Roundabout cost jump, + neighborhoods team up, @ Highland Park Action Committee

By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor

$7.3 million.

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 for updates between meetings.

24 Replies to "Roundabout cost jump, + neighborhoods team up, @ Highland Park Action Committee"

  • Kyle May 23, 2019 (2:52 pm)

    Thank you for covering this important news! $7.3M?! Clearly community members need to talk to someone higher up the SDOT food chain. Are they waiting for a fatality at that intersection?

  • sw May 23, 2019 (3:54 pm)

    Even $3M for traffic lights seems over the top.  

  • Vanessa May 23, 2019 (3:56 pm)

    Could we see an itemized statement on this? Joking of course, but that’s nuts. Seems a bit exorbitant.

  • T Rex May 23, 2019 (4:05 pm)

    I say yes to the lights. This will help reduce the speed of drivers which is why this needs to be done in the first please. I have had people pass me going up AND down at 50 MPH! I try very hard to NOT use that road regardless of how close it is to my place of employment. 

  • wsmom May 23, 2019 (4:45 pm)

    Does anyone have comparison for other major intersection upgrades.  Wow that is a lot

    • Scott Batson May 24, 2019 (2:10 pm)

      Typical modern roundabout construction is in the $1.5M – $2.5M range.  When altering an intersection all pedestrian facilities have to be brought up to ADA standards – regardless of the form of intersection control.  It’s not clear to me how far into the hill they intend to go, which can be very expensive (retaining walls).

  • Trickycoolj May 23, 2019 (4:49 pm)

    This is getting ridiculous. I would like to see the entire SDOT leadership team on the corner of HP and Holden observing traffic from 6-10am down there. Not saunter up hours after they start their work day at 10am, like they need to be out there at the crack of dawn and hope no ones wrecked car jumps the sidewalk.  I only missed that crash on Tuesday by a few minutes. I followed the fire truck from the station to the scene on my way to work  it was ugly and I hope the people are ok because they were probably just like me, trying to get to work in one piece!  So freaking tired of city politicians ignoring the actual working folks in this city just trying to safely get on with our lives.

  • Goddess Andraste May 23, 2019 (5:51 pm)

    The fact that it takes sending in requests to Find It Fix It to even get the grass trimmed means they don’t care too much about our neck of the woods. It’s hard enough turning left without a wall of grass obscuring the view. Waiting for a day when I’m a passenger and not the driver to get a current pic of the ridiculously high grass to send in. Again.

  • Anne May 23, 2019 (6:28 pm)

    How many bids did they get on the roundabout for this project?Who bid on the roundabout for this project?Where can we access info on the bids?

    • WSB May 23, 2019 (6:46 pm)

      No bids. They’d have to find funding first.

  • AlkiMark May 23, 2019 (6:51 pm)

    This is what happens when you have an over staffed & over paid city do anything.

  • dsa May 23, 2019 (7:14 pm)

    Just keep fighting the city so they can’t proceed with a light and this intersection will stay in it’s current hazardous state.

  • MJ May 23, 2019 (7:19 pm)

    Maybe simply improving the channelization is the answer, this can be done for a fraction of the $7.3 million dollar figure!

  • Graciano May 23, 2019 (8:29 pm)

    The City of Seattle and SDOT can turn a $100 project into $10k and take 6 months to compete a 3 day project.

  • 1994 May 23, 2019 (9:47 pm)

    Remember the  Move Seattle, the $930 million transportation levy approved by Seattle voters in 2015? With the voter-approved Transportation Levy to Move Seattle, we have a core source of funding for transportation maintenance and improvements in Seattle over the next nine years. Levy Accountability Manager Rachel

  • hpresident8 May 23, 2019 (10:55 pm)

    There is a new roundabout on 8th Ave SW and 108th SW that was completed recently. It is  smaller and less complex than the Highland Park Way/Holden roundabout would be. It has had it’s share of accidents – people approaching the roundabout too fast (it is at the bottom of two hills), failing to understand when to yield and who to yield to, etc. The neighbors who live closest to the main “branches” of the roundabout have had their fences totaled by cars missing the turns.Cars have to slow down (15 MPH) considerably to navigate the roundabout, so there are backups of cars at the roundabout during the busier hours. Buses also have a hard time handling the roundabout turns, and sometimes just drive over the center round to make the turn. Bicycles speed through regardless of the order for merging, which complicates navigating the roundabout for the cars.The one good thing about the new roundabout is it is safer for pedestrians – their crosswalks are marked better and the much slower speeds allow drivers to recognize that there are pedestrians waiting at the crosswalks.Seeing the results of the smaller roundabout, I wonder if better channelization and lights might be a safer and more efficient means to get traffic through the Highland Park Way/Holden intersection? Yes, it would hold up peak rush hour traffic., but you see peak rush hour traffic jams at many, many, many intersections throughout the city.

    • Matt May 24, 2019 (12:36 am)

      Agreed.  I don’t ever recall seeing any accidents at 108th and 8th and then within months those poor peoples fences were taken out at least three times.   What’s even more crazy is that had to have been a county project and they are notoriously broke.   

  • anonyme May 24, 2019 (6:07 am)

    SDOT needs to undergo a serious, independent investigation.  After viewing last year’s Arbor Heights sidewalk project up close, I was shocked at the level of incompetence, the number of “re-dos” and the total lack of communication and coordination between multiple contractors.  Project leadership was continually changing throughout the project.  They’re still patching up the poor planning and shoddy workmanship after nearly a year.  There is something seriously wrong with the way SDOT does business, and yet they continually demand more, more, more while doing less and less.   Taxpayers are fed up.

  • Scott Batson May 24, 2019 (11:52 am)

    First cost is the wrong way to compare projects. It would be like buying a car without knowing the fuel economy or safety of the thing, just its price to buy.  Very short-sighted.     Present Value Life Cycle Cost Analysis (LCCA) is the best way to compare two or more choices.  When comparing modern roundabouts to signals for a 20-year life cycle (the standard period), modern roundabouts usually cost less.  Costs to compare include: first cost (design/land/construction), operation and maintenance (electricity, re-striping, upgrades, etc.), crash reduction (what’s your/your family’s safety worth?), daily delay (what’s your time worth?), daily fuel consumption (spend much on gas?), point source pollution (generated by stopped vehicles = health cost), area insurance rates (this costs more where it is less safe to drive).  Each of these things, and others, can be estimated for any two choices and everyone near or using the project area will pay some portion of all these costs (and gain the benefits).

  • Scott Batson May 24, 2019 (1:09 pm)

    Alternate that fits in the current intersection and accommodates 50-foot truck trailers.  A mini-roundabout.  This could be tested before final construction.

  • Mj May 24, 2019 (5:59 pm)

    Scott maybe with the new SDoT leadership they will actually look at other options.  In the past they ignored ideas from outside sources.

  • Brayton May 25, 2019 (11:14 am)

    I’ve lived in the neighborhood for four years and this intersection drives me nuts. It was jacked up from the moment it was cobbled together, as many Seattle roads are. When it comes to price of a project, I would never trust what they say until after they’ve done all their studies and performed the obligatory push and pull with all involved parties. Now they say $7m, and you can be sure it will be more than that by the time it’s finished. Hell, the neighborhood could go out there and cobble together their own roundabout for nearly nothing. Just set up a homeless camp in the middle.Something’s rotten in the state of Denmark.

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