The Southwest District Council has new co-chairs for next year: Erica Karlovits of the Junction Neighborhood Organization and Chas Redmond from the Morgan Community Association. That was the easy part of Wednesday night’s meeting; otherwise, tough transportation talk put city reps in the hot seat — read on:
Spokane Street Viaduct Widening Project manager Stuart Goldsmith from SDOT came out to summarize the timeline for the work, which started almost two months ago with closure of lower Spokane Street for several blocks east of the 1st Avenue South offramp.
Nothing much has changed. And in one case, that’s a problem — new council co-chair Redmond wanted to know why the traffic light at the bottom of the 1st Ave. S. offramp hasn’t changed its timing, even though the traffic flow has changed, with the detour requiring a left turn. He says that adds 45 seconds per traffic cycle and asked if the city had investigated that; Goldsmith said he will check. Karlovits expressed a concern about how emergency vehicles will get through as construction disruption increases; Goldsmith says SDOT and public-safety agencies are discussing that now. Other attendees asked if the elevated Spokane Street speed limit will increase once the widening is complete; short answer, no.
Next from SDOT, Bill Bryant discussed what “traffic signal and roadway improvements” are in the works to facilitate the Metro RapidRide bus service that’ll serve West Seattle as “the C Line” starting in 2011. (Metro is accountable for the bus line, but the city is accountable for the road work that will be required to facilitate some of RapidRide’s special features.) He distributed a new brochure which details these plans:
*Implement Traffic Signal Priority (TSP) to keep green lights longer or change red lights to green faster for buses
*Add travel lanes on the approach to a signalized intersection to allow buses a head start when the light turns green
*Build sidewalk extensions (bus bulbs) so that buses save time by not needing to move in and out of the parking lane
*Create Business Access and Transit (BAT) lanes to reserve outside lanes for buses and right-turning vehicles only. These lanes help move buses more efficiently and improve access to businesses and residences. On-street parking will be removed along BAT lanes.
Lots of questions about some of the above — Bryant said the California SW stretch of RapidRide (see its route here) would have two northbound “bulbs” and one southbound; he also said the east side of Avalon north of Yancy (map) would become a bus-only lane for RapidRide, and that means some loss of parking on that side of Avalon.
That sparked concern that the express lane would create a bottleneck at the bottom of the hill, with everyone trying to get onto the bridge; Sharonn Meeks from the Fairmount Community Association suggested bus lanes wouldn’t have much value in situations like this, costing more than they are worth; she also repeated concerns about how “rapid” RapidRide really will be, with a multitude of stops south of The Junction, where it will essentially follow the current route of the 54.
One more concern that has surfaced before: Whether RapidRide managers have considered the new development coming to The Junction (map here) and whether the current plans are likely to worsen traffic as density increases. Bryant tried to reassure the group that it’s all being taken into consideration during the planning process; Vlad Oustimovitch from Fauntleroy Community Association noted the concerns are about the end product, more than the process. The SWDC is hoping to get a Metro representative to come to a future meeting, since their agency is the one handling the routing and other specific service planning that will directly factor into the “product.”
The Southwest District Council usually meets the first Wednesday of the month, 7 pm in the board room at South Seattle Community College, and everyone’s welcome.