By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor
Two years after the unveiling of a “white paper” and project list with recommendations for easing traffic in the West Seattle Bridge Corridor, an SDOT rep came to the West Seattle Transportation Coalition‘s monthly meeting with a progress report.
Bill LaBorde began by saying that the list started with 27 projects but has fewer now – primarily because some weren’t SDOT projects (Sound Transit 3 light rail, for example, which had a significant West Seattle-related update earlier that day).
Chas Redmond from the WSTC Board said that the “disintegration of the integration” of the projects was troubling – LaBorde said that taking projects off the list wasn’t intended to signify dis-integration. Redmond said list-shrinking still didn’t make sense since the agencies are working together on some of these projects anyway. After that, LaBorde ticked through the list, including:
*Communication of traffic issues has been beefed up – including via Twitter; he’s spent some time as “duty officer” for notifications and saw firsthand how it’s intensified.
*ITS (Intelligent Traffic Systems) signboards are continuing to be installed – two of the three promised in this area so far, and the third is set for installation this fall.
*The sequencing of aspects of opening and closing the “low bridge” has been done, making the process more efficient – the amount of time it needs to be open hasn’t changed, but the time it takes to open it has.
*South Lander Street Bridge – the bidding process closed the day before the meeting; LaBorde didn’t know how many bidders there were, but believes at least two.
*Alki Trail connection work: They’ve gone through two phases of this, LaBorde said, and don’t expect more until the Port of Seattle’s Terminal 5 expansion project gets going (not imminent since the port has yet to announce a tenant).
*ITS for some of the railroad crossings, such as SODO, is scheduled for 2018 – but not funded.
Regarding overlapping projects, Redmond asked if there’s a “maximum period of grief” – LaBorde thought 2019-2020 would likely have a lot going on – including demolition of the Alaskan Way Viaduct once the Highway 99 tunnel is open.
WSTC board member Deb Barker wondered who’s tracking the effects state projects have on city streets – such as the tunnel project and neighboring waterfront/surface Alaskan Way work – and those who use them. LaBorde mentioned that the city “so far has been able to hold WSDOT’s feet to the fire” to avoid major problems.
WSTC chair Michael Taylor-Judd wondered about deterioration of the red markings on the West Seattle Bridge’s bus lane, which were being installed when the “white paper” came out two years ago – “did we know it was only going to last such a short time?” Or was there a materials problem, or… ? Is SDOT looking at replacing/repairing those thermal-plastic markings? Yes, LaBorde said.
Taylor-Judd proposed a future ITS installation somewhere before the Delridge/Orchard intersection so that people could divert before it’s too late – through Highland Park to the east, for example.
What about widening the exit from the eastbound bridge to northbound 99? “That’s the single chokepoint that, if improved, transit would work – where transit fails, at this point,” Redmond emphasized. Doing that would require adding some structure beneath the ramp, LaBorde said.
“With (the new) light rail (bridge),” Barker wondered, what about Sound Transit’s future light-rail bridge – build it sooner and use it for buses? “Whether that’s feasible is to be determined,” said LaBorde.
WSTC vice chair Marty Westerman also brought up the concept of an aerial tram (gondola), which he contended would cost less money and time to do the same thing as light rail, with the same capacity. Redmond wondered if the forthcoming Environmental Impact Statement for the light-rail line could look at another option like that.
Redmond also asked about road repairs and repaving, and LaBorde agreed that the “prioritization of pavement projects” has been fairly low in the city “for years.”
His briefing ended without any info on non-bridge-corridor projects, so we’ll be following up with others at SDOT about those.
After LaBorde left, discussion continued on two of the not-on-the-table-officially-so-far options – aerial tram and adding transit-only lane to eastbound bridge offramp. WSTC is not officially planning to lobby for either but Westerman and Redmond will continue to ask questions and will bring back whatever they find out. One attendee observed that the aerial option might not seem practical – take a bus to The Junction, take the gondola across the bay, then transfer to another bus,.
WSTC BOARD: Seven positions are potentially open – two vacancies, five positions that are currently held or recently expired, with votes to be held at next month’s meeting. One new attendee said she’s potentially interested in joining the board but not ready to declare her candidacy.
CANDIDATES’ FORUM: WSTC is co-sponsoring a forum with the West Seattle Chamber of Commerce on October 19th, with city candidates to answer questions about transportation and business issues. 6:30 pm at American Legion Post 160‘s hall, 3618 SW Alaska.
NEXT MONTH AND BEYOND: WSTC meets fourth Thursdays. Next month will be at the Senior Center/Sisson Building in The Junction, with accessible transportation the signature topic, 6:30 pm October 26th.