By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor
This month’s West Seattle Transportation Coalition meeting provided an opportunity to catch up on some of our area’s biggest projects.
WEST SEATTLE BRIDGE & VICINITY: Two guests from SDOT were there. Danielle Friedman recapped key points from the Community Task Force‘s most-recent meeting (WSB coverage here) – repair work starting this fall (she said “October or November”), Reconnect West Seattle projects continuing including the West Marginal/Highland Park Way intersection and temporary signal at Duwamish Longhouse “starting any minute now” (but that too will be primarily weekend work, she said).
SDOT’s Madison Linkenmeyer recapped the pedestrian-bridge issues on which we’ve been reporting – first, the Andover pedestrian/bicyclist bridge seismic strengthening. Regarding the bridge’s sudden closure, weeks before the project starts, WSTC’s Deb Barker sought clarification on how people are believed to be getting on the high bridge via the pedestrian bridge. It’s more “nearby,” Linkenmeyer said. What about other places people are accessing the high bridge? Linkenmeyer wasn’t sure. What about art for the bridge? an attendee asked. Linkenmeyer wasn’t sure about that either.
WSTC chair Michael Taylor-Judd brought up the community concerns about closing the Andover bridge early and making things more difficult for pedestrians and bicyclists, who the city has otherwise been trying to encourage. “It will reopen once the seismic retrofit is done,” Linkenneyer reiterated. WSTC’s Jon Wright noted that there’s been outreach asking the community thoughts on the Delridge foot bridge but the Andover bridge was just abruptly closed without warning. “It seems ridiculous the way this was handled and completely unsatisfactory.”
She then moved on to the Delridge pedestrian bridge, which has long been planned for an earthquake-safety upgrade but now, SDOT says, could be removed. After the survey that just closed, and recent tabling, the decision will be made this fall, SDOT was asked why there’s not a crossing on the north side of the Delridge/Oregon intersection as well as the south side, requiring crossing two streets if you were going to cross at the surface. No answer.
On another subject, Kay Kirkpatrick of Highland Park expressed concern that the Highland Park Way/Holden “hold off the permanent signal construction until after the bridge reopens” decision was announced abruptly, without community consultation, and while it was largely well-received, some collaboration would have been appreciated. Barker added that it was disappointing that no one higher up the SDOT chain had been able to attend the meeting.
Kirkpatrick also noted missing school-crossing signs in Highland Park, including pavement markings. The SDOT visitors said they would inform the Safe Routes to School team.
16TH SW TRAFFIC SAFETY COMMITTEE: Barker talked about working with this new community group, which is concerned about the lack of traffic calming north of SW Austin, including outside South Seattle College (WSB sponsor). The road is wide and straight, and that tends to encourage speeding and other unsafe driving, Some unique hazards: Many along the corridor have to cross the street to get their mail, for example. As the result of a meeting with various city officials, SDOT was going to gather traffic data on the stretch for starters. They should already have data due to past concerns, Kirkpatrick observed. Barker said the discussion was that new data was desired, especially since the bridge closure has brought more traffic to 16th, despite the city not regarding it as an official detour route.
Toward the end of the WSTC meeting, group reps joined, and Hang Ruan elaborated on the problem, saying Austin to Dawson had been historically neglected – 1.5 miles of flat, unobstructed street. It’s become an “informal detour” since the bridge closure, with many speeding 59-60 mph. They’ve worked with Councilmember Lisa Herbold, meeting with her a few times, and SDOT has agreed to add 7 speed cushions as well as flashing beacons at 16th/Myrtle. Now they’re looking for a “long-term traffic plan,” he said. SSC and the Sanislo Elementary PTA are both participating as well as dozens of families. He said they participated in a recent Micro-Community Policing Plan meeting with local police, who were receptive to their concerns and offered ideas on collaboration.
SOUND TRANSIT: Leda Chahim was one of several ST reps there for a briefing and discussion. For the first time, they had a slide showing the new West Seattle projected opening date, pushed back a second time because of the recent realignment decision (WSB coverage here), now 2032:
The draft Environmental Impact Statement – the next major step toward deciding on exactly where the route will be built – is expected out “in fall,” followed by another public-comment period. Jason Hampton of ST talked about the West Seattle and Delridge segment alternatives under study. You can explore them via the project website – go here, scroll to “alternatives,” choose Delridge or Alaska Junction, and see the alternatives, including estimates of how high the elevated guideways would be. During Hampton’s review, Wright asked about the technical challenges of guideways as high as 150 feet. That would be in the draft EIS “and we’re still pulling that all together,” said Hampton.
A few other questions:
Will the draft EIS include a possible West Seattle Bridge replacement scenario? asked Barker. No, said Chahim.
Where exactly are station entrances proposed to be? asked an attendee. You can see that at the project site, replied Hampton.
When exactly will the draft EIS be out? They aren’t able to be any more specific right now than “this fall,” replied Chahim, as they’re still coordinating with “partners” such as federal agencies.
ST’s Alexis Lair then took over, talking about the acquisition process; right now they’re at the phase of talking with potentially affected property owners. But they won’t start the officil acquisition process – identifying full or partial acquisition needs – until design gets going in 2023.
Meantime, Lair said, they’re working hard to try to reach community members who are difficult to reach – so that everyone can participate in the feedback process once the Draft EIS is out. Looking ahead, here’s how the ideal DEIS comment will be designed, in ST’s view:
More Q&A – how long will the feedback period be? 45 to 60 days. When relocation is discussed for homes/businesses, does that mean in West Seattle? No guarantees but they’ll try. Will they have truly representative renderings of the alternatives in the DEIS, rather than leaving thatt up to community members to come up with (as happened early in the process)? They’ll try.
NEXT MEETING: WSTC meets fourth Thursdays, 6:30 pm, most months, so the next one will be September 26th.