By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor
As the year-plus of work wraps up, many questions have arisen. So we spent an hour talking with SDOT reps CJ Holt – the project manager (with whom we talked multiple times during the planning phase) – and Madison Linkenmeyer from the communications team.
First, the backstory: The H Line plan has been in the works for 5+ years (our archives include this 2016 survey floating same early rechannelization concepts, and some street changes – like the medians – have been advocated by community leaders for even longer).
WHAT’S LEFT TO DO? They’re in the “punch list” phase right now, identifying whether there are issues to address. A little work remains on signals, streetlights, and signage. The biggest “body of work” still left to do involves the landscaping – 140 trees will be planted, in the medians and elsewhere.
ABOUT THE LANDSCAPING: They’re trying to get the 140 trees planted “in the next month or two,” but there’s no specific start date yet – they’re working right now on procuring the trees.
Regarding landscape maintenance:
“The contractor is required to have a year of landscape establishment,” ensuring everything survives and is kept in good condition, and for example if a tree fails to grow, they’re required to replace it. After that first year, it’s handed off to Urban Forestry, which is required to oversee two more years of “careful establishment.” The capital project’s budget pays for those three years of close monitoring, including ensuring the irrigation is working. Holt noted that irrigation is uncommon for a project like this but it was necessary “because of the amount of planting we’re doing.” It’s a matter of “protecting the investment.” As for regular maintenance after those first three years, Linkenmeyer said: “There is not a set schedule after the first three years. We regularly monitor city right-of-way, like medians, to prioritize for consistent management of landscaped areas citywide. Priorities include steps to address safety concerns related to sight distance, visibility of traffic signs and signals and pedestrian safety where planting is next to sidewalks.”
ISSUES WITH MEDIANS/HARDENED CENTER LINES: When we asked readers for project questions, some observed that the medians (or in some places, the hardened/raised center line, to thwart illegal passing, shown above) had hampered access to some important destinations along Delridge. We asked about the Refugee and Immigrant Family Center Preschool (6535 Delridge Way SW) surfacing issues with access as a result; Linkenmeyer said SDOT is “actively working on” that issue and planning to meet with the center. She also said they are “talking” with Youngstown Cultural Arts Center and Seattle Parks and Recreation regarding access to those two facilities on both sides of Delridge south of Genesee.
BIKE LANES: A frequent question – why just the posts, instead of something sturdier? “We’d prefer concrete curbs or something more substantial,” said Holt, “but it’s just not reality.” Part of the problem is that “the cost would be outrageous” but he also listed space requirements and drainage as dealbreakers “In this case, we also have to think about what’s practical – we have those posts all over the city and it’s an effective way to protect” riders. Speaking of drainage, one reader mentioned a problem between Juneau and Croft during recent heavy rains. Holt said they’re evaluating unanticipated “drainage issues” and working with Seattle Public Utilities in case they need to add more “drainage facilities.” Other bike-lane issues that readers brought up: Solid-waste containers being left in the lane rather than on planting strips post-pickup; they told us today they’ve talked to SPU about that since our Friday interview, and “They are working with their teams to address any issues with pickup and dropoff near the bike lanes.” About sweeping the bike lane to keep it clear of leaves and other debris – “Delridge Way SW is on a weekly schedule for sweeping, typically on Wednesdays. However, at this time the sweeping machines are in the maintenance shop, so sweeping may be delayed.”
BUS LANES: The inconsistency puzzled some readers. Holt said that “when we designed the project, there was a lot of modeling – tracking speed and reliability, space requirements, turning, etc. – in a perfect world we’d have bus lanes the whole way but we (couldn’t) – we had to put them where we’d get the fastest speed for the buses – that’s why (we have) the north-end 24/7 bus lanes to get onto the bridge.”
DELRIDGE/HOLDEN: The southbound direction of this intersection moves the bus lane briefly to the left, and turned the right lane into a right-turn-only. Holt explained that they removed the southbound right-turn slip lane because it’s “really important for pedestrian and bike safety, crossing the west leg of the intersection. We saw and forecasted issues – the wide turn radius encourages higher speeds – so we tightened the intersection. Removing the slip lane makes the pedestrian crossing shorter, reduces speed.” The right-turn-only lane was intended to minimize delays. “We tried to make it long enough so folks can get over – we understand some early zippering (results), we tried to account for that in the length.” The southbound “queue jump” was added for the buses to get them past the cars, The signal there is triggered by GPS “so it knows a bus is coming.” This too is an unusual feature of the project, Holt said: “We don’t usually have a queue jump to the left lane – the standards allow it but there’s no way to put it on right lane (there). Bottom line is if you’re going south [in a car], there’s only one lane to be in – hoping we make it clear enough – hope people don’t try to cut – we’ll be watching,”
DELRIDGE TO OREGON: A question here was about removal of the flashing turn arrow, heading uphill onto Oregon. “We wanted that to be a protected left turn based on safety. Since we added that pedestrian crossing (above, NB view), we anticipate more pedestrian activity – it worked within our overall bus goals (and) any time the crosswalk is activated the left turn is too.”
ANY SIGNAL CHANGES LEFT TO MAKE? Everything’s installed but there’s one spot they’re still evaluating for a possible turn signal, at Trenton.
DELRIDGE/ORCHARD: The long left-turn pocket from northbound Delridge drew a question. Holt said it’s by design, explaining that “lengths of turn pockets are essentially based on modeling … volumes, safety, trying to maximize efficiency, trying to get vehicles through as safely as possible,” and this is what the modeling suggested would work best here.
DELRIDGE/BARTON: Separate from the RapidRide project, a Neighborhood Street Fund project here was supposed to improve crossing – whatever happened to that? Linkenmeyer said it’s been designed and is awaiting construction scheduling. Same for the crossing improvements further west on Barton at Westwood Village, “still moving forward.”
DAKOTA REOPENING? This street is still closed for staging, but it should reopen “soon,” Linkenmeyer said.
GOT AN UNANSWERED QUESTION, OR COMMENT? We did our best to ask everything we’d seen by the time of our interview, but you may still have unanswered questions and/or comments – send them to email@example.com.
AS FOR THE H LINE … originally proposed for 2019, it is currently on track to finally launch in fall 2022.