The Seattle Department of Transportation has a pair of construction open houses tonight and tomorrow, both of which will be interesting for transit.
First, tonight, from 5:00 to 6:00 PM, at the Bitter Lake Community Center, will be an open house on RapidRide-related transit improvements for the northern section (within Seattle) of Aurora Ave, from about 85th to 145th. Elements of the project include RapidRide stops and stations (with associated ORCA card readers and realtime arrival signs), new sidewalks and curb ramps on streets which provide access to stops, a new pedestrian signal at 95th, and an extension of the current BAT lane from 115th down to Green Lake. You can read the whole flyer here.
The resulting BAT lanes will be essentially continuous in both directions from the Aurora Bridge to Aurora Village Transit Center, except (I think) for the Linden Deviation taken by northbound buses; southbound only, the BAT lanes pick up again just south of the bridge and continue down to Roy St. The last I heard, which was a while ago, the BAT lanes north of the bridge will be peak-period, peak-direction only, due to pushback from the Aurora Merchants Association against full-time lanes.
Meanwhile, SDOT is moving ahead with improvements on the Linden Deviation. The diagram above shows the sidewalk and stop improvements to be built in the vicinity of 65th St. Southbound E Line buses will stop at a new station on Aurora, while northbound buses will continue to deviate onto Linden. Longtime readers will remember this as a compromise between the two-way Linden and two-way Aurora alternatives originally suggested by Metro; concerns about ADA access on the east side of Aurora, and the safety of the occasionally-scary 68th St crosswalk, scuppered the idea of northbound buses avoiding that deviation.
For a route of this importance on a principal arterial, part-time BAT lanes are a really unfortunate cop-out by Seattle. Nonetheless, these improvements, along with the new signal priority Metro has installed, will make buses a little faster and the pedestrian environment a little less awful, and are thus very welcome.
Further south, SDOT and their contractor are gearing up for the main phase of the Mercer West Project, as the Mercer East Project finishes its final phase on Valley St and 9th Ave; the open house is Thursday, from 4:30 to 7:00 PM, at Seattle Center Rainier Room. Mercer West will totally remake the interface between South Lake Union and the east side of the Seattle Center and Uptown: dramatically improve the environment for pedestrians and bicyclists; make room for the new SR99 north portal at Republican; and open up for development the mostly-desolate nine-block square of the city between Denny and Harrison currently blighted by SR99. This slideshow from WSDOT is the best way to understand what will be done and when.
Mercer West will take several years, until about 2016, with a long period where SR99 will be reduced to two lanes each way. Nonetheless, to the city’s credit, the southbound Aurora BAT lane will be maintained throughout. I plan to be at the open house to ask about the bike connection to the recently-funded Westlake cycletrack that will end around Aloha. With Mercer West creating major new cycletracks on 5th Ave N and the north side of Mercer, a safe, direct, frictionless bike connection on those few blocks between facilities will be essential to realize a full return on our investment.