From the just-concluded last 2009 meeting of the Alaskan Way Viaduct replacement project’s South Portal Working Group – with three West Seattle members on hand – the big news is the new proposed alignment for the tunnel. (Click the graphic above to see it full-size on the Viaduct project website.) The south end of this one runs further west than the original proposal, which is good news for the Pioneer Square area in particular, where some historic buildings might have needed reinforcement work, among other impacts. There are a few other changes of interest to West Seattleites – we’ll add those shortly (in the meantime, all the documents and graphics shown at the meeting are now available online – find the links here). The working group is expected to meet again next month, though the date has not yet been announced. FRIDAY MORNING UPDATE: More toplines from the meeting:
*Other benefits of the new tunnel alignment, according to project managers – reduced impact on 1st Avenue South and improved pedestrian connections between the stadiums and the waterfront.
*Another design change that was announced involves the U-shaped ramp in the SODO area that once was going under 99; now it will go up and over 99 instead of underneath, which is expected to improve its connections into other aspects of the transportation grid at S. Atlantic Street.
*The detour site during construction also has been changed; the new route will be slower than the previous plan, designed for 25 mph instead of 40 mph. It will include a temporary onramp and offramp from 99 which will come down to connect with Atlantic.
*Project team changes were announced. Matt Preedy from WSDOT (a West Seattleite) is now accountable for “everything south of the tunnel itself.” His title: xxx. Ron Judd will have accountabilities including stakeholder outreach and community liaison
*Timeline – While an environmental impact statement “will be delayed slightly,” the project team said, the tunnel is still projected for completion at the end of 2015, and the start of Viaduct demolition at the start of 2016. In the shorter run, in the next few days, they will announce which of the 4 teams that “showed interest in building the bored tunnel” by submitting statements of qualifications will be invited to advance to the next stage by preparing proposals. “Urban design guidelines” for the project will be shown in January. Meantime, bids for the south section of Alaskan Way Viaduct replacement are scheduled to be opened March 24th.
*Bicycle features: “2 north-south bike corridors” were mentioned, as was the fact the “bike path will be lit for safety”
*With the new alignment and other changes, the project team says, disruption to traffic on 99 should be minor, aside from a few overnight closures. Most of the new components would have to be built, according to Preedy, before “significant South End demolition” of the existing structure.
*West Seattle group member Vlad Oustimovitch noted that the new tunnel alignment goes under The Viaduct (at Yesler) rather than alongside it, and asked how that was going to work. Preedy said the tunnel would be well below the elevated highway’s piling tips, and in at least one case would be under the area where significant reinforcement work was done more than a year ago to keep the existing structure from sinking further. Team members said they’re sure they can keep the viaduct safe till it “goes away” in 2016.
*The tunnel will have one section close to the seawall, which also has to be replaced as part of the overall project, but the project team also anticipates that will be deep enough to avoid trouble – below the seawall level – though they expect some soils work.
*Lots of discussion about how ferry traffic from Colman Dock will be routed – that’s still in flux.
*West Seattle group member Jerome Cohen expressed concern about accessibility from West Seattle, especially when people have to get to hospitals off the peninsula, during the construction period. Preedy said construction staging and access plans will be shown to the group in January.
*Another West Seattle member, Pete Spalding, voiced concern that he hopes “the length of closures of 99 can be kept to a bare minimum – any time we lose 99, traffic coming out of West Seattle really backs up.”
In all, there were a lot of positive comments for the changes to the plan that have been made since this group last met several months ago. We’ll let you know when the date for the January meeting is set.