By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor
The city-convened advisory West Seattle Bridge Community Task Force met this afternoon for the sixth time, but no big headline emerged.
Here’s video from the first section of the meeting, before members split into two groups for discussion:
LOW-BRIDGE ACCESS UPDATE: SDOT’s Heather Marx said that in addition to who’s allowed to use the low bridge now, they’re recommending adding 2 more “essential vanpool” permits (bringing the current total to 10) – “serving hospitals, primarily” – and 13 permits for two local business associations (West Seattle Junction Association and WS Chamber of Commerce) to distribute to members – a Task Force suggestion at a previous meeting.
WSCC rep Dan Austin noted that the peninsula has 500 businesses,so maybe they could have more permits for the days when the 113 ILWU passholders don’t need to cross the bridge. He said there was a perception that the ILWU passholders only needed to use the bridge on Fridays when they are dispatched for the Matson ship that calls at Terminal 5 those days. Task force member John Persak said that’s not entirely how it works and that the new pier at T-5 will be opening next year anyway. Austin and Persak will talk “offline.” Marx, meantime, reminded everyone that the placard permits will only be in use until automated (camera) enforcement starts, projected for September.
Marx also had a low-bridge usage update:
Note that, unsurprisingly, usage jumps when the low bridge opens to all at 9 pm.
RECONNECT WEST SEATTLE: The survey is closed and the analysis has begun. Marx said “22 percent of all registered voters” in District 1 responded to the mobility survey. The final count will be available next week – some paper ballots are still being collected/processed – and SDOT will present an implementation plan proposal to the Task Force on August 19th, after discussions with affected neighborhoods, so they can start work next month. Here are the “themes” emerging from responses:
Other early info from the survey showed how people got around before the bridge closure and COVID, and how they hope to get around:
A highlight: 37 percent said they plan to get around by single-occupancy vehicle in the future, and Marx says that’s close to the goal they’re hoping for. 16 percent would bike once a week. Regarding transit, she noted the plan that Metro released Tuesday (WSB coverage here).
TECHNICAL ADVISORY PANEL: The panel co-chairs began by recapping their “repair feasibility memo,” made public three weeks ago (WSB coverage here). How many traffic lanes would a repaired bridge have? Co-chair Barbara Moffat said that was one of the many points yet to be determined. One Task Force member asked why some past documents were not available to the Technical Advisory Panel, as mentioned in the memo; Moffat said the pandemic was to blame for that challenge. Otherwise, “SDOT has been very responsive in giving us everything possible,” she said. Another point of discussion – the fact that SDOT had said a repaired bridge wouldn’t necessarily be brought up to seismic standards, doesn’t mean it definitely wouldn’t be, just that seismic work would be a separate consideration in the process.
COST-BENEFIT ANALYSIS: Marx offered clarification on this process, continuing what was presented at the last meeting (WSB coverage here) – “it’s not a tool for evaluating the different kind of replacement options,” though it will take the “immersed tube tunnel” possibility into consideration. Nor will it result in a formal cost estimate.
Moffat interjected that they’re aware a variety of possibilities have been shown to the public in various ways (including the mass-timber concept that recently surfaced). Marx then explained how the Cost-Benefit Analysis will result in the repair-or-replace decision in October
What happens after that? If “replace” is the decision, that’s where a Type, Size & Location study comes in – and one would likely be done even if “repair” is the choice, since eventual replacement would be unavoidable (“you can’t have a half-broken bridge hanging around in your transportation system,” she observed).
The task force was asked – as had been the technical panel – to rate priorities (attributes) for the Cost-Benefit Analysis. They broke into two groups to discuss topics including that.
BREAKOUT GROUPS: We monitored the group led by Task Force co-chair Paulina Lopez. They first discussed Reconnect WS; one member wondered if the mode shifts – particularly extra bicycling – would be sustained into the winter. Another said the neighborhood-prioritization voting seemed confusing. There was a concern that it wasn’t clear if one particular chokepoint, West Marginal Way/Highland Park Way, was going to be adequately addressed. That, for example, was too big for this process and will be addressed separately, said SDOT’s Michael Harold. When the breakouts ended, other discussion points shared to the larger group included disappointment that one demographic (white, over 40) was responsible for 80 percent of the Reconnect WS responses.
The other group, led by Task Force co-chair Greg Nickels. This group also had feedback that some of the priority-list possibilities seemed baffling – and that some had been known as previously planned/funded projects. That group also asked about the West Marginal Way lane reduction by the Duwamish Tribe Longhouse; that lane won’t be reopened until there’s a light/safe crossing on the street there, and that is not happening soon.
On the subject of the Cost-Benefit Analysis, one Task Force member said he’s often asked why up to six years is projected – “what’s taking so long?” – and as a bridge-building expert, Technical Advisory Panel co-chair Moffat explained that it’s just a range to cover the many possibilities – the actual process of designing and building a replacement COULD certainly take much less time. A task force member said the suggested criteria really could be merged into fewer points than what’s proposed ( funding, maintenance, and operation could be one category, for example): “I think we’re trying to get a little over-complicated on this.”
Here is our video of the meeting segment in which the back-together groups presented their respective toplines:
WHAT’S NEXT: Meeting #7 is in two weeks, noon August 19th, with the plan for Reconnect West Seattle at the heart of the agenda. After that, there’ll be a three-week gap until meeting #8, on September 9th. In the meantime, HPAC will host SDOT for a presentation of the Highland Park/Riverview/Roxhill/South Delridge prioritization at 6 pm August 13.