By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor
Plenty of questions for City Councilmembers Lisa Herbold and Teresa Mosqueda at this month’s West Seattle Transportation Coalition meeting.
In introductory remarks at Thursday night’s meeting, both described themselves as Metro bus riders at least part of the time; Mosqueda said she also rides a bicycle sometimes. “I show up at work after I get off my bike with a smile on my face,” she said.
First question for the two: What’s the biggest issue that they see affecting West Seattle commuters?
Herbold: “The upcoming ‘period of maximum constraint’ (downtown projects converging) … there’s a lot we have to do to get the buses ready for that … in that vein, the council passed out of Transportation Committee last week a Downtown Bus Network plan.” She said she plans to be sure that key steps are put into place to help with the “maximum constraint” time. She added that her “vision for SDOT funding” is that District 1 funding will flow here in a way that recognizes the “special position” West Seattle has regarding getting to and from the peninsula. Herbold also mentioned the quest for a roundabout in Highland Park and that gateway to West Seattle’s increasing use and importance. She said there’s high hope the state will grant money to the project on the next try.
She also mentioned the added Route 56 bus service that’s ahead this September (as mentioned again in Metro‘s announcement Wednesday). She’s hoping the Water Taxi shuttle might be in line for some improvements too.
Mosqueda, elected last year to one of two citywide positions on the council, first worked to establish some West Seattle cred by explaining that she lived on Alki in the early ’00s and then The Junction for a few years before moving to lower Queen Anne, “so I know how amazing this neighborhood is.” She added that she’s concerned with the federal government “scaling back funding for multi-modal transportation options.” Another area of interest: She said she has amendments planned regarding the bicycle-infrastructure bill coming before the council this week to be sure that it will address all abilities, genders, ages, etc. She said she had recently visited Minneapolis and went on a bicycle tour that was aimed at encouraging more members of communities of color “to see themselves biking.”
WSTC chair Michael Taylor-Judd voiced concern regarding “rushing” the start of construction for the Convention Center and wondered about the city’s “lack of commitment” toward the One Center City plan. Herbold said, “It’s hard to make a commitment to particular ideas if you’re still in an exploratory phase and I feel that’s what’s going on … but … we’re running out of time.”
WSTC baord member Chas Redmond noted that SDOT leadership is in transition, “so what are you people doing to make (the department) work?”
Herbold admitted that SDOT is “in a world of hurt.” She said interim director Goran Sparrman “seemed to get it” and she’s “disappointed that he’s leaving.” She’s also concerned that there’s no chance SDOT will have a permanent director any sooner than October. She mentioned she’ll be proposing on Monday that there be a proviso requiring SDOT to come back to council when they reach the 30 percent design mark on the Delridge Multimodal Corridor (RapidRide H Line conversion) plan, even as the council lifts one that required SDOT to check in with them when it got to the 10 percent point.
Taylor-Judd asked about conflicting reports from various transportation agencies, such as with the recent “streetcars too big for the tracks?” controversy. Mosqueda acknowledged that and voiced overall concern about various city departments in leadership transition – “we not only have a gap at SDOT, we have a gap at the Human Services Department that oversees homelessness, we have a gap at City Light … we had four mayors last year.” She is hopeful for an end to “fingerpointing” and an increase in “accountability,” which the council should keep pressing.
Then the Alaskan Way Viaduct-to-tunnel transition came up. Chris Arkills from King County said October is still the timeframe getting the most buzz but “if that date slips,” it’s likely to be postponed until after the first of the year, “because no one wants to ruin Christmas.” Buses will take different routes for a while and eventually wind up on 1st for up to a year, until the new Alaskan Way is built. They “worked really hard” to get 24/7 bus lanes on the new Alaskan Way, at least until West Seattle light rail opens, Arkills said.
Speaking of light rail, Taylor-Judd asked Mosqueda and Herbold, how are you staying informed?
Herbold noted that she’s a member of the project’s Elected Leadership Group, which is advisory in nature, so she’s “keeping in touch with the efforts of the Stakeholder Advisory Group” and having staff members attending events if she can’t, such as the recent walking tours and charrettes. She is hoping a “peninsula-wide consensus” will emerge around as much as possible regarding the route/station-determining process. Maybe the D-1 members on the Stakeholder Advisory Group can assist with that, she suggested, evoking the Ballard area coalescing around a route dubbed “West Is Best.”
Mosqueda said she would like to hear more about what people here would like to see. She mentioned that she’d “popped into” the Delridge charrette at Youngstown Cultural Arts Center last week. She heard that people in the area want more access to housing and grocery stores, so she hopes station-related development would include those kinds of businesses, as well as services such as child care. Mosqueda said that she had “stolen” a Sound Transit policy regarding unused land being used for affordable housing and is pursuing that kind of policy for the city.
Herbold also noted that West Seattle is fairly low down the list of future neighborhood-plan updates but the West Seattle Junction area might move up a bit.
WSTC board member Mark Jacobs voiced concern about the city’s stance that it can’t afford a new Magnolia Bridge. Herbold said she shares the concern and recalls concerns being voiced years ago.
Regarding the Move Seattle levy-spending reboot, Herbold noted that the Fauntleroy Boulevard project – now on hold – was the major peninsula component – situation has yet to be clarified. She was at the “near-term improvements” roundtable last Wednesday (WSB coverage here) and described it as “frustrating.”
And with that, both councilmembers had to leave the meeting due to other commitments.
SOUND TRANSIT LIGHT RAIL: Taylor-Judd mentioned the charrettes and noted (as we have) that ST had kept them fairly hush-hush (we were able to mention them thanks to community advocates who tipped us; ST confirmed when we asked). He got a last-minute opportunity to participate in the Delridge charrette. “They were really getting way down in details a lot more than I would have expected at this point,” including rough sketches of the station, how high in the air it might be, would it take property, would it take park space. They were drawing a “box in the air” that could posit which buildings might be affected. “I was pleasantly surprised that two groups were working (and) came to very similar conclusions.” Such as – how would Youngstown, Delridge Skatepark, and the Community Center Park be affected by a station right in the Delridge/Genesee area? “Maybe we’d rather take out houses than (those beloved) assets.”
Taylor-Judd said he was surprised to see one option that could wipe out “several blocks” of a neighborhood – “I think we need to have a lot more community discussion” about that.
WSTC board member Deb Barker then talked about the charrette for the Junction/Avalon stations. She said she was “pretty darn disappointed” in the low number of community participants – as we mentioned in our report, there were about half a dozen community participants, four times as many ST/agency reps. Barker said she had only two days’ notice “of a full-day weekday meeting.”
She said her table “pretty much refused to even look at anything elevated in The Junction.” But, she said they did say they would be willing to discuss an elevated station at Fauntleroy (Way). As a result, “some interesting alternatives” came up such as Fauntleroy/Alaska. Regarding Avalon, her group rejected the Avalon/Genesee idea but 35th/Fauntleroy was promising and could factor into “a gateway … a much more logical place to put a station.” One thing that was “news to (her),” what would be involved in a tunnel portal – for example, a permanent closure of 37th at Genesee, and “big walls” surrounding the portal – so “around the portal area, depending on where the portal is,” there’s a more sizable acquisition area than you might have realized. She said the idea of taking Jefferson Square too, and “utilizing the slope for …the tunnel and bus turnaround areas.”
Should WSTC have another workshop? Taylor-Judd wondered. He pointed out that WSTC publicized the “representative alignment” (original draft route) info long before ST itself actually did.
NEXT MEETING: Like most community groups, WSTC will not have its regular meeting in August. So set your calendar for September 27, 6:30 pm at Neighborhood House High Point (6400 Sylvan Way SW), when WSTC expects to focus on the Viaduct-to-tunnel transition. Watch westseattletc.org for updates in the meantime.