(Video of entire meeting, unedited, added 2:58 am Thursday)
FIRST REPORT, 6:03 PM: At 7 pm, SDOT leaders and Mayor Murray will be at Neighborhood House’s High Point Center to announce the plan for 35th Avenue SW. According to the slide deck that’s already live online, here’s what they’ll announce:
It’s a two-phase plan, rechannelizing 35th this fall between Roxbury and Willow, with one lane each way and a center turn lane. The features of the first-phase Roxbury-to-Willow plan are shown and described as:
* More space for parking
• One lane in each direction
• Center turn lane
• Bus and turn lanes (BAT) at Barton, Thistle, Holden and Webster
• 30 mph speed limit
• Signal optimization
• Channelization improvements on SW Barton Street
• No changes on approaches to SW Roxbury Street
Then after an evaluation period, and “project information sessions” next spring, rechannelization between Morgan and Edmunds is planned for summer of next year. The slide deck also says no rechannelizing would be planned on 35th north of Edmunds, and that “repaving and new curb ramps” would be planned if the “Move Seattle” transportation levy passes.
Again, this is all according to the slide deck just posted on the project page in advance of the meeting (which is what SDOT usually does) – also posted is a public-comment log regarding the project; come to the 7 pm meeting (or tomorrow’s 6 pm edition at Southwest Library) for full details plus Q/A – we’ll be updating live.
7:11 PM: After a brief introduction from project manager Jim Curtin, SDOT director Scott Kubly spoke briefly. Even before mentioning details of the plan, someone from the audience called out that they wanted to ask questions immediately.
(Some of the 60+ people at the meeting)
Kubly asked them to wait until some others had spoken. Councilmember Tom Rasmussen then took the microphone, mentioning how many years this has been in the works.
Mayor Murray then speaks, saying they’re trying to find a balance between doing what needs to be done, and listening to everyone.
He refers to a stat you will see in the presentation deck – calling 35th SW the fourth-most-dangerous street in the city. “You’ve got my attention, trying to address these issues,” he says, also talking about having been hit by a car himself.
7:22 PM: Curtin is now presenting the slide deck, same one you see above. There’s a lot of backstory, much of which has been reviewed in the public meetings already held in relation to 35th. It includes a recap of the Vision Zero plan. Man in the front row looks at stats on screen and asks how many of the deaths on city streets are because of drunk driving; Curtin says, in a given year, anywhere from a third to half. Subsequent slides include “recent speed studies” – the average speed has come down a bit in recent years from 42 mph on average (7 mph above the speed limit). A bit of point/counterpoint breaks out in the crowd on that topic (if you’re not here, you’ll hear it in our video later, as we are recording the meeting). Curtin mentions 15 pedestrians have been hit on 35th in the past few years; a woman interjects, “How many were in crosswalks?” Shortly thereafter, Curtin mentions the five deaths on 35th in the past decade (actually in less than nine years).
New traffic data shows that vehicle volume has gone up a bit in the past two years – from 16,500 at Roxbury in 2013 to 16,37 now, 24,600 in 2013 at Alaska to 24,631 now. As Curtin starts to go through this, someone starts to ask questions, and Councilmember Rasmussen comes back to the front of the room (he and others including Mayor Murray went to the back after their initial remarks) to ask people to please wait for the Q/A period so everyone could hear the presentation. That’s greeted with applause.
Next, pedestrian volumes – they counted 15 locations at peak and midday periods; 313 in the morning, 239 at noontime, 561 at PM peak.
Showing again the stats – 1,065 total collisions in the past decade, 412 injuries, 5 fatalities – Curtin says, “if this were a disease, we’d be clamoring that something be done about it.” Four of the five fatalities in the past 10 years were pedestrians or bicyclists, says Curtin, while also noting: “These are your neighbors.” Most-common type of crashes, rear-end, followed by angles, followed by left turns, followed by parked cars, followed by sideswipes. (Again, you can see all this in the slide deck embedded and linked above.) The collision rate, acknowledges Curtin, is slightly below the citywide rate. But for deaths, he says, it’s higher.
7:39 PM: The Seattle Neighborhood Greenways-initiated safety petition, launched after the death of pedestrian James St. Clair in 2013, has just been presented to the mayor here in the room. Now Curtin has brought up proprietors of The Westy and Locol, after saying the business owners in the 35th/Kenyon node had made a compelling case for safety improvements. (Not that many years ago, the city removed a crosswalk there.)
From The Westy and Locol at 35th/Kenyon, proprietors say they want safety improvements pic.twitter.com/7PW5isOqR4
— West Seattle Blog (@westseattleblog) July 16, 2015
JP from The Westy said, “I don’t want to see somebody die there.” After complimenting them on enlivening the corridor, Curtin gets closer to unveiling the plan.
7:49 PM: He finally brings out the Roxbury-to-Willow first-phase rechannelization plan. No gasps, no boos, in case you were wondering. No reaction in general; people continue to listen. He says signals will be optimized along the entire corridor. Note that the speed limit will drop to 30 mph only as far north as Willow, this year. The Roxbury/35th intersection “functions really well,” so that is not being changed. Then in 2016, “We are going to evaluate what we do this year … we are going to launch a neighborhood greenway study (too).” He mentions the big new development planned at 35th/Graham (vicinity of two of the deaths in the past nine years) and that it will be starting next year. “There are a few unknowns on the north end of the corridor that we need to wait until 2016 to see what’s happening there.” SW Morgan will be rechannelized, he mentions, calling it “a longstanding request from the community,” saying it will get “the Barton treatment.”
He reiterates that no changes are proposed, this year OR next, for the busiest part of 35th, north of Edmunds. And he mentions plans for increased enforcement, which does draw applause. He’s summarizing: “We know this will improve safety” and brings up stats of other rechannelizations again, including Fauntleroy Way SW. “You didn’t change the speed limit,” an attendee calls out. Curtin acknowledges that, while going on to note that Fauntleroy has 31 percent fewer collisions now, has dropped the percentage of 10 mph+ speeders by 13 percent, and that volume change is up a third of a percent.
“If things are going well in the spring, we’ll look at implementing phase two next year,” Curtin summarizes, and now it’s on to Q/A.
8 PM: First question – “Monday, the mayor came out with his housing plan. All of 35th has been upzoned from single-family residences … Today I drove 35th … You’re predicating on everyone doing 30 mph … You’re going to have people doing 20 mph … that’s going to screw up your delays,” which SDOT says will max out at 2.5 minutes. The mayor came back to front of the room as soon as his name was mentioned, but the questioner has rambled on to say, “You’re increasing the population of West Seattle, increasing density, I don’t know how you’re going to make room for all the cars that people are going to own.” Applause follows. “There’s no correlation between increasing population and increasing traffic volumes,” Curtin says, and laughter breaks out. Now the mayor speaks. He says that only multifamily zones are being upzoned, “with an additional floor … Let’s deal with facts. Also, that’s my proposal. The council deals with (it from here).”
Curtin elaborates that though population is going up, traffic volume is going down. Next, Bob Neel, who started a petition against 35th SW rechannelization, says his petition had 916 signatures and the “pro-safety … and who’s against safety?” petition had 864.
He now asks for a show of hands about who signed which petition. (Both were on change.org.)
Next questioner says he was pessimistic pre-meeting but is “OK” with what he’s seen so far. But he also goes on to say he used to be an avid bicycle rider and he is concerned about more bicycle facilities than riders in Seattle. Curtin points out that this design does NOT include bicycle facilities.
(L-R, neighborhood advocates Mat McBride, Amanda Kay Helmick, Joe Szilagyi)
After him, Mat McBride, chair of the Delridge District Council, says most of the critics of projects like these are speaking from fear and uncertainty – and the fears haven’t come true. “I want to thank you all in dealing with the problems of what we have today, and not with the fear of what might happen.” Applause follows.
Q/A continues. A woman says she has lived on 35th for 41 years, “I’ve seen a lot of changes – some of them I don’t like.” She goes on to say that she is concerned about “crappy” pavement, particularly at Barton and Holden.
Another exchange involves someone trying to blame pedestrians and bicycle riders who “break the rules” for injuries/deaths. Drivers break the rules too, Curtin interjects, and while he agrees everyone needs to follow the rules, he notes that drivers breaking the rules have far higher consequences in causing injuries/deaths because of what they’re driving.
What about emergency vehicles getting around? one attendee asks. City traffic engineer Dongho Chang fields that question and says among other things the vehicles can use the center turn lane and also can trigger signals to change.
Another 35th SW resident talks about problems she’s seen over the years; she wonders why the “speed detector” at Brandon/35th “was removed,” saying there’s a speed problem near her home and can the detector come back? It is coming back, Curtin says; that draws applause.
Kenyon, Dawson, Brandon, Juneau are places where people want new crosswalks, Curtin says shortly thereafter, in response to an inquiry about improving crossing safety. He mentions the new flashing-beacon signs at California/Dakota and on Holden and says they seem to be helping and might be an option.
Next person says he’s excited about the turn lane and about “parking expansion.”
(We’ve lost some of the back and forth here but it’ll be in our video.) In response to another question, Chang takes the mike and says people are adaptive, and that a reduction in collisions is “huge. … Long term for us, what we want to do in the corridor, is have people get through safely …” He addresses the population increase and traffic decrease, with “transit … carrying the bulk of our growth.” Chang adds, “we’re going to be watching (the 35th) corridor every day. You live here. You know how things are functioning. Let us know. We can make changes very quickly.” An attendee asks, why not keep the 35 mph speed limit? Chang refers to the stats about the survivability of what speed people are hit at. “I now understand the consequences of each decision … We’ll do followup studies and make sure the corridor is functioning.”
Curtin, moving toward wrapping up, says San Francisco is “moving toward this treatment for one of its busiest corridors, 45,000 vehicles daily.” Someone calls out, “They have mass transit.” Curtin says that 35th *has* mass transit, noting that he travels it daily (he’s an Arbor Heights resident).
8:45 PM: The presentation is over; dozens are still here to ask questions in small groups or one on one. We’re going to go try to get a clarification or two ourselves, and will add anything more we find out. Meantime, if you missed this, there’s another presentation at 6 pm tomorrow (Thursday) at Southwest Library – bring your questions/concerns there – and/or e-mail project manager firstname.lastname@example.org any time.
9:29 PM: A question came up in comments about crosswalks. Post-meeting, we talked with Chang, who said that crosswalks will follow rechannelization – they’re not installing anything more on the four-lane road, but after assessing how the three-lane version is going, he says they might wind up installing “many” crosswalks.