By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor
No new information emerged about the Fauntleroy Boulevard project at today’s West Seattle Chamber of Commerce lunch briefing, but Q&A did bring some concerns into sharper focus – particularly, whether Sound Transit light rail might go along this route and lead to the project zone being torn up a second time.
The city team acknowledged that’s possible – but not a reason to put this safety-and-beautification project on ice. We also checked with ST later in the day regarding the current level of collaboration. But first:
Today’s briefing in the lower-level community room at The Kenney began with an extensive recap of the project’s backstory and where it stands, including a reminder that it wasn’t city-originated, but rather community-originated, with discussions dating back to the turn of the millennium. (If you’re just tuning in, its route will be along Fauntleroy Way, from Alaska to 35th.)
The briefing slide deck was basically the same as what was presented to the Fauntleroy Way Business and Neighborhood Association at the West Seattle YMCA (WSB sponsor) on April 19th:
The details from traffic studies this past February still wasn’t publicly available – project outreach lead Rachel McCaffrey told us before the meeting that it might be added to the project website as soon as tomorrow.
McCaffrey and project manager Norene Pen were the SDOT point people at the briefing. He told the Chamber attendees that they’ve arrived at the 90 percent design milestone. Pen said the traffic studies did not change their intent to remove the “right-turn pockets” on eastbound Fauntleroy Way at SW Oregon and SW Avalon – the seconds of added delay would still leave the intersections at an acceptable “level of service.”
Two key decisions have yet to be made, though – whether to create a break in the landscaped center median to allow left turns at 37th SW – two renderings are on the city website, as we first showed you May 1st – – either with a break for traffic at 37th SW …
… or without:
SDOT is continuing to collect feedback online through the end of the month (scroll down the project page). After that, they’ll talk to designers and “come up with a final decision prior to finalizing the design,” Pen said.
The other big decision isn’t a matter of design, but of timeline – whether to have Fauntleroy routed one way westbound during construction (with eastbound traffic diverted down Alaska to NB 35th SW), or one lane each way. The latter would extend the construction duration by a few months. “There’s pluses and minuses for both,” Pen noted. McCaffrey said they’re still interested in comments on the two options, though a few months have elapsed since they first put the call out for that.
Also speaking: Mikel Davila of the Office of Economic Development. He recapped what other OED staffers have told previous meetings, that the resources they can offer include free business consulting, restaurant assistance, advocacy during peritting processes, and finance consulting. “During the construction period is when we become the (business) advocate,” he added. (Later in the meeting, Chamber CEO Lynn Dennis pointed out that WSCC has had an agreement with OED for two years and has had almost 40 members take advantage of business-consulting services. Earlier in the meeting, the Chamber’s government-affairs committee chair Pete Spalding had noted that OED’s role was a major point of interest for WSCC in helping businesses get their concerns addressed.)
And then it was Q&A time for the ~30 in attendance, including the following exchanges:
Question: Is the traffic measurement seen in the corridor right now related to this?
Pen said the counting equipment you’re driving over is just counting average daily traffic – the city does it every five years or so anyway, so it seemed like a good thing to do right now.
Question: Since the right-turn-pocket removal is proceeding, elaborate on the “acceptable delays” determining that.
Pen said it’s acceptable under “level of service” guidelines – up to Level D, which he said is a 45-second delay. Average delay is projected to be less than that, he said. The details, he added, will be in the forthcoming traffic-study details.
Question: What kind of parking will be provided for construction workers, as that’s been a problem during other projects in the area?
McCaffrey replied, “That’s something we’re very aware of, and as part of the specification process with contractors, we’re working on having them identify an offstreet lot” for workers. It will be required, McCaffrey said. She added that SDOT has done that with previous projects including Roosevelt repaving in north Seattle.
Question: How much of the construction duration will include effects on the travel lanes?
Most of it, McCaffrey replied.
Question: Will there be extra bus service?
McCaffrey said not that she’s heard, but they know that signal timing in the area will be tweaked to facilitate traffic flow, and Pen said that’ll be done around the area beyond the project zone so it’s all in sync.
Then came a question that has been asked at other events, but not with this detailed an exchange, relating to the plan for Sound Transit 3-funded light rail to the West Seattle Junction by 2030, possibly with a route right through what will be the Fauntleroy Boulevard project zone:
Question: “Sound Transit 3 is coming, and it seems they’ll be digging up everything along this route, so it seems like you might want to consider sitting down with them … it will be impactful for the community twice, and a lot of taxpayer money that’s being used in a frivolous manner to be torn up and thrown away. Have you sat down with (them)?”
McCaffrey: “We have been talking with Sound Transit and they will start conversations in the next few years – while there’s a potential that’s the way light rail might manifest itself in West Seattle, that’s still subject to change. … This Fauntleroy project has been around a long time and it’s already delayed, and with growth in the neighborhood and the need to improve the street, now’s the time.”
Pen added, “That might happen, but for us to wait 15 years based on something that might or might not happen …” He used a north-station example. “We do realize this is the preferred alignment … but again … we feel like there’s a lot of factors” for doing this now.
Followup question: It’s troubling to hear SDOT say, well, that’s 15 years away … how much are SDOT and Sound Transit working together?
Pen reiterated, “We do realize this is the alignment shown for ST3.” Many players are working to “decide the best location” and they are listening in case they need to make some changes in our project schedule.
“I don’t know why you are putting in a median” that might have to be removed,” the attendee reiterated. Applause followed.
(From Sound Transit’s side, here’s where things stand: We contacted ST spokesperson Kimberly Reason post-meeting to ask if SDOT and ST are indeed having discussions about this route yet. Short answer, no. But – as covered here on April 27th, when we went downtown for ST’s official “kickoff announcement” – the multi-county agency has launched a Request for Qualifications for a consultant to work on planning of the new line through the city, West Seattle to Ballard. So, Reason told WSB, “No meetings with the City or other stakeholders have taken place or are being scheduled right now. Our immediate focus apart from the RFQ work is hiring up staff for the project.”)
Question: “What’s going to happen to the bike lanes” in the project, as they arrive at Alaska – how will they interface?
McCaffrey said “We are designing the bike lanes on Fauntleroy to interface with the existing facilities.”
Next question was from Chamber CEO Dennis, who asked, “Is the median an absolute done deal?”
Pen replied, “The median was part of the whole boulevard concept. … And (we’re looking at) the break.”
McCaffrey said, “At 90 percent design, you generally wouldn’t look at a change like (removing the median entirely).” She added that beautification is part of the project, and the median landscaping is part of that. Pen wondered at that point where the pushback on the median originated, since it’s been advocated for by community members for years. Dennis said she had heard many questions about how much money the median would cost.
WHAT’S NEXT: Design is to be finalized this summer, with SDOT looking to start construction early next year – how long that lasts depends on whether the one-way-Fauntleroy option is chosen or the two-way option, but it’ll be at least a year.
COMMENTS/QUESTIONS FOR SDOT? E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or call 206-727-3994.