West Seattle, Washington
(One page from new PDF of “visualizations” linked in “online open house” for feedback)
For more than a year, the process of determining a “preferred alternative” for routing and station locations of Sound Transit‘s West Seattle/Ballard light rail has been under way. Today, your next chance to comment – and last major chance to do it before that “preferred alternative” is chosen for environmenal studies – begins. ST has just announced the official start of a month of “scoping,” which includes its next West Seattle meeting, and an “online open house” featuring new summaries and comparisons of what’s currently under consideration:
Scoping begins today! Share your comments by March 18
Sound Transit and the Federal Transit Administration have officially kicked off scoping for the West Seattle and Ballard Link Extensions project. Scoping is the next step in the environmental review process and provides an opportunity for you to comment on the route and station alternatives, topics to study in the environmental impact statement, and project purpose and need. This 30-day public comment period will include multiple ways for you to share your feedback and help the Sound Transit Board identify a preferred alternative and other alternatives to study in an Environmental Impact Statement during the next phase of project development.
This is an especially important time to get involved and we want to hear from you! Here’s how to comment:
Attend an upcoming open house: details below
Comment online: wsblink.participate.online
Email us: email@example.com
Leave a voicemail: 833-972-2666
Mail us a letter: West Seattle and Ballard Link Extensions, c/o Lauren Swift, Sound Transit, 401 S. Jackson St., Seattle, WA 98104
Comments must be received by March 18. Your feedback will be shared with the Stakeholder Advisory Group, Elected Leadership Group, and the Sound Transit Board prior to their recommendations on which alternatives should be studied during environmental review. The Sound Transit Board will identify a preferred alternative and other alternatives to study in an Environmental Impact Statement in May 2019.
Save the dates! Join us at a scoping open house
We’re excited to share dates for our upcoming scoping open houses in West Seattle, Ballard, and downtown Seattle. We hope you’ll join us at one of the meetings below to learn more about the alternatives being considered, ask questions and share your comments.
West Seattle on Wednesday, Feb. 27, 6 – 8:30 p.m. at Alki Masonic Center (4736 40th SW)
Ballard/Interbay on Thursday, Feb. 28, 6 – 8:30 p.m. at Ballard High School
Downtown on Thursday, March 7, 5 – 7:30 p.m. at Union Station
Can’t join us in-person? Our online open house is now live! Visit wsblink.participate.online and submit your scoping comments by March 18.
New year, new numbers: advisory groups review Level 3 evaluation results:
The Stakeholder Advisory Group and Elected Leadership Group recently held meetings to review the latest alternatives and hear more about the Level 3 evaluation results. The three end-to-end alternatives were evaluated based on their performance with respect to dozens of qualitative and quantitative measures, such as service reliability, travel times, environmental effects, technical feasibility and much more.
Want to dig into the details to inform your scoping comments? Explore the evaluation results, then visit the online open house to comment between now and March 18. (Go here)
Other project documents, including a Scoping Information Report, the State Environmental Policy Act (SEPA) Determination of Significance, and evaluation reports, are also available for review online.
One thing we noticed while browsing the “online open house” before publishing this announcement – you can access a PDF with visualizations of the currently proposed “end-to-end alternatives” – see it here.
P.S. We’ve been covering all the other steps in the process along the way – most recently, the Stakeholder Advisory Group‘s meeting two weeks ago.
Two Highway 99 updates this afternoon:
REMEMBER THE RAMP? The tunnel’s been open for more than a week now, but the Dearborn/Alaskan Way offramp – to allow people traveling from West Seattle and points south to exit NB Highway 99 before the tunnel – is still under construction. The culprit, as you might expect – the snow. We asked WSDOT’s Laura Newborn today if there’s an update on the offramp’s expected opening: “There’s still weather-dependent work ahead of us. We do believe it will be next week but can’t say yet what day.”
ALASKAN WAY VIADUCT DEMOLITION: This too has been delayed a bit by the snow. WSDOT now says it’ll start later this week, at multiple spots including the Columbia/1st ramp. They’ve also added webcams focused on the Viaduct so you can watch the work.
Due to persistent dangerous roadway conditions and a forecast for ongoing freezing temperatures and two more snow storms, King County Executive Dow Constantine directed Metro to continue to operate only routes on its Emergency Snow Network (ESN) on both Monday, Feb. 11, and Tuesday, Feb. 12. This will provide weekday service levels focused on only 60 high-ridership routes and shuttles. Metro continues to operate ESN service today, Feb. 10, using Sunday schedules.
Riders should be prepared for crowding and potentially longer waits at bus stops on Monday and Tuesday as Metro operates on the Emergency Snow Network, which reduces service to 60 high-ridership routes to maintain reliability. Facing unpredictable weather conditions and travel delays, Metro encourages commuters across the region to allow for another 30-60 minutes in their travel schedules and prepare alternate travel plans if their route is not in service, and connect to Link light rail service where possible.
“The region continues to face challenging road conditions, freezing temperatures and a forecast that keeps bringing more and more snow,” said King County Metro General Manager Rob Gannon. “We’re working to provide customers with reliable bus service on an identified network of core routes, and asking riders to prepare for limited transit service until roadway conditions improve and we are out of this cycle of severe winter weather.”
Several more inches of snow are expected and riders are encouraged to monitor weather conditions in their community prior to traveling. Riders also are asked to carefully review their available travel options on the 60 routes and shuttles that will be operating. Buses will be following their posted snow routing except in the event that conditions require taking different streets.
For those who can, Metro is encouraging people to consider opportunities to work from home or flex work schedules on Monday and Tuesday and for as many days as this winter weather persists and affects Metro’s ability to operate safely. This also frees up space on buses for riders who do not have the ability to stay home or change their schedules.
Metro activated its ESN at 4 a.m. Saturday, Feb. 9, and will continue until further notice. Metro’s chained bus fleet has operated for two days on these core routes, which primarily serve key arterials and transit centers in many parts of King County.
The National Weather Service warns of additional weather systems bringing several inches of snow and ongoing freezing temperatures Sunday, Monday and into Tuesday. Metro is monitoring forecasts and roadway conditions to determine whether it is safe and possible to return to a higher level of service and operate a larger network of transit service via snow routes.
Emergency Snow Network
The ESN prioritizes high-ridership routes and serves areas that avoid steep hills. The routes were developed in coordination and collaboration with the City of Seattle and other jurisdictions to follow designated snow plow plans.
Routes operating as part of the ESN will serve core centers around King County, via routes 3, 4, 5, 7, 10, 21, 24, 24 shuttle, 31, 32, 36, 40, 41, 44, 45, 48, 62, 62 shuttle, 65, 70, 75, 90 shuttle, 101, 102 shuttle, 106, 106 shuttle, 120, 124, 128, 150, 166, 168, 169, 180, 181, 235, 245, 248, 252/255 shuttle, 255, 255 shuttle, 271, 331, 345, 348, 348 shuttle, 372 Woodinville and 372 Lake City, ST 522, ST 545, ST 550, ST 554, ST 554 shuttle, RapidRide A, B, C, D, E and F lines.
Metro is monitoring performance of this network and will make adjustments as needed to improve operations. Customers in outlying areas and neighborhoods should prepare for reduced or temporarily unavailable bus service for several days due to inclement weather, difficult travel conditions and topography. Ride2 West Seattle and Eastgate will not operate on Monday and Tuesday.
Maintenance crews continue to switch between chaining operations and troubleshooting and repairing buses damaged by operating in winter weather.
Emergency Snow Network- Access
Access Services will also move to the ESN to mirror fixed route services. Access’ main objective under the ESN will be to provide life sustaining medical transportation. During this time, customers who are not certified to use Access that need to connect to life sustaining medical services can call 206-205-5000 to request services between the hours of 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. Access will also be working closely with fixed route services to help support customers that are stranded due to breakdowns or weather conditions.
West Seattle Water Taxi
The West Seattle Water Taxi will temporarily operate a one-boat commute-only schedule Monday via the MV Doc Maynard, following its typical winter schedule rather than the expanded two-boat Viaduct closure schedule. Available crews will shift to ice clearing and dock maintenance to maintain safety for passengers. Water Taxi shuttle routes 773 and 775 are currently
notUPDATE – **ARE** scheduled to operate and Ride 2 West Seattle services are canceled.
What Riders Should Know
Metro encourages people to avoid traveling if at all possible.
Riders who intend to use Metro’s services should visit the Emergency Snow Network webpage to view details about routes in operation and to identify their options. ESN routes will travel on posted snow routes unless otherwise communicated.
Metro’s Customer Information Office opens at 6 a.m. Monday to assist riders with trip planning, at 206-553-3000.
Posted timetables on Metro’s Schedules and Maps page are a good point of reference for the 60 ESN routes that are operating, but unforeseen roadway and weather conditions may result in delays or unplanned reroutes.
Customers should be aware that Puget Sound Trip Planner and third-party apps will not reflect ESN service and will not be accurate for planning itineraries on ESN days. However, once intending riders know which ESN route they want to use, other Puget Sound Trip Planner features, such as maps, bus stop locations and timetables for ESN routes are valid. Puget Sound Trip Planner and other apps are still accurate for planning trips or getting schedules for regular service days.
Next Departure features and Text For Departure tools are working for only bus routes that are in service.
5 PM: Metro has since sent out an alert with conflicting info about tomorrow’s plans. We’re seeking to clarify.
6:49 PM: Metro confirms that the late-afternoon update is accurate – so shuttle Routes 773 and 775 ARE now going to be in service (albeit limited), along with the Pier 2 parking lot and that free shuttle between lot and dock.
Today was the first real test of the Highway 99 tunnel in traffic. If you weren’t among those using it – above is the next best thing, Jamie Kinney‘s dashcam video from the northbound morning commute. Below, a “live” look inside the south end of the northbound deck:
One big question remains for West Seattleites: When will that exit ramp to the south end of downtown open, so people headed northbound from here can use 99 without having to go through the tunnel? Dating back to last summer, WSDOT warned it would take up to two weeks beyond the tunnel opening to finish that ramp. Optimistic projections more recently were that it could be as little as one week – but then came the snow. We checked in today with WSDOT’s Highway 99 project spokesperson Laura Newborn, who says, “Weather definitely put the work behind on the NB off ramp Monday and Tuesday. The contractor is working today, but the bad weather could cause challenges for the crew.” And, of course, as the weather experts are warning, it’s likely not over yet. One other thing about NB 99 came up in a comment discussion today: The NB bus lane south of the tunnel. It was cut short a while back so that crews could repair a “dip” and has not been fully restored yet, but Newborn says it will extend to, and onto, the new Dearborn/Alaskan Way exit ramp, and then after the Metro routing “interim” time of up to 1 year, will also extend onto the new Alaskan Way. (The 4th Avenue temporary bus lane on the eastbound West Seattle Bridge, meantime, will be removed once buses stop using that ramp, SDOT has reiterated – again, waiting on that NB 99 exit ramp.)
That’s the map of the proposed Restricted Parking Zone in the West Seattle Junction area, and other street-parking changes, just made public by SDOT, which had said it would have the final proposal out in January. Now it’s time for one last round of feedback before a final decision. First, the SDOT announcement that accompanied the map:
We sent out the initial proposal in July 2018 [WSB coverage here] and released an update in October 2018 [WSB coverage here]. We’re now seeking feedback from stakeholders in the area on whether they’d like the final proposal implemented.
We just updated our project webpage and will send an email to those who have subscribed to our listserv. In the next few days mailers [see the mailer here in PDF] will go out to all residents and businesses in the area. A summary of the proposed RPZ is below:
SDOT received a request to evaluate residential streets near the West Seattle Junction for a new Restricted Parking Zone (RPZ). An RPZ would prevent all-day parking by commuters on blocks with RPZ signs.
RPZ signs would be installed on the orange-lined blocks shown on the map and would limit vehicles without RPZ permits to 2-hour parking, 7 AM – 6 PM, Monday – Saturday.
RPZ signs would not be installed next to businesses and employees would not be eligible to purchase permits.
All residents living within the orange-shaded area would be eligible to purchase RPZ permits.
Vehicles displaying an RPZ permit would be exempt from the 2-hour time limit on RPZ-signed blocks.
Permits are currently $65 per vehicle for a two-year cycle. One hang-tag guest permit is available per household. A $10 low-income permit is available.
Comparing the proposed map with the one that was released last October, it appears almost identical, aside from (updated) proposed carshare spaces near Alaska/44th that alreay have been installed.
HOW TO COMMENT: You can tell SDOT what you think by commenting before March 15th. Four ways:
*Send email to WestSeattleParking@seattle.gov
*Use this comment form
*Speak at the public hearing set for 6:30-8 pm Thursday, February 28th, at the Senior Center of West Seattle (4217 SW Oregon)
Final decision on whether to put the RPZ in place, SDOT says, would be made by June.
BACKSTORY: The RPZ proposal results from a community request two years ago – almost a decade after a previous one in the Junction area was turned down. It would be the second in West Seattle; the first one is in the Fauntleroy ferry-dock area.
We can’t say this enough: When the Highway 99 tunnel opens – hours from now – there will be a transitional week or so during which the exit to NB 99 from the EB West Seattle Bridge is a “tunnel only” exit, because the offramp to downtown, before the tunnel, isn’t done yet. Separate from that, some new ramps/intersections HAVE just opened on both ends of the tunnel, including the one that you will use to get to SB 99 just south of the tunnel. WSDOT has just published this update that we’re reposting in its entirety:
The Feb. 4 opening of the SR 99 tunnel brings big changes to several important intersections at the tunnel’s north and south ends. New intersections can be confusing, so use the renderings below to help familiarize yourself with what you will encounter on the road. You can also preview the intersections via narrated videos.
North end of the tunnel: Harrison Street and Aurora Ave North
New northbound SR 99 on-ramp
New southbound SR 99 off-ramp
Harrison Street open east-west across Aurora Avenue North
The new tunnel dives underground at Harrison Street, several blocks north of where the now-closed Battery Street Tunnel begins. The new intersection of Harrison Street and Aurora Avenue North is where the northbound on-ramp begins, and the southbound off-ramp ends. Harrison Street is now also open east-west across Aurora Avenue North.
Note: Construction begins this month on the inside lanes of Aurora Avenue North between Denny Way and Harrison Street (yellow zone at bottom). Learn more about how the North Surface Streets project is rebuilding Aurora Avenue North.
North end of the tunnel: Republican Street and Dexter Avenue North
New northbound SR 99 off-ramp
The intersection of Republican Street and Dexter Avenue North is where the northbound SR 99 off-ramp ends. New signals will control traffic coming off the highway. From the off-ramp drivers will be able to turn left toward Mercer Street, head straight toward South Lake Union, or turn right to head toward Denny Way. Stay alert for people using the Dexter Avenue bike lanes on both sides of the street.
South end of the tunnel: Alaskan Way, South Dearborn Street, and First Avenue South
New southbound SR 99 on-ramp
New northbound SR 99 off-ramp [NOT YET OPEN]
New east-west street, South Dearborn Street
New primary path between First Avenue South and Alaskan Way
Alaskan Way extended farther south
One of the biggest changes to surface streets is at the tunnel’s south end, just west of CenturyLink field. Alaskan Way no longer ends with a jog under the viaduct onto Railroad Way South. Instead, it continues straight to a new intersection with a new road, South Dearborn Street.
South Dearborn Street is the new east-west connection between Alaskan Way and First Avenue South. This intersection connects SR 99, Alaskan Way and First Avenue. Alaskan Way continues south from this intersection toward East Marginal Way South. Railroad Way South is currently closed from First Avenue South, and when it reopens it will be a local-access-only road.
IMPORTANT NOTE: The northbound SR 99 off-ramp bridge is still under construction and will open one to two weeks after the tunnel opens.
Note: The rendering above does not show the now-closed Alaskan Way Viaduct, which sits in the yellow-highlighted work zone and will be removed section by section over the next six months.
South end of the tunnel: South Royal Brougham Way and First Avenue South
New northbound SR 99 on-ramp
New southbound SR 99 off-ramp
Colorado Avenue South with two-way traffic to South Atlantic Street
Drivers who previously joined SR 99 northbound from Royal Brougham Way will find striking changes to that intersection. Where once there was a ramp to the viaduct, now there are two ramps to the tunnel. This is where southbound drivers in the tunnel will exit to reach SODO, the stadiums, and I-90 and I-5. This is also where drivers coming from I-90 or the stadiums will enter the tunnel for northbound SR 99.
Note: A shared-use path along Colorado Avenue South will be built in a future phase of the project.
South end of the tunnel: South Atlantic Street and Colorado Avenue South
New surface-street connection to Alaskan Way South
Colorado Avenue South with two-way traffic to Royal Brougham Way South
The changes around South Atlantic Street are less drastic but still worth knowing. The Atlantic Street overpass over SR 99 is now a complete connection to Alaskan Way (to the north) and East Marginal Way South (to the south). You can now reach both via South Atlantic Street by taking the ramp labeled below.
Colorado Avenue South (previously called East Frontage Road) is now a two-way street, providing a north and south route between South Atlantic Street and SR 99 on- and off-ramps. A common path from SR 99 southbound to reach I-90 will be to take Colorado Avenue south, then take a left turn onto South Atlantic Street.
Note: At tunnel opening South Atlantic Street does not pass beneath the SR 99 overpass to Alaskan Way South. That connection will open later in winter/spring 2019.
Again, no specific time yet for the actual tunnel opening – but WSDOT has said it’ll be in time for the earliest edge of tomorrow’s morning commute (4 am-ish). We’ll have a separate update when it’s announced, and we also still have one more report in the works from Saturday’s tunnel dedication.
By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor
The process of arriving at a “preferred alternative” for Sound Transit‘s West Seattle/Ballard light rail routing and station locations will stretch further into spring than first planned.
That’s part of what was announced at last night’s Stakeholder Advisory Group meeting, which was centered on releasing and discussing how the currently under-review possibilities compare on a variety of criteria, including cost. The same information will be reviewed by the Elected Leadership Group tomorrow morning, and your feedback will be sought online and via in-person forums in a month or so.
Here’s the full slide deck from the meeting (PDF, 12 MB). First thing to remember – the so-called “end to end alternatives” that are in the spotlight for this third and final review phase are not “all or nothing” plans from which one will move into the next phase. But here they all are on a map:
In order in the legend, they are the “representative project” (outlined in the ST3 vote in 2016), the
West Seattle Elevated option, and the West Seattle Tunnel option. ST staffers stressed repeatedly that this is the time to “mix and match” components if that makes more sense. So the evaluation information emerged in segments, rather than simply scorecards for each full “end to end alternative.” Here’s the criteria on which the components were evaluated:
Thanks to Eugene Lee for the photo from the West Seattle Water Taxi dock at Seacrest this morning. Now that the Highway 99 tunnel opening is confirmed for Monday, that makes tomorrow the final 99-less commute. To mark the occasion, King County Executive Dow Constantine plans to greet WT commuters at the dock, as he did at the start, so if you’re there around 7:30 am Friday, you’ll get the chance to say hi. Two WT reminders beyond tomorrow:
-The expanded-schedule two-boat service DOES continue all the way until the 7-day-a-week schedule begins in late March. The extra parking at Pier 2 and park-and-ride shuttle will continue, too.
-The WS Water Taxi DOES run Saturday because of the viaduct/tunnel celebration – here’s our story from earlier this week with that day’s special schedule.
It’s official – the Highway 99 tunnel WILL open in time for Monday morning’s commute. That’s what WSDOT’s project boss Dave Sowers just told us and other media on a conference call. He said that starting Sunday afternoon and continuing into the “wee hours” of Sunday night/early Monday, they will be in the midst of all the ramp work – an “item by item, hour by hour” list of steps – to make sure it’s ready to go in time for the Monday commute, by 4:30-5 am Monday.
But for people traveling NB on 99 from West Seattle and points south, it’s vital to remember that for the first week or more, as noted many times, the exit ramp to downtown via Dearborn Street will NOT be open. Transportation authorities promise they will have signage in place to remind you that exiting to NB 99 from the eastbound West Seattle Bridge will be a “no exit until after the tunnel” (they promise to get us the exact verbiage they’ll be using) exit, until that ramp is open. “Pay attention to the signage,” Sowers urged drivers, especially in that interim time.
Sowers was asked if the possible snow toward weekend’s end could bring a setback. “Unless we had six inches of snow during the Super Bowl” – which is NOT in the forecast so far – he doesn’t expect it. But because rain is expected tonight, he said they’re in something of a “mad dash” to finish some final touches such as striping.
FYI for West Seattle Water Taxi riders, from King County’s Jeff Switzer: “The Spirit of Kingston will be in service Thursday morning, Jan. 31, in place of the Doc Maynard, to allow for a quick engine part swap on the Doc. It is scheduled to be back in service for the 1:15pm departure from Pier 52.”
SDOT says the SW Avalon Way/35th/Alaska repaving and rechannelization project will begin as soon as April, now that it’s reached final design. They’ve added some major new elements to the plan. They’re part of the toplines from SDOT’s Dan Anderson:
The latest design changes based on community feedback and city policy include:
*Closing 30th Ave SW at SW Avalon Way to reduce cut-through driving [see postcard, with map, here]
*Adding a new RapidRide transit island with a separated bike lane at SW Yancy St
*Shifting the northbound bus stop about 150 feet [north] for routes 50, 55, and 21 to remove bus/bike conflict at Luna Park
*Reducing speed limits on SW Avalon Way and 35th Ave SW by 5 mph
*Installing skid-resistant surface treatment on SW Charlestown St [outside project zone] and SW Genesee St
*Adjusting the curb line and adding a new planting strip at 3246 SW Avalon Way
*Closing the slip lane from SW Avalon Way to Fauntleroy Way SW
*Installing a new water main
*Continuing conversations with business stakeholders about the hours of operation for the inbound bus lane
That affects parking; here’s the map showing the parking inventory, reported here in November. Meantime, more details on many of the newly announced changes are on the project website. As shown on the map atop this story, the full project zone is all of Avalon from the bridge to Fauntleroy, plus 35th between Avalon and Alaska, and one block of Alaska west of 35th.
At midday today, WSDOT and SDOT hosted media crews for a short progress-report briefing at the new intersection that will take people from and to Highway 99 just south of the soon-to-open tunnel. As the sign above shows – with the tunnel’s south-portal building as the backdrop (its distinctive yellow stacks are just out of the frame) – it’s the Dearborn intersection.
It’s still expected to open a week or so after the tunnel, which WSDOT’s project boss Dave Sowers says is still likely to open in time for next Monday’s commute, though he expects it’ll be a few more days before they lock in that date. Our raw video of today’s briefing starts shortly before the Q&A section – we arrived toward the end of the statements because they started a bit early and clogged traffic made us late! First person you see is SDOT’s downtown-mobility director Heather Marx:
Besides a progress report, today’s briefing was also meant to remind everyone that it’s time to start thinking about how you’ll get getting around once the tunnel – and then the Dearborn exit ramp – are open. In case you missed it when first released earlier this month, here are two WSDOT videos of note – first, showing how that new exit ramp will work:
Second, how you’ll get to SB 99 to get out of downtown:
As discussed in the Q&A, traffic engineers will also closely watch traffic flow out of the tunnel – ready to adjust signal timing and turning if need be.
Another city grant program is seeking your thoughts on what should get funded. This time, it’s the Neighborhood Street Fund, and more than 20 projects are being considered in this area (West Seattle/South Park) alone – here’s the city’s clickable Google Map showing them:
Starting today, the “prioritization” process is under way, and the city’s asking you to do the prioritizing, as explained here. First, take a look at details of each project via PDFs linked here; then you can rank them online by going here – or at an upcoming meeting. There are two in D-1 – in West Seattle on Saturday (10:30 am February 2 at Youngstown Cultural Arts Center, 4408 Delridge Way SW) or South Park a week from tonight (6:30 pm February 4 at South Park Hall, 1253 S. Cloverdale).
The NSF is an every-three-years grant program; one of the two projects approved for West Seattle in the 2016 cycle isn’t even complete yet (the Spokane/Harbor/Avalon intersection changes – just last week we learned the bicycle-crossing signal is still about two months away). The next phase after prioritizing of this year’s proposals, by the way, will be voting this spring.
By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor
Are you the “third party” who might help finance the extra cost of running West Seattle’s light-rail line underground?
That was part of the discussion as King County Executive Dow Constantine – a member of the Sound Transit board – guested last night at the West Seattle Transportation Coalition‘s first meeting of 2019.
Also there, leaders from the Duwamish Tribe Longhouse, who are hoping for community support as they seek a city grant for a pedestrian-safety project on West Marginal Way SW as their headquarters gets ready to celebrate its 10th anniversary
First, the conversation with Constantine, who addressed a variety of topics, including the Viaduct-to-tunnel transition. He also noted at the start that he would be participating in the Point In Time count hours after the meeting. Then he tackled the Highway 99 transition, observing that traffic “is just atrocious” as he headed to the meeting (at Neighborhood House High Point) and that it was earlier in the day, too. As for the bright spots in the two weeks since the Viaduct’s shutdown – almost a decade after he stood with other regional leaders at the Seattle Aquarium as then-Gov. Christine Gregoire signed the tunnel-creating bill into law – he cited the Water Taxi, for one – a service he has long championed – citing its 200 percent increase in ridership these two weeks. Metro is deploying extra coaches, as we’ve noted, with C Line and E Line RapidRide services benefiting from them.
“One more week to go!” That was the theme of today’s media-briefing conference call, with the focus starting to shift one week ahead to the tunnel/viaduct celebration. But first:
CONSTRUCTION PROGRESS: Dave Sowers says WSDOT is doing two concrete pours today – the biggest is for the south embankment to the Dearborn offramp, the last major pour for roadway surfaces in #Realign99. They had hoped to finish the “dip repair” south of the tunnel yesterday but wet weather kept them from finishing that; they’ll do it Tuesday instead. North portal electrical work, signage, and “loop ramps” continue, along with “commissioning work” on both ends. Striping work is continuing on the main line, too. We asked when they’ll be able to estimate how long past the tunnel opening it’ll take to open the Dearborn exit ramp; he says there’s still a lot of work to do and they’re still on track for the “extra week to 10 days” but might have a better estimate by midweek.
WATER TAXI FOR SATURDAY 2/2 ONLY: Jeff Switzer from Metro clarified that the West Seattle Water Taxi will run from West Seattle on the Saturday of tunnel/viaduct celebration day only – the day with the biggest events – and said that day’s schedule will be available soon. The WS Water Taxi is still running triple the usual ridership, 18,844 riders through Thursday (Vashon is up 14 percent). One bus note: “Today was a reminder we’re not quite out of the woods yet” – because of train delays they’re looking at changing the paths for some south-end routes such as 113. So far “standby buses” have carried 33,572 riders, he said.
BACK TO THE CELEBRATION WEEKEND: Steve Peer from WSDOT noted that the 520 bridge party had 50,000 guests and the tunnel/viaduct weekend is trending for twice that. The Sunday 2/3 bicycle ride (fee) is sold out with 12,000 registered; the Saturday fun run (fee) has 23,000 registered; 66,000 free tickets already have been claimed for Saturday’s viaduct/tunnel access. WSDOT has published an update here with “what you should know before you come.” One big thing – take public transportation! We asked Peer a reader question about difficulty finding a remaining free-event slot to sign up for; he said there will be SOME room for walk-ups. Go to 99stepforward.com for more on the Feb. 2-3 events.
If you’re thinking of bicycling tomorrow – you can get support and inspiration via the “Winter Pop-Up Bike Everywhere Day” station under the bridge. West Seattle Bike Connections and Cascade Bicycle Club will be there 6:30 to 9 am. They’re promising free snacks and giveaways for everybody who stops. Among those planning to ride: West Seattle-residing City Councilmember Lorena González. Assuming all continues to go well, tomorrow marks one week to go in the three-week viaduct-to-tunnel transition.
That’s the rig Sound Transit used last summer to collect soil samples in multiple areas as it continues researching potential routes for West Seattle light rail. They’re continuing those tests in two areas. First, we have this announcement of sampling along SW Genesee as soon as next week – note that it is also a traffic alert:
Sound Transit plans to begin drilling to collect soil samples for analysis on SW Genesee St between 26th Ave SW and 30th Ave SW. as early as January 28.
Work will occur from 8:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m. and take approximately five days to complete.
The eastbound lane and sidewalk of SW Genesee St will be closed between 26th Ave SW and 30th Ave SW during working hours.
Flaggers will be present to direct eastbound and westbound traffic around the work area. Metro Route 50 will continue to operate on SW Genesee St.
Sound Transit is in the early planning phase for the West Seattle and Ballard Link Extensions project. This work, along with similar borings throughout the project corridor, will help us plan and design possible light rail alignments.
That’s near the area whose residents me with ST last week (WSB coverage here). ST also has been doing soil sampling on Harbor Island and Port of Seattle properties in the vicinity, as shown on this map:
The list provided by ST shows testing at Terminals 18, 25, 102, and 104 should have been completed by now; work in the park at Harbor Island is planned through tomorrow, and night and weekend work at 3568 W. Marginal Way SW through Sunday. The technical analysis continues as ST enters the final phase of review to choose a “preferred alternative” for environmental study; that decision is expected this spring. Next steps in the review process, two meetings next week.
Whether it was out of jubilation, relief, or both, King County Executive (and West Seattle commuter) Dow Constantine opened today’s #Realign99 (aka Seattle Squeeze, aka Viadoom) media briefing by exclaiming “We are halfway there!”
The briefings before and during this time of Highway 99-less-ness have rotated between jurisdictions, from the WSDOT (state) work zone to SDOT (city) and Metro (county) operations nerve centers. This afternoon, media were invited to the latter.
Though there’s “light at the end of the tunnel,” as Constantine said wryly at briefing’s end, those present all but pleaded, don’t go back to your old ways. Though traffic’s been worse this week than last, they’re still seeing a significant amount of change, and that’s kept this more unpleasant than nightmarish. Before we get to today’s toplines, here’s the full video of this afternoon’s 25-minute briefing and Q&A at the Metro Transit Operations Center on the south side of downtown:
Speaking after Constantine were Metro’s Terry White, SDOT’s Heather Marx, and WSDDT’s Dave Sowers. Their key points:
White: No ridership stats for Metro yet but they’re working on it. They do know their added-as-needed buses have carried 27,000 passengers. The West Seattle Water Taxi is still running at triple the usual ridership for this time of year, 14,810 rides through this morning, and lots of room still left. Even the Vashon Water Taxi – which, unlike West Seattle, does not have added service – is up 17 percent, carrying 7,140 riders through this morning. “The marathon is not over … We really need you to continue the good work you’ve been doing.” He concluded by expressing gratitude for everything from the added bus lanes to Metro drivers.
Marx noted that bicycling across the “low bridge” (per its counter) has more than doubled. We asked her if the added police assigned to areas such as the temporary 4th Avenue (and bridge offramp) bus lane had started issuing citations; she said they have. Overall, she said, the commutes are peaking about an hour earlier than pre-Viaduct. As a result, they’ve been implementing traffic-control measures earlier (as early as 5 am in SODO), too.
Sowers said WSDOT’s noticed an increase in walk-on state ferries passengers on Seattle-bound routes including Vashon. As for the work to get the tunnel connected and open, he said construction continues to be on schedule for the February 4th tunnel opening goal, and that 80,000 people have registered for the celebration-weekend events – free viaduct and tunnel walking, fee-required fun run and bike rides.(Here’s where to go to register.) Last night’s downpour forced crews to hold off on some paving but that’s not a setback and they’re expecting more-favorable weather in the days ahead. A lot of electrical work remains to be done, Sowers added.
After the speaking-at-podium briefing/Q&A ended, reporters were invited to talk with a Water Taxi captain and Metro operator who were on hand. We took a moment to ask the former – Neal Amaral – what it’s been like. He’s a longtime captain of the boat that’s regularly on the route, the Doc Maynard. He said it’s been good to see some “new faces” as well as regular riders, and that it’s been pretty good sailing weather – no fog problems. Balancing the fast turnaround with other vessel traffic at the downtown dock, including the Kitsap fast ferries, has been a challenge.
P.S. Questions about the Water Taxi or Metro? You might be interested in tomorrow night’s West Seattle Transportation Coalition meeting, 6:30 pm Thursday, Neighborhood House High Point (6400 Sylvan Way SW), with County Executive Constantine expected as the spotlight guest.
“If 90,000 drivers decide to get back in their cars, there’s no question that things will get worse quickly – don’t do it!” So said WSDOT’s Laura Newborn toward the end of today’s multi-agency media conference call, something WSDOT has organized most weekdays since the Alaskan Way Viaduct shutdown, and other participants echoed that: Keep those alternative commuting practices going if and when you can!
Meantime, toplines from the call:
(Framegrab from WSDOT construction cam)
CONSTRUCTION UPDATE: WSDOT’s AWV Replacement Program deputy administrator Dave Sowers said they’re still on track to open the tunnel February 4th, right after the February 2-3 celebration weekend, with the NB 99 non-tunnel traffic exit ramp opening a week to 10 days after that. There’s a big concrete pour today, for “load distribution,” as they continue working on the ramps in the south portal area; it’s the groundwork for a future pour, “several hundred cubic yards of concrete.” So far the weather hasn’t really been a problem – absent truly heavy rain, or snow, they’re working through it. The next weather-dependent work is asphalt and striping, likely to happen this Friday, when drier weather is expected.
TRAFFIC ASSESSMENT: Though, as commenters on WSB and elsewhere observed, it felt worse than last week, WSDOT and SDOT reps on the call thought it wasn’t that different – WSDOT traffic engineer Morgan Balogh said “the peak started early and lasted longer,” and observed that people coming into Seattle from points south (via I-5, for example) had an added 15 minutes or so of travel time. SDOT’s Traffic Operations Center supervisor Tim McCall noted the West Seattle Bridge and East Marginal Way were key slowdown spots. As for the truck traffic that contributed to the latter …
PORT TRAFFIC: Port of Seattle spokesperson Peter McGraw said Terminal 18 on the east side of Harbor Island was the main contributor. They have more truck traffic this week because of more vessel calls starting last weekend … T-18 was so backed up that trucks couldn’t even get off the island, he said. And, “you can expect heavier traffic for the rest of the week.”
BUSES: They don’t have passenger counts yet, said Metro’s Jeff Switzer, noting that not all buses have counters. He was able to say that standby buses made 570 trips January 12th-19th, carrying nearly 20,000 riders. (We might hear more about the Metro overview tomorrow afternoon, when King County Executive Dow Constantine is leading a media briefing.) … We asked about bus-lane enforcement plans on the bridge besides the lane to 4th; SDOT is checking with SPD on that. They also are looking into the Avalon Way snarl. They altered the 1st and 4th Avenue S. signal timing today to help with traffic including buses.
WATER TAXI: No numbers for today yet. Last week Monday-Friday saw 11,456 passengers, said Switzer, compared to 3,490 in the comparable period last year. (2:45 PM UPDATE: 938 Water Taxi passengers this morning, down from 1,200 last Tuesday but still way up from a year ago, when 367 used it. Also up: The free parking at Pier 2 – which has a free shuttle to the dock – 71 cars today, vs. 53 last Tuesday. Still lots of room.)
P.S. We’re told the post-Viaduct situation is on the agenda at Thursday’s West Seattle Transportation Coalition meeting, with County Executive Constantine the tentatively scheduled guest, 6:30 pm Thursday (January 24th) at Neighborhood House High Point, 6400 Sylvan Way.
By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor
Light rail does not just appear one day in a neighborhood where it didn’t exist the day before.
Years of construction follow years of planning.
Some of that construction is preceded by demolition – tearing down homes and businesses that, to put it bluntly, are declared to be in the way.
That will happen to some in West Seattle. Just where, and how many homes and businesses, won’t be settled until the route and station locations for the due-to-open-in-2030 line are finalized. But some people for whom it’s a possibility are already grappling with it. This past Wednesday night, dozens of them gathered at Youngstown Cultural Arts Center with pointed questions for Sound Transit – questions that in many cases, ST reps said, it’s too soon to answer. Most of the people in attendance were from nearby streets where construction of the Delridge station might push them out, depending on what location is chosen.
The briefing/Q&A event was organized by a neighbor, Dennis Noland, who opened by saying, “It was devastating news to me” to find out that Sound Transit’s West Seattle light-rail plan might cost him and some of his neighbors their homes. Noland took it on himself to personally talk with neighbors after that revelation last fall.
The next step in that was organizing the meeting, intended for neighbors – “specifically a two-block area” bounded by, as he explained it:
SW Genesee on the south
SW Dakota on the north
West side of Delridge Way SW on the east
26th SW transecting 25th SW on the west
We recorded the 2-hour-plus event, but our video is mostly just of use for the audio as the projected slides could not be captured – they’re all in this slide deck (7 MB PDF) – and we didn’t have a separate crew member to zoom from person to person while we took notes. Nevertheless, here’s the recording:
Now, our chronicling of what happened:
If you missed our mention in Friday’s expanded traffic/transit coverage – the West Seattle and Vashon Water Taxi service WILL run tomorrow on Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day, though that holiday in previous years has been a no-service day for the foot ferry. Also note that the West Seattle route will be on the same expanded two-boat schedule it’s been running since the first Highway 99-less commute a week ago; expanded shuttle service and free Pier 2 parking will be available too. (If you haven’t tried it yet, here’s the brochure with the overview. One change, says King County: A downtown departure was moved up to 5 pm, 5 minutes earlier than in the brochure. The website schedule here is correct.)
P.S. Though traffic is bound to be lighter since schools and most government facilities are closed, we will launch our expanded traffic/transit coverage at 5:30 am Monday as we’ve done since last week, too. Thanks again to everyone who has contributed comments, tips, questions, alerts!
The photo is courtesy of Andrew, one of hundreds who bicycled to work during the first week of Highway 99-less-ness – his view from the bicycle path in/out of West Seattle. Don Brubeck from West Seattle Bike Connections calls our attention to the Spokane Street Bicycle Counter (low bridge), which shows 4,553 trips Monday-Friday this week, compared to 2,556 for the same five weekdays last year. “We’d like to encourage people to try it and keep doing it to get through the viaduct/tunnel transition,” says Don. “You can be part of this.”
P.S. Not all riders crossed the low bridge, of course – the Water Taxi has some bicycle capacity (plus added parking at Seacrest) as do Metro buses.