Metro service change Saturday: How West Seattle routes are affected

February 14, 2014 at 1:58 pm | In Transportation, West Seattle news | 5 Comments

Tomorrow is the next official “service change” for Metro, and some West Seattle routes will see changes. RapidRide C Line will add a northbound evening trip and southbound afternoon trip; downtown stops are changing for Route 37; and when Routes 50 and 60 get to Beacon Hill, they won’t be stopping inside the VA Medical Center grounds because of construction. All of the above, and other service changes taking effect tomorrow, are explained here.

Highway 99 tunnel trouble: Front-end repair access likely

February 14, 2014 at 1:29 pm | In Alaskan Way Viaduct, Transportation, West Seattle news | 15 Comments

If you’re following the saga of the Highway 99 tunnel-machine trouble – another update this afternoon, including word it’s likely that a dig from the surface will be needed so the machine can be fixed from its front end:

Seattle Tunnel Partners (STP) informed WSDOT today that they expect to receive a plan on potential repairs to the SR 99 tunneling machine from the machine’s manufacturer Hitachi Zosen by the end of this month. This will include a schedule for how long the repair work would take. Earlier this week, STP told us the plan may be completed by the end of the week, but said today more time is needed for the Hitachi to prepare it.

It appears likely that repairs will be made by digging a shaft from the surface so the machine can be entered from the front. Entering the back of the machine would require removal of more equipment and likely take longer. STP will begin work next week on the design of the shaft so if that option is selected, some of the necessary work will already be underway.

This past Monday, as reported here and elsewhere, we got first word it will be “months” before tunneling can resume. The tunnel originally was expected to open by the end of 2015, with Viaduct demolition following its opening; no schedule revision’s been announced yet.

Roxbury safety project: ‘Tons of feedback’ at meeting #1

February 14, 2014 at 9:14 am | In Safety, Transportation, West Seattle news | Comments Off

We didn’t get to the first SW Roxbury Safety Project meeting last night because of breaking news, but Joe Szilagyi from the Westwood-Roxhill-Arbor Heights Community Council did, and you can see his report on the WWRHAH website. He says the SDOT team got “tons of feedback” and provided new details on what happens next.

In the immediate future, the previously announced February 26th meeting at Roxhill Elementary is the next step, but after that, as you’ll see in Joe’s report, there’s a further timetable for conversations and implementation.

West Seattle Transportation Coalition: Why they’re backing potential ballot measure ‘with caveats’; other hot topics

February 13, 2014 at 12:33 pm | In Transportation, West Seattle news | 2 Comments

(Metro bus yard last November, the day we covered a media briefing on potential Metro cuts/changes)
By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor

Though the King County Council hasn’t finalized what it’s likely sending to voters in April, asking for bus and road funding, the West Seattle Transportation Coalition has endorsed it.

As we tweeted during the WSTC’s wide-ranging meeting Tuesday night at Neighborhood House’s High Point Center:

Here’s how they got there – and what else was discussed that you should know about what’s happening on the roads and paths around West Seattle:

Click to read the rest of West Seattle Transportation Coalition: Why they’re backing potential ballot measure ‘with caveats’; other hot topics…

Biodiesel bust at Admiral Safeway, 7 years after pumped-up debut

February 10, 2014 at 5:35 pm | In Environment, Transportation, West Seattle news | 23 Comments

Almost exactly seven years ago, the Admiral Safeway gas station added biodiesel with pomp, circumstance, and even participation by then-Mayor Greg Nickels. It was the company’s first location in the nation to offer the part-vegetable-oil fuel mix. Now, the alternative fuel has been dropped. We found out from WSB reader Jay F, a biodiesel user, and checked with regional Safeway spokesperson Sara Osborne, who confirmed it via e-mail late today, explaining: “Simply stated, there was no longer enough demand to justify the investment..” That leaves the Propel Fuels mini-station at 35th/Barton, which offers B20 and B50, and Hans VW at 35th/Graham, which offers B100. (WSB photo from February 2007 – check those prices!)

West Seattle snow-aftermath update: Metro back on regular routes

February 9, 2014 at 5:30 pm | In Transportation, West Seattle news, West Seattle weather | Comments Off

5:30 PM: Metro just announced it’s mostly returning to regular routes, with a few exceptions, which might change in the hours ahead, so we won’t list them here – check the list online. Doesn’t look like we’re in danger of the melting snow refreezing overnight, since the forecast calls for rain.

8:15 PM: And now, Metro says it’s returned to normal on all routes.

Ferry followup: WSF boss apologizes for Monday’s cancellations

February 7, 2014 at 4:35 pm | In Transportation, West Seattle news | 15 Comments

Back on Monday, you might recall, early-morning runs were canceled on the Fauntleroy-Vashon-Southworth route, which then was on a one-boat-short schedule until noon, leading to backups. It wasn’t a case of post-Super Bowl sickout, and it was no last-minute surprise, confirmed WSF boss David Moseley in his weekly “newsletter” today:

I want to apologize to customers of the Fauntleroy/Southworth/Vashon Island (triangle) route for the service disruption experienced on Monday morning when we went to a two-boat sailing schedule due to a lack of available crew. We had vessel maintenance and crew training scheduled for Monday and when we realized that we could not cover shifts, we should have canceled training and asked that the crews to report to the vessel. I have made it clear that should this same situation occur in the future, we need to prioritize service.

WSDOT tweeted that morning that 200 calls had been made but fill-ins couldn’t be found. The tweet mentioned maintenance but not training.

West Seattle, White Center meetings set for SW Roxbury safety project

February 4, 2014 at 4:09 pm | In Safety, Transportation, West Seattle news | 3 Comments

(July 2010 crash at 8th/Roxbury, WSB/White Center Now photo)
Want to see SW Roxbury a whole lot safer than it is now? You’ll recall the campaign launched by the Westwood-Roxhill-Arbor Heights Community Council with the support of other area neighborhood advocates. Now, it’s announced that the city has scheduled two meetings about the improvements to follow:

*6:30 pm Thursday, February 13th in White Center’s Greenbridge neighborhood, 9800 8th SW
*6 pm Wednesday, February 26th, at Roxhill Elementary School, 30th/Roxbury

The city’s official project page is here. And you can expect to hear about this at tonight’s WWRHAH meeting, 6:15 pm at Southwest Branch Library (meeting preview here).

West Seattle ferry-alert update: Fauntleroy-Vashon-Southworth schedule back to normal as of noon Monday

February 2, 2014 at 11:41 pm | In Transportation, West Seattle news | 19 Comments

11:41 PM SUNDAY: Just in from Washington State Ferries:

Due to a lack of qualified crew, the following sailings are cancelled for Mon. 2/3:

4:05 am Vashon to Fauntleroy, 4:25 am Fauntleroy to Southworth, 5:00 am Southworth to Vashon and Fauntleroy, 5:50 am Fauntleroy to Vashon, and 6:10 am Fauntleroy to Vashon.

Beginning with the 6:15 am Vashon to Southworth sailing, the route will sail on a two-boat schedule. … Please see the two-boat schedule.

MONDAY 8:47 AM UPDATE: WSF says the three-boat schedule will resume as of noon.

11:59 AM UPDATE: Some context from WSDOT in this conversation with Maggie:

West Seattle road safety: Temporary speed signs on 35th SW; flashing beacons for 3 school zones

January 30, 2014 at 10:22 pm | In Safety, Transportation, West Seattle news | 16 Comments

We’ve talked a lot about road safety here – and this week, new signage in multiple areas of West Seattle is being noticed. First, in the wake of the most recent discussions about 35th Avenue SW, temporary signage has been brought in. SDOT‘s Jim Curtin explains:

Two Speed Watch Trailers were recently deployed to 35th Avenue SW in an effort to reduce speeds on the corridor. These devices detect and display the speed of oncoming vehicles and provide direct feedback to drivers about their speed. They do not record data but raise awareness about speeds on this principal arterial roadway. Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) studies show that these signs generally result in speed reductions in the range of 1 to 7 mph. In Seattle, our experiences with these devices typically result in speed reductions of 3 to 5 mph and significant reductions in the number of people traveling 10+ miles per hour over the speed limit. These function in a similar manner to the permanent radar speed signs that exist in four locations on 35th Avenue SW.

The portable speed watch trailers will remain in place for the next week or two and will be deployed periodically on the corridor. At this point, we are evaluating other measures that might help address speeding and other safety concerns on 35th.

Meantime, the online petition launched by neighborhood advocates on Tuesday passed 500 signatures today.

SCHOOL-ZONE BEACONS: We’ve been working on a closer look at safety concerns on Delridge by the Boren school building, which houses K-5 STEM now and will also be temporary home to Arbor Heights Elementary for the next school year. Halfway through the second year of classes there, Boren is finally getting flashing lights – “beacons” – to warn drivers about the school zone.

Robin Graham from the K-5 STEM PTA shared that photo of installation that was under way today. After hearing from a reader about an installation under way on California SW near Gatewood Elementary, we checked with SDOT’s Brian Dougherty to ask for the big picture:

There are three new sets of flashing school zone beacons being installed this month in West Seattle. They are located at:

· Delridge Way SW approaching SW Juneau St for the STEM (and future Arbor Heights) School
· SW Thistle approaching 26th Ave SW for Denny Middle School and Chief Sealth High School
· California Ave SW approaching SW Frontenac St for Gatewood Elementary

None of these will include permanent automated speed-enforcement cameras at this time. The beacons have all been installed and there is some sign work that needs to occur before the beacons can be turned on. The sign work is scheduled to occur in February and I expect the beacons will be fully functional sometime around March 1st. This spring, we will ask Seattle Police to conduct targeted enforcement to remind drivers not to exceed 20 mph when the lights are flashing.

There are two other spots where speed cameras ARE on the way – as previously reported – on SW Roxbury by Roxhill Elementary and Holy Family School. As of our most recent check, those are not expected to be in operation until this fall, as the next school year begins.

West Seattle traffic alert: ‘Low bridge’ closing for 4 hours Friday night; Viaduct slowdowns Sunday morning

January 29, 2014 at 4:35 pm | In Transportation, West Seattle news | 10 Comments

4:35 PM: Just announced by SDOT:

The Spokane Street Bridge to West Seattle will be closed to motor vehicles, bicyclists and pedestrians on Friday night, Jan. 31, from 8 p.m. to midnight. The closure will allow a contractor working for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to dredge the channel where silt has accumulated. Drivers are advised to use the high-level West Seattle Bridge during this time.

The contractor will begin dredging tomorrow (Thursday) night, but will not need to close the bridge to motor vehicles until Friday night to finish the work. The channel will remain open for marine traffic.

ADDED 5 PM: Thanks to David and Bob for tipping us to this alert also just announced: “SPD will conduct rolling slowdowns on the SR 99 Alaskan Way Viaduct for filming operations. The rolling slowdowns will take place between the West Seattle Bridge and the Western Ave Exit from 9:00 a.m. to 11:00 a.m. on Sunday, February 2, 2014.”

ADDED THURSDAY: From an SDOT rep in response to the question of whether there will be any type of transportation to get people on foot/bikes around during the closure – since they can’t use the high-level bridge as an alternative – short answer: No. But the contractor might be able to take less time than the four-hour window. We’ll monitor the situation as best we’re able to on Friday night so we can publish an update when the bridge is back to regular operations.

Vehicle tips on SW Roxbury, driver unhurt

January 29, 2014 at 3:31 pm | In Transportation, West Seattle news | 5 Comments

We’ve had some bouts of hard rain this afternoon – don’t know if that figured into this, but a vehicle wound up on its side in a crash at 4th 5th Place SW/Roxbury this past hour. Thanks to Sherrie for sending the photo (Brian sent one too). Seattle Fire spokesperson Kyle Moore tells us no injuries were reported – the 19-year-old driver was unhurt.

Highway 99 tunnel machine resuming work this week, WSDOT says

January 27, 2014 at 7:54 pm | In Alaskan Way Viaduct, Transportation, West Seattle news | 29 Comments

Though they’re still not saying what exactly shut down the Highway 99 tunnel machine – the pipe, the boulders, or something else – tonight WSDOT has announced that it expects tunneling to resume this week. According to tonight’s update, it’ll go two more feet, and then will stop for evaluation. If it gets the green light to continue after that, the next milestone is 500 feet down the line, where it would be stopped for maintenance before going under the Alaskan Way Viaduct – which, as first reported here last April, is expected to be closed while the tunnel machine crosses underneath. The machine has been stopped for seven weeks.

Neighborhood traffic-safety questions? Get answers with West Seattle Block Watch Captains Network tomorrow

January 27, 2014 at 11:51 am | In Safety, Transportation, West Seattle news | Comments Off

You’re invited! Here’s what’s up when the West Seattle Block Watch Captains Network meets tomorrow night:

If your neighborhood has concerns about traffic, what can you do to resolve them? Did you know you can borrow a radar gun to document speeding? Want to know how to go about getting a traffic circle? Stephen Padua, Neighborhood Programs Coordinator from SDOT, will educate us on the different resources and options available to neighborhoods and how you can effectively address other traffic issues. During the second portion of our meeting, we want to hear about any other issues that have been problematic in your neighborhoods since our last meeting in October.

You don’t have to be a captain, or even IN a Block Watch, to be there. 6:30 pm Tuesday (January 28th), Southwest Precinct meeting room (off Webster just west of Delridge).

Another bridge project almost done: Highway 99 ‘timber bridge’ expected to open early

January 23, 2014 at 11:30 am | In Transportation, West Seattle news | 4 Comments

SR 99 timber bridge replacement 2013-12-21

(December photo by LB Bruce, shared via the WSB Flickr group)
Though Highway 99 is having trouble underground, projects on and above the surface are making progress. After Wednesday’s announcement that the Atlantic St. Overpass is about to open, we asked WSDOT on the progress of the Timber Bridge/Spokane Street Overcrossing replacement south of the West Seattle Bridge. When work began last February, WSDOT projected it would last until June of this year; now, spokesperson Broch Bender told WSB today, they “hope to open the new bridge by mid-March.” Before then, an overnight closure is planned February 8-9, both directions of 99 at that spot, hours not yet finalized, to connect the two sides of the new bridge, before the final phase of work.

You’ve been going under it; soon you can go on it – Atlantic Street overpass over 99 to open Monday

January 22, 2014 at 5:42 pm | In Transportation, West Seattle news | 7 Comments

Driving/riding between West Seattle and downtown on 99, you’ve been going under the under-construction Atlantic Street Overpass just south of the remaining elevated Alaskan Way Viaduct for months. Now, it’s about to open. The announcement ahead:

Click to read the rest of You’ve been going under it; soon you can go on it – Atlantic Street overpass over 99 to open Monday…

35th SW memorial walk, report #2: Another death, another meeting – will major safety improvements follow, this time?

January 21, 2014 at 4:09 pm | In High Point, Safety, Transportation, West Seattle news | 55 Comments

By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor

James St. Clair‘s niece choked up as she struggled with saying her uncle “was” rather than “is.”

But her words were clear and plaintive as she wondered aloud “what could happen in another seven years if it’s going to take that long to make changes?”

“Seven years” referred to the time elapsed between the death of 27-year-old Susanne Scaringi, who lost her life bicycling at 35th and Graham in September 2006, and the death of Mr. St. Clair, 69, hit and killed while walking across 35th at that same intersection last month.

Darlene Saxby spoke about her uncle, and her fears, during the community meeting that followed Saturday’s community-organized Memorial Walk on Saturday. (She also spoke during the memorial, as seen in our first report, with video, here.) After words and song in his honor, yards from where he died, about 20 participants walked on to Neighborhood House’s High Point Center for that conversation.

For Darlene, this was new. For some in High Point, it was achingly familiar. In April 2011, after the death of a motorcyclist at 35th/Juneau, a roadside memorial:

A roadside rally:

Some extra enforcement:

And a discussion of safety.

Flash back across another two-and-a-half-year span before all that. In September 2008, a teenager was hit and seriously hurt crossing at 35th and Juneau:

Soon after that, local youth joined in a safety rally along 35th:

crowd35th.jpg

And that in turn was less than a year after a previous plea for safety improvements, days after 85-year-old Oswald Clement was killed crossing at 35th/Othello. Between his death and the teenager’s injury, yet another person had died on 35th – Gregory Hampel, a 39-year-old hit by a car while trying to get his dog out of the road near their home.

Five lives, seven years. The challenges had not changed, but some of the faces and names had changed:

Click to read the rest of 35th SW memorial walk, report #2: Another death, another meeting – will major safety improvements follow, this time?…

Seattle Public Schools transportation changes set for vote this week

January 20, 2014 at 3:30 pm | In Transportation, West Seattle news, West Seattle schools | 25 Comments

Potentially major changes in school transportation are proceeding somewhat quietly down the road to a vote at this week’s Seattle School Board meeting. A local mom suggested we write about this to increase the chances people know before it’s too late to even try to comment. The proposed changes came out at the last board meeting before Christmas, and are up for a vote this Wednesday (January 22nd). They are summarized on the district website here, including these toplines:

The District is proposing to:

• End yellow bus transportation to option school students who live outside that school’s middle school attendance area
• Eliminate transportation to elementary school students who live outside that school’s attendance area
• Sunset any previous “grandfathering” of transportation that was allowed when the New Student Assignment Plan took effect in 2010 11.
• Standardize all yellow bus arrival times: 7:35 a.m., 8:25 a.m. and 9:15 a.m. Please note these are not start times for schools, but the arrival times for buses. Next fall’s school bell times will be set later this winter.

The district says these changes would save more than $3 million. For full details on the proposed changes, see this district document which color-codes exactly what’s been written into the policy and what’s been taken out. The school-by-school list of next year’s proposed bus arrival and departure times can be seen here; again, as noted above, those are not the same as the bell times; you can compare to the current list of arrival/departure times. In our area, Pathfinder K-8 stands to see the largest schedule change, since it’s one of five K-8s that would be moved to notably earlier arrival times – Pathfinder’s arrival time is proposed as 7:35 am, 25 minutes earlier than it is now.

SOMETHING TO SAY? E-mail schoolboard@seattleschools.org – contact info for West Seattle’s board rep Marty McLaren is on her page. The agenda for Wednesday’s meeting at board HQ in SODO is here.

Metro money on the ballot? Next step Tuesday @ County Council committee

January 19, 2014 at 11:56 am | In Transportation, West Seattle news | 1 Comment

Will the King County Transportation Benefit District proposal to raise money for Metro and roads go to voters? The next step is a briefing Tuesday at the County Council’s Transportation, Economy, and Environment Committee, whose members include our area’s Councilmember Joe McDermott. It’s set for 9:30 am Tuesday and the announcement says the committee will hear from a “panel of city leaders, human service providers, transit users, and business and labor representatives” including:

*Tom Rasmussen, Chair, Seattle City Council Transportation Committee
*Claudia Balducci, Mayor, City of Bellevue
*Nancy Backus, Mayor, City of Auburn
*Rob Johnson, Executive Director, Transportation Choices Coalition
*Jessica Szelag, Executive Director, Commute Seattle
*Lauren Thomas, Interim Chief Executive Officer, Hopelink
*David Freiboth, Executive Secretary Treasurer, M.L. King County Labor Council

The agenda’s not on the committee’s webpage yet, so we don’t know if there’s a public-comment period, but the meeting is open to the public as always, 10th floor of the County Courthouse downtown, and will be shown live online and on cable 22.

HOW TO HAVE A SAY: The measure requires a County Council vote before going to the voters. The date for that is not yet set. You can share your opinion with the council via council@kingcounty.gov.

Miss the West Seattle Transportation Coalition forum? Video, here

January 16, 2014 at 4:30 pm | In Transportation, West Seattle news | Comments Off

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 questions

January 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..

Sales-tax increase, vehicle fee, fare hike proposed to hold off Metro cuts, could go to April vote

January 14, 2014 at 2:40 pm | In Transportation, West Seattle news | 62 Comments

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…

Just announced: West Seattle forum for transportation issues affecting people with disabilities

January 14, 2014 at 9:59 am | In Transportation, West Seattle news | 12 Comments

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

Followup: What’s wrong with the West Seattle Bridge lights

January 13, 2014 at 5:14 pm | In Transportation, Utilities, West Seattle news | 15 Comments

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.

County leaders to announce money-raising Metro/road proposal tomorrow

January 13, 2014 at 3:09 pm | In Transportation, West Seattle news | 9 Comments

Hours before tomorrow night’s West Seattle Transportation Coalition event, one of the participating governments will be making a big announcement at a media briefing. Just out of the WSB inbox:

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).

West Seattle road work: See this year’s SDOT repaving list

January 13, 2014 at 1:39 pm | In Transportation, West Seattle news | 13 Comments

(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:

ARTERIALS
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

NON-ARTERIALS
New asphalt: 39th Ave SW, 4500 block
New asphalt, spot repairs: SW Cambridge St, 2400 block

Right now, there are no major paving projects on the schedule for West Seattle this year (“major,” as in, on the scale of last year’s Delridge Way work).

Highway 99 tunnel: What’s being done to get Bertha unstuck

January 7, 2014 at 9:32 pm | In Alaskan Way Viaduct, Transportation, West Seattle news | 40 Comments

Objects encountered by the SR 99 tunneling machine

(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:

SR 99 tunnel crews drilling to look for obstruction

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.

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