(WSB file screengrab of SDOT camera looking toward bridge’s offramp to 99)
While today’s big bridge-traffic concern is the Port-bound truck backup (working on a separate story), the ongoing point of contention is usually the eastbound weekday-morning jam. Physical improvements to the bridge are unlikely anytime soon, says the city, so simpler, quicker improvements can and must be pursued, suggests City Councilmember Tom Rasmussen, saying that if the right people/agencies get together and talk about operational changes and coordination, that could make a difference.
Toward that end, the West Seattle Bridge Corridor Management Task Force will be launched, he has announced, adding that Mayor Ed Murray has promised his support. (This is what Rasmussen staffer Evan Clifthorne was hinting at during the December West Seattle Transportation Coalition meeting.)
Before we get to details of the task force, here’s why nothing is likely to change physically on the bridge any time soon, explained in documents provided by Rasmussen’s office in response to questions from the WSTC, in their declaration of priorities last September. One big question involves whether one of the bottlenecks off the eastbound bridge could be expanded. The SDOT response says basically, no:
It is not the opinion of SDOT engineers that an additional lane could be added to the existing West Seattle Bridge/SR 99 interchange, at least not without great cost. The current interchange (which is a state-owned facility) is only 19 ft. wide while state standards require a minimum of 29 feet for two lanes. Building an adjoining structure to add more capacity would be difficult and costly given the shape and radius of the existing cloverleaf structure. Even if it were possible, such a project would cause significant parcels of industrial land to be taken and existing buildings would have to be removed. Most of the state and local resources leveraged over the last decade on these corridors have been prioritized for reconstructing the Spokane Street Viaduct and replacing the Alaskan Way Viaduct, as well as enhancing transit service on the corridor.
While it may not be viable to add capacity at this particular interchange, there are other options for reducing travel time through the RapidRide C corridor that show more promise relative to cost. We now have staff exploring some options that could be explored with you and the other stakeholders in the conversations with you and other stakeholders the Mayor and Councilmember Rasmussen have asked us to convene later this year.
Read the rest of SDOT’s response to WSTC, signed by chief policy adviser Bill LaBorde, here:
Rasmussen’s response to WSTC recaps some of those points and also talks about the possibility of a transit ramp from Avalon to the eastbound bridge:
That memo gets back to the forthcoming West Seattle Bridge Corridor Management Task Force. Here’s the councilmember’s memo to the mayor outlining how it would be set up and how its work could unfold:
The work on that starts immediately, we confirmed with Rasmussen during a conversation at Tuesday night’s Junction Neighborhood Organization meeting (which touched on other topics, also the subject of a story to come).