Two major milestones are ahead next week in the move to find out if a deep-bore tunnel really will be the replacement for the Central Waterfront section of the Alaskan Way Viaduct, according to presentations Wednesday to the project’s South Portal Working Group. That’s the group that has been overseeing the south end of the project, and how it ties to transportation systems feeding West Seattle and vicinity. One week from today, on Thursday, October 28th, the two companies still working on proposals to design and build the tunnel are scheduled to present their proposals, which should kick off a six-week evaluation process. The next day, Friday, October 29th, a Supplemental Draft Environmental Impact Statement will be out (as explained here), reviewing potential effects of the tunnel (and other aspects of the project) will come out, kicking off a similar-length public-comment period that will include an open house in West Seattle: Mark your calendar for 6-8 pm Tuesday, November 16, at Madison Middle School. Lots more new Viaduct-related info from the meeting, after the jump:
Here are the main headlines from the meeting, in no particular order:
VIADUCT INSPECTION: The results of last weekend’s inspection will be out today or tomorrow. While it was closed last Saturday and Sunday, about 150 people joined in walking tours, according to Viaduct project boss Ron Paananen.
TUNNEL SURVEY: If you haven’t heard about this yet – the state commissioned a survey to find out what people know about the tunnel proposal. An overview of its results are here. Paananen noted that the state was accused of doing it as a “push poll” – but the main takeaway he noted was that people just needed to learn more about the tunnel concept: “It showed us that if the public’s informed, the project’s benefits start to become more apparent.”
PIER 48 DEMOLITION: All done, though the pier itself was described as being “in poor structural condition,” meaning it’s not likely to be used for “major activity” during upcoming construction.
EAST MARGINAL WAY GRADE SEPARATION: This is the project you see off to the south side of the West Seattle Bridge right at the Highway 99 turnoff when you are heading eastbound. The Port of Seattle is building this to get traffic up and over the train tracks, and its rep said it’s half done, with completion scheduled for September 2011 – the “surface roadway realignment” will start early next year.
METRO CHANGES IN EARLY 2011: Metro’s Jack Lattemann outlined the changes that we reported after a recent briefing at Metro HQ, with some West Seattle routes moving from 1st Avenue downtown to 3rd Avenue – here’s our previous story (and a followup).
REVISED PHASING FOR SOUTH END CONSTRUCTION PROJECT: Matt Preedy, the West Seattleite who is in charge of the South End Viaduct Replacement Project (aka Holgate to King) that’s now under way, ran through a revised version of the online animation that shows how stages of the construction will affect traffic. A couple of bullet points: Southbound 99 lanes will be under construction in the detour zone (near the north end of the stadium area) late this month; bike/pedestrian-path construction and railroad-track relocation have been “shifted out to 2011.” The alignment of the bike/pedestrian path stirred some discussion, with some working-group members worried that the current plan might set up a dangerous conflict with truck traffic.
MORE DETAILS ON WHAT HAPPENS WHEN THE TUNNEL PROPOSALS COME IN NEXT WEEK: Once the two groups still in the running to submit design-build proposals turn theirs in on Thursday (1 pm is the deadline), Paananen says there’s a six-week evaluation period before they even look at the price tags. In mid-December, he says, after the technical evaluation, they will look at the prices: “This process doesn’t always result in the low price winning the project.” However, there is apparently some element of financial disclosure when the proposals come in, because the evaluation doesn’t proceed, he said, until they know if “at least one of these teams is within the budget.” Then he joked, “I don’t want to talk about what happens if both are over (the budget) …” while he went on to do exactly that, explaining that if both teams say they can’t meet the budget, “a series of ‘painful’ discussions will follow.
MORE DETAILS ON WHAT HAPPENS WHEN THE SUPPLEMENTAL DRAFT ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACT STATEMENT COMES OUT NEXT WEEK: The 45-day public-comment period closes December 13th. The November 16th public open house at Madison Middle School in West Seattle is part of it (one of three citywide). Opinions go into a final EIS due out next spring, and then, provided nothing alarming comes up, a “record of decision” would be issued by the federal government in July of next year, which, Paananen noted, “officially ends the environmental-review process that started in 2001. … After 10 years and more than a hundred (potential) alternatives, it’s hard to imagine that we haven’t looked at every conceivable way to solve this safety problem that has existed since the Nisqually earthquake.” There also was a quick review of what the SDEIS due out next week will look at – aspects and effects of the bored tunnel and the “portals,” existing-viaduct removal, Battery Street Tunnel decommissioning, among other things. What it won’t look at includes the seawall. It’ll also note “permanent changes” that would result from the tunnel – of note to West Seattleites, the fact that downtown access from Highway 99 would be via the South Portal, south of the tunnel, having its new ramps to Alaskan Way at South Dearborn Street.
ALSO PART OF THE SDEIS – TOLLING: This was discussed for quite a while toward the end of the meeting, with much concern from project leadership about the fact that studies suggested a tolled tunnel would divert way too much traffic onto surface streets. The new document will compare tolled tunnel to a not-tolled tunnel, among other analysis. It’s an issue that has to be worked out, Paananen suggested, since hundreds of millions of dollars needed for the project are supposed to be raised by tolls from the tunnel. A “tolling advisory committee” will be convened to help sort this out. While the process rolls on, SDOT’s Bob Powers noted that the city is “interested in a broader look at tolling” too.
WHAT’S NEXT FOR THE SOUTH PORTAL WORKING GROUP: It’s not expected to meet again till January. Meantime, the presentations from Wednesday’s meeting should be posted online soon by WSDOT – you can watch this page.