VIDEO: Avalon project update & new SDOT director Sam Zimbabwe @ West Seattle Transportation Coalition

By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor

Both major topics at last night’s West Seattle Transportation Coalition meeting had to do with SDOT – its biggest current WS project, and its new leader.

AVALON PROJECT: As the project’s second week of ~14 months of work concludes, project team reps came to WSTC. So what’s new? When the 35th work starts in early May, that street will be down to one lane each way, said project spokesperson Adonis Ducksworth. And some early 35th work could start as soon as next week, which is one week before the big work starts, he said. First, the latest weekly update on the project, received a few hours before the meeting:

This week, crews are demolishing and removing the road on the east side of SW Avalon Way from SW Genesee St to SW Yancy (Zone B) so we can rebuild the base before beginning to pave on the east side of SW Avalon Way as early as Saturday, May 4. Paving is highly weather dependent so it can be postponed if weather is wetter than anticipated.

From Saturday, April 27 through Sunday, May 5, we will be closing the east side of the intersection of SW Avalon Way and SW Genesee St to make water utility repairs. Crews will need to work across multiple lanes of traffic in the intersection. We also anticipate work on 35th Ave SW (Zone E) to begin as soon as the week of May 6. You can expect to see no-parking signs go up as early as next week. …

Overview of upcoming work for next week:

*Lots of construction activity including jackhammering, removing the east portion of the roadway, large trucks, machines, noise, dust, and vibrations.
*We will coordinate with residents for driveway closures.
*Uniformed police officers will typically be onsite
*Typical work hours from 7 AM – 7 PM (no noise from equipment like jackhammers before 9 AM on Saturday and Sunday or before 8 AM on weekdays)
*We have heard that Seattle Public Utilities will be working to make some water service renewals along SW Avalon Way. They will coordinate directly with neighbors as their work is scheduled.
*Buses are making in-lane stops. Please follow the safe passageways set up for your safety. Starting Monday, April 22nd the northbound stop at Genesee will be temporarily closed.
*The contractor is coordinating with King County Metro to reroute route 50 from Saturday, April 27 through Sunday, May 5.

Project questions included the closure of 30th SW, with WSTC board member Chas Redmond saying it reduced part of the access to that neighborhood and Ducksworth contending it was a safety issue, and board member Marty Westerman asking about Avalon business access, with Ducksworth mentioning what SDOT had told us in a pre-construction briefing – that they are trying to do some early work there. Some discussion of the project’s effects on bicycle riding also ensued. At some point, travel will be on ground-down pavement, Ducksworth warned, while also saying there would not be plates in the road during May, which is “Bike Everywhere Month.” WSTC board member Deb Barker also wondered what further steps SDOT would take to communicate important messages – more on-site signage and enforcement, she suggested. The project team said another sign was planned, for starters.

SAM ZIMBABWE: He joked he gets “like one more week of being the new guy” before recapping his background. We recorded his entire appearance:

He said SDOT and Seattle are dealing with issues “similar” to his previous city, Washington, D.C. He described himself as “collaborative.”

He noted that he had arrived at the start of five years of major transportation changes in and around downtown, beginning with the Alaskan Way Viaduct closure and continuing through incremental light-rail expansions opening through 2024, an “ever-changing” transportation landscape resulting.

And he made note of the Move Seattle levy reevaluation and reset. “You only get to do that once if you get to do it at all. … Now it’s our responsibility to deliver on that.”

Among other things he has to focus on, he mentioned that SDOT is one of the most “rapidly aging” city departments, so they have to deal with that.

With millions in third-party transportation investments coming into the city, he said that’s a big challenge to deal with, too.

WSTC chair Michael Taylor-Judd had asked Zimbabwe to be prepared to address the group’s legislative priorities.

*West Seattle Bridge Corridor Improvements – Zimbabwe said they’re “working on the quiet zone” related to Terminal 5

*Light rail – Ben Walters is the city’s new point person.

*Fauntleroy Boulevard – Still on hold pending how the light-rail project turns out. Some interim improvements are still likely this year, Zimbabwe affirmed in response to WSTC board members’ concerns.

“The department’s done a lot to piss people off in terms of decisions that seem to be political” rather than otherwise, asserted Taylor-Judd.

Controversies including the 35th NE bike lane removal came up. Zimbabwe promised overall to be “more transparent.” The Bike Master Plan should be accelerating, not downsizing, he was told, with a contention that the Center City Streetcar didn’t make financial sense.

What about geographic equity? He said “we’re starting to work on that.”

Don Brubeck from West Seattle Bike Connections mentioned disappointment with what’s fallen out of the Bicycle Master Plan implementation proposal. He said the downsizing seemed more political than realistic. Zimbabwe insisted, “It’s not a retreat from bike projects, it’s being realistic about what we can deliver.” Brubeck suggested the draft implementation plan was “mileage-building” by, for example, adding a stretch in High Point that was on an already-calm street between calm streets.

Taylor-Judd brought up the Duwamish Longhouse Safety Project not making it into the Neighborhood Street Fund project vote (as discussed here). SDOT reps are visiting the Longhouse this afternoon to talk about it.

Zimbabwe had little to say about the Highland Park roundabout; Redmond pointed out that King County had recently built a roundabout at 8th SW/SW 108th.

How did he get to the meeting? someone asked. Bus, he replied.

WSTC meets fourth Thursdays most months, 6:30 pm at Neighborhood House High Point.

17 Replies to "VIDEO: Avalon project update & new SDOT director Sam Zimbabwe @ West Seattle Transportation Coalition"

  • MJ April 26, 2019 (5:49 pm)

    SDoT has finally got a Director that looks to have the proper skills to lead the agency.  

  • Avalonwestie April 27, 2019 (9:46 am)

    The crews on Avalon were working last night until at least 2am and were not exactly sticking to the statement about not using equipment after 7pm which just made sleeping a bit rough. Any idea if they have updated plans to continue burning the midnight oil?

  • WS Bus Girl April 27, 2019 (11:15 am)

    Yes! Crews were working until after 2am last night and started at 8am this morning. I left a message on the 24 hr hotline and emailed them last night. No response. I hope this isn’t the new norm! Don’t they need to follow the noise ordinance? 

    • WSB April 27, 2019 (11:24 am)

      Permits and waivers are usually involved if it’s a section of work like this that they’re trying to get completed in a compressed period of time (the intersection). I’ll ask about the hotline as weekends/nights are exactly when they should be responding to issues ..

      • WS Bus Girl April 27, 2019 (11:36 am)

        Thank you, WSB! 

  • dsa April 27, 2019 (11:35 am)

    They would need a noise variance to work at night.

  • dsa April 27, 2019 (11:42 am)

    And any night time noise variance especially in such a tightly confined canyon type residential corridor should address what steps will be taken to reduce construction noise levels.  It should not be a “go for it” thing.

    • WS Bus Girl April 27, 2019 (12:07 pm)

      Thank you!

    • A2 April 27, 2019 (12:38 pm)

      You obviously do not live on Avalon. It does matter what you think the ordinance adminisphere requirements are, they already worked most of the night with a backhoe. So wave all the paper you want, too little too late.

  • WSB April 27, 2019 (12:44 pm)

    I just heard back from Adonis @ SDOT. He says it wasn’t them. Some notices have mentioned SPU work in the area. Did anybody get a closeup look at trucks or other project equipment?

    • WS Bus Girl April 27, 2019 (1:06 pm)

      Couldn’t get a good view of trucks but from my view, looked like they were in a hole in front of The Edge Apts. 

    • Avalon Resident April 27, 2019 (2:54 pm)

      Yes, I got a close up look, since they were outside my windows all night until well after 2am, possibly all night (with earplugs, I managed a couple of hours of sleep between 3am and 6:30-ish, but was woken more than once by noise). The trucks say Jansen Construction, which is the company that has the SW Avalon repaving project contract from SDOT. Jansen may also have a totally separate contract from SPU for some simultaneous project, but they’re obviously coordinated. They’re still at it now. My guess is that Jansen proposed whatever was most cost-effective to SDOT (or SPU if there’s a separate contract). But neither SDOT nor SPU should ever have allowed all night heavy construction in a strictly residential neighborhood. And they certainly should have been more honest about their plans. As far as I know, SDOT hasn’t responded to anyone’s messages on the voicemail “hotline”, Twitter, FB, or email. They definitely haven’t responded to me.

  • DB40 April 27, 2019 (1:40 pm)

    I just spoke to the police officer directing traffic who inturn spoke to a SPU supervisor. Last night was an emergency repair of a gas pipe performed by a sub contractor of Puget Sound Energy. No permits were required for this emergency. Tonight should be quiet.

  • No East-West Bus April 29, 2019 (11:55 am)

    My West Seattle High Schooler can’t take the 50 to school during the Genessee/Avalon intersection closure. The info about the 50 shutting down wasn’t in the Metro planner. I called them and they didn’t know about it, or how long the Genesee/Avalon closure would last.  This causes a major glitch in her getting to and from school.  *Does anyone understand from the specs how long this reroute may last? * They said she should walk to the Avalon/Genesee intersection and catch the 773 to the Alaska Junction, then transfer. She’ll need chiropractic work if she has to carry her heavy backpack all that way!!

    • WSB April 29, 2019 (12:06 pm)

      It’s in the story above: “*The contractor is coordinating with King County Metro to reroute route 50 from Saturday, April 27 through Sunday, May 5.” Don’t know why it isn’t in Metro’s reroute list as they ARE aware of it – they tweeted it over the weekend (tweets come from their operations center):

      • WSB April 29, 2019 (2:41 pm)

        Update: We called this to Metro’s attention via Twitter and they apologize, and say the alert page will be updated to reflect this.


    The “reroute” of the 50 bus is ridiculous for the Pigeon Point neighborhood, not to mention anyone who needs to get from Alaska/Admiral Junction or Alki to any points south on Delridge via transfer to the 120.  I’m lucky that I am able bodied enough to walk up Genesee from our house on Pigeon Point to get to work, but I’m sure many aren’t as lucky – I echo “No East West Bus” – what are all the high schoolers doing that are on the 50 every morning?  It’s totally ridiculous.

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