West Seattle Blog... » Transportation http://westseattleblog.com West Seattle news, 24/7 Wed, 26 Nov 2014 12:07:16 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.4.2 Followup: Bridge backup from hour-and-a-half tow-truck wait = Case of ‘confusion’ http://westseattleblog.com/2014/11/followup-bridge-backup-from-hour-and-a-half-tow-truck-wait-case-of-confusion/ http://westseattleblog.com/2014/11/followup-bridge-backup-from-hour-and-a-half-tow-truck-wait-case-of-confusion/#comments Fri, 21 Nov 2014 18:51:59 +0000 WSB http://westseattleblog.com/?p=292736 10:51 AM: Remember last week’s high-bridge backup, involving a lane blocked by a crash-damaged car that didn’t get towed for an hour and a half?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Kathleen M. O’Toole
Chief of Police

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Arbor Heights microsurfacing: Last call to tell SDOT what you think http://westseattleblog.com/2014/11/arbor-heights-microsurfacing-last-call-to-tell-sdot-what-you-think/ http://westseattleblog.com/2014/11/arbor-heights-microsurfacing-last-call-to-tell-sdot-what-you-think/#comments Mon, 17 Nov 2014 03:29:42 +0000 WSB http://westseattleblog.com/?p=292344 It’s been spotlighted on the SDOT website … it was brought up at this month’s Westwood-Roxhill-Arbor Heights Community Council meeting … and we’ve received a nudge from the city about it: If you have anything to say to the city about the microsurfacing work on Arbor Heights this past summer, please take a few minutes and answer this online survey – which also gets into the broader topic of microsurfacing vs. chip seal vs. full road replacement (and even sidewalks).

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Of bridges, buses, and boulevards: West Seattle Transportation Coalition’s November toplines http://westseattleblog.com/2014/11/of-bridges-buses-and-boulevards-west-seattle-transportation-coalitions-november-toplines/ http://westseattleblog.com/2014/11/of-bridges-buses-and-boulevards-west-seattle-transportation-coalitions-november-toplines/#comments Thu, 13 Nov 2014 06:22:16 +0000 WSB http://westseattleblog.com/?p=291825

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

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

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

But we’re getting ahead of ourselves:

Early on the agenda of Tuesday night’s WSTC meeting at Neighborhood House’s High Point Center, chair Joe Szilagyi presented responses he’d received after asking local agencies what they’re doing to fix the seemingly broken incident-response policies that have figured into long, traffic-snarling closures. From those responses:

SDOT is currently working to update their incident response protocols in coordination with WSDOT, the Seattle Police Department, King County Metro, the Seattle Fire Department, Seattle Public Utilities and Seattle City Light.

Those protocols already include some possible strategies:

Depending on the emergency, SDOT and WSDOT contact the United States Coast Guard and they may play a role within the emergency response protocol. For long-term planned closures or emergency situations that may require long-term closures of the Alaskan Way Viaduct or the West Seattle Bridge, SDOT and WSDOT request that the Coast Guard limit openings of the lower Spokane Street swing bridge.

But that’s for “long-term closures,” not “blocked lanes.” (More on the bridge situation, later in this report.) And while the low bridge did open for vessel traffic at one point during this morning’s bridge trouble, that wasn’t the big problem – the lack of tow-truck availability was. Asked last night (again, BEFORE this morning’s mess) whatever happened to former Mayor Greg Nickels‘ deployment of tow trucks near the West Seattle Bridge in case rapid response was needed, Councilmember Tom Rasmussen recapped that Nickels had determined the costs outweighed the benefits – but said it might be time to revisit whether that would still be the case. You can expect to hear more about this in the days/weeks ahead.

This next topic is the main reason Rasmussen was at last night’s WSTC meeting:

TRANSIT FUNDING PROP 1 – WHAT NOW? Councilmember Rasmussen and County Executive Dow Constantine‘s transportation adviser Chris Arkills were at the meeting to discuss the fee/tax measure passed by Seattle voters, originally intended to hold off Metro cuts, now framed as money to add (or restore) service.

Arkills called it “unfortunate” that Route 120 is not eligible because of the way the measure was written – more than 20 percent of its stops are outside the city, and that makes it ineligible (which co-chair Amanda Kay Helmick later called “obscene”).

Arkills recapped what was discussed at the post-Election Night briefing last week, including routes that ARE expected to get some of the money (WSB coverage here).

One question that came up: How is an “unreliable route” fixed? Generally, by adding buses, Arkills explained. He also brought up the RapidRide C Line Junction route-change that SDOT is proposing (most recently discussed, and more criticized than welcomed, at last week’s Southwest District Council meeting), saying that it’s not necessarily supported by Constantine.

Asked for a reminder of when Metro makes service changes, Arkills said that the annual February service change is being scrapped, leaving June and September (those are the periods when when the Prop 1-funded changes are to be phased in next year). He added, “The city probably won’t start getting money until late May and early June” from Prop 1. And he mentioned that the City and County Councils both have to pass the final plan (as noted here last weekend).

Rasmussen said neighborhood representation would be vital in the process of overseeing how this is implemented. Has Seattle yet reached out to Burien, for example, regarding regional cooperation (which could mean that routes like 120 could be included)? asked Helmick. Rasmussen said smaller communities’ tax bases would be an issue, but said there needs to be a way to work on this, because, for example, “West Seattleites’ lives don’t just end” at the city limits. What about the unincorporated area between here and Burien? asked Helmick. The county just doesn’t have money for that, Arkills said. But he said, for example, Seattle annexation could solve that problem. “This was not the ideal proposition,” Rasmussen said. “We wanted county participation .. but that didn’t pass.”

After both guests left, WSTC members launched into a spirited discussion of how best to advocate for the adjacent unincorporated area (White Center, etc.) so situations like the Route 120 omission could be addressed. Michael Taylor-Judd also suggested that West Seattle could use some more east-west bus service.

ABOUT THE ‘LOW BRIDGE’ AND RUSH-HOUR OPENINGS FOR TRAFFIC: Rasmussen also thinks it’s time to look at that again, he told WSB in an inquiry earlier this week. And when it came up at tonight’s meeting, he said it would be vital to get support from the port – the timing of equipment shipments. Marty Westerman pointed out that the bridge already had opened 180 times this year, with 4 major incidents on the high bridge. He said the Coast Guard had said the low bridge opened just a few times a week, while SDOT has much-higher numbers (Datapoint, just this past Tuesday, it opened 4 times during morning rush-hour, according to the @SDOTbridges Twitter account.) Maybe this can all work into the Freight Mobility Plan, it was suggested. And, Rasmussen noted, they would have to have “concurrence from the mayor’s office” as well.

FAUNTLEROY, DELRIDGE BOULEVARD PROJECTS: Asked by co-chair Amanda Kay Helmick for a recap, Rasmussen said a consultant and program manager are now in place for the Delridge Boulevard project, which will start before year’s end. The engagement will be “tied to DPD’s engagement efforts” (the North Delridge Action Plan), and a conceptual design is due by the third quarter next year, with the search for funding to follow.

As for the Fauntleroy project, he recapped obtaining design funding for it, but said construction money is still a question mark, and “will probably have to be in the next (ballot measure),” whatever is proposed similar to the past Bridging The Gap measure (though he also said that the mayor and council aren’t likely to craft that future measure to be too similar to BTG). Rasmussen observed that “we don’t do a good job of improving the infrastructure” as growth and redevelopment occurs, and this is an attempt to address that problem in “a holistic way.” He told WSTC that he’ll need their support – if the council doesn’t hear about support for projects like this, they won’t rise in priority.

NEW WSTC BOARD MEMBER: Tom Linde has joined the board. A few months back, he spoke at WSTC about an alternate idea for the port’s currently vacant Terminal 5. Why join? He said he’d long been interested, has more ideas, and is “here to get educated” about even more of what’s happening around the peninsula.

FAUNTLEROY TRAFFIC MEETING RECAP: We covered last Thursday’s meeting here; Deb Barker from Morgan Junction recapped it Tuesday night for WSTC attendees who weren’t there.

LOOKING AHEAD: WSTC meets the second Tuesday of the month for one more month, December; as of next January, it’s moving to fourth Thursdays, to avoid overlapping with the community groups that also meet on second Tuesdays. Track what’s up with WSTC at westseattletc.org – they started a conversation Tuesday night on where to go next and there’s still plenty of time for you to be part of it.

AND EVEN BEFORE THAT … spend an hour with WSTC at this Saturday’s Gathering of Neighbors. Details in this WSB story from earlier today.

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First-ever ‘strategic plan’ in place, to steer King County Water Taxi service’s future http://westseattleblog.com/2014/11/first-ever-strategic-plan-in-place-to-steer-king-county-water-taxis-future/ http://westseattleblog.com/2014/11/first-ever-strategic-plan-in-place-to-steer-king-county-water-taxis-future/#comments Mon, 10 Nov 2014 06:13:40 +0000 WSB http://westseattleblog.com/?p=290984

By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor

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

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

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

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

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

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

In the first two years of the King County Ferry District, its higher property-tax levy helped build up a reserve fund. Then the money it was getting from that levy was dramatically reduced so that Metro could use the taxing authority instead (here’s our 2009 coverage), and there’s been an “annual operating deficit since 2010″ – a $3.6 million gap last year, according to the new report.

This year’s costs are up because two new Water Taxi boats are being built – mostly federally funded, but still with a county share – and the county has a share of the costs for the new passenger-only-ferry terminal at Colman Dock.

The plan doesn’t recommend how much of a levy rate should go toward Water Taxi service, but suggests, “A sustainable levy rate going forward should consider the future capital costs of maintaining and preserving the current system.” And it notes that the service has improved its financial performance despite the tax situation:

In 2009, the first year the District operated both the West Seattle and Vashon routes, the farebox recovery ratio was 14.9% and the annual operating cost per rider was $14.47. By 2013 the farebox recovery ratio increased to 28.5% and the annual operating cost per rider decreased to $12.83.

According to Carrie Avila-Mooney in Councilmember McDermott’s office, no levy increase is expected through 2016, but the King County Executive would likely propose one for 2017-2018, and the County Council would have to approve it. Right now, the Ferry District is taxing county residents at 0.3 cents per $1,000 assessed value of property; the county has taxing authority up to 7.5 cents per $1,000.

That’s not the only suggestion the plan has for increasing operational revenue. It mentions “additional services with limited costs that would generate revenue for service (such as) dock leases, vessel maintenance services, and back-up vessel contracts. The water taxi could also evaluate advertising revenue potential or explore coordinated marketing opportunities with local businesses and organizations to boost ridership.” (Advertising space had been sold on the Water Taxi when it used the leased Argosy vessel Sightseer – local businesses, including WSB, could buy space for banners or painted signage on the boat.)

Another major task, and one that would carry an undetermined price tag: Solve the West Seattle terminal problem and find a permanent location. The county is in the sixth year of a ten-year lease for Seacrest, it points out, noting that “connections and parking at current terminals pose challenges. ”

Looking at a big picture that might also bring in a Lake Washington route (as studied in 2009) and might see the county manage future Kitsap County foot ferries, currently under consideration, the report suggests:

There is potential to grow ridership and expand service related to significant infrastructure projects near terminals, such as the Downtown Seattle waterfront development and a new Link light-rail station at the University of Washington.

To be specific, the plan suggestions, the Spirit of Kingston – now on the West Seattle route – could be “utilized in Lake Washington” service once the two new vessels for WS and Vashon arrive.

Regarding connections, the plan notes technological integration that currently exists, and more in the works:

The water taxi is fully integrated into Metro trip planning technology and One Bus Away. Also, the water taxi is currently working on a “Where’s My Boat” application to show where vessels are in real time, and should continue efforts in implementing the smart phone application.

Overall, the plan says that deciding on the level of water-taxi service the county wants to provide – continue with West Seattle and Vashon? add Lake Washington? or? – is the most important decision to make, to shape the next three to five years of operation.

SIDE NOTE: Plan input came from not only Ferry District directors (aka County Councilmembers) and county staffers but also from what Councilmember McDermott described as: “an advisory committee that included Greg Whittaker from the West Seattle Chamber and Victoria Nelson from the West Seattle Transportation Coalition. The advisory group also had representatives from regional transportation groups; PSRC, and the Cascadia Center, cities in King County; Kenmore, Kirkland, and Seattle, labor representation, and members from the greater business community. The advisory committee was very engaged and did excellent work in giving input into the plan.”

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Fauntleroy talks traffic. City reps listen. But did they hear? http://westseattleblog.com/2014/11/fauntleroy-talks-traffic-city-reps-listen-but-did-they-hear/ http://westseattleblog.com/2014/11/fauntleroy-talks-traffic-city-reps-listen-but-did-they-hear/#comments Sat, 08 Nov 2014 03:02:35 +0000 WSB http://westseattleblog.com/?p=291420

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

The forum was moderated by FCA president Mike Dey and organized by FCA board member Marty Westerman, who is also a member of the West Seattle Transportation Coalition. The panel was a bit different from what had been announced in advance; SDOT director Scott Kubly wasn’t there, but Chief of Staff Bill LaBorde was; Mayor Murray’s transportation adviser Andrew Glass Hastings; Southwest Precinct commander Capt. Steve Wilske; and from City Councilmember Tom Rasmussen‘s staff, Evan Clifthorne.

The chronic problems discussed included the “triangle” crossroads in Endolyne (Brace Point/45th) and surrounding streets and how there have been studies over the years, but – according to several present – nothing had been done. Glass Hastings said some momentum exists for safety improvements in the “triangle” and up the hill along Marine View. He said that the Marine View improvements MIGHT include a guard rail near the curves that have seen several crashes in just the last year.

But among the three-dozen-plus attendees, frustration was an issue even bigger than the specifics; many who spoke talked about getting in touch with SDOT over many years and feeling nothing had been done to address their concerns. Or, if the city said what was requested couldn’t be done, as FCA’s Phil Sweetland noted, the explanation always seemed to be “by the book” – why couldn’t they “think outside the box”?

Beyond the triangle, a crosswalk to Lincoln Park was suggested, crossing Fauntleroy, toward the north-central part of the park for people trying to get to the wading pool and the playground. He said that the explanation that a crosswalk was too close to the light at Othello did not take into consideration that people want to cross Fauntleroy closer to the pool and playground. Shortly after he said that, several people spoke up to talk about the lack of a crosswalk also affecting the fact the C-Line stop at Rose is only on the east side of the street. They said that it’s OK to cross east when there’s no ferry traffic, but it’s a huge pain to wade between the cars when you get off the C and need to get to the east side of Fauntleroy.

Fauntleroy Way congestion in general was a key topic, with ferry traffic, buses, and Lincoln Park at the top of the contribution list.

Three items shifted the talk to suggesting locals go beyond city officials to the state and feds.

1. Fauntleroy dock traffic – Funding was taken away for traffic-directing help. Clifthorne said that the money went away and that the city and local legislators are trying to get the money back for traffic control.

2. Keeping the lower bridge open during the commute periods. Clifthorne and Glass Hastings said this is a larger issue for getting the state and feds involved. Timing does involve tides, though, it was noted.

3. Motorcycle noise from the ferries: Capt. Wilske said that he had talked to the precinct liaison from the City Attorney’s Office and looked at the bigger-picture statutes, but bottom line, the local Seattle noise ordinance is just plain hard to enforce. Despite that, he is directing his early morning officers to keep a close eye on speeding and traffic issues with the motorcyclists to see if that might deter the problem.

Not many answers or promises, but Clifthorne did say that he would work with Councilmember Rasmussen to set up a walking tour of Fauntleroy.

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Election 2014: Transit taxes passing – what will your money buy? http://westseattleblog.com/2014/11/election-2014-transit-taxes-passing-what-will-your-money-buy/ http://westseattleblog.com/2014/11/election-2014-transit-taxes-passing-what-will-your-money-buy/#comments Wed, 05 Nov 2014 21:51:51 +0000 WSB http://westseattleblog.com/?p=291158

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The agreement will:

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

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

Transit advocates who were there included West Seattleite Marci Carpenter:

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

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

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

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

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

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Highway 99 tunnel: Digging resumes at ‘rescue’ pit site http://westseattleblog.com/2014/11/highway-99-tunnel-digging-resumes-at-rescue-pit-site/ http://westseattleblog.com/2014/11/highway-99-tunnel-digging-resumes-at-rescue-pit-site/#comments Mon, 03 Nov 2014 22:40:55 +0000 WSB http://westseattleblog.com/?p=290932 2:40 PM: A week and a half after the discovery of shells stopped excavation at the Alaskan Way Viaduct-side pit where the tunneling machine’s damaged cutter head will be pulled out, the digging has resumed. So announced WSDOT this afternoon, saying archaeologists gave the tunnel contractor clearance on Sunday to get going again. According to the announcement, they “believe the shell deposits are the product of commercial shellfish activities carried out by early Seattleites around the turn of the 20th century.” Therefore, they weren’t believed to be “culturally or historically significant,” and work was allowed to resume.

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

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Sound Transit light rail for West Seattle? Constantine, McDermott announce they’ll seek to get WS into ST’s updated plan http://westseattleblog.com/2014/10/sound-transit-light-rail-for-west-seattle-constantine-mcdermott-announce-theyll-seek-to-get-ws-into-sts-updated-plan/ http://westseattleblog.com/2014/10/sound-transit-light-rail-for-west-seattle-constantine-mcdermott-announce-theyll-seek-to-get-ws-into-sts-updated-plan/#comments Thu, 30 Oct 2014 22:47:49 +0000 WSB http://westseattleblog.com/?p=290472 Will light rail for West Seattle be written into Sound Transit‘s forthcoming long-range-plan update? Two West Seattle-residing elected officials said at a ST board meeting today that they will support amending the plan to call for “high-capacity transit service” for WS in that update: County Executive Dow Constantine (who chairs the board) and County Councilmember Joe McDermott (who’s a board member). Here’s the news release:

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

“The corridor between downtown Seattle, West Seattle and Burien is one of the greatest opportunities for extending mass transit service,” said Constantine. “This amendment is the first step towards funding the extension through a future public vote.”

“Survey results back up what I am hearing from my constituents and my community – strong support exists for light rail expansion to West Seattle,” said Councilmember Joe McDermott, who represents West Seattle. “A Downtown to West Seattle to Burien route will be well-used and leverage limited transit dollars in economic hubs.”

Sound Transit Board members today discussed the Long-Range Plan (LRP) at a workshop in preparation to update the plan in December. Proposed amendments will be discussed at the Board’s November and December meetings.

Following the collapse of the Seattle Monorail Project in 2005, the Sound Transit Board included funding to study a future connection between downtown Seattle, West Seattle and Burien in the Sound Transit 2 ballot measure that voters adopted in 2008. The study, completed earlier this year, shows very strong ridership potential in the corridor.

The LRP, last updated in 2005, serves as the vision for where high-capacity transit investments including light rail and bus rapid transit should go as the region’s population grows an estimated 30 percent by 2040. The plan identifies the projects that are eligible to be included in future ballot measures for construction after the completion of current voter-approved projects, including more than 30 miles of light rail extensions that Sound Transit is on target to open by 2023.

Next month Sound Transit is scheduled to position the Board to update the LRP by publishing a Final Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement, shaped by analysis of transit expansion options and more than 12,000 public comments that Sound Transit received in June and July. More information on the LRP is available at www.soundtransit.org/longrangeplan.

In updating the LRP the Board is set to confirm its plans to begin work in January to shape a ballot measure for consideration in November 2016 or thereafter. Next month the Board is scheduled to discuss the additional authority for local revenue sources that need to be approved by the Washington State Legislature.

Before publishing this, we followed up for some clarification. Constantine’s transportation adviser Chris Arkills explains that today’s announcement is a precursor to formal action in December: “(Constantine) kicked off the board meeting discussion on potential amendments to the long range plan by announcing that he and CM McDermott will be offering an amendment to add WS to the (plan). Only corridors in the LRP are eligible for possible inclusion in any ST3 (ballot measure) package. So this is an important step.”

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West Seattle scene: 35th SW meeting, afternoon edition http://westseattleblog.com/2014/10/west-seattle-scene-35th-sw-meeting-afternoon-edition/ http://westseattleblog.com/2014/10/west-seattle-scene-35th-sw-meeting-afternoon-edition/#comments Wed, 29 Oct 2014 01:02:47 +0000 WSB http://westseattleblog.com/?p=290225

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

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

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West Seattle sinkhole followup: Sewer-line repair under way http://westseattleblog.com/2014/10/west-seattle-sinkhole-followup-sewer-line-repair-under-way/ http://westseattleblog.com/2014/10/west-seattle-sinkhole-followup-sewer-line-repair-under-way/#comments Tue, 28 Oct 2014 19:40:05 +0000 WSB http://westseattleblog.com/?p=290181

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

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

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Highway 99 tunnel-machine rescue pit digging on hold after 3 days http://westseattleblog.com/2014/10/highway-99-tunnel-machine-rescue-pit-digging-on-hold-after-3-days/ http://westseattleblog.com/2014/10/highway-99-tunnel-machine-rescue-pit-digging-on-hold-after-3-days/#comments Fri, 24 Oct 2014 01:47:09 +0000 WSB http://westseattleblog.com/?p=289704


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

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

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

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1,065 crashes in 10 years on 3 miles of ‘I-35.’ Safety project begins, to create a ‘more forgiving’ street http://westseattleblog.com/2014/10/1065-crashes-in-10-years-on-3-miles-of-i-35-safety-project-begins-to-create-a-more-forgiving-street/ http://westseattleblog.com/2014/10/1065-crashes-in-10-years-on-3-miles-of-i-35-safety-project-begins-to-create-a-more-forgiving-street/#comments Thu, 23 Oct 2014 10:45:36 +0000 WSB http://westseattleblog.com/?p=289605 By Tracy Record & Patrick Sand
West Seattle Blog co-publishers

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

Oswald Clement

Gregory Hampel

Andrew Seffernick

James St. Clair

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

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

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

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

willowspeed.jpg

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

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

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

(PDF version is here.)

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

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

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

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

Police enforcement has brought some progress over the years.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Tale of two pits: Highway 99 tunnel-machine rescue update; Murray CSO tank site overview http://westseattleblog.com/2014/10/tale-of-two-pits-highway-99-tunnel-machine-rescue-update-murray-cso-tank-site-overview/ http://westseattleblog.com/2014/10/tale-of-two-pits-highway-99-tunnel-machine-rescue-update-murray-cso-tank-site-overview/#comments Mon, 20 Oct 2014 19:47:08 +0000 WSB http://westseattleblog.com/?p=289328 Whole lot of digging going on around the city these days. Two new views:

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

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

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

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Fauntleroy Community Association invites neighbors to talk with city leaders about transportation challenges http://westseattleblog.com/2014/10/fauntleroy-community-association-invites-neighbors-to-talk-with-city-leaders-about-transportation-challenges/ http://westseattleblog.com/2014/10/fauntleroy-community-association-invites-neighbors-to-talk-with-city-leaders-about-transportation-challenges/#comments Fri, 17 Oct 2014 21:48:26 +0000 WSB http://westseattleblog.com/?p=288979 Ongoing transportation/traffic concerns in Fauntleroy will get an airing in front of city reps including SDOT’s new director in three weeks: Thursday, November 6th, is the time/date just announced by the Fauntleroy Community Association for its long-in-the-works community conversation about issues from speeding to sidewalks to parking, and beyond. FCA president Mike Dey says SDOT director Scott Kubly, DPD director Diane Sugimura, Mayor Murray’s transportation adviser Andrew Glass Hastings, and City Council reps have all confirmed they’ll be there, 7 pm at The Hall at Fauntleroy.

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Making 35th SW safer: SDOT adds second community meeting http://westseattleblog.com/2014/10/making-35th-sw-safer-sdot-adds-second-community-meeting/ http://westseattleblog.com/2014/10/making-35th-sw-safer-sdot-adds-second-community-meeting/#comments Fri, 17 Oct 2014 17:22:53 +0000 WSB http://westseattleblog.com/?p=288951

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

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