By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor
“We have to do something – we can’t just sit on our thumbs and hope it’ll be OK.”
He was one of several WSF managers who took part in a midday community meeting today to “launch the planning process” for what will likely be the largest West Seattle transportation project between the city’s bridge repair/reopening and Sound Transit‘s light rail. The meeting, which was one-third presentation and two-thirds Q&A, was the first of two online kickoff meetings, with the second planned for 6 pm tomorrow (Thursday, March 18th). Here’s the slide deck with toplines:
Though the terminal is part of West Seattle’s Fauntleroy neighborhood, it’s not seen as a solely West Seattle project, the WSF reps made it clear.
The community-engagement process will put equal weight on input from the other two communities on what WSF calls the Triangle Route – Vashon and Southworth, they said.
More on the process later. First – the need. WSF’s Alec Williamson recapped the three main challenges that the dock replacement must address – the aging dock’s structural/seismic deficiencies, its low elevation leaving it vulnerable to rising sea level/storms, and its capacity shortcoming – holding 80 vehicles while serving 124-vehicle ferries, with the holding zone spilling onto the shoulder of a relatively narrow city road.
The big question: What is under consideration that could remedy all that? “Everything’s on the table,” insisted Sowers. Separated pedestrian/bicycle loading – not available now – “is definitely under consideration.” Could the dock be lengthened/widened? “Certainly something we’ll look at,” he said, while warning that expanding the dock’s “over-water coverage” would likely not be received well by some parties with a say in this, including the federal government and tribes. Could some or all runs be rerouted directly downtown? Sowers noted that while Colman Dock is being overhauled, it’s not being expanded, so capacity could be an issue there, but he reiterated that this too is open for discussion.
Since there was no proposal to present, much of the presentation focused on explaining the process. Construction is not expected to start any sooner than 2025, so what happens between now and then? Williamson explained that a Planning and Environmental Linkages (PEL) study over the next two years is the first step, to organize issues and concerns leading to alternatives. (It’s a new process, Williamson noted.) That will be followed by a process called NEPA (National Environmental Policy Act). The schedule/timeline for construction won’t be clear until they get to that stage of the process, he said.
The community-engagement part of the process was detailed by WSF’s Hadley Rodero. Three advisory groups will be created and convened – Executive Leadership with members including elected officials and tribal representatives, Technical Advisory with members including technical staffers from local governments, and a Community Advisory Group with members from communities on the Triangle Route.
Also surfacing during today’s Q&A: How long would the new dock be expected to last? WSF’s Charlie Torres said it’s a key feature of the system’s 2040 long-range plan, but would undoubtedly last much longer, given that the current trestle dates back to the ’50s and has endured this far (though it’s, as Williamson described it, an “antiquated facility”).
How well does WSF believe the 2019 route schedule changes have worked? John Vezina, the WSF manager who oversaw that process, acknowledged that concerns surface from time to time but overall they don’t hear many complaints.
Is there another dock/project from which WSF can apply lessons learned? Sowers indicated that each one is unique, and reiterated that a special challenge here is the city street (Fauntleroy Way SW) feeding into/out of the dock – something they don’t have a lot of control over.
WHAT’S NEXT? The application process for the advisory groups will be open soon. You can send questions/comments/ideas at any time to the project’s official emailbox – FauntleroyTermProj@wsdot.wa.gov – and you can watch for updates at the project website. And if you can make it, the second kickoff meeting, with the same presentation as the first one, is at 6 pm tomorrow – go here to register for the viewing/participation link. (WSF said ~70 people showed up to watch today’s meeting; there’s room for many more.)