By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor
You could almost hear the proverbial jaws drop last night when SDOT announced that new estimated cost for a Highland Park Way/Holden roundabout. It’s more than triple the long-cited estimate.
SDOT’s James Le presented the update to the Highland Park Action Committee meeting. Past chair Michele Witzki, who has long worked on advocacy for the project, could barely contain her shock: “I am so frustrated right now. I am beyond frustrated. … It’s almost impossible to get money when you keep on moving the target. … You keep on putting more roadblocks in the way of making this happen.”
As the one-sheet distributed by Le (PDF here, embedded below) says, there’s an option – a $3 million signalization plan.
But that’s not funded either.
Of the $500,000 set aside for this intersection, $150,000 has been spent includiing what SDOT describes as “updating the channelization with new painted areas to narrow vehicular lanes, re-marked turn arrows and stop bars and new yield and advance lane configuration signs.”
The intersection remains a dangerous bottleneck. Another crash happened during the morning commute this past Tuesday – we got there just as the last damaged car was being hauled away:
So why the dramatically increased cost estimate? Le said it emerged as the concept was fleshed out beyond a simple sketch. We checked with City Councilmember Lisa Herbold‘s office to see if they were aware of the new price tag; they forwarded a document SDOT submitted for the just-concluded state legislative session (PDF here) listing the cost as $3 million. In 2015, SDOT estimated the roundabout would cost $2.1 million, a signal $1.3 million. In 2017, some hope emerged when design funding was announced during the Highland Park “Find It, Fix It” walk led by then-Mayor Ed Murray. A year later, visiting Highland Park, Mayor Jenny Durkan said “it’s clear that a roundabout is the best result” for the intersection.
So is there any hope of funding? Le said they would be looking at other programs within the department to partner on the project. And he noted a Neighborhood Street Fund proposal that could drum up $1 million toward the roundabout. HPAC chair Gunner Scott voiced skepticism that the NSF would come through “because we’ve been turned down in the past” and the fact those are put up for districtwide community votes “wouldn’t necessarily raise us to the top.” (Grants have been suggested for years – here’s a 2016 report – as funding sources for the project, including state money, and so far they haven’t come through.)
Ensuing discussion focused on whether SDOT was underestimating the role of Highland Park Way as a lifeline for many West Seattleites to get to and from the peninsula. “It seems like this should be a much higher priority for SDOT,” observed Michael Taylor-Judd, a Delridge resident who also chairs the West Seattle Transportation Coalition.
Scott said it’s clear they need to talk to someone higher up the SDOT chain. Taylor-Judd noted that SDOT director Sam Zimbabwe spoke to his group last month (WSB coverage here) so maybe it’s time for a joint meeting/encore.
Discussion also touched on what pedestrian demand there is – or isn’t – in the area, and what city policy would require. Would the geographical challenges suddenly surfacing with the roundabout – the 11 percent grade (although discussion years earlier made it clear the city was aware of this) – also be an impediment to a signal? was another question.
While determining what the city’s next steps would be, HPAC plans to do a survey to see what community members think.
One other major topic at last night’s HPAC meeting:
MERGER WITH RIVERVIEW AND SOUTH DELRIDGE GROUPS: No controversy. Riverview used to have an official neighborhood council but that’s been years – HP Improvement Club (where HPAC meets), in fact, is in the area historically known as Riverview. Marianne McCord from South Delridge Community Group said, “I think we will have a stronger voice because we are working with all the issues that have jelled right around here …” To a south Highland Park resident – closer to Westcrest Park – Mike Riedel from South Delridge affirmed, “Your issues are our issues.” Chair Scott said encampment and Highland Park Way issues have taken so much bandwidth in recent years, he welcomes the added participation in community issues that a merger would bring: “There’s more people around the table now.” Upcoming issues will include a neighborhood planning process that’s on the city’s drawing board.
Ultimately, the proposal passed unanimously. What will the new group be called? HPRVSD Neighborhood Association, someone wondered. The executive committee will consider the naming.
LOOKING AHEAD: The Delridge Day festival, second Saturday in August, welcomes other east West Seattle neighborhoods to participate, said Taylor-Judd, one of its longtime organizers. Scott wondered if the festival might consider changing locations some years to truly broaden its scope. Taylor-Judd said the festival has become a collection of events and the Delridge Community Center/Park/Skatepark has seemed ideal – although future construction might make that difficult. … Also announced: A June 6th walk is the next step in determining replacement barriers for Riverview Playfield (here’s our calendar listing) … HPIC has received a 4Culture grant that will help with building improvements.
Highland Park Action Committee meets fourth Wednesdays, 7 pm, at HP Improvement Club; watch hpacws.org for updates between meetings.