If you couldn’t make it to Tuesday night’s West Seattle Transportation Coalition forum with reps from city, county, and state government – now you can see it in its two-hour entirety, courtesy of Seattle Channel; their video is now available to watch, and we’ve embedded it above. (We chronicled it as it happened, here, where you can read how it unfolded, and/or join the conversation with more than three dozen comments. WSTC’s next meeting is February 11th – watch for details here.
As-it-happened coverage: City, county, state reps answer West Seattle Transportation Coalition questionsJanuary 14, 2014 at 6:36 pm | In Transportation, West Seattle news | 42 Comments
6:35 PM: We’re live at Youngstown Cultural Arts Center as the West Seattle Transportation Coalition starts its long-awaited event, putting key questions to reps from all levels of government involved in transportation, and seeking answers. We’ll be chronicling as this goes – stay tuned. Panelists are Ron Judd from WSDOT, Chris Arkills from County Executive Dow Constantine‘s staff, Andrew Glass Hastings representing Mayor Ed Murray, and Councilmember Tom Rasmussen. WSTC board member Amanda Key Helmick points out that it’s Rasmussen’s birthday; applause ensues. Moderators are WSTC board members Michael Taylor-Judd, Mat McBride, and Joe Szilagyi. Zumba music is drifting over from the adjacent room.
6:43 PM: Judd spoke first with some generalities – he was a last-minute substitute for a representative from Gov. Inslee’s office who had to stay in Olympia. Now, Arkills, one of two West Seattleites among the four panelists, is speaking in his introductory remarks about the Metro/roads funding proposal announced just hours ago. He says that the state has until March 7th to step up and “give us better tools” because the decision to put it on the April 22nd ballot doesn’t have to be made until then. He says Metro has tightened its budget, raised fares, done “everything we can” to “keep (its) service on the street.”
Glass Hastings says “the nerd in me” has him excited to be part of this forum: “The more dialogue we can have, the more opportunities to find solutions to some of the pressing challenges we have going forward,” but also cautions the new mayor doesn’t have “all the answers” yet, after just two weeks in office. “He’s excited about the opportunity to look (again) at some of these age-old problems.” He says the mayor’s expectation is “bold experimentation” and that he wants to hear from citizens. He points out Jim Curtin from SDOT, a West Seattleite who specializes in neighborhood traffic issues, is at the event.
6:50 PM: Now, introductory remarks from Councilmember Rasmussen, who is in the fifth year of chairing the council’s Transportation Committee. He points out other governments factor into the transportation equation – the port and the feds. “We’re way behind other regions in terms of having a great regional rail system … we’re about 40 years behind where we need to be … so we’re playing catchup,” he observes, after noting some past transportation proposals that have fallen through in one way or another, including the Monorail.
First question goes to Judd – about what the state is looking for in terms of transportation $. He warns “there’s going to be pain” if a package isn’t eventually hammered out. “There’s nobody in the state that doesn’t use our system in one way or another, so there’s a lot at stake.” He says informed citizens will be key to a solution. Second, Arkills, who is Constantine’s transportation-policy adviser, is asked how do we get out of a rut and find sustainable funding to move forward. He talks about the vision looking ahead to 2040, and how the county thinks a motor-vehicle excise tax is a better funding source, but years of lobbying haven’t made it happen yet – it’s been like “Groundhog Day,” he says. He mentions the loss of sales-tax revenue since the “Great Recession” – that had been a major source of Metro funding. He notes that Snohomish and Pierce counties already have gone through dramatic transit cuts.
Rasmussen now mentions projects on which he’s been working – the million-plus dollars he got the council to approve to finish design of the Fauntleroy Green Boulevard project and describes it as primarily pedestrian-safety improvements.
He then mentions the 47th/Admiral signal funding. “It’s great to have a mayor who’ll be working with us solidly, cooperatively on these issues – it wasn’t that way with the previous mayor.”
Taylor-Judd now brings up the West Seattle Bridge problems of recent weeks (most recently, a week ago) and warns Glass Hastings “we’re going to haze you” with tough questions like these.
“We’d like to know what you can tell us – does Mayor Murray have a plan to address these seemingly endless issues on the West Seattle Bridge.” Glass Hastings begins, “Great question … you’re right, it’s a challenging question. I won’t go into topography issues of how Seattle’s laid out but … the mayor does understand and he heard loud and clear when he was going to every corner of the city during his campaign … just how challenging the connectivity can be between West Seattle and downtown, West Seattle and the region.” He reiterates that the mayor is interested in re-examining such problems. “The system’s incredibly fragile as you know, on a day to day basis … we need to make sure in working with the state, our incident response within the city, the way the roads are managed at SDOT, that those types of things are minimized in the future.” No specifics.
7:05 PM: Arkills is asked what cost savings the county has engaged in that “don’t involve service reductions.” He lists some of what was mentioned already, saying that every year, Constantine asks departments “to identify three-percent efficiencies .. It’s a complicated thing running a major transit system.” Asked on followup if the efficiency details are available to the public, Arkills says they don’t know yet what will be involved this year, but he says he’ll send WSTC some information they can post online.
Glass Hastings is now asked how the mayor will prioritize the West Seattle peninsula. “Prioritization … in the recent past has been done in a little bit of a black box. It’s hard for (citizens) to figure out how prioritization is done. That’s gotta change.” He says the mayor wants to figure out a more “transparent” process, and how priorities are “going to turn into projects on the ground.” He says the city has some great individual plans, mentioning pedestrian, bicycle, transit, freight master plans. “Problem is, transportation doesn’t work in little modal buckets – it works as an integrated system.” He tells a story of using multiple modes today alone, and says that’s a typical day for many people. He doesn’t get specific regarding West Seattle and its challenges. On followup, regarding the expiration of money to mitigate the Highway 99 project effects, he mentions that Mayor Murray wasn’t at this afternoon’s Metro-funding event because he was in Olympia, lobbying. He says that even a transportation package won’t hold off some of the cuts rolling this way – so he urges support for the newly proposed measure, saying it CAN help prevent the Metro cuts, and help West Seattle and other neighborhoods.
7:16 PM: Asked how he’s been advocating for West Seattle, Rasmussen mentions his past attempts to get the Coast Guard to approve NOT opening the low bridge during rush hour. “We tried and tried, but did not have any success.” He also says he stays “in close touch” with SPD regarding making sure they’re enforcing the rules and, for example, keeping people from blocking the bus-only lanes.
(July 2013 photo courtesy Joe)
He tracks back to the prioritization question that Murray’s rep was asked, saying that if he’s asking about a traffic signal, for example, and told it’s not high on the priority list, he asks to have the list shown – and says it would be great if the new mayor finds a way to show how things are prioritized and why. Next question for him, the looming 27 percent Metro cuts in this area – what would the City Council be able to spend to make up for that if it becomes necessary? He says that Bridging the Gap money might still be available to buy some transit hours, “but it’s very hard for the city to go it alone … we should not get to the point where the state fails and (local government has to pick up the slack).” He talks about state legislators who live outside the metro area – “Do you think they care about Seattle? .. You should hear what they say about Seattle.” He says that the city and county are working together closely now, more than ever before: “We are neighbors, partners in solving this. … If push comes to shove and Seattle has to do it, we’ll scrape the bottom of the barrel …” If the city had to propose another vehicle-license fee, “would you the voters (support it)?” he asks, saying the city also has the authority to pursue one. “We could even do tolling on roads … but it would require approval by (the citizens).”
Back to the state – Judd is asked if the state would honor its commitment to help mitigate the effects of the Highway 99 work. “Yes, but …” he begins. That “but” involves a revenue package, and if there’s not one, “we’ll have to pull the money away from something else … we don’t have extra cash laying around for these moments in time… but we will be committed, to the commitment that was signed by the parties in 2009.”
Would the county support a new audit of Metro? Arkills is asked. He says it might not be “the wisest use” of money, and invites people to take another look at the one done a few years back. Also, he says, “we are audited regularly by the state, audited by the federal government for our use of federal dollars … Audits R Us.” It’s noted at this point that County Councilmember Joe McDermott has now arrived – he’s not on the panel, though.
7:26 PM: Now a big question – with transit funding in jeopardy, would the mayor be willing to ask the council for a moratorium on waiving parking requirements for some developments until the issues are resolved? “Great question,” Glass Hastings begins (as he started other replies), saying this too is something “the mayor wants to approach with fresh eyes” – and that’s about all he says, aside from asking citizens to share their ideas. The same question is next posed to Councilmember Rasmussen – would he be willing to support a temporary moratorium. “Well, I had an experience with that last spring,” he begins. He mentions the microhousing boom, “with no parking,” and that he held a public forum, talked to council colleagues, and asked them if they would support a microhousing moratorium – and, he says, they said “no,” because there is a “vocal group of people who support density, and this is consistent with what their vision is” – and, he said, if you don’t support that vision, you’re accused of “being a NIMBY,” and worse, as he says he was. He believes any such moratorium would be unlikely because of “backlash” so “if you want one, we’re going to have to hear from you – because the folks who love microhousing are organized, they have a newspaper who strongly supports microhousing, and that newspaper uses its bully pulpit” … He says he supports affordable housing, “of course I do,” but we have to be “mindful of the quality of life of people who live in the neighborhood.” He says citizen support would be vital; someone in the audience says, “We’ll support ya,” eliciting some applause.
Glass Hastings says the mayor has committed to a “neighborhood summit” within his three months and says that a moratorium won’t be necessary if the new Metro-funding proposal goes through, because cuts won’t happen.
A related question now – regarding developers’ disincentive to include parking. “Underground parking IS incredibly costly,” Glass Hastings says, claiming some buildings wind up with parking “overbuilt,” and that in turn leads to a lack of unaffordable housing. But he also acknowledges there’s a “savings to the developer” when parking isn’t included, “and that winds up as more affordable housing.” So then he wonders aloud about channeling some of the parkinglessness savings into surrounding transportation infrastructure. “This is a perfect example of how the city might not be doing it the optimal way.” He says another look might be taken at this issue, but there is concern about affecting the supply of affordable housing.
7:36 PM: Could funding for transit be obtained from developers, if they aren’t including parking? Rasmussen is asked. He says the Law Department would have to be consulted, but it’s an “interesting idea.” He then mentions how downtown employers are encouraged to contribute to bus passes and other alternatives to driving – “maybe there are programs like that, that could work with residential developers.” The city DOES have the “ability to charge impact fees,” he said, in some cases.
Judd is asked again about the state’s commitment to mitigation funding. He says, again, “we’re committed to figuring out the mitigation piece,” and again says it needs to be part of the funding package worked out in Olympia. Regarding the original agreement, “Have we met that intent in its entirety? No. Are we committed to (meeting it in the future)?” – depends on the revenue package.
Arkills says the mitigation money and transit it’s funded are vital because keeping things moving around here depend on reducing vehicles on 99 (and other roads). He mentions the increase in transit usage here. And he mentions that Metro cuts would bring many more cars back onto the road – “90 percent of our riders have cars.” If deep cuts do happen, shuttles might be one way to at least help the most-affected riders who don’t have options, like seniors. The next question is a followup on how fare increases affect those with income challenges – so would an “employee payroll tax” be considered to spread the pain around? Arkills says the Transportation Benefit legislation does not include that kind of authority, though it was in the RTID legislation from a few years ago. He mentions that some funding would only be usable for bus purchases, but that’s not what Metro needs most – it needs operating $ the most. “We would absolutely love a more progressive, robust funding source that would grow over time,” and the county believes the motor-vehicle excise tax is that source.
At this point, the new low-income $1.50 fare that was also part of today’s proposal was mentioned. Glass Hastings interjects that it’s an innovative proposal, and Arkills acknowledges that only a few other jurisdictions have something similar.
Glass Hastings is next asked if Mayor Murray might consider bringing back the “head tax.” “The mayor’s interested in looking at all potential revenue sources,” he replies.
Rasmussen is asked a version of the same question. He thinks the council might be more supportive of an “employee head tax” now, since the climate has changed since it was repealed during the recession. Now that the business community is lobbying for transit, “perhaps the climate has changed” and using such a tax to support transit might be feasible – if its purpose is made very clear.
Judd says on behalf of the state, “we have to fight like hell to get as many cars off the road as possible. … if we think our roadways are a mess now, just wait. So there’s a lot at stake here.” He draws some applause. Here by the way is a crowd shot the WSTC tweeted a few minutes ago:
7:53 PM: Judd, saying now that he’s speaking for himself and NOT as a rep of state government, notes again the divisions and tensions between east and west. “Those in Olympia right now who essentially are not working as hard as they could be and should be and need to be for a revenue package … their constituents (would also) be losers. … Logic and common sense is not being applied. We’re faced with a set of political circumstances that are trumping common sense …and it’s a problem.” He goes on to vividly describe more of the political reality, and gets applauded for it.
Next question – Would the state support moving Vashon ferry traffic to Colman Dock downtown? (This is often asked as a way of taking some traffic off the West Seattle Bridge, among other potential effects/benefits.) Judd said he recalled some exploration of that not too long ago “and … some harsh feedback.” He says state leadership is open “but would have to go through very public process to get some input … (it’s) not something we would wade into without thoughtful process.” But with some other design processes coming up, he allowed, maybe it’s a good time to re-examine.
Staying on the water, Arkills is asked about the Water Taxi, and whether a circulator route around the peninsula might be considered, to increase usage. He mentions the two existing shuttle routes, including one that serves the “major (Metro) transfer point” at 35th/Avalon. “Part of the struggle with the shuttles is that they are timed to meet the boat,” he explains. “So it’s a little bit of a challenge to get to the farther reaches of West Seattle.” He said having the shuttles serve the park-and-ride under the bridge was studied once, but there was a turning-radius problem. Now, he says, there’s a new study about possible shuttle options, with outreach happening later this year, and he says North Delridge is one area where he would like to see shuttle service. And he pitches for riding a bike to the Water Taxi, with “a commitment to bike lockers at Seacrest Park” as well as downtown.
Now the issue of individual transportation-mode plans has come back again. Glass Hastings says, for example, the Bicycle Master Plan update will help Seattle reclaim its leadership as a top bicycling city. But the mayor, he says, is committed to “re-integrating” the transportation plans so they work together – and “prioritizing” them so that it’s clear what needs to be done first, and figure out where the money’s coming from to deal with the priorities. “A 20-year vision is great, but the mayor wants to break that down into more manageable and near-term chunks,” and to articulate now what that means, and how a difference can be made over a span such as four years.
8:07 PM: Would the city look again at replacing the removed 4th Avenue ramp on the Spokane Street Viaduct? It was looked at but wasn’t safe, Rasmussen said.
What about the long-suggested flyover bridge at Lander in SODO to get traffic over the train tracks? Glass Hastings is asked, with the note that funding OK’d by voters was diverted to the Mercer Project. “It’s a longstanding priority for the city and the port,” he begins, noting in an aside that he worked for the county before joining the city, and had to examine how to reliably get buses through that area. “Whether it’s transit, freight, commuters, trying to get across those tracks can be a 20-minute unanticipated delay.” Solving the problem “needs to happen,” he said, calling it a “Magnolia Bridge situation .. the mayor’s not interested in having these projects languish,” either prioritize them or shelve them. He says there might be other funding mechanisms – renewal of Bridging the Gap, or … ? – “to get this (project) done.”
Now, the issue of grade-separated rail – past monorail support, and word that the recent Sound Transit survey included strong light-rail support from West Seattle. So, Rasmussen is asked, how to make this happen? “The best opportunity for funding …is through the next Sound Transit ballot measure,” he begins, mentioning that some planning is being done for the West Seattle route, “and the next step is to take the measure to the public for funding that plan.” But, he says, the challenge is that “many communities” will want to be included in the ballot measure. “We will put in a very strong effort to get key routes in Seattle included,” he said, saying he believes that West Seattle/Burien does need rail because of the numerous challenges. “With parking!” someone in the audience says loudly.
Staying on the rail topic, Judd is asked whether the state is changing its culture of road support over “urban transportation.” He notes that Gov. Inslee hired WSDOT director Lynn Peterson, who is “re-looking at WSDOT” and priorities. The state legislators all have a say, he notes, and the money and how it’s spent goes through them. But he also notes that the state has constraints about how it can spend money such as gas tax – “and we need to change that … but that is a huge lift … I can’t find enough words in (the dictionary) to explain how difficult of a policy lift” that would be.
8:20 PM: Audience question now, read by the moderators (they are posing all the questions – people are offered cards if they want to write questions, but are not asked to speak to a microphone): What about more water taxis, if you “literally cannot get out of West Seattle without planning a day in advance?” Arkills mentions the West Seattle Water Taxi’s history as a “demonstration route” – 9 years! – and how the county picked up the Vashon route after the state dropped it. “We’d love to continue to expand it – every year we have seen growth in ridership – and we are committed to waterborne solutions.” He says the county’s been talking with the state in hopes of building more slips downtown to support more foot-ferry service.
Rasmussen says he too would like to see more waterborne transportation service “and if we could work with the county to make that work successfully, I’d be delighted.” Glass Hastings chimes in that the mayor “is excited to see the forthcoming transformation of Colman Dock” and wants to be sure the passenger-ferry facilities work well, seeing a “really reliable” fleet of boats to be part of the local transportation system.
Judd points out that some of the biggest Washington State Ferries have so much passenger usage, they feel like big foot ferries at times, “so it’s got to be an integral part of how we grow our system.” Glass Hastings brings up the olden-days Mosquito Fleet (foot ferries), and says “it’s the kind of innovative thinking that the mayor would like to bring to transportation solutions.” But sometimes somebody else gets in the way of “bold ideas,” he notes. Arkills mentions Lake Washington has potential, travel to Husky Stadium, for example. “There is no bigger advocate for the Water Taxi than Councilmember Joe McDermott,” he mentions, and says McDermott is going to be leading an effort to get “more stable funding” for the Water Taxis.
Now a round of one-sentence answers:
What can be done to shorten travel times from West Seattle?
Everyone except Judd replied, transit; he said “build the tunnel” (ostensibly, Highway 99).
WSTC’s Helmick is now delivering closing remarks and says the group is going to start working on a plan for West Seattle. She also says that WSTC will continue to have forums, and some of the questions not asked tonight will be asked at future forums.
Glass Hastings says he’d welcome a chance to come to a more informal future forum with more of a “back and forth,” because he feels this just “scratched the surface.”
Rasmussen says he thinks organizing this meeting “will have a positive impact for West Seattle” and says he’s sure that his fellow panelists will bring back concerns and talk with the decisionmakers. He also urges people to contact legislators, not just the local reps, because of the power they hold over matters that make a difference for our area.
Helmick says WSTC’s next meeting is February 11th and invites people to attend, and to consider joining the group’s three active committees. The forum ends at 8:33 pm.
9:49 PM: Adding links and images relevant to what was discussed. The WSTC is online at westseattletc.org and on Facebook here – where it’s noted that Seattle Channel recorded the forum for later playback; we’ll publish the link when it’s available..
Will Metro be able to avoid slashing service – including, just for starters in June, eliminating four West Seattle-area routes? Local leaders are no longer waiting for something to happen in Olympia. In downtown Seattle, King County Executive Dow Constantine and other regional leaders have just announced the local campaign to raise money to hold off Metro cuts that would hit our area the hardest. The proposal could go to the ballot as soon as April 22nd. Key points:
*$60 vehicle fee, & one-tenth-cent sales tax that would expire after 10 years
*Metro bus-fare increase to $2.75 (1 zone) and $3.25 (2 zones) next year
The full announcement is ahead: Click to read the rest of Sales-tax increase, vehicle fee, fare hike proposed to hold off Metro cuts, could go to April vote…
Happening tomorrow, but we didn’t get word until just now:
The Seattle Commission for People with Disabilities is having a transportation forum in West Seattle. This is part of a series of forums held in various Seattle neighborhoods. This is an open forum to discuss transportation issues impacting the disabled community in Seattle.
When: Wednesday, January 15th, 2014
Where: Seattle Public Library – Admiral Branch – 2306 42nd Ave SW
Time: 2:00 PM to 3:30PM
ASL interpreter provided
Quick followup on last Friday’s report about that dark stretch of the bridge: Seattle City Light says it’s figured out part of the reason why a stretch of new LED lights on the west side of the West Seattle Bridge went out. SCL spokesperson Scott Thomsen tells WSB, “Our crews discovered that a breaker is tripping, cutting power to the lights. They are trying to determine the underlying cause for that problem, which is related to the power supply, not the lights.” More info once that’s figured out.
With no action by the Legislature on a statewide transportation package, King County Executive Dow Constantine, four King County Councilmembers and several other local and regional leaders will make an announcement Tuesday regarding funding to save Metro Transit and maintain and improve local streets.
That’s set for 2 pm Tuesday. As reported on our partner site White Center Now, the County Council’s Transportation Committee was already scheduled for a briefing this Thursday on the potential formation of a “transportation-benefit district” that would seek a fee and tax to raise the money. Also on that Thursday agenda, official introduction of Metro’s June service-change plan in case funding is NOT secured – including the route cuts/service reductions outlined here, eliminating four local routes.
Once we hear the county proposal tomorrow afternoon, you’re bound to hear more about it at the already-scheduled WS Transportation Coalition Q/A event with city and state as well as county reps, 6:30 pm Tuesday at Youngstown Cultural Arts Center (4408 Delridge Way SW).
(WSB photo: Just one of the rough spots on California south of Fauntleroy)
Which West Seattle roads are scheduled to be repaved this year? The question came up last week when we reported on SDOT‘s “microsurfacing” plan for some neighborhood streets in Arbor Heights and Fauntleroy. We asked SDOT planner David Allen for the current list, and he obliged. Note that aside from this week’s already-announced work in the 2300 block of Sylvan/Orchard, no dates are set:
New asphalt: California Ave SW from Fauntleroy Way SW to SW Holly St
New asphalt: SW Roxbury St, 25th Ave SW to 27th Ave SW
New asphalt: Westbound side of SW 106th St, 39th Ave SW to Marine View Dr
New asphalt: Olson Pl SW, 9000 block
Wheelchair ramp, new asphalt: 1300 and 2200 blocks of Alki Ave SW
Concrete-panel replacement(s): SW Charlestown St, 4500-4600 block
Concrete-panel replacement(s): Olson Pl SW, W of 2nd Ave SW
Concrete-panel replacement(s): SW Genesee St, 3000 block
Wheelchair ramps: SW Roxbury St, 26th SW & 27th SW
New asphalt: 39th Ave SW, 4500 block
New asphalt, spot repairs: SW Cambridge St, 2400 block
(Photos courtesy WSDOT, shared via Flickr)
That’s one of three photos WSDOT shared late today along with an update on what’s being done to figure out how to get “Bertha,” the Highway 99 tunnel machine, going again, one month after it got stuck. The update says the steel and boulder are some of the items that passed through Bertha and onto its conveyor belt before it stopped moving forward in early December; this section of pipe was removed, too. They still aren’t sure the widely reported pipe is the whole problem. So they’re drilling to continue investigating, as you might have noticed to the west what’s left of the Alaskan Way Viaduct:
Read the entire update here. What this will cost in terms of time and money has not yet been determined, since they say they don’t know yet what it’ll take to get tunneling back on track, but KIRO TV quotes the state Transportation Director as suggesting the tunnel contractor could be held responsible for not clearing the way first.
Thanks to Joe Szilagyi from the Westwood-Roxhill-Arbor Heights Community Council (which meets tonight) and the West Seattle Transportation Coalition (which meets a week from tonight) for the photo – long-awaited sidewalk construction is under way on 30th SW, between SW 97th and SW Roxbury. It’s part of a safety project focused on helping kids get to and from Roxhill Elementary; the full scope of the project is described on this SDOT webpage. Joe says the crews on scene estimate the work will last four to six weeks, depending on the weather.
Now you see the park, now you don’t: Touring the ‘transit hub’ with Westwood-Roxhill-Arbor Heights Community Council leadersDecember 30, 2013 at 10:49 pm | In Transportation, West Seattle news, Westwood | 15 Comments
Five years ago, when community members lobbied Metro to make sure RapidRide went all the way to Westwood instead of turning around at Fauntleroy, they didn’t envision what’s become a “wall of buses” alongside Roxhill Park. A new community council has since emerged, and park-safety concerns are high on its list. So today, Westwood-Roxhill-Arbor Heights Community Council leaders took a group of visiting officials on what you might call a wall-to-wall tour.
It started and ended on the east side of Barton, alongside the park. This tour didn’t go into the park – though some of its challenges were well within view:
Liquor stolen from nearby stores – four places stock it in Westwood alone, plus Safeway on the other side of the park – is often consumed nearby, and the bus wall hides it from scrutiny. So WWRHAH suggests other places buses could lay over:
The tour around the outer perimeter of Westwood Village was led by WWRHAH chair Amanda Kay Helmick, above in purple, and secretary Joe Szilagyi, above in gray. Those who came along to see and hear about the situation included not only reps from Metro, but also from King County Councilmember Dow Constantine‘s staff, City Councilmember Tom Rasmussen‘s staff, the County Sheriff’s Office – which is responsible for Metro Transit Police – and Seattle Police, Seattle Parks, even state legislator Rep. Joe Fitzgibbon (below at left), a frequent transit rider who told his stories of getting around Westwood:
One frequently noted problem, not enough light for people to get around safely at night, including at 25th and Trenton, near the bus holding/bus stop area on the east side of Westwood:
Pedestrian and driver safety is at stake too, with cars exiting onto 25th jutting out to see around the buses and other vehicles there:
At each stop, the WWRHAH leaders offered suggestions, as tour participants took notes. And each area offered its own challenge:
While that stretch along Barton has an official RapidRide area, it was noted that bus passengers also exit much further west along the block, in the layover zone, which is unlit. WWRHAH stressed that they’re not requesting lights for the entire park – but that stretch needs something; our photo below, taken December 4th, shows how dark it can get:
This tour was part of the followup to other exchanges WWRHAH has had with Metro and other agencies that have jurisdiction in the Westwood/Roxhill area; here’s a previous story with a detailed reply to WWRHAH from Metro’s GM Kevin Desmond. The council’s November meeting was centered on park concerns and potential solutions. No specific next steps were announced as this afternoon’s tour ended, but WWRHAH plans to continue pressing for action.
(Click image for larger view)
What’s expected to be among the biggest stories in 2014 is the opening of the new South Park Bridge, almost four years after King County shut down the old one out of safety concerns. West Seattle photographer/pilot Long B. Nguyen has just sent three new views of the bridge project, looking toward the east/southeast. The bridge’s control towers, which are wrapped in these views, are the focus of the county’s December update.
(Click image for larger view)
If you’re viewing this from the WSB home page, click ahead for another, even-more-all-encompassing view (and some backstory):
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New King County Water Taxi boats to be built by All American Marine, but delivered later than originally hopedDecember 23, 2013 at 4:15 pm | In King County Water Taxi, Transportation, West Seattle news | 11 Comments
(Artist rendering of new vessels’ design)
The King County Ferry District has just announced the shipbuilder chosen for the two new Water Taxi vessels: All American Marine, based in Bellingham. We’ve been reporting on the plans to have two new vessels built; the expected $11.8 million cost of designing and building them, the county says, will be 80 percent footed by the Federal Transit Administration. Each boat will be able to carry up to 250 passengers, more than Rachel Marie and Melissa Ann, leased three years ago, and more than the district-owned Spirit of Kingston, taken over last year, which will stay with the fleet. The new boats also will have wider doors for faster boarding and more bicycle capacity – 26 per boat, up from 18 now. Construction is expected to start in early 2014, with the first vessel delivered by mid-2015, the second one by the end of 2015 – that’s another delay beyond what the county told us about back in August, when the scheduled had slipped to late 2014 for the first boat. The budget also had to be increased earlier this year when no “responsive” bid came in to meet the original $11.1 million budget.
P.S. Speaking of the Water Taxi – neither route runs on Christmas Day.
Metro just sent the official alert: All its routes are back to normal, after hours of snow routing. The snow here has largely melted, so no surprise. The forecast says rain’s on the way for the weekend.
The Legislature has given up on reaching a transportation deal in time for a possible special session before its next regular session (here are details from our partners at The Seattle Times). So, King County Executive Dow Constantine says in a statement out late today, it looks like the county is going to have to start traveling down its own road for transportation funding:
A statewide transportation package that is fair and balanced is still our first choice, so of course I’m disappointed at the continued inability of state legislators to reach agreement on a solution. I urge lawmakers to take action on a balanced package as soon as possible in the next legislative session.
“But the consequences of continued delay are unacceptable. We need the tools to address our urgent transportation needs, and we need them now. In the absence of action by the state, we must pursue a local option that uses the tools currently available to us.
“I look forward to working with the County Council to determine the timing for a measure to put before voters, and the proper mix of revenues, so that King County voters can have the chance to save bus service and maintain local roads.”
This would seem to suggest so-called “Plan B” – explained here one month ago as “existing state law (allowing) the Metropolitan King County Council to enact an ordinance creating a transportation benefit district with specific revenue authorities, including sales taxes and a flat annual vehicle fee” – is more likely than ever.
A sign like the one you see on the right will soon mark a new bicycle counter to be installed along the 26th SW neighborhood greenway in North Delridge. SDOT‘s Dawn Schellenberg says it’s one of three going in around the city “to help measure how well neighborhood greenways are performing.” It’s not a big counter with display like the one on the West Seattle “low bridge”; Schellenberg says it’s just a small metal controller box with “two small tube sensors (that) will stretch from the box across the street” on 26th between Oregon and Alaska. Though it won’t have a display, she says, “We will put the data online and update it once a month, probably starting in February.” People who live in the area will get postcards soon with information about the installation.
Fauntleroy is one of the Washington State Ferries terminals included in a new feature WSF is testing, showing how many spaces remain in vehicle-holding areas on docks, in hopes that will help people gauge wait time before they arrive. It’s been added to the Vessel Watch page for each terminal, pages where you also will find multiple cameras. Here’s the main page; here’s the Fauntleroy page; here’s the Southworth page. (The Vashon page doesn’t have parking-space information since vehicle fares are not collected there.) WSF emphasizes it’s testing this feature; look for the “Feedback” link on those pages to let them know what you think.
Our coverage of this week’s West Seattle Transportation Coalition board meeting included word that WSTC members planned a tour of sorts to meet with interested community members. Just found out it starts tomorrow! Here’s the announcement and schedule:
Got a rant about transportation in West Seattle or maybe a rave to share? If so, the West Seattle Transportation Coalition (WSTC) wants to hear from you. They plan to begin a series of “Listening Tours” to learn about transportation and mobility issues that affect the West Seattle Peninsula. The first of the ‘tours’ starts this weekend.
At each ‘Tour Stop,’ Coalition members will take your comments about transportation and the peninsula. “We’d like you to tell us what works and what doesn’t work about transportation in West Seattle; what do you think can be improved, or what do you think is needed,” said WSTC Outreach Chairperson Deb Barker. Transportation methods such as car, bike, bus, ferry, scooter, skateboard, rollerblade, wheelchair, or walking are included. As a newly formed grassroots group dedicated to advancing and improving all transportation modes in order to benefit the West Seattle Peninsula, the WSTC will tabulate all of the comments they receive to determine ongoing transportation goals and objectives for all of the people of the peninsula.
The “Listening Tour” schedule is:
December 14, 2013 from 12-2pm at Barnes & Noble Coffee Shop, Westwood Village, 2600 SW Barton
December 15, 2013 from 11-1pm at Cupcake Royale, 4556 California Ave SW
December 21, 2013 from 12-2 at The Feedback Lounge, 6451 California Ave SW
December 22, 2013 from 12-2 at Zatz a Better Bagel, 2348 California Ave SW
December 29, 2013 from 12-2 at Uptown Espresso, 3845 Delridge Way SW
If you can’t make it to one of the “Listening Tour” dates, send your comments to the WSTC at their website westseattletc.org. Additional “Listening Tours” dates will be announced in January 2014.
West Seattle Transportation Coalition: What it’s already done, what’s next, and how you can merge into the actionDecember 11, 2013 at 12:11 pm | In Transportation, West Seattle news | 37 Comments
That’s the new all-peninsula, all-transportation-modes logo unveiled last night by the West Seattle Transportation Coalition, designed by interim-board member Amanda Kay Helmick, who started the board meeting by lauding WSTC’s “tremendous amount of progress.”
Atop the list: Less than three months after forming, the group has endorsements representing 68.4 percent of the peninsula – almost to the 70 percent goal it had set for reaching by next May. (The endorsements stretch slightly off-peninsula too, with the South Park Neighborhood Association on the list.)
Also on the list: The WSTC’s November 18th rally regarding bus-cut concern, with not only the support of but participation by three local elected officials with influence in the coalition’s topic of focus.
And, something vital to any group: The creation of WSTC bylaws, which recap its roots as well as its rules.
Now the WSTC is getting ready for a pivotal January 14th event to which you are invited – and beyond that, for its first elections, with your involvement welcome too:
Update: SDOT tells council committee that double-rate de-icer caused Dec. 2 crashes; Friday’s backup also somewhat explainedDecember 10, 2013 at 11:01 am | In Transportation, West Seattle news | 60 Comments
(Dec. 2: De-icer-slick, closed-to-traffic bridge; photo by Christopher Boffoli)
By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor
In a briefing before the City Council Transportation Committee, SDOT has just admitted what really caused the de-icer debacle eight days ago, when multiple crashes happened on the de-icer-slickened West Seattle Bridge, subsequently shut down until it could be sanded (WSB as-it-happened coverage here).
It was NOT the fault of possible driver error, NOT the fault of too-warm temperatures, both of which were cited by an SDOT spokesperson afterward, but instead: The magnesium-chloride de-icer liquid was applied at twice the rate it should have been. (We had asked about operator error, too, that day, asking SDOT spokesperson Rick Sheridan via e-mail: “So there was nothing different in the formula or the amount?” His reply: “Not that we are currently aware of.”)
The discussion about the de-icer problem was followed by a shorter exchange about last Friday morning’s 2 1/2-hour lane blockage on the Viaduct (WSB as-it-happened coverage here) – why that couldn’t be cleared sooner, and why Metro didn’t reroute sooner, given the massive resulting backup:
The answer to that last matter was a “facepalm,” as one person put it on Twitter – the city’s Traffic Management Center is usually staffed at that hour by interns, and on Friday morning, an intern who had not worked there before was on duty. Which apparently explains the first, belated SDOT tweet about the lane blockage:
SR 99 is very congested due to a bad accident
— seattledot (@seattledot) December 6, 2013
Just before 8, Metro finally texted word of a reroute, as we tweeted:
JUST got the first C Line reroute text from @kcmetrobus b/c of ongoing 99 woes. Will stop NB at 3rd/Seneca since missing EB Seneca/3rd.
— West Seattle Blog (@westseattleblog) December 6, 2013
(STORY CONTINUES BELOW, WITH MEETING VIDEO ADDED AT THE END, AND POST-MEETING FOLLOWUP) Click to read the rest of Update: SDOT tells council committee that double-rate de-icer caused Dec. 2 crashes; Friday’s backup also somewhat explained…
By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor
West Seattle won’t just be the hardest hit if Metro has to carry out its plan for cuts – it will be the first hit.
So if you have something to say about the routes proposed for reductions/eliminations, it’s time to say something if you haven’t already. You have another chance to do that today, if you work downtown, with Metro’s next public meeting at Union Station at noon.
Metro’s been making the rounds, including a stop last week in West Seattle. That came almost a month after Metro GM Kevin Desmond had summoned news media to a meeting room downtown (WSB coverage here) to warn again that service slashes loom, outlining which ones were on the endangered list and how the process would roll out.
There was some hope then of a breakthrough in the Olympia-centered battle over transportation funding, including money for roads as well as transit. But it hasn’t happened yet, and most recently, while briefing the North Highline Unincorporated Area Council last Thursday, two of our area’s state legislators reiterated the lack of a deal.
So absent a major U-turn, you might say, the first batch of cuts for our area is approaching the onramp – detailed in a plan that is being drawn up right now, to go to the County Council within weeks, since these cuts would take effect in June.
Thanks to longtime WSB’er Mike (aka “miws”) for the tip – Delridge Way is detour-free from Roxbury to Orchard for the first time since January, when repaving work began. The southernmost stretch has reopened with no announcement, and no update on the project website, which as of two weeks ago projected the south end of Delridge would remain a detour zone until the end of the year.
This last leg of work included pedestrian-safety upgrades, such as the permanent closure of a stub of 17th SW between Cambridge and Delridge; 17th/Delridge is now an all-way stop.
While Delridge is completely clear, cones, signs, and some equipment are still in evidence here and there; we’ll check with SDOT on Monday to see what finishing touches remain and how long they’re expected to take.
The comment period has just closed for Sound Transit‘s Long-Range Plan update – hope you got the chance to answer ST’s survey, mentioned here several times. Today, a quick update on two loud voices of support for light rail to West Seattle: First, Joe Szilagyi of the West Seattle Transportation Coalition just sent word of the letter the coalition sent; see it in this update on the WSTC website (which also includes the newest information on what YOU can do to advocate for solutions to WS transportation challenges). Second, the City Council has unanimously approved its own official comments for Sound Transit, and they include a request “to consider additional … corridors in Seattle, such as University District/Ballard/Downtown and West Seattle/Burien.” Next step: ST works on a “supplemental environmental impact statement” for its plan update, and somewhere down the line, maybe a new ballot measure to fund light-rail expansion.
Council approves 2014 city budget with design $ for ‘Fauntleroy Green Boulevard,’ planning $ for DelridgeNovember 25, 2013 at 3:27 pm | In Transportation, West Seattle news, West Seattle politics | 8 Comments
That’s the design so far for the “Fauntleroy Way Green Boulevard” plan – two lanes each way, a partial cycle track, and a median if utilities allow, among other safety and beautification components. $1.3 million to finish the design is in the 2014 budget just finalized by the City Council (more backstory in our report from last Monday). SDOT told us earlier this month that they expect at least one community meeting about the design early next year; the last one was in 2012. Other budget changes include $100,000 for Delridge Way “multi-modal corridor development” planning, explained here. You can see the full list of council changes here; lots more budget documentation here.
… Seattle Tunnel Partners (STP) started using barges to remove excavated soil from the SR 99 tunnel dig site this morning. The barges will take the excavated soil to Mats Mats, a quarry near Port Ludlow.
Prior to today, STP was using trucks to remove soil and dispose of it at facilities in the Puget Sound region. Moving forward, STP will use a combination of barges and trucks.
The labor issue that arose earlier in the tunnel drive has been resolved. Discussions between WSDOT and STP are ongoing. Details will be available upon the conclusion of those discussions.
By the way, a project-related closure of the Alaskan Way Viaduct is still looming, once the tunneling machine gets to the spot immediately beneath the existing structure, as first reported here back in April. We had asked Yerkan for an update and received this reply late Friday: “We still don’t have a date for when we will tunnel under the viaduct and thus close the structure to traffic for up to two weeks.”
The online survey for Sound Transit‘s Long-Range Plan Update includes a section where you can indicate support for extending light rail to serve West Seattle. We linked to the survey in our traffic coverage (where else?) multiple times last month and are mentioning it again now because Monday is the deadline to take the survey – so if you haven’t participated, take a few minutes and do it now. The signboard above shows Sound Transit’s current “corridor” studies, including our area, as displayed at an ST public hearing yesterday, photographed by Joe Szilagyi of the West Seattle Transportation Coalition (see the gallery on Facebook, here). But a study doesn’t guarantee a plan, so far, without support and, later, funding. First step: You can take the survey here.
King County leaders presented an update this morning on the funding challenges that could result in major Metro Transit cuts (detailed two weeks ago). If the Legislature doesn’t come up with a “balanced” transportation package, they say, they’ll urge local leaders to move ahead with what’s becoming known as “Plan B” – one funding option involving a car-tab-tax hike. And they also announced a labor agreement that they say can save some money, up to $12 million. Here’s the county release with full details.
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