By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor
The proposal to remove one downhill lane of Highland Park Way traffic and add an uphill protected bicycle lane is shelved for now.
That was the big headline from last night’s HPAC discussion with SDOT, a week and a half after that particular detail of the Highland Park Way/Holden safety project update came to light, sparking controversy.
Instead, SDOT will focus on figuring out how to expand the trail along the downhill lanes.
But first, HPAC got a West Seattle Bridge update that segued into traffic issues. SDOT’s Heather Marx recapped where things stand and what’s been done related to traffic effects – all of which we’ve reported on, but if you’re interested in a recap, check out this SDOT post from earlier this week, and our most-recent update. On the bridge itself, they’re preparing for Pier 18 work, and the new Community Task force and Technical Advisory Panel will have their first meetings the week of June 8th.
Traffic-mitigation projects will be focused on what can be done in less than a year and for less than $100,000 because that way SDOT doesn’t have to send them out to bid and can move faster. Plans, she said, will address effects on SODO, South Park, Georgetown, Highland Park, Riverview, South Delridge, Roxhill – in other words, the areas now getting barraged with detour traffic. When the draft traffic-mitigation plans are out, they’ll look for community prioritization. The timeline for the plans is approximately:
June 8th, drafts out
July 2nd, feedback due
July 17th, feedback will be folded into mitigaton plan
August, action plans
One participant suggested the city put the ideas online and have folks vote that way; that’s a possibility, Marx said.
Comments/Q&A then moved on to some specific traffic trouble spots.
What about the 16th/Holden chokepoint? Ideally, Marx says, the whole intersection should be rebuilt, but they don’t have the time or money to do that. HPAC chair Gunner Scott pointed out that it got Your Voice, Your Choice (the now-suspended “participatory budgeting” program) money; Marx says the COVID-19 budget crunch is affecting that.
What about SW Henderson? It’s getting increased traffic and speed. Marx says she’s pretty sure “an intervention” is on the forthcoming list.
What about improving 1st Avenue South Bridge flow? Marx points out there’s a WSDOT bridge-deck replacement project ahead, and also says they’re addressing the bridge-to-I-5 situation with the Georgetown community.
Is SDOT doing real-time traffic counts on various points such as the ramps to 509 and 99? Yes, they have installed a variety of monitoring stations, she says.
Is the traffic data public? Marx says she doesn’t know if it’s available in an understandable-to-layperson format. Any protected left turns under consideration? She says they think about them “all the time” but no specifics.
What about repaving 1st/Olson at the end of the Roxbury corridor? Marx says they’ll look into it.
She says they’ll eventually have a “holstic” plan for the whole peninsula “with some mode-shift targets”; she stresses they’re not telling anyone how to commute, but some people are going to have to make different choices because they had 21 lanes crossing the bridgeand now they have 12. She sounded a familiar theme, one she used as the chief communicator during the “Seattle Squeeze” downtown: “We have to start thinking about our commute, every single one of us, as a community decision.” If you DO have a choice, in other words, use it.
The Highland Park Way hill rechannelization came up during her part of the discussion – removing one downhill lane, installing an uphill bicycle lane. She stressed that it wasn’t a final decision and was the subject of “active conversation within the department.” Following her, though, James Le – project developer for Highland Park Way/Holden improvements – clearly declared that it’s on hold. He noted that removing one downhill lane was considered a possible way to cut down on speeding – before the bridge closure (remember, the HP Way Safety Project plan predates the bridge crisis). But since it’s a detour route now, he said, they’re going to put the rechannelization idea on hold until Highland Park Way is no longer being used as a detour route.
Le also observed that opposition to the proposed change was strong in the results they’ve received to this survey so far – 875 replies as of last night; the survey’s open a few more days, until the month ends. For non-motor vehicle mobility improvements, he added, they’re looking at widening the trail that’s on the downhill side of the Highland Park Way hill to 12-14 feet. He’ll be meeting with crews soon to examine how that could be done. He also said SDOT maintenance will be responsible for keeping the path clear, a recurring problem.
As for other components of the project, he presented a slide deck, as is featured in video on the project website. Construction is fully funded and will start next year. $4.5 million total – $4.1 million of that from the city’s “Mercer Megablock” sale, $400,000 from other SDOT funding. That’s all centered on a permanent replacement for the temporary signal installed within a week of the bridge shutdown – and yes, the previously considered roundabout is totally out of the picture, Le confirmed (he reminded HPAC that its price tag ballooned when the prospect of regrading the intersection was worked in).
Side streets are proposed for “traffic calming” measures such as speed humps; radar speed signs are likely for HP Way. In Q&A, he said some new speed studies are planned for the area in the next few weeks.9 traffic humps/cushions on side street and some radar speed signs on HP Way. The hill’s drainage issues – attendees observed that it “becomes a river” during heavy rain (sometimes swamping the intersection with West Marginal at the bottom of the hill) – will also be investigated.
Other items discussed: Signal timing, including leading pedestrian intervals; how the neighborhood could pursue something signifying that this is now the gateway to West Seattle (maybe an art project? attendees wondered), lighting, whether parking restrictions are needed on Holden, speeding, and other issues.
Also resurfaced: The neighborhood’s request to re-examine whether SW Trenton could be removed from the “Stay Healthy Streets” program, as it’s a minor arterial that’s been needed even more in these detour days. And support was also re-stated for continuing work on safety improvements, including a safe crossing, by the Duwamish Tribe Longhouse on West Marginal.
That led to a reminder that HPAC has formed a “detour subcommittee” working on these issues – if you’re interested in participating, email HPACtraffic@gmail.com.
Watch HPACWS.org for other updates, including a link to the recording of last night’s meeting. HPAC usually meets at 7 pm fourth Wednesdays.