OP-ED: Councilmembers’ statement on ST3 Light Rail options

Below is an op-ed from Seattle City Councilmember Sally Bagshaw and King County Councilmember Jeanne Kohl-Welles, where they advocate for the “West is Best” option for light rail through Interbay. This proposal is for a light rail running 4 blocks parallel to 15th Ave West, crossing the ship canal via a tunnel.

There are other options, and it’s up to you to decide on what you prefer. The Councilmembers are seeking input and feedback, which you can provide via an ST3 survey or by contacting the Seattle City Council (click on Councilmembers to access their individual pages, where email addresses are provided) and King County Council.

Here’s the map of the ST3 section referenced in the Op-Ed below.

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Light Rail to Serve Our Northwest Seattle Communities
Joint Op-Ed by Sally Bagshaw and Jeanne Kohl-Welles

Northwest Seattle voters will soon have an exciting opportunity to consider a ballot measure asking whether we will support a light rail line connecting Downtown to Ballard, with stops at South Lake Union, Seattle Center, and Interbay. The most recent openings of the Capitol Hill and University District light rail stations have brought Seattle into the 21st century of transit, and the coming wave of transit investments contained in Sound Transit’s next package, known as ST3, will revolutionize how we live and get around our region. This is a once-in-a-generation opportunity we must not take lightly.

The ST3 package, as it stands, proposes a second downtown tunnel, stretching from Royal Brougham Way to Elliott Avenue before the tracks move to street-level along 15th Avenue West, posing challenges to a critical freight, transit, and commuter arterial. As any of us who have attempted to commute on 15th from 4 to 7pm can attest, the traffic conditions are already untenable. We can only imagine conditions if two lanes are fully dedicated for rail. But what if the light rail route didn’t need its own lane on 15th Ave West? What if we could place it farther west, saving everyone who uses the corridor from ever-increasing gridlock?

Currently, the ST3 proposal suggests the line be at-grade, but that’s what this package is at the moment – a proposal. The Sound Transit Board of Directors, consisting of elected leaders from around the region, are currently accepting feedback before they make changes and ultimately send a final for voters to consider at the ballot this November.

The communities in our Northwest Seattle districts are deeply invested in shaping this plan, and have begun to speak with a united voice about how this plan can best serve our neighborhoods. The Northwest Seattle Coalition for Sound Transit 3 formed not months ago, and is composed of community leaders and more than a dozen organizations from Ballard, Interbay, Magnolia, Queen Anne, and Uptown. This group is gaining traction to advocate for the fastest and most reliable alignment.

The Coalition is advocating for an alignment we like to call the “West is Best” option. This proposal would run light rail parallel to 15th Avenue West (the equivalent of four blocks to the west) and cross the ship canal via a tunnel. This plan will ensure speed and reliability, preserve the existing lanes on 15th, and create an underground station in Ballard that would be the best option for future northern and eastern expansion.

Why should we make this kind of investment in the Downtown-Ballard line? The expected ridership in the Downtown-Ballard corridor is projected to be roughly 140,000, the highest of any sub-area in the entire Sound Transit region. It is critical this corridor is done quickly and done right. The Downtown-Ballard line will be a regional corridor—that is a fact. Our communities deserve infrastructure investments to meet the demands of regional ridership.

We have voiced our support for the “West is Best” option, and the coalition of voices continues to grow. Before the Sound Transit Board closes the public outreach period this Friday, let’s ensure they’ve heard our voices. Go to soundtransit3.com, fill out the survey, attend a community meeting, or send an email with your thoughts.

Imagine a 15-minute commute from Ballard to Downtown at 5:30pm on a weekday. While less time in traffic may mean less time to listen to public radio, we think it’s worth it.

Carmageddon starts tonight when 99 shuts down for 2 weeks

Screen Shot 2016-04-28 at 10.09.51 AMIf you haven’t heard the news, surprise! 99 is going to shut down starting tonight for 2 weeks. 99 will be closed at 12:01am Friday, April 29, between South Spokane Street and the south end of the Battery Street Tunnel.

Will it be bad? Remember the fish truck incident on 99? And, consider that 99 is the preferred route for 90,000 cars each day. Even with preparations and a heads up, traffic will be bad. It’s still unclear how it will affect Queen Anne, but don’t be surprised if there are extra cars on the surface streets and Elliott/15th Ave W.

Here’s the official news from WSDOT:

Alaskan Way Viaduct closes Friday – It’s not too late to make a plan

SEATTLE – On-ramps to the State Route 99/Alaskan Way Viaduct will begin closing at 10 p.m. tonight, Thursday, April 28, and the road will be fully closed at 12:01 a.m. Friday, April 29, between South Spokane Street and the south end of the Battery Street Tunnel.

The Washington State Department of Transportation urges all drivers to consider alternate commutes as the closure takes 90,000 vehicles off one of Seattle’s two north/south highways. The website 99closure.org has resources and ideas for commuters throughout the Puget Sound region.

“Whether you drive or take the bus or train, everyone should have a backup plan,” said Dave Sowers, WSDOT Alaskan Way Viaduct deputy program administrator. “And make sure you have a plan for the weekend as well. Seattle has Mariners games, a Sounders game and Sunday’s May Day activities all scheduled this weekend.”

WSDOT, the Seattle Department of Transportation, King County Metro and many other public agencies are working together to help lessen the effects of the closure. They will provide real-time traffic monitoring, police officers at key intersections to keep traffic moving, additional water taxi runs, additional response vehicles to clear accidents and more.

Tips to create a viaduct closure plan:

The SR 99 tunneling machine Bertha will build more than 350 feet of tunnel past Yesler Way to clear all the foundations of the viaduct. WSDOT is closing the road to better monitor the structure and avoid any unplanned closures.

Several weeks of Aurora lane closures begin Monday, January 18th

Back in December, we first gave the heads up on the upcoming Aurora Ave N lane closures that will surely impact traffic on both Aurora and Queen Anne. The closures begin the evening of next Monday, January 18th, and WSDOT estimates that the lane closures will take “several” weeks, with estimates from 4-8 weeks. Each direction of Aurora will have one lane closed through potentially March (timetable below).

January Aurora Closure

SDOT is emphasizing the following warning to drivers:

“While two lanes in each direction of SR 99 between Highland Drive and the Aurora Bridge will remain OPEN during peak commute hours, buses and vehicles will share the bus-only lane. We anticipate the possibility of backups and are urging commuters to use all the tools available to them from WSDOT, SDOT and Metro to stay informed about current traffic conditions once the extended lane closures start.  In addition, we want to ask drivers to consider commuting/traveling in off-peak hours or telecommute if that’s an option available to them.”

Why the closure? Sign foundations with communication lines, power lines, and traffic sensors to provide alerts for the future tunnel. This work requires access to the median lanes of Aurora.

Here are the closure details & timetable from WSDOT:

Jan. 18 through mid-February

  •  Median lanes close in both directions between the Aurora Bridge and Highland Drive
  • An additional lane will close at night and during several weekends including Jan. 23-24

Mid-February through early March

  • Median lanes reopen. Northbound traffic returns to normal pattern
  • The southbound curb lane near Comstock Street will close for approximately three weeks
  • An additional southbound lane may close at night

WSDOT is encouraging drivers and bus riders to plan ahead as additional congestion is expected on Aurora. For those of us on Queen Anne, expect more non-local traffic in the neighborhood, especially on the arterials and East Queen Anne.

Aurora Bridge sidewalk closure January 18 through September

As part of the restoration/painting work on the Aurora Bridge, pedestrians, runners, and cyclists need to take note of an extended closure of the northbound (east side) sidewalk. This closure begins Monday, January 18th and runs through September. During this time, sidewalk-users will be directed to the opposite southbound (west side) sidewalk.

Reminder: there are also upcoming extended lane closures planned for Aurora between the Aurora Bridge and Highland Ave that start the same night, January 18th that are estimated to run 7-8 weeks. We will post a reminder about these closures shortly, the original heads up is at the bottom of this post.

Here are the details from WSDOT:

Aurora Bridge sidewalk“Cyclists and pedestrians should prepare now for an extended closure of the northbound sidewalk over the State Route 99 Aurora Avenue Bridge in Seattle.

The sidewalk will be closed Jan. 18 through September with signed detours in place for cyclists and pedestrians.

The closure is necessary while contractor crews working for the Washington State Department of Transportation attach a containment system to the sidewalk for the Aurora Avenue Bridge preservation project.  Drivers may also notice the containment system which is a large tarp that will stretch up and over the bridge’s safety fence. The system is designed to keep paint and debris falling into the water below while crews repaint portions of the bridge.

A contact number and emergency phone for a vehicle pickup will be available at either end of the bridge to assist ADA users who are unable to use the cyclist and pedestrian detour.”

Traffic Alert: Trans-Siberian Orchestra & Seattle Marathon will impact traffic this weekend

Two traffic alerts for today and tomorrow – Trans-Siberian Orchestra is at Key Arena today, Saturday, for performances at 4pm and 8pm. The city estimates 10,000 people will attend each of the shows (20,000 total), so expect traffic around Key Arena this afternoon and evening.

The bigger impact will likely be from the Seattle Marathon, which is tomorrow, Sunday, November 29th. The organizers cite the Seattle Marathon as the “largest combination marathon/half marathon in the Northwest and one of the top ten largest in the US” – what does that mean? 15,000 participants + thousands of spectators, and road closures around the Seattle Center, where the race starts and finishes.

The race map with street closures is below. For some reason, the Seattle Marathon organizers have once again decided to produce a West-oriented map, instead of the standard North-oriented view. So, it may look a bit odd, but note that 5th Ave near the Seattle Center will be closed 5:30am-9am, and one side of Mercer will be closed 8:45am-4pm.

Click the map for a larger image:

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And, just to make things a bit more complicated, traffic-wise, the Seahawks are playing the Pittsburgh Steelers at CenturyLink tomorrow (Sunday), with kickoff at 1:25pm.

President Obama to attend Murray fundraiser at Westin this Friday

Westin Hotel mapPresident Obama will be visiting Seattle this Friday for a fundraiser at the Westin. The event is to raise funds for Senator Patty Murray’s re-election campaign, but few details have been released about the event or streets that will be closed.

Per SDOT, I5 and city streets will be impacted by the visit. Expect some traffic impacts around Queen Anne due to the proximity of the Westin and the ripple effect on Mercer.

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