@ West Seattle Transportation Coalition: Port candidates; bridge ‘action report’ concerns; support ‘Move Seattle’ or not?

By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor

Two big topics for tonight’s West Seattle Transportation Coalition meeting – a candidates’ forum for the two Seattle Port Commission races, and a discussion of the newly released West Seattle Bridge-Duwamish Waterway Corridor “action report” – which veered into a debate about the group’s stance on the Move Seattle levy.

Chair Amanda Kay Helmick started the meeting with a moment of silence for victims of the Aurora Bridge crash. Then it was on to politics:

PORT COMMISSION CANDIDATES: For Position 2, incumbent Courtney Gregoire canceled at the last minute (with a note about staying home with a sick child), leaving Goodspaceguy for that position; for Position 5, which has no incumbent in the race, both Fred Felleman and Marion Yoshino were in attendance. Each got about a minute for an opening statement, and we recorded all three on video:

Questions followed (our summaries below are highlights, not full verbatims). First – “what transportation system improvements are needed to better serve the West Seattle peninsula and the Port?”

GOODSPACEGUY: He said he believes in “choice” for each person, regarding what transportation methods they want to use. “I’m opposed to the government forcing urban sprawl.” He moved on to say he supports the “capitalistic” economic system, and “skyhomes” – high-rise condos.

FELLEMAN: “Good intentions only go so far – you have to know how to implement them,” he began. Several immediate possibilities – “allow the Port to operate on the shoulder hours,” so truckers for example aren’t idling, waiting for it to open. The Lander Street Overpass – long planned, potentially finally to be built, depending on funding (including the November transportation levy) – could help too.

YOSHINO: She allowed that a professional traffic study would be the way to start, and she doesn’t know what’s been done already, but for one, she said, she’s been “horrified by the tunnel from the beginning,” saying it seems like a “boondoggle.” She said she hoped to work on grants for various projects.

Second – WSTC is working to reduce congestion at peak times – would you support reducing off-site Port truck activity at those times?

FELLEMAN: “The infrastructure for truckers is problematic” – if they have better facilities, facilitating off-peak work – like the bathroom facilities they’ve been asking for – then some issues will lessen. He’d like to have the Port assume responsibility for some basic services.

GOODSPACEGUY: Not familiar with the bridge, he said. He wanted to see cargo processed quickly and efficiently.

YOSHINO: She gave the WSTC high marks for engaging the community and said she agreed with Felleman that off-peak truck work could ease things, with basic services required. She also suggested fewer “closed-door discussions” would be good.

Third – “as the port moves to upgrade T-5, what are the positives and negatives?”

GOODSPACEGUY: He said the competition that will increase with the widening of the Panama Canal will be a good thing for consumers and “raising the living standard of the people.” Making this a “low-cost Port” is paramount, he said.

YOSHINO: She drew parallels with the building of the third runway and how it affected her community, Normandy Park. The community had people who felt strongly about both sides, she said. She said it would be important to keep asking questions – are these big ships really going to come here? for example. “Don’t pull the trigger until we’ve gone through a lot of process, and we’re sure we have shipping companies that are going to come through the door.”

FELLEMAN: He observed that WSTC has been a proponent of the Environmental Impact Statement process, and that he is very familiar, as a professional environmental advocate, with the process. In this case, the EIS “could be a real gold mine for you,” he suggested. Have it look at cumulative impacts, and then have a substantive discussion. The Port, he explained, has to do some “on-spec development” in order to attract a new tenant.

Fourth – Some of the port operations seem to be consolidated westward toward T-5. How is that going to affect West Seattle and cross-Harbor Island congestion, and what could be done to mitigate the effects of all that?

YOSHINO: Said she hadn’t had a lot of opportunity to study this. She thinks the budget will be fairly generous. But it’s important to keep “alleviating traffic congestion” high on the list of priorities.

FELLEMAN: He mentioned hearing that there’ve been suggestions for using T-5 as a transportation hub, and he referred back to the Century Agenda. So if the bigger ships are brought into fewer docks, “what are you going to do with the other docks?” You have T-18 and T-30 – which is more or less big-ship ready already – too, he observed. “The challenge here is that you want to keep industrial lands in industrial uses,” and that still could be accomplished with a transit/transportation use.

GOODSPACEGUY: “The Port is jobs, and jobs have the priority,” he began. He said he thinks of West Seattle as an island, even knowing it’s really a peninsula. And he posited that many in West Seattle don’t really have the port on their mind. He said he supports all forms of transportation and in fact rides a bicycle sometimes – something he thinks could work for others.

Fifth – Do you support alternative uses for T-5, and if so, what would those be?

FELLEMAN: T-5 does need to be modernized as the last chance for this to remain a major container port – “there’s no way as a port commissioner I couldn’t support keeping that in the container business – or try(ing) to keep it in the container business.” He said that if there was an alternate “some sort of marine transportation infrastructure”- he wouldn’t favor, for example, using it to build a hotel. He returned to the topic of an EIS, and said he thought that doing one would be better for the community.

YOSHINO: She also said she’d favor an EIS because “the more process the better.” She said it’s best to just keep ideas “out on the table and on the drawing board” just in case, for example, a tenant doesn’t surface. “Things in the world are changing dramatically and we just don’t know.”

GOODSPACEGUY: “I’m an advocate of brainstorming,” he said, including the possibility of determining an alternate use for T-5. “Currently it seems using it as a super-duper big terminal for super-duper big cargo ships is the best use,” A hotel, he suggested, did not seem to be a good idea for the site. But, he said, he had spoken about beautifying the Viaduct – so why not, maybe, beautify Terminal 5? Or, what if you built a railroad dock, to transfer cargo more cheaply than by ship?

Attendee Q&A:

What about moving some air traffic up to Paine Field in Snohomish County?

GOODSPACEGUY: Thought it had promise, as “people in the north end hate driving through Seattle to get to crowded Sea-Tac Airport.”

FELLEMAN: “Property is that citizens to the south were lied to about the third way, and suddenly the Port’s Century Agenda wants to double traffic” at Sea-Tac. He said Paine Field is the likely expansion candidate, not Boeing Field, so a public process to start talking about it should get under way.

YOSHINO: Thinks it’s a good idea.

Asked by former commission candidate Norman Sigler: With so many more tourists coming in via the airport, especially for the cruise industry, what has to be done to get people between those two sets of port facilities?

FELLEMAN: He didn’t see too much more expansion in terms of number of ships because permits for Glacier Bay are maxed out – so the cruise lines are bringing in much-bigger ships, and that does mean more people through the airport. Better highway connections and Pier 66 improvements would be needed; the latter doesn’t seem feasible, he said, so using Pier 91 land might be required.

YOSHINO: After offering warm words about Sigler, she talked about Alaska’s check-through baggage system, and TSA line backups in places. She thought economic partnerships might lead to improvements.

Next question was from a Terminal 5 neighbor about noise like train horns and backup beeps and how to mitigate that.

YOSHINO: “It’s not that expensive and not so hard to do,” she said (having referred earlier to the mitigation near Sea-Tac). “It’d be nicer also to have some restrictions” for the noise.

FELLEMAN: He mentioned screening and monitoring that would “have to be part of any expansion.” He said the issues are not just acoustic but also contaminants. Some types of vegetation – perhaps poplars – “could be an air improvement, an acoustic improvement, a visual amenity,” he suggested. “This is exactly the kind of thing the Port has to be on the hook for.”

There’s no shortage of suitors for T-5, pointed out someone in the audience.

FELLEMAN: That would seem to justify the amount of money to be spent on the modernization. “This is the point in time where if you had a wish list, you put it on the table for the port either to (spend the money) or get it in the lease” when signed with a tenant.

The Port races are part of the November ballot – yours should arrive in mid-October.

WEST SEATTLE BRIDGE CORRIDOR REPORT & ‘MOVE SEATTLE’ PRO OR CON: Helmick said she was disappointed they hadn’t received the report directly first, because it was a direct result of their agitation and advocacy. She thanked group members for their work. Some of the items were WSTC proposals, others she described as “interesting.” She pronounced it “a really good start” overall, that seemed to have some “time and energy” put into it: “But I don’t think it goes far enough.” Marty Westerman, a WSTC board member, said it looked more like an opening list than a final product. Board member Michael Taylor-Judd said that it seems to have what he would want to see on it, but, “rather than going out and having a dialogue with the community, the city (came up with its list) and then decided to check with the community, rather than the other way around,” a common tactic he sees when the city and neighborhood groups interact. One example: “I find myself irked that we’re spending $200,000 to put pretty red stripes on a bus lane when the bus lane already exists and none of us are under the impression that the scofflaws in that lane don’t realize they’re in a bus lane … so we’re spending $200,000 here yet, eight months ago now, when there was a whole community walk and outreach to look at the five-way intersection … some of (the community proposals) for a (smaller sum) are on the 7-to-10-year list.” So, why couldn’t that sum be spent for what citizens want now instead of the city project (that no one asked for)? he summarized. WSTC’s Deb Barker talked about being at the council committee meeting at which this was discussed on Tuesday – with two hours worth of other items meandering around the . “It was to me, preplanned and programmed as just a feel-good exercise, so I was pretty frustrated … it should have been a whole lot more,” said Barker. “… no discussion of meat … it’s a shame that other people didn’t stay to have discussion about it.” Westerman and Barker noted that the report had some errors, such as the number of vehicles using the bridge (103,000, not 107,000 as written, he said).

The ensuing discussion went along the lines of, how to make this happen; what leverage can the group, the community, have for that? “Between now and November, let’s look at this list – rip this apart, say ‘here’s what we need, we need the big projects’,” Helmick suggested – not the “piddly projects. … We can get partnerships in this,” with other organizations and businesses that would benefit from the projects, such as Nucor, the port, etc. “We could talk about having an incredibly huge alliance.” Those “big projects” for example would include improved flow at the I-5 interchange on the east end of the bridge and the long-long-long-sought Lander Street Overpass.

This segued into a vigorous discussion of whether the group will oppose or voice concerns about the Move Seattle levy. Some see the “action report” itself as something of a carrot/stick approach to getting this group, and the peninsula’s, support for the ballot measure. Co-chair Tom Linde suggested that WSTC put out a white paper laying out its concerns and observations. Taylor-Judd said if the group has strong-enough concerns, why not just oppose it? Or, if they don’t, then “just accept it and say nothing.”

In the end, the group decided to have an e-mail discussion of pros/cons/what’s missing with the levy. (This all had an undercurrent of urgency because Helmick is appearing at an upcoming forum about the ballot measure.)

TRANSIT ADVISORY BOARD: Marci Carpenter said it’s now meeting 4th Wednesdays at City Hall, 6 pm, all welcome, starting with first meeting last night. Not so many presentations because members had a lot of questions, she said. Its main mission is to monitor spending of money raised by Prop 1 – “but we’ll be a bit broader,” she said.

WSTC CO-SPONSORING DEBATE: October 13th is the City Council candidates’ debate – Positions 1, 8, 9 – co-sponsored by WSTC, with a format including the candidates asking questions of each other. It’s also co-sponsored by the West Seattle Chamber of Commerce, whose website has full details.

The West Seattle Transportation Coalition meets on fourth Thursdays, 6:30 pm, at Neighborhood House’s High Point Center.

1 Reply to "@ West Seattle Transportation Coalition: Port candidates; bridge 'action report' concerns; support 'Move Seattle' or not?"

  • carole September 24, 2015 (9:03 pm)

    Re : cruise ships and seatac: last summer when cruise ships came in there was NO signage re light rail. We know when the ships will disgorge passengers. There could be minivans that will take passengers to the International District station for free, selling the light rail tickets on board. I wrote to every person on the Board suggesting signage at a minimum. When people heard there was a way to the airport that didn’t cost upwards of $50 word spread fast and folks were appreciative. I didn’t see signage this summer. You have captive audience and chance to boost ridership and no PR.

Sorry, comment time is over.