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Councilman Rasmussen opposes Nickerson road diet, neighbors form pro-diet support group

May 27th, 2010 by Thea

Over the last couple of weeks the proposed W Nickerson Street “road diet” has become a hot topic in the Queen Anne community. This week supporters of the plan to restructure Nickerson between Warren Ave N and 13th Ave W from two lanes in each direction to one, adding a middle turn lane and bicycle lane, found reinforcement in the recent release of an SDOT report indicating the positive effects of a similar “road diet” implemented along Stone Way N in Wallingford two years ago.

Citywide politicians have also been getting involved in the debate, including Mayor Mike McGinn who supports the plan, and Councilman Tom Rasmussen who this week said came out in opposition of the diet, which he says should be delayed until projects at other high-volume corridors including Mercer Street and the Alaskan Way Viaduct tunnel are completed in 2016. From our news partner, The Seattle Times:

Peter Hahn, the new transportation director, said he had authority to carry out the $200,000 makeover without further council or mayor actions — and if it failed, the road diet could be easily reversed.

Rasmussen says he heard an immediate outcry from neighborhood and Democrat groups. Nickerson is one of only two east-west streets directly feeding Ballard industries. Meanwhile, angry drivers tell the Times that bicyclists should use the Ship Canal Trail, a block away.

According to the Times, Seattle has completed some 24 “road diet” lane reductions citywide since 1972, and Mayor McGinn is pushing hard to continue the program.

The mayor, a longtime environmental activist, announced the Nickerson road diet May 11, as part of a re-emphasis on walking, biking and transit projects. One goal is for lower car speeds to improve pedestrian safety; the street passes through Seattle Pacific University.

Although SDOT says the road diet on Stone Way N has increased safety by significantly lowering the number of collisions between cars, bicycles and pedestrians along the stretch, Rasmussen said the council may work to stop the project by:

a) pass a budget proviso withholding road-diet money, b) pass a recommendation for or against the plan, or c) watch what happens, perhaps adding language repealing the road diet if things went bad.

Meanwhile, community members in support of the plan have organized a support group, Supporters of the Nickerson St. Road Diet, to counteract the recently formed 15th Ave W Coalition. Founder Charles Redell sent this letter out to community members today:

I first read about the 15th Ave. W Transportation Coalition earlier this week on Magnolia Voice. The fact that Magnolia Community Council wrote a letter against the proejct in which it claimed to represent 24,000 Magnolia residents got under my skin because I fully support the road diet for Nickerson. After reading the Stone Way Road Diet study and talking to a few people about the safety issues for bike rider and pedestrians on Nickerson St., I decided to start Supporters of the Nickerson St. Road Diet to see if we can get a group of people together to make it clear that many, many people in these neighborhoods of all stripes support this plan.

The Google group was created two days ago and is getting coverage in a few outlets already. People are joining the Facebook group and we are planning efforts to get the word out about the benefits this road diet will bring to the area. Among them are a safer street for pedestrians and bike riders, increased business opportunities for local, small businesses and a more livable neighborhood overall.

All supporters of the Road Diet are welcome to join and take part.

We’ll keep you posted as this discussion continues.

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