By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor
Since the West Seattle Bridge’s sudden closure almost half a year ago, West Marginal Way SW has become one of the most-traveled, and most-griped-about, streets in West Seattle: SDOT‘s latest stats show its volume has tripled, from 9,000+ vehicles a day to 27,000+. It’s the major route to the main alternate bridge, the state-operated 1st Avenue South Bridge, and beset with backups.
While the entirety of West Marginal was not part of the Reconnect West Seattle traffic-mitigation plan, it made an appearance in parts of that newly released plan, and SDOT has been promising a standalone package of West Marginal changes; we’ve been asking about it for weeks.
Today, it’s going public. We got a first look at the 6-point plan in an online meeting with SDOT’s West Seattle Bridge project leader Heather Marx and communications director Michael Harold.
Here’s what’s in the plan. First, SDOT is committing to fully funding the Duwamish Longhouse Safety Project, involving pedestrian improvements by the tribe’s longhouse at 4705 West Marginal – including a crossing signal to get to and from the parkland across the street that has cultural and historical importance for the tribe.
While the spotlight on this need is recent (some background is on the tribe’s website), SDOT notes it’s been brewing for the entire decade-plus that the longhouse has been open:
A stretch of asphalt sidewalk on the west side of the street is planned too.
In addition to adding a short stretch of street parking one year ago, the city had previously committed to funding design of the project, but now will fully fund it at a TBA amount from the “interfund loan” the City Council has authorized for a down payment on bridge work and traffic mitigation. But most of it isn’t likely to happen before next year; Marx notes that they have to talk with BNSF Railway, which operates tracks on the east side of West Marginal, and that is not expected to be a fast and easy process.
Now, on toward the south end of West Marginal, the city plans to make some changes at the chokepoint intersection with Highland Park Way, as shown here – particularly some changes on the east side of the intersection, for the west/southbound HP Way lanes:
If you’re wondering whether the city could also make more room at the intersection by removing the islands, Marx says that’s a possibility under further discussion, but drainage and utilities are tied into them, so it’s more complicated than it looks. Also regarding the West Marginal/Highland Park Way intersection, we asked about adding a camera for the network used to check in on traffic conditions; we’ve been told before that one was not under consideration, but this time Marx says it’s a possibility and they’ll look into it.
For freight, they’re still considering a northbound freight-only lane north of Highland Park Way, but it’s not as much a nearly done deal as it seemed during the last West Seattle Bridge Community Task Force meeting (WSB coverage here). The presentation at that meeting included a Reconnect WS project list specifically calling out that planned change; revisions made before the plan document was released days later changed the same line item to “Implement freight treatments.” We’ve been asking for clarification on that all week and got it during this conversation.
The decision between a freight-only lane and street markings to indicate business entrances – where trucks are often stuck waiting a long time to.turn out onto West Marginal – is pending more community discussion, SDOT says, adding that the lane addition would add only seconds to general-purpose NB trips.
Another rechannelization in the new package that is not yet “set in stone,” as Marx described it: Creating a 2-way protected bicycle lane in place of part of the outside southbound general-purpose lane.
That would finally address the so-called “missing link” in the Duwamish Trail on the east side of West Marginal, Marx said. And she stressed that it covers a stretch sandwiched between what are already two one-lane sections of SB West Marginal, as shown below, so the result would be uniformity for drivers on that section:
Here is how SDOT says that would affect southbound travel:
One more change: Mingled with the concerns about traffic has been a lot of talk about drivers ignoring the recently reduced speed limit. SDOT’s plan to address that is by installing six signs with radar showing the speed as drivers approach:
No, those are not ticket-issuing radar setups, just “here’s how fast you’re going,” but Marx says this type of sign is shown to work in slowing drivers down.
Overall, elements of this package, Marx says, have been in development for years, since West Marginal has always been “a corridor.” As shown on the slides above (here’s the full deck as presented to us), some of these items will be installed in the next few months, some will take much longer. A discussion is planned during the next Community Task Force meeting at noon Wednesday (September 23rd); you can provide feedback at any time via firstname.lastname@example.org.