By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor
“We can see the end now.”
That’s how 35th/Avalon/Alaska project spokesperson Adonis Ducksworth summarizes where things stand. We talked with him and two key project managers at SDOT HQ after requesting a sit-down interview about what’s complete and what’s left to be done on the repaving-reconfiguration-and-more project.
Also in the conversation on Thursday: construction-engineering supervisor Elsa Tibbits and engineer Jeremy Walliman.
First a little backstory: First word of the project came almost three years ago.
It was first just described as a “paving project,” and then a month later, it was revealed that rechannelization – reconfiguring the road design – was part of the plan too. We continued publishing updates over the ensuing two years; one year ago, the final design came out.
A few months before that, when we went to SDOT for an update on the plan in fall 2018, they told us the work would last at least a year, up to a year and a half.
And it remains on schedule, with the very last of the work expected to be finished around “late June.”
But that does NOT mean major construction continuing until then. The paving – which is complete except for the western end of Avalon and the 35th/Alaska area – should be complete in March, except for a small section of Avalon. Once the last of the paving is complete, there’s a three-week waiting period before they can do the final striping, which is really more than just striping – it will also include permanent paint and posts for the protected bicycle lanes, and the permanent plastic curbing closing off the north end of 30th SW (which will allow emergency vehicles to pass).
The permanent striping will take a week or two and cover all areas of the project, even the SW Genesee hill that got “high-friction” treatment. That last burst of work will also address anything that comes up in a “punch list” Walliman and inspectors will come up with when checking everything out.
Along the way, the project has expanded a little – we asked about the work on 35th south of Alaska, since we recalled the original south end of the project being at Alaska. Walliman explained that “when the pavement group scoped it,” they realized the work needed to continue about 200 feet south past the intersection. Tibbits adds that even further south, they’ll be repairing part of 35th “when you crest the hill past Edmunds,” to take care of a stretch with persistent recurring potholes. She observed it would be “pretty silly” if they were working so close by without fixing that area.
What else has changed along the way? Some months back, you might recall, the planned repaving sequencing was changed to get to the Luna Park business district sooner rather than later. That actually sped up the paving work a little overall, Tibbits explained – the original sequencing (as noted in our previous coverage) had paving stretched across two April-to-October “seasons,” but instead, some paving that was expected to happen this spring was instead completed last fall. Walliman explained that while concrete paving/road construction can be done year-round, asphalt work is mostly “confined to the warmer months.”
Also in the Luna Park area, they discovered a stretch of sidewalk that was in really bad shape, so they added reconstruction to the project. “It was pretty hammered up,” Walliman observed.
Back to looking ahead: Tibbits reiterated that no further intersection closures are expected, after two each for 35th/Avalon and 35th/Alaska. The earlier start time (9 am Friday) for the last one at the latter interection helped them avoid night work, Walliman said, after noise complaints from neighbors.
So what’s left, as the paving work moves toward that “end of March” conclusion?
A little more work on 35th by the Brookdale West Seattle building, according to Walliman, followed by the block of Alaska between 35th and 36th, and then the work on 35th near Edmunds. After all that’s done, the lane constrictions on Alaska will end, and the left-turn pocket from 35th to Alaska will be restored too.
Then they “suspend the contract” until it’s warm enough for asphalt work – likely around May 1st – and that’s when they’ll pave the west end of Avalon, possibly with grinding and paving all in the same day.
Also in that area, one big change – the slip lane to turn from Avalon onto bridge-bound Fauntleroy will be going away, which, the project team notes, will be a major relearning curve for Starbucks drive-through customers, among others.
When the Avalon asphalt is done, that’s when the 21-day waiting period before striping kicks in. Then one to two weeks of striping, signage, etc., will ensue, along with some landscaping and “a little signal work at Alaska.” Another side note on the striping – it will have reflective material, which the temporary striping does not have.
Also at some point in the final few months of work, of note to bus and bike riders – they’re currently evaluating what can be done to improve the area near the SW Genesee bus stop where the bicycle lane crosses; Metro has been pointing out safety concerns, so this “might require something on the bus pad and sidewalk.”
A final question – anything unusual discovered along the way?
During the water-main work, Walliman said, in addition to the in-service cast-iron main, they found the old decommissioned 8″ wooden main. It was left in place because, though it’s out of service, some water still collects in it, and removing it might have been a problem. Also, under the old 35th roadbed, they found “a lot of old clay material,” which, he noted, is “not a good sub-grade for road.” So it’s been replaced by “quarry spalls” – bigger rocks – which means the road should last for 50 years.
Finally, the team wanted to thank you for your patience. Tibbits, a former West Seattle resident, said, “I know how big of a deal this has been to the community.” (She’ll be working on the next big SDOT repaving project in West Seattle too, by the way – the Delridge Way repaving that’ll be done in connection with the RapidRide H Line conversion. More on that in the months ahead.)