West Seattle Blog... » Transportation http://westseattleblog.com West Seattle news, 24/7 Tue, 27 Jan 2015 08:21:39 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.4.2 TONIGHT: West Seattle Transportation Coalition meets – new night http://westseattleblog.com/2015/01/tonight-west-seattle-transportation-coalition-meets-new-night/ http://westseattleblog.com/2015/01/tonight-west-seattle-transportation-coalition-meets-new-night/#comments Thu, 22 Jan 2015 20:05:59 +0000 WSB http://westseattleblog.com/?p=298917 Tonight’s the first meeting of the West Seattle Transportation Coalition on its new night – to reduce conflicts with the standing neighborhood-council meetings on second Tuesdays, it’s now meeting on fourth Thursdays. Same start time – 6:30 pm – and location, Neighborhood House’s High Point Center (6400 Sylvan Way SW). Tonight’s agenda:

6:45-7:30: Proposed By-Law Changes:

· Create a Legislative Agenda Committee. The committee’s function will be to develop the WSTC’s “Legislative Agenda” as a policy and lobbying actions guide. This Committee will also maintain changes to the Agenda as goals are achieved and broadened.

· Review and amend function and by-law language of standing Committees.

Existing Committees and Language:

a) Outreach Committee: Engagement with businesses, community groups, special interest groups and individuals for recruiting into the coalition, education, and to collect feedback for the coalition to act upon.

b) Communications Committee: Manages the WSTC’s online presences; conducting annual/bi-annual Issues Surveys; writing press releases; managing and facilitating communications between other advocacy groups.

c) Research & Solutions Committee: Develops and adjusts the West Seattle Peninsula Transportation Master Plan by receiving and disseminating research info from Outreach, Communications & Meetings. Works directly with various governmental and private agencies for research on technical, planning, and transportation solutions.

d) Action Committee: Meets with officials (elected and otherwise); agencies; goes to and holds rallies; engages directly with whomever is required for the West Seattle Peninsula to get commitments for solutions.

7:30-8:30: Review City of Seattle responses to our September 2014 “Five items” list; Discuss potential ST 3; Discuss Seats on the West Seattle Transportation Corridor and Seattle Transit Oversight Committee; Discuss end of Viaduct mitigation money as of June 2015.

Some of the “five items” responses were included in this WSB report last week.

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@ Junction Neighborhood Organization: Underground utilities for ‘Fauntleroy Boulevard’? (and more) http://westseattleblog.com/2015/01/junction-neighborhood-organization-underground-utilities-for-fauntleroy-boulevard-and-more/ http://westseattleblog.com/2015/01/junction-neighborhood-organization-underground-utilities-for-fauntleroy-boulevard-and-more/#comments Tue, 20 Jan 2015 00:44:47 +0000 WSB http://westseattleblog.com/?p=298060 By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor

Should the Fauntleroy Boulevard project include undergrounding utilities – considering that could cost an extra $6 million or so? That’s the question Councilmember Tom Rasmussen raised at this month’s Junction Neighborhood Organization meeting.

The undergrounding cost was first mentioned publicly a week earlier, at the Southwest District Council meeting (WSB coverage here), with SWDC’s immediate past co-chair Sharonn Meeks reporting on a conversation with Rasmussen. This is the first time he had subsequently discussed it publicly with a West Seattle group. Taking utilities underground, he noted, “can be … transformational,” but the project has to be designed that way, and it’s now at a crossroads, with about two-thirds of the design completed: Should it be designed with underground utilities or not? The councilmember says he’s looking for community feedback. A few points to consider:

-The Fauntleroy Boulevard project currently is, he said, “kind of in the middle” of the list of city priorities
-If it’s a community priority, it needs to get into the budget cycle that starts this spring, looking ahead to the capital-improvement plan for 2016
-Utilities will indeed be out of sight (“undergrounded” via vaults) at The Whittaker‘s site, which is at the west end of the Alaska-to-35th Fauntleroy Boulevard plan

What other projects for West Seattle are already in the mix? he was asked. The 35th SW and SW Roxbury safety improvements, for starters, he pointed out. Neither would be as costly as the Fauntleroy Boulevard project, but they’re both already well into the pipeline, after recent community meetings. Speaking of which, Rasmussen wondered if a “large community meeting” might be merited for gathering feedback on undergrounding Fauntleroy; instead, after some discussion, it was decided the February 4th Southwest District Council meeting (which, like all district and community-council meetings, is open to the public – 7 pm at the Senior Center of West Seattle) would be the best, and soonest, venue.

Also discussed last week at the JuNO meeting:

NEIGHBORHOOD CONSERVATION DISTRICTS: Previously, these were discussed in council committee back in September, as a way for the city to support neighborhoods looking for ways to preserve some of their “character” even amid growth and redevelopment. Watch for official proposals soon; they might include “affordable-housing goals,” according to Rasmussen, who said those proposals will be unveiled for community comment and public meetings, likely starting in March, before legislation is finalized and taken to the full council. The new city budget does have funding for at least a part-time person to be assigned to the project.

NEW HUB: The Junction will be the site of another hub to be added to the West Seattle Be Prepared Neighborhood Emergency Communication Hubs, and will need lots of volunteers to help. It’ll be in the Hope Lutheran Church parking lot. Contact ellenwest@hotmail.com if you’re interested.

JUNCTION PROJECT UPDATES: JuNO’s been talking to development teams including the forthcoming CVS at 4722 Fauntleroy Way SW (here’s our December update), which JuNO director René Commons says has a 15-year lease for the site. Project consultants, she says, are “looking at neighborhood character” rather than just working on a “typical suburban strip mall” type of project. … The Junction 47 project (California/Alaska/42nd) is proceeding with its art plans (mentioned here in October), and JuNO is working with the developer and its curator Sara Everett, who Commons says is “selecting artists right now.”

DESIGN REVIEW: Cindi Barker from Morgan Junction, who’s been an advocate on housing/development-related issues citywide, told JuNO that the city’s expected to start “public outreach on Design Review changes” soon.

WEBSITE: JuNO has one coming online soon – it’ll be at wsjuno.org.

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West Seattle traffic-alert update: What’s being done to prevent 3rd day of port-truck backups on Friday http://westseattleblog.com/2015/01/west-seattle-traffic-alert-port-bound-truck-traffic-backs-up-bridge-surface-streets-city-to-meet-with-port/ http://westseattleblog.com/2015/01/west-seattle-traffic-alert-port-bound-truck-traffic-backs-up-bridge-surface-streets-city-to-meet-with-port/#comments Thu, 15 Jan 2015 20:17:45 +0000 WSB http://westseattleblog.com/?p=298214 (SCROLL DOWN for updates – as of our firsthand check at 4:20 pm, the backup’s cleared; 4:50 pm, added list of city/port traffic-reduction measures; 10:19 pm, adding new SDOT news release with yet more details)

(Thursday morning photo by Don Brubeck)
For a second day, a major backup of port-bound semi-trucks is backing up the westbound Spokane Street Viaduct to I-5, as well as surface streets – photos like these continue to come in:

This of course isn’t the first time a queue of port-bound trucks has affected traffic. But it’s the first time in a long time that we’ve heard of this magnitude of backup, persisting on into the day. So we contacted the Port of Seattle and SDOT to ask about the cause and what if any management steps have been taken. Port spokesperson Peter McGraw’s response:

The terminal operator is working very hard to get cargo moving on and off their docks while handling three large vessels. What we’ve been seeing here the past couple days is a surge of export commodities– goods from eastern Washington. So between the extra loads and the ongoing work disruption, we’re seeing an unusually high amount of back-ups. We’ll be keeping a close eye on things today, working with our transportation partners and the terminal operator to move cargo as quickly and safely as possible.

DOT’s Marybeth Turner says the city is concerned:

SDOT has expressed its concerns to the Port of Seattle about the truck queuing occurring on city roadways. We will meet with both the port and the terminal operator today about these impacts and potential solutions those parties can employ.

McGraw’s mention of “ongoing work disruption” refers to the situation we first mentioned two months ago – West Coast terminal operators and longshore workers are in mediated contract talks, eight months after their contract expired. An ILWU news release circulated earlier this week says the terminal operators’ organization reports they’re running out of room for containers on the West Coast docks; that organization, the Pacific Maritime Association, continues to accuse the union of slowdowns. Since last November, large ships at anchor, waiting to get into either Seattle or Tacoma, have been visible from West Seattle; right now MarineTraffic.com shows eight in all – three in Elliott Bay, and five outside Manchester (some shown in this photograph from early today):

(Photo by James Bratsanos)

ADDED 1:21 PM: Yet another vantage point of the truck backup:

3:39 PM UPDATE: Commenters (and people we’re hearing from on Twitter, too) say it hasn’t gotten any better. We’re going out for a firsthand look. Check the comments for some travel advice. SDOT advises avoiding the westbound Spokane St. Viaduct.

4:13 PM: We’ve just traveled the eastbound bridge – no more truck backup visible on Spokane St. Viaduct. Got off at 1st and noted that a motorcycle officer appeared to have lower Spokane blocked, westbound, just west of 1st. We’re circling back around to check.

4:20 PM: The officer is out of the road, in the median, and westbound Spokane is open again, no backup or slowdown. We have also crossed the low bridge and it’s open and clear.

4:50 PM: From Anthony Auriemma in Councilmember Tom Rasmussen‘s office, an update on what’s being strategized:

SPD will have an officer working traffic from 7 am-3 pm during the slowdowns. Their primary job will be to assist with cross traffic and assist with preventing the intersections from getting blocked.

· SDOT is working on updated signage and traffic alerts. You may have noticed that SDOT this afternoon began advising drivers to avoid the Spokane Street Viaduct and to use alternate routes such as 1st Avenue South.

· SPD is joining SDOT at the Traffic Management Center (TMC) to help with traffic conditions. As you may recall from the Transportation Committee briefing, this is part of the improved incident management protocols that SPD and SDOT agreed to after the June 99 meltdown. Councilmember Rasmussen visited the TMC this afternoon to check out conditions and make sure SDOT was working to find solutions.

· SDOT is attempting to secure Terminal 5 for remote parking as an interim solution.

· Other engineering and enforcement solutions are still being worked out between SDOT, SPD, and the Port.

And just after we published this, Auriemma e-mailed again to say that T-5 has been secured for parking starting tomorrow.

8:01 PM NOTE: Joe Szilagyi of the West Seattle Transportation Coalition points out that the mayor tweeted about this earlier this evening too.

ADDED 10:19 PM: Rare late-night news release, just in from SDOT, with a few more specifics of what’s happening:

To ensure that traffic flows safely and efficiently near Port of Seattle facilities, the City of Seattle will take measures Friday to address trucks backing up onto city and state roadways due to Terminal 18 delays.

Based on discussions with the port, starting Friday morning trucks will be detoured off city streets into a holding area at nearby Terminal 5, where they will stage for entry into Terminal 18. Truck drivers will be directed to this holding area using fixed and variable messages signs.

Also on Friday SDOT will install “No Stopping, Standing or Parking from 3:00 AM to 6:45 AM” signs on Harbor Island to ensure vehicles stage at Terminal 5 prior to the opening of Terminal 18’s gates. The Seattle Police Department is providing officers to support traffic flow and prevent the West Seattle Bridge, Spokane Street Viaduct and intersections near Harbor Island from being blocked by commercial vehicles.

“The City of Seattle and the Port of Seattle are working jointly to address traffic issues created by delays at Terminal 18,” said SDOT Director Scott Kubly. “These measures will allow the port to process its trucks without creating congestion for drivers and transit riders.”

“I have been working with SDOT, SPD and the Port of Seattle to address the congestion created by port facilities, and will continue to work on this problem as long as the delays continue,” said Councilmember Tom Rasmussen. “I appreciate these quick measures being taken by the Port and the City, which will ensure drivers and transit riders can make their trips without unnecessary delay.”

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Dealing with West Seattle Bridge traffic: Task Force is in the works; extra lane to 99 is not http://westseattleblog.com/2015/01/dealing-with-west-seattle-bridge-traffic-task-force-is-in-the-works-extra-lane-to-99-is-not/ http://westseattleblog.com/2015/01/dealing-with-west-seattle-bridge-traffic-task-force-is-in-the-works-extra-lane-to-99-is-not/#comments Thu, 15 Jan 2015 19:14:03 +0000 WSB http://westseattleblog.com/?p=298102

(WSB file screengrab of SDOT camera looking toward bridge’s offramp to 99)
While today’s big bridge-traffic concern is the Port-bound truck backup (working on a separate story), the ongoing point of contention is usually the eastbound weekday-morning jam. Physical improvements to the bridge are unlikely anytime soon, says the city, so simpler, quicker improvements can and must be pursued, suggests City Councilmember Tom Rasmussen, saying that if the right people/agencies get together and talk about operational changes and coordination, that could make a difference.

Toward that end, the West Seattle Bridge Corridor Management Task Force will be launched, he has announced, adding that Mayor Ed Murray has promised his support. (This is what Rasmussen staffer Evan Clifthorne was hinting at during the December West Seattle Transportation Coalition meeting.)

Before we get to details of the task force, here’s why nothing is likely to change physically on the bridge any time soon, explained in documents provided by Rasmussen’s office in response to questions from the WSTC, in their declaration of priorities last September. One big question involves whether one of the bottlenecks off the eastbound bridge could be expanded. The SDOT response says basically, no:

It is not the opinion of SDOT engineers that an additional lane could be added to the existing West Seattle Bridge/SR 99 interchange, at least not without great cost. The current interchange (which is a state-owned facility) is only 19 ft. wide while state standards require a minimum of 29 feet for two lanes. Building an adjoining structure to add more capacity would be difficult and costly given the shape and radius of the existing cloverleaf structure. Even if it were possible, such a project would cause significant parcels of industrial land to be taken and existing buildings would have to be removed. Most of the state and local resources leveraged over the last decade on these corridors have been prioritized for reconstructing the Spokane Street Viaduct and replacing the Alaskan Way Viaduct, as well as enhancing transit service on the corridor.

While it may not be viable to add capacity at this particular interchange, there are other options for reducing travel time through the RapidRide C corridor that show more promise relative to cost. We now have staff exploring some options that could be explored with you and the other stakeholders in the conversations with you and other stakeholders the Mayor and Councilmember Rasmussen have asked us to convene later this year.

Read the rest of SDOT’s response to WSTC, signed by chief policy adviser Bill LaBorde, here:

Rasmussen’s response to WSTC recaps some of those points and also talks about the possibility of a transit ramp from Avalon to the eastbound bridge:

That memo gets back to the forthcoming West Seattle Bridge Corridor Management Task Force. Here’s the councilmember’s memo to the mayor outlining how it would be set up and how its work could unfold:

The work on that starts immediately, we confirmed with Rasmussen during a conversation at Tuesday night’s Junction Neighborhood Organization meeting (which touched on other topics, also the subject of a story to come).

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Trying to get around the Sound? King County launches multi-agency transit-trip-planner app http://westseattleblog.com/2015/01/trying-to-get-around-the-sound-king-county-launches-multi-agency-transit-trip-planner-app/ http://westseattleblog.com/2015/01/trying-to-get-around-the-sound-king-county-launches-multi-agency-transit-trip-planner-app/#comments Fri, 09 Jan 2015 22:27:26 +0000 WSB http://westseattleblog.com/?p=297658

Before raising the 12th Man flag at noontime today, King County Executive Dow Constantine had an announcement intended to draw cheers from transit users:

Delivering on his initiative to better coordinate transportation services, King County Executive and Sound Transit Chair Dow Constantine today announced the launch of a free smartphone app that makes it easier for riders to plan trips with 11 transit agencies across Puget Sound.

The Puget Sound Trip Planner — available for Apple and Android mobile devices — allows riders to plan a trip that includes buses, rail, ferries, streetcars, and water taxis. It merges popular features available on existing trip planners and offers real-time predictions for bus arrivals.

More info, and the full list of participating agencies/services, can be found here.

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Getting to the downtown Water Taxi & state ferry docks will change, starting Monday http://westseattleblog.com/2015/01/getting-to-the-downtown-water-taxi-state-ferry-docks-will-change-starting-monday/ http://westseattleblog.com/2015/01/getting-to-the-downtown-water-taxi-state-ferry-docks-will-change-starting-monday/#comments Wed, 07 Jan 2015 02:05:30 +0000 WSB http://westseattleblog.com/?p=297271

(Photo of today’s foggy sunset, by Chi Krneta)
Take the Water Taxi from Pier 50? Or state ferries from Colman Dock? Downtown-waterfront access is changing downtown from next Monday through mid-May, as announced today:

(Photo from Seacrest at sunset, by WSB’s Patrick Sand)

All vehicles will enter the Washington State Ferries terminal at Colman Dock via Yesler Way as part of temporary changes being implemented by the State Route 99 Tunnel Project and the Elliott Bay Seawall Project. Terminal access will also shift for pedestrians, bicyclists and King County Water Taxi passengers and remain in place through May 2015. Through traffic north and south on Alaskan Way remains unchanged. Drivers/riders exiting Colman Dock via Yesler Way may see some intersection modifications this week as construction crews prepare for the Monday shift.

Access changes

View a detailed map of the following temporary changes near Colman Dock:
· Drivers will turn left or right into the WSF terminal from Alaskan Way at Yesler Way.
o For southbound traffic, one lane of Alaskan Way in front of the ferry terminal will be dedicated to ferry access.
o A left-turn lane will accommodate northbound traffic at Yesler Way.
o Vehicles will exit the ferry dock onto Yesler Way or Marion Street.

· Pedestrian access through the Seawall Project construction zone will be maintained to the WSF terminal in two ways: the current pedestrian bridge at Marion Street, and at street level immediately west of the Alaskan Way Viaduct. Street level access will be maintained at all times, although it will shift at various points during construction.

· Bicyclists will enter and exit the ferry terminal on the north side of Yesler Way via the shared-use path.

· King County Water Taxi riders will enter and exit via Yesler Way.

· Passenger pickup and drop-off (including access for people with disabilities) will be shifted to the west side of the roadway between Marion and Columbia streets.

· Taxi waiting areas are also available at the current location on the east side of Alaskan Way between Marion and Columbia streets. A new taxi waiting area will – be added on Marion Street between Alaskan Way and Western Avenue.

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Changes Sunday for state-ferry routes, including Fauntleroy http://westseattleblog.com/2014/12/changes-tomorrow-for-state-ferry-routes-including-fauntleroy/ http://westseattleblog.com/2014/12/changes-tomorrow-for-state-ferry-routes-including-fauntleroy/#comments Sun, 28 Dec 2014 04:50:06 +0000 WSB http://westseattleblog.com/?p=296523

(WSB photo: Ferry between Fauntleroy and Vashon during Christmas Day sunset)
The Washington State Ferries winter schedule starts tomorrow (Sunday, December 28th). Here’s the WSF roundup of major changes systemwide. For the Fauntleroy-Vashon-Southworth route, the biggest change is the usual seasonal shrinking of the number of weekend runs, plus a change to the emergency two-boat schedule – here’s a printable PDF. Separate from the schedule change, WSF also is warning that at some point in the not-too-distant future, you’ll see longer wait times, temporarily:

As early as Sunday, Dec. 28 through early February, customers traveling on the Fauntleroy/Vashon/Southworth route are advised to prepare for longer than usual wait times due to a vessel downsizing. The temporary downsizing is needed to maintain a full, system-wide sailing schedule while the Yakima and Kitsap are out of service for necessary repairs and maintenance.

Whenever that happens, you can use this page to check Fauntleroy wait times. P.S. The F/V/S route is on a regular schedule on New Year’s Day.

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Fauntleroy Boulevard update: Design at 60%, with ‘changes to meet specific business-access needs’ http://westseattleblog.com/2014/12/fauntleroy-boulevard-update-design-at-60-with-changes-to-meet-specific-business-access-needs/ http://westseattleblog.com/2014/12/fauntleroy-boulevard-update-design-at-60-with-changes-to-meet-specific-business-access-needs/#comments Fri, 19 Dec 2014 20:46:31 +0000 WSB http://westseattleblog.com/?p=295856

SDOT announced today that the ‘Fauntleroy Boulevard’ project proposed for Fauntleroy Way between 35th and Alaska is at 60 percent design, but still isn’t scheduled for construction until and unless funding is found, so there’s no chance work would start any sooner than fall 2016. Here’s the official update:

The Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT) is continuing design work for the Fauntleroy Boulevard Project, an improvement project along Fauntleroy Way SW between SW Alaska Street and 35th Avenue SW.

We recently reached the 60% design stage, and we anticipate completing project design work in spring 2015. The project is not currently funded for construction. In order to advance the project into construction, the Seattle City Council would need to allocate construction funding. If construction funding is secured, the earliest construction would begin is fall 2016.

We have been meeting one-on-one with area business and property owners and members of community organizations since early design work began in the summer of 2014. The 60% design reflects changes to meet specific business access needs raised during the outreach process.

We compared the cross-section above with the one that was circulated when the project was at 30 percent design three months ago – no major differences that we can see. We have a followup question out asking for elaboration on the “changes” SDOT says it made, and will add whatever we find out.

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Light rail for West Seattle someday? First step just taken: WS added to Sound Transit’s map as potential light-rail corridor http://westseattleblog.com/2014/12/west-seattle-added-to-sound-transits-long-range-plan-as-light-rail-corridor/ http://westseattleblog.com/2014/12/west-seattle-added-to-sound-transits-long-range-plan-as-light-rail-corridor/#comments Thu, 18 Dec 2014 23:48:00 +0000 WSB http://westseattleblog.com/?p=295772 3:48 PM: It’s by no means a guarantee that light rail is headed this way – but it’s a necessary first step: The Sound Transit board has just approved ST’s Long-Range Plan Update, and part of it included an amendment to the ST map so that it will now show Downtown Seattle to West Seattle to Burien as a (potential) light-rail corridor.

4:41 PM: Some background – the talk about this possibility really started to intensify a year ago, when ST offered an online survey about its Long-Range Plan Update. In May, we reported on a presentation to the ST Executive Committee about the study of potential south-end corridors, including routes featuring West Seattle. Then in June, another survey was taken in connection with the draft environmental-impact statement for the Long-Range Plan Update. In July, ST reps spoke to the West Seattle Transportation Coalition and to the West Seattle Chamber of Commerce; and in October, the two West Seattleites on the Sound Transit board, County Executive Dow Constantine and County Councilmember Joe McDermott, announced they would work to get WS into the Long-Range Plan Update.

So what happens now? ST has to figure out what it wants to propose for its next ballot measure, dubbed ST3, which might not go to voters until November 2016. Today’s vote is no guarantee that the newly added West Seattle light-rail corridor will be included, but if the board hadn’t voted to add WS to the map today, there would have been zero chance of it making the next ballot measure.

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Followup: SDOT ‘shelving’ RapidRide reroute in The Junction http://westseattleblog.com/2014/12/followup-sdot-shelving-rapidride-reroute-in-the-junction/ http://westseattleblog.com/2014/12/followup-sdot-shelving-rapidride-reroute-in-the-junction/#comments Fri, 12 Dec 2014 20:19:14 +0000 WSB http://westseattleblog.com/?p=295113 12:19 PM: SDOT is “shelving” its unpopular proposal to reroute Metro‘s RapidRide C Line onto California between Alaska and Edmunds. That’s the word from City Councilmember Tom Rasmussen, with whom we just spoke. He says he asked the department to stop pursuing the plan, and that SDOT agreed, which he says is “a real win for the community.” While SDOT had said one minute would be saved each trip by moving the buses onto that block, instead of jogging westward from Edmunds to 44th and then eastward on Alaska, we’ve covered two public discussions at which multiple concerns were raised, with alternative time-savings suggested. The most recent discussion was this past Tuesday at the West Seattle Transportation Coalition‘s monthly meeting (WSB coverage here), during which opponents of the proposal said a lot more could be done by fulfilling the longtime promise to get transit-signal prioritization along the route.

We first reported the reroute proposal four months ago; its first public airing was at November’s meeting of the Southwest District Council (WSB coverage here), where commenters also voiced a host of concerns.

ADDED 2:03 PM: An official statement from Rasmussen was sent from City Hall, including:

“I appreciate that the Department is working to improve reliability of busses through West Seattle. However, it is important that transit efficiencies not have a negative effect on our business districts or major pedestrian areas such as the Junction. Improved bus service will be coming to West Seattle in June because of the passage of Proposition 1 without changing the C Line route as has been proposed by SDOT.”

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Today’s Viaduct-and-vicinity updates: See the ‘settling’ map; King St. crack in Pioneer Square http://westseattleblog.com/2014/12/todays-viaduct-and-vicinity-update-see-the-settling-map/ http://westseattleblog.com/2014/12/todays-viaduct-and-vicinity-update-see-the-settling-map/#comments Thu, 11 Dec 2014 22:58:52 +0000 WSB http://westseattleblog.com/?p=294975 (SCROLL DOWN for newest updates)

2:58 PM: That map (click the image to see the full-size version) is the main Alaskan Way Viaduct/Highway 99 Tunnel update so far today, six days after first word that some areas in the vicinity have “settled” more than an inch. You might have seen a version of the map on Publicola this morning; the version released by WSDOT this afternoon has added context and a slightly different color scheme. It shows settling of almost an inch and a half in some areas, but does not show the areas of “uneven” settling, says WSDOT, and the text of their update makes it clear this does not show what’s happened on The Viaduct itself:

Crews from WSDOT and Seattle Tunnel Partners are conducting ongoing surveys of the Alaskan Way Viaduct and ground to determine whether settlement is continuing near the SR 99 tunnel access pit. In general, the surveys include:

Twice daily manual measurements at the bottom of both the east and west columns of the viaduct.
Approximately every other day measurements of deep survey points. These are survey points more than 80 feet underground.

Ground surveys of sidewalks and streets from Alaskan Way to Second Avenue and from Yesler Way to South King Street. Some areas are surveyed twice a day; other areas are surveyed once every two to three days.

Surveys of some buildings. Data is collected both manually and automatically and monitored daily.

The data from the ground surveys and deep survey points are represented on a survey point data map. This map does not represent data from building surveys or the surveys of the viaduct.

The map is a computer-generated approximation to show visually the survey results that were shared with the public on Dec. 5, which indicates approximately 1.4 inches of ground settlement near the access pit and a lesser amount of settlement in the surrounding area. It does not show differential settlement, which is uneven settlement that occurs underneath a particular building or structure.

Lastly, the map does not present conclusions about the effect of dewatering. Additionally, the colors have been modified to better show the change in settlement from high to low.

We asked WSDOT earlier today if the tunnel contractor was continuing with access-pit digging, estimated two days ago to have another day to go before they reached a point where they’d stop to evaluate. The reply said only that the December 9th update still applied. We’ve been watching the “live” construction camera, and the excavation equipment does seem to have been in action as the day goes on.

ADDED 4:15 PM: New development – a crack in King St. downtown, not far east of the “rescue pit.” A briefing by the mayor is expected soon.

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West Seattle Transportation Coalition report #2: Speed up RapidRide C, yes; reroute in The Junction, no http://westseattleblog.com/2014/12/west-seattle-transportation-coalition-report-2-speed-up-rapidride-c-yes-reroute-in-the-junction-no/ http://westseattleblog.com/2014/12/west-seattle-transportation-coalition-report-2-speed-up-rapidride-c-yes-reroute-in-the-junction-no/#comments Thu, 11 Dec 2014 09:05:53 +0000 WSB http://westseattleblog.com/?p=294862

By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor

Midway through the West Seattle Transportation Coalition‘s comment period for the proposed RapidRide C Line rerouting in The Junction, WSTC co-chair Amanda Kay Helmick called for a show of hands: Anybody in favor of this?

Two-dozen-plus people were in the room – from WSTC members to first-time attendees – but none offered any show of support.

The reception Tuesday night for the SDOT-initiated suggestion of moving the route onto California SW between Edmunds and Alaska, to save a minute per trip, indeed seemed just as chilly as it had been during November’s Southwest District Council meeting (WSB coverage here). Thanks to a reader tip, we had first word of the proposal back in August.

Maybe chillier: Marci Carpenter, a WSTC member who had a spotlight at the podium with political leaders celebrating last month’s transit-funding vote, asked sharply, “Why in the world would you break up the West Seattle transit center with this?”

She was referring to the collection of bus stops on SW Alaska and 44th west of California in the heart of The Junction.

The question went unanswered, but by that point, SDOT’s Jonathan Dong had said he, Metro’s Paul Roybal, and a consulting-firm rep were not there to try to convince WSTC that this would be a good move, but rather to listen.

And they heard a lot, including suggestions for other ways to speed up the route. It’s not the concept that is drawing opposition – it’s the thought of frequent buses running along a block that is already busy with pedestrians and, with hundreds of apartments under construction and a midblock crossing spanning almost two blocks, going to get busier. (Once 4730 California is complete early next year, the raised crosswalk midblock will lead to a passageway along its north side, connecting to the north side of Mural, and on to 42nd, while the crosswalk’s west end is close to the breezeway leading toward 44th.)

One phrase surfaced over and over again: Signal prioritization – equipping/programming traffic signals to interface with buses, maximizing their progress along their routes. Dong said that more of it had just been activated on much of the RapidRide C Line route, “but some areas could be amped up a bit more,” he acknowledged.

The proposal for keeping RapidRide on California up to a right turn on Alaska – instead of the left turn to Edmunds, right turn to 44th, right turn to Alaska – was attributed to a consulting firm. Dong said the time it takes to make those turns “can discourage transit riders.” Putting a stop on the southeast corner of California/Alaska would allow more waiting/boarding space than the current stop which “gets a little cramped because of trees, and the narrow sidewalk,” while the new Junction 47 development “plans to rebuild the sidewalk – we’ve been in discussions with them.” Dong also said the revision “is consistent with the Seattle Transit Master Plan.”

When comments opened, the first was from Pete, asking if SDOT had considered how the RapidRide runs would work with street parking on that side of California and the midblock crosswalk, as people make short stops, running in and out of businesses.

Next, WSTC board member Ray Krueger recounted a trial run of watching the bus and riders in The Junction, and again mentioning traffic-signal priority – something that does not exist, it was noted, at California/Alaska.

Board member Michael Taylor-Judd pressed that point, asking why it wasn’t in place on key parts of the route, and how far it would go toward speeding up RapidRide, rather than trying to make this change. Signal priority was promised years earlier, he pointed out, adding that the California route option had been discussed and discarded back in 2008, and community stakeholders were in agreement that they wanted the transit center that’s on the west side of the California/Alaska intersection.

Signal prioritization was promised and needs to happen now, board member Marci Carpenter reiterated, then asking, “Why in the world would you break up the West Seattle transit center” alignment to make this change?

Board member Marty Westerman accused SDOT of “historical forgetfulness.” Shortly thereafter, Chris Arkills, transportation adviser for King County Executive Dow Constantine, broke in, saying that while they still weren’t sure this reroute would be a good thing, RapidRide’s routing hadn’t been revisited since its launch four years ago, and he expected SDOT and KCDOT would bring up improvements whenever they could.

Interjected Chas Redmond, “and we need to keep bringing up transit signal prioritization every chance we can.”

That wouldn’t necessarily be the only way to save time along the route, co-chair Helmick said, wondering about its south end, and how it serves (and doesn’t serve) Arbor Heights.

WSTC board member Deb Barker wondered when the Transit Master Plan had “adopted this layout,” as SDOT’s Dong had seemed to say.

She suggested the reroute would be disruptive to businesses and should be evaluated by the city’s Office of Economic Development, because of the potential monetary impact businesses might feel.

Businesses also were mentioned by Susan Melrose, executive director of the West Seattle Junction Association, who said many of her organization’s member merchants are concerned about walkability and how it would be affected by this change. “It’s not just about (saving) a minute – it’s about the character of the community,” Melrose said.

As the discussion concluded, Dong promised to send WSTC leadership answers to the questions that were raised, so they could be circulated. He called the proposed reroute part of a “collection of projects” that also included signal prioritization and possible changes in boarding. He said he’d be at the Junction Neighborhood Organization’s meeting on January 13th, and that overall, “this is your time to tell us your concerns.” (If you have an comment, you can e-mail him at jonathan.dong@seattle.gov.)

WSTC report #1, progress on low-bridge issues, is here; WSTC report #3, on city plans for what happens to West Seattle in case of disaster, is in the works for later today.

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West Seattle Transportation Coalition, report #1: Low-bridge early warning; new ‘corridor’ designation http://westseattleblog.com/2014/12/west-seattle-transportation-coalition-report-1-low-bridge-early-warning-new-corridor-designation/ http://westseattleblog.com/2014/12/west-seattle-transportation-coalition-report-1-low-bridge-early-warning-new-corridor-designation/#comments Wed, 10 Dec 2014 20:14:06 +0000 WSB http://westseattleblog.com/?p=294818 So much information emerged at last night’s meeting of the West Seattle Transportation Coalition, it’ll take us three stories to report it all. For starters, there’s a hint of progress on the issue of “low bridge” vessel openings during commute periods.

Updates were from WSTC’s Marty Westerman, who’s been focused on the issue, and Councilmember Tom Rasmussen‘s legislative assistant Evan Clifthorne (above left).

Two key points: First, a “West Seattle Bridge Transportation Corridor” designation is being pursued, to enable the low and high bridges, as well as other key routes, to be viewed holistically, in a big-picture way, which could facilitate better solutions to short- and long-term problems.

That includes the issue of how cross-Duwamish surface traffic is affected when the “low bridge” opens during peak commuter hours. Clifthorne pointed out Rasmussen’s past efforts (2008 and 2010 in particular).

He mentioned a meeting this past Monday involving “maritime interests” including the U.S. Coast Guard and Port of Seattle; the discussion included the November 12th “perfect storm” (detailed in our traffic coverage that day) with a slow-to-clear incident backing up traffic on the high bridge, while maritime use backed up surface traffic on the low bridge.

Clifthorne said it was proposed that SDOT be given very early warning of upcoming bridge openings so that it could get the word out far enough in advance for car/truck/bus drivers, bicyclists, and pedestrians to avoid getting stuck. This would be written into the Harbor Safety Plan for the Duwamish Waterway, he said, so that “every time the vessels go through their checklists, one item will be that they let the bridge operator know with as much warning as possible when exactly they are going to be at the bridge.” Once that is finalized, SDOT would have to figure out how to communicate that information to the public. (Right now, there’s seldom advance warning – SDOT uses Twitter and signage to announce that the low bridge IS closed to surface traffic, not that it will close.)

Clifthorne stressed that “this is NOT a final solution (but it’s) an important starting piece for the conversation … a very positive step, with the key takeaway, a community of folks who several years ago felt they were on opposite sides of an issue, this time around … on the same page and moving forward together.”

As for a timeline, he said this will likely come before the Harbor Safety Committee in February, though some participants in Monday’s meeting felt it could start sooner.

The “transportation corridor” discussion will apparently move faster; Clifthorne said an announcement could come as soon as next week regarding a “process forward,” involving other city leaders including Mayor Murray.

Coming up in WSTC report #2 – Still no love for RapidRide-rerouting proposal in The Junction.

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SDOT Traffic Management Center expanding hours, councilmembers told during review of Highway 99 crash closure http://westseattleblog.com/2014/12/sdot-traffic-management-center-expanding-hours-councilmembers-told-during-review-of-highway-99-crash-closure/ http://westseattleblog.com/2014/12/sdot-traffic-management-center-expanding-hours-councilmembers-told-during-review-of-highway-99-crash-closure/#comments Wed, 10 Dec 2014 17:04:53 +0000 WSB http://westseattleblog.com/?p=294695 Four miles of closure for five hours, six months ago. The June 10th crash/investigation closure of Highway 99 finally got its airing before the City Council Transportation Committee on Tuesday, and the presenters from SDOT and SPD declared that major changes had resulted.

If you want to just watch for yourself but didn’t see it in real time, full video of the discussion is in this Seattle Channel clip, starting 1 hour and 48 minutes in.

If not – toplines follow:

First, the June 10th situation was recapped: Three people seriously injured after a truck and car collided at East Marginal/Nevada (map) in the afternoon of June 10th. The car driver was suspected to have been under the influence, police said. That meant they had to investigate it as a vehicular assault, and potentially – in case someone died weeks or months later – as a vehicular homicide.

One of the biggest questions from the public that day was, why did SPD close Highway 99 all the way back to the Battery Street Tunnel, rather than allow traffic to the stadiums or even the West Seattle Bridge? Traffic Division Capt. Mike Nolan reiterated what had been said before – a Mariners game was scheduled and they were worried about “dumping” cars into the stadium zone.

Another question, why five hours? This answer was new: The Traffic Collision Investigation Squad‘s work was explained in more detail than we’d heard publicly before (along with its baseline staffing – eight detectives, one sergeant). For one, on most major roads/highways in the city, they use photos/video they have already shot of the road/highway in question – but in this case, their pre-existing footage ended just short of the crash scene, so they had to do extra work which added time.

Another factor was a “large debris field.”

The surveying equipment you might have noticed in photos of crash scenes we’ve covered (or any you have seen firsthand) is used to “shoot lines of sight” at crash scenes, the councilmembers were told: “You’re actually measuring every piece of debris, every section of every corner of vehicle(s) involved – the entire roadway curb to curb … so you can do a three-D reconstruction of the entire roadway and entire accident scene …”

If the area near the June 10th scene had been “pre-shot,” TCIS might have needed about three hours, rather than five, police told councilmembers.

Another line of questioning involved assigning officers to direct traffic during major reroute situations like the five-hour Highway 99 closure that day, and what their enforcement duties are while they are handling that responsibility. SPD reps pointed out that unless an officer in that role has backup, if s/he leaves their post to pursue a violator, suddenly the spot where they’re directing traffic is uncovered for 15 minutes or so, and that’s why you might not see an officer peel away in that kind of situation.

Separately, the biggest news to emerge from the discussion was that the SDOT Traffic Management Center is expanding its hours of operation. Though it is “24/7 ready now,” it’s not staffed 24/7, and they’re working to change that, SDOT reps said. They already have 24/7 information available from street-maintenance dispatch.

Right now, they’re up to 16 hours a day of Traffic Management Center on weekdays, 8 hours a day on weekends. (This is most noticeable if you follow @seattledot on Twitter, or if you have noticed information on the illuminated signs along major routes, especially leading to the West Seattle Bridge.) The rest of the time, on-call SDOT employees can “plug in” to the system remotely. Starting in January, someone will be in the Traffic Management Center 16 hours a day, 7 days a week, with the “remote” capability continuing the rest of the time. (Earlier this year, it only operated 13 hours a day, 6 am to 7 pm.) The phasing-in of longer operating hours is part of what’s detailed in this memo that was included with Tuesday’s agenda; it also includes more information on how agencies are improving their interaction in incidents like the one that sparked this review.

EARLIER COVERAGE: Councilmember Tom Rasmussen, who chairs the Transportation Committee, had previously questioned/reviewed the incident response in e-mail exchanges with the two city departments included in yesterday’s meeting – here’s our July coverage of the SDOT response, and our June coverage of the SPD response.

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‘One inch of ground settlement’ detected for Alaskan Way Viaduct, tunneling-machine repair pit http://westseattleblog.com/2014/12/one-inch-of-ground-settlement-detected-for-alaskan-way-viaduct-tunneling-machine-repair-pit/ http://westseattleblog.com/2014/12/one-inch-of-ground-settlement-detected-for-alaskan-way-viaduct-tunneling-machine-repair-pit/#comments Sat, 06 Dec 2014 01:13:48 +0000 WSB http://westseattleblog.com/?p=294311

(Added: Recent WSDOT photo of access pit, shared via Flickr)
5:13 PM: WSDOT says it will be inspecting the Alaskan Way Viaduct and vicinity this weekend after detecting more ground settlement. Seattle Times (WSB partner) transportation reporter Mike Lindblom reported it earlier this afternoon, and now WSDOT has this statement on its website:

Public safety is our top priority, which is why we installed a state-of-the-art settlement monitoring system as part of the SR 99 Tunnel Project. Recently, that system detected approximately one inch of ground settlement near the pit Seattle Tunnel Partners is building to access and repair the tunneling machine. We have also seen the same amount of settlement on the Alaskan Way Viaduct; the amount of settlement lessens in the surrounding area.

Some settlement was expected during tunnel construction and while the tunneling machine repair work was underway. This settlement appears to have occurred in the last month.

We have observed no new damage to the viaduct nor have we observed any effect on buildings or utilities in the surrounding area. WSDOT crews are conducting additional surveys this weekend to verify this information, including an inspection of the viaduct and a visual inspection of the adjacent areas.

While we are conducting this additional work, we are confident that there is no risk to public safety. We will provide an update early next week.

Even before the tunneling project began, Viaduct managers had noted ongoing settlement, usually described as minor (as in this 2010 report). Nothing about settlement was mentioned at the regional stakeholders’ meeting we covered last Monday, but we imagine it’ll come up when the City Council’s Viaduct Committee meets early next week.

6:08 PM: We asked WSDOT spokesperson Laura Newborn if this is the reason the Saturday night/early Sunday Viaduct closure was expanded to both directions, and she confirmed that was done “so extra survey work could be completed.”

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