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Posts Tagged ‘West Seattle’

Martin Duke at the Seattle Transit Blog posted a reminder today about Metro Transit Route 50, a historic east-west route between West Seattle and Columbia City. It was proposed to be restored when routes were rearranged for the opening of Link light rail.  It didn’t make the cut.  But there is a detail of Route 50’s routing that stood out to me today.

Instead of following Avalon Way to Spokane Street and crossing the lower bridge, Route 50 would turn down Genesee Street to Delridge Way, then travel north to Spokane.  This slight re-route down is an important concept, as Derek at the Delridge Grassroots Leadership Blog noted.  There would be a minor increase in travel time, for a vast improvement in connectivity.  The North Delridge neighborhood would be directly connected to the Junction, with its supermarkets and wide variety of shops.  Residents from further south on Delridge could transfer to the Junction at shared stops between the 120, 125 and 50.   The Delridge corridor is a virtual retail desert, and transit users in the area find it easier to travel downtown for basic services than to go up to the West Seattle Junction.  They are only one mile apart, but the steep hill and lack of transit routing results in an extreme level of disconnection.

In fact, I have previously dreamed about this same routing for the 22 between the West Seattle Junction and downtown.  I was unsure whether Metro buses could handle Genesee Street’s steep slope, but it must be possible if it made it into Metro’s proposed routing.  Regardless of what happens with Route 50, this Delridge routing should be implemented on Route 22 when routes are revised for Rapid Ride “C.”

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Spokane Street Viaduct Projects (Source: Seattle DOT)

In the wake of the Tohoku Earthquake in Japan, Seattle’s mayor and the Seattle Times’ Danny Westneat suggested closing the earthquake-damaged SR 99 Alaskan Way Viaduct sooner rather than later.  From Westneat’s column in the Times:

Living without one of our main north-south highways might finally bring the gridlock-apocalypse they’re always predicting.  What has hung up the viaduct project for a decade is that nobody knows. Some experts and studies say we can live without a waterfront highway. Others say as assertively that we can’t.

It is a counter-intuitive fact that several cities have removed urban freeways without signficant effects on auto traffic elsewhere, while improving the overall quality of life in the city.  I am on record in a previous post with my belief that freeways are detrimental to cities, and not precisely necessary. 

However, as we know from weekend closures of the Alaskan Way Viaduct, including the one this weekend, a level of gridlock occurs on surrounding freeways and on surface streets into downtown.  If the viaduct clousre were to extend beyond the weekend into weekdays, even worse disruption would occur.  A reasonable response for viaduct commuters  would be to switch to public transit.   For mobility to be maintained, transit must have prioritized, congestion-free routes to and from downtown.

If the Alaskan Way Viaduct were closed, as currently configured, West Seattle buses must access downtown through the lower West Seattle bridge and surface streets.  Several West Seattle buses (the 21, 22 and 56) always have, but construction projects related to the (unnecessary) widening of the Spokane Street Viaduct make those  routes so slow and inefficient, they barely qualify as transportation.  From 1st Ave. these routes turn onto S. Hanford St. across railroad tracks (frequently blocked by trains), and then across the lower West Seattle Bridge (frequently raised to allow ships passage).

It would be irresponsible to semi-permanently close the viaduct until these projects are in place:

  • Complete the new 1st Ave. on-ramp to the upper West Seattle bridge (scheduled for Fall 2011)
  • Provide a continuous transit lane, with signal priority from the 1st Ave. exit from the West Seattle Bridge to the 3rd Ave. transit spine in downtown Seattle.

If, and only if, these items are in place do I support immediately closing the Alaskan Way Viaduct.

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King County now has all the funding needed to replace the South Park Bridge (16th Av. S. in Seattle’s South Park neighborhood).  The 79-year old drawbridge closed June 30th of this year due to poor structural safety, requiring a 2-mile detour across the 1st Av. bridge (Highway 99) to access this neighborhood.

The south half of Seattle has a longstanding east-west transportation deficit.  West Seattle neighborhoods and Southeast Seattle neighborhoods exist in isolation from each other, separated by steep hillsides and the industrial valley, with its Duwamish River, railroads, Interstate 5, and most of all, Boeing Field (King County International Airport).  The general aviation airport’s 10,000 foot long runway prevents any east-west travel for over 2 miles.  This results in a three-mile gap with no exits from I-5.  There were only three crossings of the Duwamish River in Seattle (currently two): The upper and lower Spokane Street crossings, the 1st Av. bridge, and the now closed South Park Bridge.  The result is that West Seattle and Southeast Seattle aren’t socially or economically connected – all connection goes through downtown Seattle or to freeway network.   The south half of Seattle is fragmented and isolated, and not coincidentally, poorer than the north half of Seattle.  The opening of Link light rail , from downtown Seattle to Sea-Tac airport via Southeast Seattle, brought home this point to me.  As a West Seattle resident, there are no connecting buses that I can take to the light rail line in Southeast Seattle.  A transit user must travel north to downtown, and then back south on the rail line.  But I don’t blame King County Metro for this predicament.  There are no buses because there are not even roads.   The only roadway paths, south of the Spokane Street Viaduct, are long and circuitous, requiring a great many counter-intuitive turns. 

My proposal: construct the replacement South Park bridge on a S. Cloverdale alignment (east-west) instead of the previous 14th Av S. alignment (north-south).  Then extend the new roadway, South Cloverdale Way, in a tunnel under Boeing Field, a bridge over the mainline rail tracks and I-5, connecting to the existing S. Cloverdale Street, two blocks north of the Rainier Beach Link rail station.  This 1.4 mile roadway would provide a direct seamless travel path from Southeast Seattle (near Rainier Beach) to South Park and White Center at the southern edge of West Seattle.  An interchange could be created at the I-5 overpass, with a freeway bus station.  The alignment and surrounding can be seen on this Google Map application.
View Proposed S. Cloverdale Way in a larger map

South Cloverdale Way would be built as a complete street, with one automobile lane in each direction, a bi-directional cycle track, and concrete curbs and sidewalks. Near intersections and in congested areas, dedicated turn lanes and transit/HOV lanes would be included.  The new route would include all-day 15-minute frequency transit service from White Center to Rainier Beach via South Park.  Metro route 60 would be divided into two, and the White Center-South Park segment would be extended along the new South Cloverdale Way to Rainier Beach, serving the Link rail station and the neighborhood center.  The roadway, transit service, and separated bicycle access would knit together these sections of the city, providing opportunities for exchange and growth, and create the conditions for building great city neighborhoods along the southern edge of Seattle.

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