WEST SEATTLE TRANSPORTATION COALITION: Bridge catchup, light-rail lookahead, 16th SW slowdown hopes

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.

22 Replies to "WEST SEATTLE TRANSPORTATION COALITION: Bridge catchup, light-rail lookahead, 16th SW slowdown hopes"

  • Bh August 31, 2021 (7:09 am)

    As a Highland Park resident, I can certainly confirm there are an overly large percentage of drivers breaking speed laws(which are unrealistically low) but also no enforcement. I have lived here for 6 years never seen a speed trap, or any real traffic enforcement.

  • D-Ridge August 31, 2021 (7:38 am)

    Is there a way to get involved with the 16th SW group? That road really is an issue.

    • WSB August 31, 2021 (9:38 am)

      Sorry, meant to include this. Hang Ruan gave his email address during the meeting for anyone interested:

  • ARPigeonPoint August 31, 2021 (8:44 am)

    If someone has been contacted by ST and told their property may be acquired, are they now required to disclose that information if they list their property for sale in the meantime? 

  • CJ August 31, 2021 (8:55 am)

    I wish they’d consider gathering data for 26th Ave SW. Folks drive much too fast and pass other cars if they’re not going fast enough. There are families walking with their children, kids riding bikes, people strolling with their dogs, and neighbors trying to get to their mailboxes. I’ve lived in the neighborhood for many years, and I feel 26th has gotten more busy and dangerous. 

    • Jort August 31, 2021 (10:37 am)

      26th Ave SW needs traffic diverters, and it needed them 5 years ago. The city needs to add diverters that allow bikes through but divert automobiles every other block. If the “leadership” at SDOT is going to reduce bike infrastructure on Delridge and insist that cyclists shunt over to 26th Ave SW instead, then they need to make 26th Ave SW safer for cyclists. That means restricting road access to speeding drivers through forcible road design changes. 

    • RickB August 31, 2021 (11:48 am)

      I would second all this. CJ, I don’t know which part of 26th you’re talking about, but the stretch I’m familiar with (between Roxbury and 106th, and to a lesser extent all the way down to 116th) has everything you mentioned, including people routinely passing traffic in oncoming lanes (and even on the right sometimes).

  • Mj August 31, 2021 (9:38 am)

    Bh – you are correct, the unreasonably low speed limits that are inconsistent with Traffic Engineering criteria and Driver Expectations is resulting in reduced compliance and higher speeds!

    • Jort August 31, 2021 (11:45 am)

      Again, you repeatedly say this, and it is false. Studies from SDOT show reductions in vehicle speeds following the lowered speed limits. I know that reduced speed limits are against the orthodoxy of previous-generation traffic engineers (who believe that people should go “as fast as they feel comfortable while driving). But, please stop stating as fact what is merely your opinion.

      • Canton August 31, 2021 (6:04 pm)

        With your last sentence, would you do the same?

      • bill September 1, 2021 (12:06 am)

        Jort, I generally agree with you, but as a sometime participant in the West Marginal 500 and frequent observer from the bike trail, it is plain that the reduced speed limit there has failed. And on I-35 I’ve given up trying to drive the speed limit because people like MJ endanger me with their Driver Expectations.

        • Jill Loblaw September 2, 2021 (5:40 am)

          I completely agree with you Bill. Drivers think that if you drive 10 miles over the speed limit it’s still too slow. It’s gotten way out of hand.

  • jed August 31, 2021 (9:43 am)

    can’t believe they want to tear down all those new houses / apartments rather than tunnel. we’re talking about the loss of hundreds of millions of dollars worth of housing and hundreds of units. Isn’t increasing housing availability and density part of the ST mission?

    • Jort August 31, 2021 (11:47 am)

      They can also just repurpose the car streets (like Fauntleroy) to be train streets, it would cost far less and it would solve this concern about “spending too much.” But I’m guessing West Seattle car drivers would rather demolish every home on the peninsula than give up one of “their” roads.

    • Martin August 31, 2021 (12:15 pm)

      The tunnel would reduce the impact, but you still need to dig huge holes for each station. So ST would find money to do tunneling, one station would cross Fauntleroy at 35th/Avalon. Can you imaging what would happen to traffic if that intersection gets closed for 5 years? Also tunneling wouldn’t reduce the impact to Youngstown houses. Yes, any housing destruction in a housing crisis makes little sense, SkyLink gondola would avoid such losses. 

  • Jort August 31, 2021 (10:34 am)

    At some point we are going to need our political “leadership” in this city to push our state lawmakers to allow for automated speed and traffic law enforcement, without the “I wasn’t driving” commit-perjury option that is available to drivers now. It will require wide-ranging, complicated and significant changes to state law, but it is simply what we’re going to need to do if we want to have anything close to a meaningful approach to saving lives on Seattle’s streets. The Seattle police organization has clearly decided that, despite being one of Seattle’s leading causes of actual human deaths and serious injuries, speeding is a “victimless crime” and will no longer be enforced. We need automated enforcement systems that will assign financial penalties of increasing severity based on frequency and seriousness of the offense that are unbreakably linked to the registered owner of the automobile. We’re at the point where it’s becoming our only option for keeping our streets safe.

    • DelridgeDriver August 31, 2021 (2:09 pm)

      This is such a good comment. If only our state leaders were so sensible. There are a lot of problems in our city, but speeding is the crime that causes me the biggest quality of life decrease.  And it’s the crime that’s most likely to lead to injury or death to me or my family. It makes me so frustrated that my neighbors feel like they can commit this crime with impunity and that SPD refuses to enforce our speed limit laws.

      • KM August 31, 2021 (2:36 pm)

        Hear, hear.    

    • Jon Wright August 31, 2021 (2:28 pm)

      One of the biggest frustrations with the urban/rural divide of the legislature is that the country folks insist on passing anti-progressive laws to pre-empt what cities might choose to do while greedily suckling from the teat of prosperous, big-city tax revenue. I really wish our urban legislators would learn how to play hardball.

      • Jort August 31, 2021 (5:46 pm)

        Particularly since King County exports unbelievable amounts of tax cash to rural counties, who take in dramatically more state dollars than they provide in taxes. This imbalance is striking. Perhaps we can recommend a state law that says taxes collected within a county can be spent only within that county? Maybe rural Washington would be less concerned about deciding how we choose to govern our own county if they’re taken off the government dole that WE provide. 

        • Jon Wright September 1, 2021 (12:43 pm)

          I would love to run an initiative to do just that. I would market it to Eastern Washington as “Don’t want the taxes we collect here in Pend Oreille County going to big-city boondoggles? Vote for this initiative!”

    • bill September 1, 2021 (12:12 am)


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