CITY COUNCIL: Here’s what we learned at first Transportation Committee meeting chaired by D-1 Councilmember Rob Saka

The new-era City Council‘s first committee meeting happened this past week, when the Transportation Committee – chaired by District 1 Councilmember Rob Saka – convened on Tuesday morning. Before the meeting moved into public comment and presentations, Saka said his focuses will be on “preserving and maintaining our infrastructure, with a heavy focus on bridges and streets, in hopes, he said, no other community has to go through anything like the 2 1/2-year West Seattle Bridge closure. He said his other priorities will be the “safety and comfort of pedestrians,” improved transit-rider experience, climate-related issues (particularly increased electrification of transportation), equity, and the size/scope of the next transportation-funding measure.

Of the two introductory presentations made by SDOT, the one of widest interest was an explanation of the department itself, led by director Greg Spotts, who noted he’s had the job for 17 months now. Spotts said he’d done some reorganizing of SDOT management to better handle priorities. For example, toward Saka’s top priority, Spotts said Elizabeth Sheldon serves as chief infrastructure engineer. Venu Nemani, previously chief traffic engineer, is chief transportation safety officer. Shortly after arriving, Spotts noted, he’d ordered a “top to bottom” review of Vision Zero – in light of the fact that traffic deaths and serious injuries were not declining – and he said there’ll be an implementation plan in the next several months. (As an aside, he said he does not own a car.) He talked about the Seattle Transportation Plan, pulling together many separate predecessors (bicycle plan, freight plan, transit plan, etc.), and said upcoming documents will include a Bridge Asset Management Plan. He briefly ran through some of what is on SDOT’s schedule for the year ahead, including bridge seismic upgrades (in West Seattle that includes the Delridge/Oregon overpass and the Admiral Way bridges over Fairmount Ravine).

His presentation included many stats – from 500 cameras in the traffic-control center downtown, to 14,000 openings per year for the city-owned movable bridges, including the West Seattle low bridge. (Spotts noted that shipments requiring those openings include a lot of food destined for Alaska.) Another stat of interest: There are about half a million street parking spaces in the city, but “we only charge for about 12,000 of them.”

One more note of West Seattle interest – Spotts briefly mentioned the city’s involvement with Sound Transit for the West Seattle and Ballard extensions. That group, he said, also reports to Sheldon, the chief infrastructure engineer.

The presentation also touched on the SDOT budget and the “83 sources of funding” that feed into it, “more than most city departments.”

Eventually Saka brought it back to his interest in pothole-filling as a symbol of what the city can do for its residents; not only does he want to be “the king of potholes,” but he also declared his fellow committee members “pothole royalty” too, though in a more serious vein, he suggested the “underlying causes” of potholes should be examined and addressed too.

You can watch the meeting in the Seattle Channel video above, and see the “introduction to SDOT” slides here. In addition to chairing the Transportation Committee, Councilmember Saka is vice chair of the Public Safety Committee, which will meet at 9:30 am Tuesday (February 13) for the first time this year; as we previously noted, all three of the city’s public-safety chiefs (CARE’s Amy Smith, SFD’s Harold Scoggins, SPD’s Adrian Diaz) are on the agenda to provide overviews of their departments.

26 Replies to "CITY COUNCIL: Here's what we learned at first Transportation Committee meeting chaired by D-1 Councilmember Rob Saka"

  • Amy February 11, 2024 (4:47 pm)

    King of potholes? Interesting. 

  • Al King February 11, 2024 (4:54 pm)

    Does Spotts, as a non car owner use city vehicles? Or, does he take transit, walk or bike to work, meetings, media events etc? How about the staff he’s hired? Are they carless? As far as paid street parking either he’ll hire a LOT more parking enforcement or be blanketing the city with automated cameras taking pictures of cars-what’s better? As far as potholes. Road condition is bad because there is NO preventative maintenance done by the city. It’s always “fix after failure” Is he really going to change that??

    • WSB February 11, 2024 (7:56 pm)

      He did not say he does not use cars. He said he doesn’t own a car. And yes, if you browse his Twitter/X feed, lots of transit riding, among other things.

    • WarOnCars February 12, 2024 (2:02 am)

      how do you “preventative maintenance” potholes? you’d have to over-engineer every road surface and roads are already incredibly expensive. the only way to prevent potholes happening as much is to have better throughput (less weight on road surface per person moved) transit like bus or a dedicated alternative right away like rail.

      • Sad February 12, 2024 (12:04 pm)

        Whoever comes up with “preventative maintenance potholes” would already be millionaire. Saka is just touting his ridiculous soundbites. Wish he cared more about safety and climate

        • Jort February 13, 2024 (9:21 am)

          Oh! There actually is a form of preventative maintenance that we can do to our roads to prevent damaging them: reduce the amount of car traffic on them! While I know this idea will not make me a millionaire, it does have the benefit of actually being true. It’s important to note that electric cars are actually going to make the pothole problem much worse, given how much heavier (and therefore more damaging) electric cars are. 

    • Ice February 13, 2024 (8:25 am)

      No Al, he’s not going to change that, as he is not going to invent some unknown yet affordable technology that would magically prevent wear-and-tear on roads. 

  • oh for the season February 11, 2024 (6:09 pm)

    If you remember his campaign, the one where he said the same 2 or 3 things over and over again?, he went off script at a local town hall forum and promised sidewalks in Arbor Heights and pedestrian improvements for senior citizens at the junction. If you were wondering whether he was just riffing or, maybe, promising things he had no intention of actually doing and/or no recollection of saying… You were right. It’ll be easier to count the empty promises than achievements at this rate, he’s 0-for-the-season so far.

    • Anne February 11, 2024 (8:21 pm)

      Well seeing as how he was just sworn in -I’m ok with giving him a little time. 

      • oh for the days of an honest council February 11, 2024 (9:10 pm)

        His promise for a budget audit was a the anchor of his campaign rhetoric, and he’s spent his time since being sworn in swearing that it was never in the realm of possibility. The man-of-the-people veneer is already wearing off. He was a shill for those benefitting from slowing our city’s progressive stance on housing and municipal construction. They’re coming to collect on their campaign funding. As you mention, he was recently sworn in. The surprise for me is how fast he’s getting started showing his true colors. Empty promises from an empty councilman. It’s surprisingly simple for a carpetbagger to swindle fools.

      • Seattlite February 12, 2024 (7:52 am)

        Are you giving Seattle’s mayor the same amount of time?  I am still waiting for the mayor’s promises about fixing Seattle’s half-staffed police officer shortage and stopping soft-on-crime outcomes.

    • Ice February 13, 2024 (8:30 am)

      This comment is so comically naive. Do you understand how long it takes a municipal government to get any construction project started, let alone Seattle? 

  • Kyle February 11, 2024 (8:15 pm)

    Honestly, I feel the pothole department is one of the best functioning departments in the city. Whenever I report in a pothole it is always addressed and usually within a few days. Now when I report ANYTHING to Parks it takes months and usually I have to report multiple times for them to even bother.

  • WS Guy February 11, 2024 (9:07 pm)

    Saka is focused on the right things.  And yes it is time to dump vision zero’s boneheaded policies.

    • Amy February 11, 2024 (11:30 pm)

      In your opinion.

    • fixfauntleroy February 12, 2024 (9:45 am)

      I would prefer to take policies that lead to less death personally, whatever that can be. 

    • Jeff February 12, 2024 (12:19 pm)

      Nothing he does is “right” so far. Potholes are not something that needs this insane emphasis. He’s so backwards thinking…his whole “trump wall” comment about Delridge is just insanity. Herbold never said anything that dumb. 

  • Admiral-2009 February 11, 2024 (10:38 pm)

    oh for the season – new development are required to install sidewalks, thus the future owners/tenants are paying for the sidewalk.  If people in Arbor Heights want sidewalks they need to form an LID to pay for it, at least a good portion, themselves.

  • Joe Z February 12, 2024 (10:41 am)

    Heather Marx is going to be the one running the transportation ship, which is honestly fine since she’s highly qualified. She was the master of doing quick fixes during the WS bridge closure. The new levy will show what their priorities are, it’s pretty clear that it will be more maintenance focused than the last one and probably less ambitious in terms of expansion of non-car infrastructure. 

  • Jeff February 12, 2024 (12:22 pm)

    Lightrail needs to be the primary focus in all transportation meetings. It’s long overdue to stop all this Seattle Process stuff and get going already!

    • WSB February 12, 2024 (8:04 pm)

      If you read the story, it was mentioned. However, since it’s Sound Transit building the system, not the city of Seattle, the city leaders have many other things to discuss too.

  • Johnny Stulic February 12, 2024 (7:05 pm)

    I can’t believe “Zero Vision” achieved absolutely nothing they had been promising. Well, not really nothing – they did manage to make Seattle traffic even worse, so mission accomplished, I guess.
    And since reducing speed limits to already ridiculous levels saved zero lives, that can only mean one thing: speed limits have to be reduced even further. Also, eliminating more lanes couldn’t hurt either.

  • Deb February 12, 2024 (9:20 pm)

    Interesting to know that Vision Zero is not just a Seattle program. It’s in many national and international metropolitan areas, and many have  results similar to those in Seattle. 

  • Deb February 12, 2024 (9:24 pm)

     Here’s what’s going on with Vision Zero in Melbourne, Australia:

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