VIDEO: From meditation to opinions at SDOT’s West Marginal Way open house

(Video recording of SDOT’s stream of Thursday night’s meeting)

By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor

Last night’s SDOT open house about the proposed West Marginal Way protected bicycle lane began with a guided “moment of meditation and reflection.”

As you can hear on the meeting video (6:20 in), attendees were urged to picture someone they love, and wish them health, happiness, freedom from suffering. It might have been ideal if SDOT’s project manager Brad Topol had also suggested that attendees picture someone who prefers a different mode of travel and wished them well, as the screen chat during the meeting veered into bikes-vs.-cars territory, though SDOT contends cars and trucks are not using the lane in question much anyway – their data has 20 percent of the southbound traffic in that area in the outside lane.

Here’s what happened during the meeting and what’s next.

After the moment of meditation/reflection, Topol and Sara Zora recapped what’s proposed for the north stretch of the southbound outer West Marginal Way lane and why. We’ve explained the proposal multiple times, most recently here; at the heart of it, a “gap” in the Duwamish Trail on the east side of WMW is proposed to be filled by a two-way protected bicycle lane replacing a general-traffic lane on the west side of the street.

South of the existing signal, where riders and pedestrians would cross to the existing trail, the options are to continue that proposed bicycle lane all the way to the longhouse, add more street parking, or do nothing and potentially even remove the current ‘drop lane” that provides parking in front of the longhouse.

(Go to the project page for maps, if you’re not sure exactly where all this would be.)

The SDOT reps recapped a variety of rationales for the proposed change – completing the Duwamish Trail, honoring the city’s “complete streets” ordinance, making the one-lane/two-lane/one-lane/two-lane stretch of SB West Marginal south of the bridge consistently one lane, and addressing a general upward trend in collisions on West Marginal. SDOT contends that the impact on traffic would be minimal, adding about 10 seconds to a southbound trip, and that there won’t be enough truck traffic, even once Terminal 5 opens, to lead to a problem. (The city-convened Freight Advisory Board is on record as opposing the lane and seeking the restoration of the entire stretch to two southbound general-traffic lanes.) If they used the existing no-sidewalk right of way alongside the road, they’d have to remove 38 trees and install a lot of new, costly pavement.

Spoken Q&A and comments from those in attendance were handled in two separate sections – one after the presentation of the reasons for change, the other after the explanation of the options. Here’s what we heard:

In the first section, Robert was first to comment, saying that the problems they’re seeking to fix won’t exist when the West Seattle Bridge reopens, adding that the time spent on proposals like this should be going into the high bridge instead: “It’s infuriating we’re getting this (presentation/proposal) instead of ‘here’s everything we’re doing to fix the bridge’.” Next, Kevin declared that “any further restriction to use of this roadway is absolutely the wrong move.” Brent suggested it was a “nice idea” but a “horrible time” for it. Don countered after that that it’s a “really good time to be doing this project,” because more people would be on bicycles if it were safe and convenient. Larry suggested construction would create “a mess.”

Jeanne said she both bicycles and drives, and that in the big picture, the potential improvement for riders would matter more and make a bigger impact than keeping the lane open to motor vehicles. Benita said it’s not the right time for construction on the road and wondered where the bicycle riders in that area are going to and coming from. (Topol reiterated that it’s a gap in the Duwamish Trail and as such, a route between the West Seattle Bridge Trail or Alki Trail to the north/west, and all the way to the 1st Avenue South Bridge to the south/east.)

There were questions, too – Kathy wondered about the sidewalk improvements that are already planned, separate from this discussion. She also urged people to respect the Duwamish Tribe‘s wishes for people to be able to safely get to and from their longhouse, whether on foot, on bike, or via motor vehicle. Bruce wondered why the trail on the east side of WMW couldn’t be improved; Topol pointed out that the future crossing signal, already planned and also separate from this discussion, is at Herrings House Park rather than at the turn-in for the longhouse, because of railroad issues.

In the second comment/Q&A period, Amanda asked about the timetable for construction; if any of these options are chosen, Topol said, they would be built around August, when the already-planned temporary signal goes in. That would last two or three weeks, he said. Jim echoed earlier concerns that the timing is not right for any kind of project on WMW – “delay it.” Krystal said that she’s a driver but still concerned about climate change so that should be a consideration when deciding on projects to make climate-friendlier transportation like biking and walking easier. Andrew said he bicycles exclusively – doesn’t have a car – and works at the Longhouse; bicycling along this stretch of West Marginal is “incredibly dangerous,” he said. To those who suggest delaying the work, he said, this is actually the time to do it because WMW is “the most dangerous … it’s ever been” (during the West Seattle Bridge detouring, which is expected to last until at least mid-2022).

That’s when Rachel brought up the bumpy conditions on West Marginal where unused railroad tracks span the street, and SDOT’s Zora said pavement repair is planned there during upcoming weekends. The final commenter, Patrick, said he lives and works in that area and wondered why the “missing link” wasn’t being routed along 16th SW parallel to that stretch of West Marginal; Zora didn’t answer. She did note that they are continuing to hold open an online survey for businesses in that area.

Meantime, we were watching the written chat too, with several attendees posting their opinions. (This was only visible if you had signed in to the meeting via Zoom, instead of just watching the simultaneous stream via YouTube.) It was somewhat less cordial, including some old misconceptions such as claims that bicycle riders don’t pay taxes, which some participants tried to correct.

Whatever you think about the proposal, if you missed the open house, you can still send comments to westseattlebridge@seattle.gov, the SDOT catch-all mailbox for its portfolio of projects related to the bridge, detour routes, etc. If you have a business on West Marginal Way, take the business survey here. Next step for SDOT is to draft a decisionmaking memo – remember, this is just about the potential bike lane and the stretch between it and the longhouse; the crossing signal and section of sidewalk are long since settled and funded – by late March.

18 Replies to "VIDEO: From meditation to opinions at SDOT's West Marginal Way open house"

  • CarDriver February 19, 2021 (4:40 pm)

    My 2nd winning ticket say’s if SDOT waited until the fixed high bridge reopens they’d be hard pressed to find any real opposition to these ideas/plans.

    • slc February 19, 2021 (5:15 pm)

      Agree! 

  • reed February 19, 2021 (5:03 pm)

    The ignorance by the “nothing but cars crowd” that was conveyed in the Q&A is maddening. SDOT came well prepared with fact-based information and maintained impressive composure, considering the asinine comments and questions they had to deal with.  

    • MSW February 20, 2021 (12:58 am)

      It’s not just for cars. The road is heavily used for freight mobility. We already waste a lot of money on bike lanes and for how many people who actually uses them. How many riders are commuting to South Park? Leave this road alone. SDOT has messed  up many arterials in this city. Avalon being the most recent example. 

      • Reed February 20, 2021 (7:48 am)

        And these improvements aren’t just about adding bike lanes. It is also about physically controlling dangerous, reckless drivers. Look at the more recent post from West Seattle Blog since this one: “Power Flickers After DRIVER Hits Pole On Highland Way SW” and “DRIVER Runs Aground On 35th SW Island.” The driving community has no one to blame b it themselves.

    • W Sea Resident February 20, 2021 (1:00 pm)

      This comment is laughable. The only thing asinine about the situation is SDOT’s half baked solutions. It’s like they’re trying to put lipstick on a pig.I think the majority of people in Seattle fully support bicycles and safe bicycle routes. But that stretch along West marginal is not a commuting route. It takes you to other bike trails and it’s understandable why it should be complete. But the timing feels like a slap in the face for all of us suffering through the horrible detour.

  • skeeter February 19, 2021 (5:28 pm)

    Even if you actively hate bicycles I’d think you would support the bike lanes.  Even if just a few more people decide to ride bikes because of the safer connection you’re getting more cars off the road – freeing up road space for those who need to drive a car or prefer to drive a car.  

    • Carmel Slee March 1, 2021 (3:25 pm)

      They have access!!  Cars don’t!!  After the bridges and messed up roads are repaired,  then everyone would be on board!  It makes no sense!!!

  • AF12 February 19, 2021 (8:32 pm)

    How about electric and autonomous cars?  That is,  cars are here to stay.  We are shooting ourselves in the foot by reducing the existing roadway capacity for new bike lanes and few more avid bikers.  In addition, we need our existing roads for emergency vehicles and commerce. The city needs to use our tax money to repair the existing roads and bridges and not introducing unnecessary new projects (i.e., short term solutions for long term problems)!

  • Don Brubeck February 20, 2021 (8:04 am)

    The real roadway reduction is at the high bridge. We lost all those lanes, and not many people are taking the bus these days. The real problem is getting all those people across the river on the other bridges that were already near their capacity.  West Marginal Way at the north end does not have a capacity problem — it has a speeding problem, which is the exact opposite. The capacity problem is at the First Avenue South Bridge and the Spokane St Bridge. Getting some of the people who are driving to use bikes to go over the bridges on the bridge bike/ped paths will help reduce vehicle traffic on those bridges.  Spending a few dollars of the bridge detour funds to separate bikes from freight and passenger car traffic on this short stretch of WMW will make it safe and attractive enough for more people to ride instead of drive over those bridges. Maybe there will also be less high speed crashes that shut down lanes on WMW for hours at a time, too.

  • VBD February 20, 2021 (10:20 am)

    Bike lanes are fine, but the way they have been built lately is ridiculous.  There are tight turns near intersections and parking zones that force a rider to slow too much, and swerve quickly or risk hitting a barrier.  And the “protected” lanes become trash accumulation zones.  Street cleaners cannot clean the lane because of the plastic barrier poles, so they get covered with trash and gravel.  The poles do nothing for safety and can actually become a hazard since a cyclist could fall into the street if they strike one.  The safest and most useful bike lanes are simply a wide shoulder that is clearly marked and kept clean.  No need to over-engineer it.

  • DRC February 20, 2021 (3:40 pm)

                              I ALWAYS USED THE  TRAIL ON THE EAST  SIDE  OF THE ROAD  WE DO NOT NEED ANOTHER ONE . LEAVE THE ROAD ALONE.

    • WSB February 20, 2021 (4:17 pm)

      In this particular section, there is no trail on the east side.

  • namercury February 20, 2021 (8:25 pm)

    Leave the present road alone.  The number of bikes that use W Marginal relative to the number of cars is miniscule, even if you allow for increased bike ridership.  Improvements for bikes should be limited to the east and west side of the driving lanes.  The accidents that have occurred are primarily due to gross speeding and poor driver judgment that will happen regardless of the regulations.  SDOT should get real and recognize that the 30mph limit is an unrealistic fantasy and almost all the drivers recognize this by ignoring the 30mph limit.  Realistically, they should go back to a 40mph limit.  SDOT should continue to encourage alternates to the automobile but eliminate their gross bicycle bias to the less than 10 percent bicycle traffic.     

  • Bill Huenefeld February 21, 2021 (12:28 pm)

    SDOT says only 20% of the traffic uses the outside lane.  Why is that?  It is because there are a couple of places where the outside lane disappears and drivers must merge into the left lane.  If there were two lanes for cars and trucks the right lane would be the “slow” lane and the left lane used by fewer drivers.  We need all the lanes we can get for drivers to keep traffic moving and eliminate the CO2 that is given off as cars and trucks sit idle.  The replacement for the West Seattle Bridge, be it a new high bridge or a submersible tunnel, should be at least 6 lanes for cars, trucks and buses plus the new railroad. Keep the traffic flowing to reduce global warming.

    • Don Brubeck February 21, 2021 (8:16 pm)

      Ummm, I seem to remember lot of idle time waiting to get onto the big beautiful high bridge, and then waiting to merge onto I-5 N.  Not so idyllic. Absence makes the heart grow fonder, I guess. It’s fantasy to think all those vehicles from all those high bridge lanes can just “flow” across the much smaller bridges that are still functioning. The cars are not stopped and idling at the one-lane stretches now. They are stopped and idling at the HP Way intersection, up to and over the 1st Ave S bridge, and on Michigan to the I-5 merge.  

  • this is nuts February 22, 2021 (10:21 am)

    Do not touch this road till the bridge is fixed.  The idea of tearing this road up when it is the only real way off the “island” while the bridge is out for so many…..who thought this was a good idea?  Can we let those people go and find them new employment away from things that matter?  The meditation session was great comedic relief though.  Whoever thought of that really deserves a prize.  Serenity now!

  • Geri K February 27, 2021 (12:01 pm)

    West Marginal Way should remain a vehicle only road way.  It is an industrial neighborhood, major arterial and should remain a 4 lane arterial.  Thousands of cars and trucks use this roadway daily and  it will continue to be a major commercial thoroughfare even after the West Seattle Bridge is repaired.  No changes should be made to accommodate a few hundred bike riders.  Better signage and lane markings are all that is needed.  Seattle is a city of hills and rain.  That is not going to change so someone needs a reality check.  Moving auto traffic quickly and safely should be top priority.  Alternative bike routes away from major thoroughfares could be considered, but spending millions to accommodate a small bike rider population at huge taxpayer expense and slowing down auto traffic is ludicrous.  Slow moving traffic increases pollution. We are letting the SDOT make far reaching decisions detrimental to the MAJORITY  of people living in Seattle.  These are the same people who documented the cracking the WS bridge for 7 years with out doing anything about it, and did not use the cable system designed into the bridge to prevent  cracking in the first place.  Why do we trust their judgment?

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