By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor
However long it takes to get West Seattle a main cross-Duwamish arterial again – from a year and a half for repairs, to up to 10 years for something new – some local neighborhoods have to deal with thousands more drivers passing through every day.
What more can/will be done to lessen that impact? SDOT reps talked with HPAC, the community council for Highland Park, South Delridge, and Riverview, last Wednesday night. More than 30 people attended the online meeting, led by acting HPAC chair Craig Rankin. The discussion happened in two segments:
RECONNECT WEST SEATTLE: This time, the briefing/discussion focused on the Home Zone concept of neighborhood traffic calming. SDOT’s David Burgesser said, “Rather than looking at a single block or single street (the concept) looks more holistically at a … comfortable place for people to be” Traffic circles, speed humps, speed bumps, dedicated pedestrian space, Stay Healthy Streets are all part of the toolbox. The focus is on residential, non-arterial streets. Other possible improvements, too:
SDOT led two community walks October 20-21 in Riverview, Highland Park, and South Delridge. SDOT’s Shauna Walgren summarized what they heard – in Riverview, cut-through traffic off Holden, plus Dumar/Holden arterial concerns.
North HP also was concerned with cut-through traffic that spilled over from Holden, as well as safe crossings on 9th SW.
In south HP and South Delridge, similar concerns, except that the cut-through traffic was from drivers trying to avoid (or get to) SW Roxbury:
Burgesser said they noticed “a lot of [other] issues, such as sidewalks that haven’t been repaired in some time.”
They’re still collecting neighborhood feedback as they work on a draft Home Zone plan. They also need traffic studies, which will take a few weeks, to gauge the actual levels of traffic (those are done with the tubes you sometimes see laid across a road to measure speed and volume). “Partly what we want to do – there’s going to be a prioritization system,” Walgren explained. Traffic-study data and collision data will help them do that. “It all goes into helping us form a proposal for the Home Zone.”
Highland Park community advocate Kay Kirkpatrick wondered about the construction window – are they “rushing to do the planning” but then will have to wait for weather? They’d like to do the design in January/February and then be ready for construction season to start in March, Walgren said.
Rankin also observed that traffic volumes will inevitably keep rising as more people return to work. Walgren noted that they have never worked with this large of a Home Zone before, so they need to take care that they’re not just pushing traffic from one area to another.
Also mentioned: The Office of Planning and Community Development is going to start work on an equitable-development strategy action plan for Westwood/Highland Park to address displacement risk. Kirkpatrick noted that it might be a little late, considering the city did so much upzoning as part of HALA.
SDOT will be able to coordinate with that, its reps said.
After the meeting, we asked OPCD for more information on this process, and spokesperson Jason Kelly replied:
The Office of Planning and Community Development has Highland Park community planning on our 2021 work plan. We are gearing up for a project launch early next year. The neighborhood has been looking forward to this effort and we are developing a project that will be centered on community engagement. We thought that SDOT staff might field questions about this long-anticipated project at their event last week, so we provided some high-level information. We are currently developing a website where we will share more information about the effort and ask for community feedback.
Back to the SDOT discussion: What about speed radar signs for Dumar? asked attendee Andrew. SDOT’s Sara Zora, mobility manager for Reconnect West Seattle, said they’re planned but have to be ordered – if they “push” they might be able to get installed by year’s end. Andrew also brought up an Orchard/Dumar sign that’s obscured – Zora said, email her and “we’ll get that fixed.” The crossing will be moving and will get rapid flashing beacons next year, Burgesser said.
In a discussion of funding, Zora said there’s an additional $1.5 million for Home Zone projects, part of the council-approved “interfund loan.”
More questions: Kirkpatrick mentioned speeding on 16th SW, “a nice wide straightaway.”
Attendee Kirk asked if SDOT planned “mass communications” to let people know about alternate routes to the bridge, another way of potentially reducing cut-through traffic. The reply was that people needed to be educated to “do less driving.” Kirkpatrick wondered if SDOT could talk to Waze and other services to get them to recommend alternate routes too. SDOT said they’d tried but the services didn’t have much incentive to do that. Kirkpatrick also expressed concern about the price tag on some components; SDOT promised there would be community input into how money is spent.
Deb Barker, a West Seattle Transportation Coalition member in attendance, wondered, “Would SDOT consider any temporary measures to prevent cut-through traffic such as barricades to close streets during AM or PM peak hours? ” Burgesser replied that some strategies could be possible, such as diverters. But “the biggest thing we want to avoid is pushing the problem over to the next street.”
HIGHLAND PARK WAY/HOLDEN UPDATE: This project, on the drawing board since long before the West Seattle Bridge’s sudden closure, remains separate. The major components implemented since just after the bridge closure are led by the temporary stoplight; SDOT’s Madison Linkemeyer provided an update on the future plans, which are at 30 percent design. What’s already been done includes radar speed signs. The earlier proposal to remove a travel lane on the Highland Park Way hill is NOT happening, she reiterated. The current bike plan:
The path widening would require extra funding. Here’s what is planned in the project so far:
Construction of the permanent signal is expected next summer. At the same time, a 1% for Art project will be installed:
Various concerns were brought up, including improving crossing in the area, where there’s a five-block stretch without a safe place to cross. Linkemeyer said that wasn’t in the plan but perhaps it could be discussed under the scope of Reconnect West Seattle. Rankin countered that the community was supposed to be partnering in design, but suddenly this project is at 30 percent design and the community hasn’t seen the plan. Another SDOT rep said this project isn’t necessarily the only chance to get a crossing improvement.
WHAT’S NEXT: More planning, more conversation. HPAC likely won’t meet again until next year, since its regular fourth-Thursday meeting dates happen during the holidays. Watch hpacws.org for updates.