Progress reports comprised most of this month’s West Seattle Transportation Coalition meeting:
BRIDGE UPDATES: Heather Marx, director of the West Seattle Bridge Safety Program, led the briefing. The schedule hasn’t changed – construction of repairs starting by year’s end, completion by “mid-2022.” As we reported a week and a half ago, they’re reviewing six applicants for the project, “and hope to have a decision we fan announce in May.” The next official schedule/budget update should be in “early July,” Marx added, Monitoring is still going well.
Regarding low-bridge access, Marx recapped what was announced two weeks earlier and the reasons for the changes, as well as what her colleague Meghan Shepard had told the Morgan Community Association the night before – that applications will open this week for most new-access applicants. (Watch the official low-bridge page.)
In Q&A, WSTC chair Michael Taylor-Judd asked about people using the low-bridge for a life-threatening emergency – would they be able to challenge a ticket? It would be up to a judge to decide but “for Pete’s sake, use the low bridge,” said Marx.
Is the repair project really being treated as an emergency? “We would have taken a lot more time to plan and design and go through a normal capital process” otherwise, said Marx. “This is moving extremely fast … we are spending public money and there are rules for transparency and we can’t just go for it in a different way.” WSTC member Mark Jacobs said he thought things could move faster. He added that he’s concerned with the lack of midday bus service in his neighborhood, Admiral. Marx suggested talking with Metro about that. Jacobs said he thought the city should be advocating for it. Taylor-Judd said they’d had Metro in, and noted that city dollars buy some Metro service. Every penny of those dollars is being spent, Marx said, and they are planning for the September service change. (Though she didn’t get into specifics, here’s a slide deck from a city briefing about that in March.)
We asked about the State Legislature’s failure to reach agreement on a transportation package and whether that would affect the bridge project. Marx replied: “We were hoping for the state transportation package to cover part of the costs … it’s a bummer … it means the city is going to have to pay a larger share of fixing this regional facility.” But the repairs will get done, she declared.
TERMINAL 5 UPDATE: Northwest Seaport Alliance engineering director Thais Howard opened the briefing and handed off to project manager Emma Del Vento. She said they were about to hit a new milestone, switching on Friday night to a new electrical system. Here is the project timeline:
NWSA’s Christine Wolf talked about the traffic mitigation that’s part of the project.
“Every star is an intersection where we have improved the controller … all of them are now tied togrether so they can function in sync,” and they’re all tied to city traffic management. East Marginal is the only one not installed yet – that will be when bicycle improvements in the area are built. Also – the railroad “quiet zone” design is complete and they’re hoping to start construction next year. Other systems that will go live with the new dock include one that communicates with truckers about dock conditions, plus a noise hotline; the terminal will operate under a noise-management plan. They haven’t yet finished the plan to manage trucks to minimize queueing in the public right of way.
In something you might see from offsite, the north terminal building will be “going up pretty quick,” Del Vento added.
In discussion, the NWSA reps said the backlog of shipping in other ports is forcing some shuffling here – some ships that would call at T-18 are calling at T-30 for example.
Some discussion of traffic ensued, and it was noted that the eventual goal for T-5 is to have 75 percent of the cargo go by rail, so road traffic will be far less affected.
We asked about the new T-5 cranes, due to arrive in June. They are coming from ZPMC in China and will take four weeks to get here; they haven’t left yet. Terminal 5 tenant SSA is buying them, not the NWSA. ZPMC handle a huge share of the world market for port cranes – you might recall the ones that passed by two years ago on their way to Tacoma.
Also at the meeting:
NEW BOARD MEMBERS: The WSTC board has openings, as reported here in March. Two new members were approved on Thursday night – Jeremy Barton and Phil Frick. Barton said he was joining for “sll the times I have sat in traffic and wished I could do something about (it).”
VEHICLE LICENSE FEE: WSTC’s Deb Barker briefed her fellow board members on the council proposal. She tried but was unable to get access to public comment on Wednesday and said she was frustrated to hear no West Seattleites speaking. Board members had an extensive discussion of the concept of raising $100 million in bond money based on the $20 fee’s revenue. The proposal will be back before the City Council Transportation and Utilities Committee next month.
The West Seattle Transportation Coalition meets fourth Thursdays, 6:30 pm, online.