change is up a third of a percent.

“If things are going well in the spring, we’ll look at implementing phase two next year,” Curtin summarizes, and now it’s on to Q/A.

8 PM: First question – “Monday, the mayor came out with his housing plan. All of 35th has been upzoned from single-family residences … Today I drove 35th … You’re predicating on everyone doing 30 mph … You’re going to have people doing 20 mph … that’s going to screw up your delays,” which SDOT says will max out at 2.5 minutes. The mayor came back to front of the room as soon as his name was mentioned, but the questioner has rambled on to say, “You’re increasing the population of West Seattle, increasing density, I don’t know how you’re going to make room for all the cars that people are going to own.” Applause follows. “There’s no correlation between increasing population and increasing traffic volumes,” Curtin says, and laughter breaks out. Now the mayor speaks. He says that only multifamily zones are being upzoned, “with an additional floor … Let’s deal with facts. Also, that’s my proposal. The council deals with (it from here).”

Curtin elaborates that though population is going up, traffic volume is going down. Next, Bob Neel, who started a petition against 35th SW rechannelization, says his petition had 916 signatures and the “pro-safety … and who’s against safety?” petition had 864.

He now asks for a show of hands about who signed which petition. (Both were on change.org.)

Next questioner says he was pessimistic pre-meeting but is “OK” with what he’s seen so far. But he also goes on to say he used to be an avid bicycle rider and he is concerned about more bicycle facilities than riders in Seattle. Curtin points out that this design does NOT include bicycle facilities.

(L-R, neighborhood advocates Mat McBride, Amanda Kay Helmick, Joe Szilagyi)

After him, Mat McBride, chair of the Delridge District Council, says most of the critics of projects like these are speaking from fear and uncertainty – and the fears haven’t come true. “I want to thank you all in dealing with the problems of what we have today, and not with the fear of what might happen.” Applause follows.

Q/A continues. A woman says she has lived on 35th for 41 years, “I’ve seen a lot of changes – some of them I don’t like.” She goes on to say that she is concerned about “crappy” pavement, particularly at Barton and Holden.

Another exchange involves someone trying to blame pedestrians and bicycle riders who “break the rules” for injuries/deaths. Drivers break the rules too, Curtin interjects, and while he agrees everyone needs to follow the rules, he notes that drivers breaking the rules have far higher consequences in causing injuries/deaths because of what they’re driving.

What about emergency vehicles getting around? one attendee asks. City traffic engineer Dongho Chang fields that question and says among other things the vehicles can use the center turn lane and also can trigger signals to change.

Another 35th SW resident talks about problems she’s seen over the years; she wonders why the “speed detector” at Brandon/35th “was removed,” saying there’s a speed problem near her home and can the detector come back? It is coming back, Curtin says; that draws applause.

Kenyon, Dawson, Brandon, Juneau are places where people want new crosswalks, Curtin says shortly thereafter, in response to an inquiry about improving crossing safety. He mentions the new flashing-beacon signs at California/Dakota and on Holden and says they seem to be helping and might be an option.

Next person says he’s excited about the turn lane and about “parking expansion.”

(We’ve lost some of the back and forth here but it’ll be in our video.) In response to another question, Chang takes the mike and says people are adaptive, and that a reduction in collisions is “huge. … Long term for us, what we want to do in the corridor, is have people get through safely …” He addresses the population increase and traffic decrease, with “transit … carrying the bulk of our growth.” Chang adds, “we’re going to be watching (the 35th) corridor every day. You live here. You know how things are functioning. Let us know. We can make changes very quickly.” An attendee asks, why not keep the 35 mph speed limit? Chang refers to the stats about the survivability of what speed people are hit at. “I now understand the consequences of each decision … We’ll do followup studies and make sure the corridor is functioning.”

Curtin, moving toward wrapping up, says San Francisco is “moving toward this treatment for one of its busiest corridors, 45,000 vehicles daily.” Someone calls out, “They have mass transit.” Curtin says that 35th *has* mass transit, noting that he travels it daily (he’s an Arbor Heights resident).

8:45 PM: The presentation is over; dozens are still here to ask questions in small groups or one on one. We’re going to go try to get a clarification or two ourselves, and will add anything more we find out. Meantime, if you missed this, there’s another presentation at 6 pm tomorrow (Thursday) at Southwest Library – bring your questions/concerns there – and/or e-mail project manager jim.curtin@seattle.gov any time.

9:29 PM: A question came up in comments about crosswalks. Post-meeting, we talked with Chang, who said that crosswalks will follow rechannelization – they’re not installing anything more on the four-lane road, but after assessing how the three-lane version is going, he says they might wind up installing “many” crosswalks.

TRAFFIC/TRANSIT TODAY: Tuesday updates & advance alerts

July 14, 2015 at 6:03 am | In Transportation, West Seattle news, West Seattle traffic alerts | 4 Comments

(Four WS-relevant views; more cams on the WSB Traffic page)
Good morning! We start, as we do most days, with transportation-related information:

TONIGHT – 47th/ADMIRAL/WAITE SIGNAL ‘COMPLETION CEREMONY’: As mentioned here last week, the Admiral Neighborhood Association and SDOT are hosting a 6:30 pm event to commemorate the completion of the 47th/Admiral/Waite traffic signal, which has been in operation for almost a week.

TOMORROW – 35TH SW PLAN: After years of concerns followed by months of controversy, what has the city decided to do with 35th SW? 7 pm Wednesday at Neighborhood House’s High Point Center (6400 Sylvan Way SW) is the first of two presentations.

SATURDAY – WEST SEATTLE GRAND PARADE & FLOAT DODGER 5K: We’re reminding you all week that the West Seattle Grand Parade is Saturday (July 18th), preceded by the Float Dodger 5K, and California SW will be closed from Lander to Edmunds that day until early afternoon while it’s all under way -watch for transit info later this week, and watch for parking restrictions on the streets to which Metro will be diverting traffic – parade organizers tell us Metro will be diverting earlier than usual, so the parking restrictions will start earlier (6 am).

Meantime, we’re on traffic watch; if you see a problem affecting West Seattle through/outbound traffic/transportation, but it’s not reported here yet, we appreciate tips when they can be made safely/legally (if you’re riding, or if you’ve arrived where you’re going) – 206-293-6302, text or voice – thanks!

5:30 PM: See comments for two alerts – a stall on the southbound Viaduct, and backed-up traffic on southbound Fauntleroy north of the ferry dock. Thanks for sharing the info!

Eligible for ORCA LIFT? Get it at West Seattle Summer Fest

July 10, 2015 at 10:59 pm | In Transportation, West Seattle news | 4 Comments

If you’re eligible for ORCA LIFT, the new discounted transit pass for lower-income transit riders, you can sign up at West Seattle Summer Fest this weekend – but you’ll have to bring the appropriate documentation, so that’s the reason for this separate heads-up. Metro’s in a bright green tent on the west side of the California/Alaska intersection. Go to orcalift.com for full details on how the program works.

How do you use Delridge Way? What works? What doesn’t? Show and tell the city ASAP!

July 10, 2015 at 10:44 am | In Delridge, Transportation, West Seattle news | 6 Comments

If you walk, drive, or ride on Delridge Way SW … if you live and/or work on Delridge Way SW or nearby … SDOT wants to hear from you as part of its Multimodal Corridor Program, and time’s running out for its online survey and interactive mapping tool. Here’s the request:

Tell us and show us:

* How do you currently use this street?

* What works?

* What are your ideas for future improvements?

For more information on this program and to find links to both the online survey and interactive mapping tool, go here.

You have until July 18th to join in on this.

FOLLOWUP: 47th/Admiral/Waite traffic signal activated

July 8, 2015 at 7:29 pm | In Transportation, West Seattle news | 14 Comments


New Admiral/47th signal is activated, quietly … #westseattle

A video posted by West Seattle Blog (@westseattleblog) on

Verified on our way back from a meeting in Upper Alki – the new 47th/Admiral/Waite signal is in operation, with street-level “signal revision” signs to catch your attention if the light itself doesn’t do that first. As reported here last night, the “completion celebration” is scheduled for 6:30 pm next Tuesday, July 14th.

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