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SDOT presents five alternative plans at West Mercer Place open house Tuesday

March 16th, 2011 by Jesus Chavez

The Seattle Department of Transportation held an open house to inform and answer questions about the West Mercer Place portion of the Mercer West Project on Tuesday night.

The open house, held from 4 to 7 p.m. in the Northwest Rooms Plaza of the Seattle Center, gave the public a look at different possible plans for the street while providing a forum for comment and criticism with SDOT representatives. In the Rainier Room, posters of the different plans, stages of development, area studies and traffic analysis were displayed with a short video presentation at the front of the room.

“It’s been a good conversation and I think we had a good turnout,” said SDOT Project Manager Eric Tweit.

SDOT presented five alternative plans for West Mercer Place: Alternative No. 1 adds a sidewalk to West Mercer Place, Alternative No. 2 adds a sidewalk and a bike lane, Alternative No. 3 and No. 4 add the sidewalk and bike lane and extends the merge lane on West Mercer Place. Alternative No. 5, which can be a standalone or combined with any of the previous 4 alternatives, would extend the left-turn lanes on Elliott Avenue West. The illustrations of alternative No. 1 and No. 2 can be seen here, No. 3 and No. 4 can be seen here, and Elliot Avenue West left-turn lane extension with the alternatives summary can be seen here.

“More traffic is going to try to use Mercer, so the question became can West Mercer Place handle it? Do we need to or do we want to even increase the capacity?” said Tweit. “We were pretty concerned about what the cost and impact would be, so this is really the culmination of that evaluation of whether there is a benefit to doing it.”

The changes in traffic through West Mercer Place with the Mercer Corridor Project and the replacement of the Alaskan Way Viaduct prompted many of those who live in that area to voice their opposition. (See our past coverage of public meetings and community events surrounding this debate here.)

“We recently heard from a lot of reasonably and understandably concerned people who live on West Mercer Place, so this is an opportunity… for people to see and comment on the project,” said Tweit.

Tweit said that those he spoke to were opposed to the addition of a lane on West Mercer Place, and, along with the increased traffic, many of them were concerned about the possible loss of parking in the area. He said of the alternatives, No. 1 and No. 5, those that made the least amount of change to the area, were most popular.

Community representatives, from organizations like the Queen Anne Community Council, the Greater Queen Anne Chamber of Commerce and the Department of Neighborhoods were on hand to speak to the public and SDOT officials. Queen Anne Chamber of Commerce Director of Marketing Mary Chapman said she was glad to see SDOT taking input from residents and businesses in the area and thought it was a positive sign.

“I feel that the mayor did not listen to us in terms of the Nickerson street road diet, [the Queen Anne Chamber of Commerce] does not support the road diet, but we really hope that they will be listening more actively as the plans for West Mercer are being developed by the Seattle Department of Transportation,” said Chapman. “We highly suggest that everybody make comments and do so very soon so that they can get as much realistic input from the people who live in the neighborhood as possible.”

FOLKpark volunteers were on hand to present their conceptual plan for Lower Kinnear Park and the proposed Uptown Loop, a collection of pedestrian and bicycle routes that circle and traverse lower Queen Anne. FOLKpark Chair Debi Frausto said that, as the Mercer West Project coincide with Kinnear Park projects, they hope they can leverage dollars with SDOT to save money on different aspects of development, like design and surveys.

“There are things where there are overlaps between us, like at entrances to the park. Let’s work together so that where we do them coordinates with pedestrian crossings, bicycle safety and those types of things so that we’re not designing in isolation,” said Frausto.

The next step for SDOT is to present the alternative plans to the local community organizations and councils and evaluate public comments. This will last through April, after which SDOT will make a recommendation to Mayor McGinn.

Comments on the alternative plans or other ideas and considerations can be e-mailed at mercerwest@seattle.gov.

Update 4:40 p.m.: Traffic moving through West Mercer Place is projected to reach more than 800 vehicles every hour by 2015, according to figures by KPFF, an engineering firm used by SDOT. These figures, presented at the open house, take into account the waterfront construction during that time. Between 590 to 660 vehicles per hour are expected to move through West Mercer Place after the Mercer Corridor and waterfront construction is completed, compared to the estimated 372 an hour that move through the street now.

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