The District 1 Community Network‘s June meeting was, like many local meetings this spring, mostly about the West Seattle Bridge. Here are our toplines from the meeting held by videoconference and phone last week:
SDOT’S BRIDGE UPDATE: The department’s new communications director Michael Harold, a Morgan Junction resident, recapped his first day on the job – arriving at work March 23rd to learn his new place of employment was about to announce the West Seattle Bridge would be shut down TFN. Now, the department remains in extensive data-gathering mode: “This is not a thing where you can make guesses,” he said, in explaining why that’s necessary before a decision on what’s next. They’re pursuing multiple paths in the meantime – stabilization among them, and as we reported the day before the D1CN meeting, the search for a team to “design a potential replacement.” Harold again stressed that the potential 10-year contract is because “there is a scenario in which” they might fix the bridge but only get 10 more years out of it so they’d have to be working on replacement. He added that “we are considering many options … the goal is to get people back across the water as quickly and efficiently as we can do it.”
NEIGHBORHOOD TRAFFIC MITIGATION: Danielle Friedman from the Department of Neighborhoods talked about the neighborhoods affected by the detour traffic, and said four would be engaged in prioritization plans:
Highland Park/Riverview/South Delridge/Roxhill
The question, she said, will be, “If we’re going to make improvements,” what would do the most good? They’ll use online and printed surveys to help decide which projects – less than $100,000 cost and less than 12 months construction time, so city crews can do the work – should be built. Will residents of other neighborhoods be allowed to participate? Friedman said, technically yes, though there’ll be questions about zip codes and community connection. Harold said these plans will be just a first step. The launch of that process was at one point supposed to happen this week, but that timeline’s been delayed a bit
What about creative ideas for using the low bridge? Harold said they’re still working on changes (as bridge-project leader Heather Marx has said multiple times). Overall: “We can’t just open it up without a very clear plan in place. … If we all try to use the low bridge, nobody will able to use the low bridge.”
What about funding for the bridge’s repair or replacement? As Marx told us in our interview last week, funding is still under discussion.
Is SDOT talking with other city departments about a moratorium on building in West Seattle while the bridge situation remains unresolved? “That is not a conversation we are currently having,” replied Harold.
WS BRIDGE COMMUNITY TASK FORCE: The newly appointed advisory group meets this Wednesday for the first time. (The mayor’s decision to form the task force came shortly after last month’s D1CN meeting brought a call for some kind of community advisory group.) Four members were on the D1CN call. Aley Thompson from South Park says she’s excited to participate. “We’re preparing to get started”- the task force will meet twice monthly, then monthly. Marci Carpenter, an Admiral resident, promised to speak up on behalf of that area as well as other parts of WS. Deb Barker of Morgan Junction said she wants to see the mayor or governor declare the bridge closure an emergency. (She brought this up at the West Seattle Transportation Coalition meeting a week earlier, and we asked the mayor’s office if she would be considering that – no reply yet, while the mayor is dealing with two other emergencies.)
UNDERWATER TUNNEL? Retired engineer Bob Ortblad had a few minutes on the agenda, offering to answer D1CN participants’ questions, if any, about his idea, which he’s presented as letters to the editor of local newspapers. (He also has since announced a series of informational presentations for anyone interested.) He says the river’s width, 500 feet, is ideally suited for something other than a huge bridge. In discussion, it was confirmed there’s nothing in the newly announced replacement-design Request for Qualifications that would keep a prospective tunnel builder from applying. Ortblad says he’s not applying, though – he laughed, “I’m retired.”
WEST SEATTLE BRIDGE NOW: Phil Tavel said the coalition’s info from SDOT is that it could be as little as 2 weeks before SDOT’s next decision-making milestone. Plus, they were led to understand that the idea of possibly melding a Sound Transit bridge with a new general-purpose bridge is unlikely. (Two days after the D1CN meeting, WSBN launched its website and video.)
DEVELOPMENT APPEAL: Even this was related to the bridge. Deb Barker filed an appeal of the 4508 California SW approval, seeking to force the city to take the bridge closure into consideration when reviewing development proposals.”It’s not against the project, it’s against the fact that conditions have changed in West Seattle,” she said, insisting that the city needs to recognize that. She filed the appeal in the name of D1CN because of a looming deadline, though the group had not considered or voted on it, and has never taken that kind of action. Though several participants appreciated the broader issue that Barker brought up, the prevailing sentiment was that D1CN’s mission isn’t about taking positions on an individual development project. One side note: D1CN will come up with a way to deal with urgent between-meeting matters in the future.
DISCUSSION DELAYED: One agenda item, an update on the West Seattle Sports Complex proposal, was postponed as supporters decided they’d rather make a presentation sometime later this year.
The District 1 Community Network meets first Wednesdays, online TFN.