Viaduct-closure countdown @ Admiral Neighborhood Assoc.

October 14, 2011 1:12 am
|    Comments Off on Viaduct-closure countdown @ Admiral Neighborhood Assoc.
 |   Alaskan Way Viaduct | Transportation | West Seattle news

Story and photo by Karen Berge
Reporting for West Seattle Blog

This week’s Admiral Neighborhood Association monthly meeting provided attendees with another opportunity to learn and ask questions about the upcoming Alaskan Way Viaduct closure – scheduled to begin on the evening of October 21st – now just one week away.

At Tuesday night’s meeting, Viaduct project deputy director Matt Preedy, who had presented a community briefing at West Seattle High School the night before (WSB coverage here), was the featured speaker.

Preedy described what is going to happen during the closure and reiterated many of the points that have been covered recently in previous meetings – but there were still lots of questions. (And there’s some new information, you’ll notice, if you’ve been following the coverage closely!)

He showed a traffic reroute map, but emphasized that there will not be a single designated detour route because no one route can handle all the displaced traffic. He noted other potential commuting alternatives such as biking, taking the Water Taxi or riding the bus. His handouts (also available on their website) included maps of recommended bike and bus routes. He acknowledged that some people who need to transport tools, kids, etc. may not find it feasible to use transit or bicycle; but, a large portion of people can change their driving routes or habits. He encouraged everyone who typically commutes by car to try an alternative – even once. By getting the word out early, they also hope that some commuters can arrange carpools/vanpools, adjust schedules or make plans to work from home.

Preedy highlighted plans that will be in place to mitigate the disruption caused by the closure, such as:

· Published alternative route maps

· Signage

· Drive times displayed on overhead message boards. You can also access these online, so you can decide if/when to go and how long it will take to get to your destination.

· Metro adding 3000 more seats to encourage increased bus ridership.

· Additional Water Taxi runs: mornings from 6 AM – 10:30 AM, evenings from 3 PM – 7 PM.

· 2 WSDOT Incident Response trucks will be stationed on the bridge so that they are able to respond quickly.

· Project managers have scheduled 3 check-in calls daily, so they’ll adjust based on what they are seeing.

They’ll also implement additional steps to facilitate travel on surface streets during the closure:

· The Coast Guard has agreed to discontinue openings of the low West Seattle bridge between 3 and 6 PM on weekdays unless there is an emergency. What constitutes such an emergency? A boat in distress, fireboats that need to pass through, etc.

· In the SODO area, Burlington Northern railroad has agreed not to “build trains” on the track from 3 to 6 PM. This activity – when trains block the tracks but don’t move much – results in some of the longer surface street blockages. Several people at the meeting expressed frustration with train delays; trains currently block traffic for approximately 30 minutes during each hour. Preedy noted some good news: the new freight bypass bridge over Atlantic Street will eliminate freight backups permanently.

· The shoulder bus lane on Avalon Way for morning rush hour, bridge-bound, is to be in place before the closure, so the buses will be able to bypass regular traffic.

Preedy fielded questions and comments throughout the meeting; in fact, someone dove in with questions before he even began his presentation.

Asked about the timing of this project, why this was being done before the Spokane Street work and the 1st Ave South on/offramp was completed, he responded that there are “lots of things in play here” – the contractor had fabricated the girders wrong so they have to be redone; that section is waiting for girders. He noted that there had been much discussion about whether the work on this project should wait or continue as planned in light of that. One consideration for staying on the planned schedule is that the other contractor is ahead of schedule and would have to slow down…but their contract offers incentives for finishing early. Another consideration is the commitment to Port of Seattle to have the freight bridge completed; that would be jeopardized if this stage of the project were to be delayed.

Asked about parking near the Water Taxi terminal, Preedy noted that they plan to increase the size of the Water Taxi shuttle so that fewer people have to park there. They will add 100 parking spaces for the week, at Don Armeni. They will also implement a new overnight parking restriction along nearby sections of Harbor Avenue from 2 AM to 6 AM that will free up a potential 120 spaces for Water Taxi commuters. In response to a follow-up question about additional potential parking south of Salty’s restaurant, Preedy explained that they had not been able to come to an agreement with Port of Seattle, which owns the land; some of the Port’s concerns about utilizing that area for parking have to do with liablility as that area has not been used by the public.

Questioned about whether the section of the bridge to be removed would be imploded, “No, because of the close proximity to other structures or hazards; this includes a 100-year old storm sewer that we don’t want to buy.”

Preedy provided thoughtful responses to questions, and said he’d get back to them with some additional answers. For example, one person noted that some of the buses in West Seattle have been decreasing in size on some routes; Preedy offered to follow up on that as well as about whether Metro plans to add any additional bus routes. (Metro’s closure info is here.)

Will there be a separate haul route for debris? Preedy mentioned that Port of Seattle might implement a remote crushing plant nearby so that the material can be reused; he said he didn’t yet know all the details for debris disposal but would look into the matter further.

Karl De Jong, ANA Vice President, commented on recent incidents that caused delays on the bridge and raised the issue of those who might suddenly find themselves having to detour in the area unexpectedly. He noted that “having no signed detour route has the potential to add chaos to the system if people find themselves on surface streets and don’t know where they are”.

Preedy’s segment of the meeting wrapped up with a final question from Katy Walum, ANA President: “What I would like to see is the omelet after all these eggs are broken; what can we look forward to?” He noted that after SR 99 reopens on October 31st there will be only 2 lanes in each direction through the bypass area. The legal speed limit will be 40 mph, with a posted 25 mph advisory speed limit through the curved portions based on “stopping sight distance.” (Here’s the WSDOT video of what the post-closure drive will be like:)

Preedy noted that “our whole purpose is to have SR 99 closed for the least amount of time possible” (9 days as opposed to 6 months, as was initially proposed).

Announcements from the meeting:
— Nominations are open for 2012 ANA Officers; elections will take place at the November meeting.
– Admiral Business Engagement Committee meets Monday, October 24th from 4 to 5:30 PM at Merrill Gardens, Admiral Heights (WSB sponsor).
— VIEWS Candidates’ Forum, co-sponsored by ANA, will be on Tuesday, October 25th from 6:30 to 9 PM at Youngstown Cultural Arts Center.
— Admiral Treats & Treasures business-district trick-or-treating will be on Monday, October 31st from 3 to 6 PM.

The Admiral Neighborhood Association meets on second Tuesdays in the basement of the Admiral Congregational Church, 4320 SW Hill, from 7 to 9 PM. All are welcome.

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