By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor
Though its marquee name involves a bus route, the RapidRide H Line conversion starts with a big road project that will affect everyone who uses the street: Repaving and reconfiguration for much of Delridge Way SW.
Tomorrow (Thursday) night you’re invited to see the updates and ask questions during an SDOT/Metro open house (5-7 pm at Youngstown Cultural Arts Center, 4408 Delridge Way SW). But rather than try to absorb it all at the drop-in event, you can preview it all right now. We went to SDOT HQ downtown to talk to project leaders, who have also provided the full plans you’ll see rolled out at the open house:
That’s the plan for Delridge reconfiguration, block by block. Below, the plan for paving, so you can see which sections are getting a full rebuild and which are getting a new top layer:
Ahead, what else you should know before the open house – including what community feedback’s been incorporated and what has not:
Even before Metro decided to turn Route 120 into RapidRide H Line – which officially takes effect in September 2021 – the street’s transformation was rooted in what was originally called the Delridge Multi-modal Corridor plan, as well as local advocates’ push for improvements such as boulevardization that’s planned for some stretches.
Our briefing started with a Metro manager’s update by phone. Hannah McIntosh noted that the 120 is already “at RapidRide levels of service in peak times,” and running every 10 to 12 minutes the rest of the day. The County Council also has given its blessing to the conversion; we reported recently on a planned committee vote, and it has since passed the full council, with no controversy. In addition, the decision to extend the line to South Lake Union was finalized (previously, it was set to terminate at 3rd/Virginia).
After that update, it was on to the in-person briefing, with Dan Anderson and C.J. Holt of SDOT. The department’s design work is at a 30 percent level. They started by pointing out some public comments from last fall’s update that had been addressed in the design update:
-The northbound bus lane on Delridge has been extended. Holt explained that they confirmed the backups currently usually stretch south of Alaska, so the northbound peak-only bus lane (6-9 am weekday mornings_) will be extended to SW Hudson.
“We don’t want people to get in the bus and just sit there,” Anderson noted, while also noting that means the east side of the street will be off-limit to parking during the bus-lane hours.
Another bus-lane change will be between Orchard and Holden – all day, not just peak times. Buses also will be able to queue-jump at the Orchard signal.
Addressing pedestrian-safety requests, Anderson pointed out additional marked crosswalks. These include – crossing Delridge – Hudson (with rapid-flashing beacons), Findlay (with a higher curb, 9″, to ease boarding for ADA/stroller/etc. access), and both sides of the Holden intersection, with a “bulbed-out” area on the NW side. Crosswalks also will be added north-south across Findlay, Graham, and Sylvan Way.
Other comments included a request for improvements on the 26th SW neighborhood greenway, including improving connections and the effectiveness of its speed humps. That’s still a work in progress, according to Anderson and Holt. The greenway to the east also has been the subject of concern from bicycling advocates, they note, with a request for a protected bike lane along 16th SW where the greenway otherwise zigzags between parallel streets. No final decision on that either.
In the interest of transparency, Anderson also pointed out “feedback we are NOT including” in the plan so far:
-Locating a RapidRide station at Brandon instead of Findlay. Major reason: Maintaining “consistent stop spacing” (you’ll recall that they’ve already addressed community concerns by planning on third-of-a-mile stop spacing rather than the typical RapidRide half-mile spacing). They’ll be working with Parks to try to improve trail access to the east to support High Point’s connection to the Findlay location.
-Protected bike lanes on the entire length of Delridge. Some places, especially toward the south, “just don’t have the width.”
-Not removing parking. There will be some removal – SDOT promises the inventory will be available at Thursday’s open house – including on the west side of Delridge between Juneau and Graham, across from Louisa Boren STEM K-8, and a stretch in the south. Learning from past projects, Anderson promises that residents in parking-removal zones will get communication including “targeted outreach” such as flyers on windshields of parked vehicles.
-No-right-on-red sign on westbound Andover turning to NB Delridge, also a request by bicycling-safety advocates. “Engineering standards tell us ‘no'” on that, Anderson said, adding that data didn’t warrant it, such as “crash patterns” and volume.
The paving – followed by rechannelization – work will start in spring 2020 and should mostly be done by fall 2021 in time for the RapidRide H Line launch, although “a few points” might not be finished until post-launch. In the meantime, they expect to have the design complete by the end of this year, which is why this is prime time for more feedback.
One more note about what IS in the project plab at this point: Some median islands between Boren and Genesee, honoring local advocates’ longtime vision of a “boulevard”-like section. Most will be wide enough for trees and/or other plantings. “It will change the look and feel of Delridge,” Anderson observed, while warning that the median-added sections also will “remove left turns for the midblock residents.”
“It’s going to be a massive construction effort,” noted Holt.
At that point, since it hadn’t come up, we asked whether the city is talking with Sound Transit, since light rail will be crossing Delridge’s north end one way or another. Holt said they’ve “had multiple meetings with ST designers … there will be impacts and there will have to be some realignment of bus service, but we’re trying to look ahead to see what we can do” (now).
One example: The northernmost section of Delridge is not slated for “full-depth reconstruction” – they will instead do “grind and pave” work, plus some “spot panel replacements,” since it’s inevitable that some part of that section will be torn up several years later after West Seattle light-rail construction starts in 2025.
Sound Transit, by the way, will be represented along with SDOT and Metro at tomorrow’s open house, which, again, is set for 5-7 pm Thursday (May 30th) at Youngstown Cultural Arts Center – just drop in when you can.