Murray May Oppose Westlake Cycletrack

[UPDATE from Martin: to my knowledge, Sen. Murray hasn't responded to Ben, but he responded to PubliCola: "Murray says he doesn't know the specifics of the Westlake cycle tracks proposal, but says he's for cycle tracks in general.

'I support cycle tracks. I used them in Europe. If they think I am opposed, then they'll be surprised.'"]

Yesterday, I received an invite to an Ed Murray fundraiser by the Northwest Marine Trade Association asking me to “Save our parking! Save our businesses!”

The message attacks “Mayor McGinn’s cycle track which will absolutely have a devastating impact on the well-being of the Westlake Community.”

From an email conversation with one of the organizers, I learned Murray has told them that he’ll delay design and construction of the Westlake Cycletrack and commission a new study of business impact. I’ve asked the Murray campaign for a clear statement, and will follow up here if I receive a response.

Ironically, trading some parking for bicycling infrastructure leads to an increase in business. With bicycling skyrocketing in Seattle and driving alone falling, the need for parking is diminishing, and the need for safe bike routes is increasing.

When Murray talks about transportation, he often explains he would work regionally – but this project is a high priority of the Puget Sound Regional Council, even receiving funding from them last year. For him to oppose this project (or, you know, “let’s do another study” when construction is about to begin) would mean he’d throw regional *or* local needs under the train when presented with opposition to a project from his backers.

About Ben Schiendelman

Ben Schiendelman joined in 2007 to better consolidate news and information about our upcoming transit expansions, and to build a better base to further grow our system. He previously wrote the blog Higher Frequency, and worked on the 2008 Mass Transit Now campaign. Ben refuses to own a driver's license.




Comments

  1. Murray is showing his colors as the traditionalist candidate. He’s already got the backing of single-family homeowners, now he’s going for the marine industry. People who want seattle to stay the same will mostly vote for Murray. People who embrace change will vote for McGinn. This will be a battle of old vs young.

    • John Bailo says:

      Politics makes strange bedfellows, but I don’t get the whole anti-bike/commercial marine industry alliance.

      • Sotosoroto says:

        I find this news ironic, when paired with the fact that CSR Marine, a Northwest Marine Trade Association member, hosted the Fremont Solstice Cyclists paint party earlier this year. Strange bedfellows, indeed.

      • It’s not anti-bike, it’s anti-Westlake cycletrack. Westlake is primarily marine businesses that have an absurd amount of public parking, much of it free (to the north). At the moment, 90% of cyclists on that corridor use the parking lot as a cycletrack, so it seems like the businesses should be more amenable to giving up some parking than you would usually expect, because I can imagine it’s kind of a hassle to drive in the parking lot with all the cyclists.

        This is such a needed, common-sense project that would benefit a huge number of cyclists while still providing more than adequate infrastructure for cars, and by all standards but the status quo, abundant parking for the businesses. If Murray can’t support this, it’s hard to know what he would support.

      • John Bailo says:

        I’m sure STB has covered it, but could someone post a link to a map that details the proposed route?

      • The people who park along Westlake are not usually customers of the marina. I work right on the lake and have lunch there and I’d say most of the traffic is foot/bike and people parking there to walk. And yes, there’s a LOT of parking along that street. If they just put parking along both sides and a driveway down the middle with a cycle track they’d have the same amount of parking as they have now. A lot of the time you have two lines of parking (one free, one pay) and then a driveway between that and the water. Completely unnecessary.

  2. So, taking an underutilized 4-lane roadway and putting it on a road diet (which have been successful city-wide) by adding much-needed, LEVEL cycling infrastructure to connect Downtown to areas north of the Canal will ruin everything along Westlake? That is some serious pandering to the relatively few businesses who will be legitimately impacted along that corridor. Though, with Murray, I’m not too surprised.

    On a related note, I wonder how this and Murray’s attitude will effect the current ST/SDOT proposals to put a rapid Streetcar down Westlake to Fremont & Ballard. Maybe an additional question to the Murray Campaign, Mr. Schiendelman?

    • It’s not just a 4 lane roadway. The Westlake parking lot is part of the public right-of-way. I’d speculate that this might be the widest right-of-way in the city except for the interstate. There’s tons of room there for all kinds of bike infrastructure.

      Thanks for your reporting, Ben.

      • Charles B says:

        Its a wide enough right of way for bicycles, transit and cars.

        Right now much of that is wasted for a parking lot.

        Too much of this city’s transportation infrastructure has been given over to parking spots. Its time to take some of that back for mobility, especially for corridors for Westlake, which connect some of the busiest parts of town.

        Murray has done very little to lift the unease I have about his positions on transportation. Every time I hear him talking about “regional transportation” I hear the sound of Seattle commuters being thrown under the bus. We need regional transit of course, but not at the expense of expanding the transit systems within our cities as well.

        Murray should stay in State government, where thinking about things regionally makes sense, I want a Mayor that will fight for what my city needs while working for regional needs, not one who wants to put the regional needs first.

      • no, there isn’t tons of room. You can’t park there at all during the day, as there are so few spots as it is. There are a lot of businesses AND residential sharing that parking right of way.

      • Charles B says:

        @Bill You assume that the highest and best use of the corridor is for parking. The parking lot along westlake is at several points wider than westlake ave itself.

        As the population of this city increases we have a choice to make:
        1) Make more room for transit, giving up things like parking so more people can access these areas
        2) Put in parking garages all over the place and enjoy the gridlock as people try to squeeze in and out of the spaces.
        3) Stick with our current infrastructure and watch as frustrated people just avoid the businesses they can’t find a parking spot at anyway (the lots are already full).

        Personally I think transit is the only real winner here in the long run. Do you have any better ideas?

        One more thing: The majority of the places we have street parking in now were not originally lanes for parking. Nearly all of the wide streets in our city were wide for the purpose of hosting transit (streetcars at the time) and when we ripped those out in the 40′s we turned extra lanes (eventually) into parking spaces. We no longer have people fleeing the cities like we did in the last half of the 20th century, so I think its time to rethink the idea of devoting so much of the public right of way to cars that aren’t even moving.

      • @Charles B
        there already is infrastructure in place where the impact will be felt the most, with this trail: http://www.seattle.gov/parks/lakeunionloop/

        It gets a ton of use. All you are going to do is move the use to the roadway, and I see no point in that. I think making more room for transit is fine, take a lane away. Removing an already packed, mostly CITY OWNED, PAYING parking lot, is not going to do anything to endear the people that live on that road to your cause. You are right, it IS wider in most spots, and full until at least 6:30 every day, weekends included. I live there, and pay to park every day, because the few free spots are full, which I am fine with doing.

        Take a lane, not the parking.

      • @ Bill,
        The Westlake cycling infrastructure (part of the Cheshiahud loop) is atrocious and arguably worse than no infrastructure in that it makes users feel safer than they actually are. It’s basically just a sidewalk that runs adjacent to storefronts; cyclists using it put pedestrians at risk needlessly. Because it’s so twisty and slow, there is a strong incentive for cyclists to use the parking lot. However, car drivers tend to make very sharp/fast turns from Westlake into the parking lot and leading to tons of potential for conflict.

        As has been stated, this is roughly an 8 lane public right of way. There is more than enough room for high quality transit and cycling infrastructure there.

      • Matt the Engineer says:

        Have you ridden that through Westlake? It goes through the parking lot or you ride on the sidewalk, through the pedestrians. It’s really dangerous.

      • Charles B says:

        @Brian

        I am not entirely sure there is enough room on westlake for dedicated transit infrastructure if there is not at least some modification to the parking structure. It might be possible though, depending on the mode.

        The lake union trail is not out of the question, but it looks like the connections are pretty weak at the north and south ends of the line… that and it runs on what looks like sidewalk, so it could be complicated if the usage of the route were ramped up much. Also not impossible problems to solve, but I think the would need a lot of local support to make that doable.

        In the longer term parking may need to be reduced, but there might be shorter term solutions to get transit online first. Do you think that there will be any reduction in the need for parking if a high capacity and high frequency transit option (10 minutes or less) was available in the corridor (say a BRT version of the route 5 or a streetcar)?

        The bigger problem here I think is not so much with westlake (which at least has 2 lanes in each direction to play with) but other areas in the city, where there there is only one lane in each direction outside of parking. If businesses are convinced that transit will not help them as much as a few parking spots in front of their business, then we will have trouble getting much of any improvement to transit that isn’t a subway line.

        As cool as it might be to have 4-5 subway lines running north/south through town, we probably will have enough trouble getting enough money for 1-2 more grade separated lines running through the city in the next 20 years.

        It will be even worse if we have an establishment running the city that wants to defer to a regional network at the expense of a local one instead of requiring that we have both.

      • Charles B says:

        @Brian sorry that last comment was aimed at Bill.

        @Bill & @Brian
        I would like to think we can accommodate the businesses and people living along westlake as well, the question is what kind of transit/bicycle plan would the be on board with? Do the business there not feel that transit users would be interested in their services? Do the residents there not want better access to the city transit network?

        If they just want to block any kind of change its a non starter. We need dedicated transit lanes and better bicycle infrastructure. If there is a way to do this without harming the businesses there, I am all for it.

      • Ben Schiendelman says:

        @Bill – there are a lot of underutilized private lots on Westlake. And if you’re at 100% capacity and people “can’t find parking”, as you say, your rates are too low and THAT is hurting businesses.

      • Biliruben says:

        The dirty little secret ( I shouldn’t tell you this). Is parking next to the road is free. That’s why is full. People treat it as a park and ride/walk.

      • It’s not often we have access to such a wide and complete public right-of-way for transportation development, and it needs to be taken advantage of. It is unreasonable to consider saving parking and not building dedicated transit infrastructure on what’s currently available when other alternatives include building new right-of-way in multi-billion dollar subway tunnels.

        Businesses always claim any sort change will harm them even if it can be proven otherwise. We have significant evidence from our own city, let alone the rest of the country, that installing better bike and transit infrastructure helps near-by businesses.

        I’d be inclined to say the best use of the right-of-way would be to construct an exclusive streetcar (2-lanes), protected cycle track+trail (1-lane), a 3-lane road (2 travel + 1 center turn), and the rest can be better configured for parking (lets face it, the current configuration is beyond terrible). This sort of utilization would maximize the use of a transportation right-of-way and would serve the highest total number of people.

      • Charles B says:

        @Biliruben Free parking this close to downtown is a bit out of whack. People would park in front of these businesses who don’t even intend to shop/work there.

        The free parking lanes should be the ones to go to make space for transit and bicycles. The remaining spots should be priced to optimize use for the local businesses and residents.

        Anyone that needs to park there all day should have a special permitted spot for that purpose (i.e. an employee/resident). Anyone else should be in time limited, paid spots or should come in by transit.

      • Biliruben says:

        No doubt. I was absolutely shocked when my coworkers told me there wa still free, city owned parking that close to dowtown. They were parking there a all day and walking downtown for work. Horrible land use.

      • The parking lots nearest the street are free. This is why the east side of the lot will be empty and the west side full.

  3. Cascadian says:

    The media and political establishment have it in for McGinn. I can only hope that in the likely event of a Murray win, many of his anti-transit positions turn out to be pandering and that he governs better than he campaigns.

    Assuming that doesn’t happen, though, transit supporters need to figure out how to get more establishment support under the current political realities. While ultimately the problem is longer-term residents who oppose changing from their outdated vision of the city, I don’t think railing against their shortsightedness is the best strategy.

    • concur 100%. A Murray win is about as certain as anything is in this world, and transit supporters need to learn how to work with him instead of continually attacking him. All the better if more establishment support for transit can be gained at the same time.

    • Anandakos says:

      “I can only hope that in the likely event of a Murray win, many of his anti-transit positions turn out to be pandering and that he governs better than he campaigns.”

      Really? Really????

      If he’s pandering on transit, is he pandering on land use? If he’s pandering on transit, is he pandering on his commitment to the city? If you don’t like McGinn, do you want to pander?

  4. Safer options for cyclists, pedestrians, and transit users would make the roads less grid-locked than they are already. Mayor McGinn has been very wise in taking us toward this vision of a cycle-friendly city, and I would like to see him continue to realize this vision.

    To me, it seems that Mayor McGinn is connected to the needs and interests of the current and future residents and business owners of our city, while Murray is woefully out of touch – perhaps pandering more to the interests of those who do not live in our city. I appreciated Murray’s service on a state-level, but I am not comfortable with his approach to local politics, and the more I learn about what actions he intends to take, the more disturbed I am at what that reveals as his vision for our city.

    • Fred Flintstoned says:

      “Murray is woefully out of touch ”

      Sure he is. That’s why he’ll wipe the floor with McGinn come election day. Because he’s so ‘out of touch’ with Seattle.

    • Fred Flintstoned says:

      “pandering more to the interests of those who do not live in our city”

      Yes, all those Seattle voters who will elect Murray mayor obviously don’t live in Seattle. It makes perfect sense.

  5. I just sent a respectfully-worded email to Senator Murray (Edward.Murray@leg.wa.gov) expressing my disappointment over this capitulation to outdated business interests.

    • Ben Schiendelman says:

      To be fair, he just may. They’re giving him money with that expectation, though.

    • Outdated businesses? Are only Amazon and Starbucks allowed in Seattle now?

      • Charles B says:

        Agreed, we don’t need to kick out our marine businesses. Free parking for people walking through the park is unnecessary though.

      • I phrased my comment poorly — I meant the outdated philosophy whereby parking is favored even though that may reduce the overall appeal and accessibility of the business.

        Although I’d imagine that very few prospective yacht owners reach these businesses via bicycle.

        @Ben — The sooner (and louder) he hears this side of things, the more likely he is to reconsider.

  6. Thanks for keeping up on this. I’m going to miss having a transit-friendly mayor.

    • Charles B says:

      If you are going to miss having a pro transit mayor, than do something to keep one.

      • Ben Schiendelman says:

        +1. Phone bank.

      • East Coast Cynic says:

        McGinn for his political survival should also take the campaign tack of attacking what appears to be Murray’s lack of commitment to better public transportation for Seattle proper under the guise of a regional approach to transportation which appears to be an excuse to do nothing which the exception of LR on I-90.

      • I suppose it’s possible SUSA completely f-ed up the their sample, but I doubt it. Their poll suggests it’s very unlikely the election is likely to be close enough for an outpouring of volunteer work to plausibly have an impact on the outcome.

      • I think it’s likely they did. As noted, Mallahan had a similar poll in 09.

  7. Ben, do you never tire of looking like a [ad hom]?

    And Seattle Transit Blog readers, why do you still give any credence to anything Ben has to say?

    Ed Murray has told Publicola that he supports cycletracks and while he hasn’t studied the Westlake one, if this group thinks he is opposed to it, they will “be surprised.”

    • Ben Schiendelman says:

      A lot of the people coming to this fundraiser are maxing out. People don’t contribute $700 to someone unless they’re pretty sure he’s going to do what they want.

      • So why did you ask Murray for a statement when what he actually has to say doesn’t matter to you at all, Ben? You know what is in his heart and mind.

        [ot]

      • Ben Schiendelman says:

        He hasn’t responded to my request for clarification, so I don’t know what he supports. Publicola is funded by his campaign consultant, so I try not to read it.

        [ot]

      • Very mature, Ben. And you wonder why you haven’t heard back from him?

      • It’s immature not to read a news source with a financial tie to a bias…?

    • Ed Murray's Afterparty says:

      This blog has been pretty nice to Murray, with Ben loudly and obnoxiously excepted. Ben throws flames, it’s what he does, and readers would do well to remember that this is a forum with multiple views, only one of which is his. Search for Ed Murray in the search bar above, and read the tone in the articles. If it’s Ben, it’s generally accusatory invective. If it’s anyone else, it’s respectful and circumspect, even when they’re critical of him.

      • You could just as easily have made a headline stating “McGinn May Be A Cannibal.”

      • I agree that this blog has been pretty gentle with Murray overall, and I’ve seen a lot of rhetoric about ‘two good candidates’ that I have a hard time squaring with what little I’m able to glean about Murray’s transit priorities. I also agree that Ben has been an exception to this approach. But where’s the flame-throwing here? He’s doing the yeoman’s work of accountability; tracking what he’s saying to whom, trying to pin him down on important specific priorities. There’s nothing untoward about this; it’s what political accountability looks like. If the “not that bad for transit” predictions about Murray have any chance of coming true, it’ll be because Ben and others watch him like a hawk and exert and direct pressure on him to be a decent mayor on transit. Westlake is pretty crucial to improving the bike infra in this city; it’s very easy to be “pro-cycletrack” in some vague, abstract sense but never here, because someone wants to keep a little more parking. Much like Steinbrueck on density.

      • I think it’s interesting that nobody’s even noticed that when Murray’s done things I like (prior to this campaign), I’ve donated to him. I’m in the business of getting politicians to do what I want them to do.

  8. Charles B says:

    Murray should respond directly on the westlake issue, not just to bike lanes in general. You could be in favor of bike tracks in general and still not plan to build any.

    • This. General reassurances about vague support for them nowhere in particular should be taken about as seriously as Steinbrueck’s “support” for density, just always somewhere else.

  9. I wouldn’t expect the STB insiders to be invited to any Murray victory parties, given the amount of slanted crap thrown his way over the years.
    The washed better hope the McGinn ship comes in.

  10. For a depressing history lesson on past attempts at getting a trail/cycletrack/etc put in along Westlake, see my comment at Seattle Bike Blog from a while back. Basically, people have been asking for this for 34 years now, and businesses, the Times and SDOT (either intentionally or merely through ineptitude) have repeatedly conspired to keep bikes out. I’m not holding my breath.

  11. I don’t know the specifics of this situation, but the misperception in this article is common in politics. The organization holding the fundraiser for Murray probably did not have to clear their activities through his campaign. They’re a separate group that happens to support his candidacy. They aren’t part of his campaign. People naturally think that anyone who wants to give a candidate money is part of the campaign. But if the neo-nazis came out for McGinn (something I’m sure would not happen) they would be perfectly capable of holding a fundraiser saying anything they want about the campaign, and McGinn couldn’t really stop them or influence them.

    • It’s the lack of direct response to the question that implies the assent.

      • If I were his campaign manager, I would probably be starving you of original quotes too, sorry. It’s his smartest play. Why wade into a non-controversy and make it a bigger deal? I know it feels insulting to be ignored by a political candidate when your blog is so well-read.

  12. Ezra Basom says:

    Missing from this post is the bigger picture of where we are investing and prioritizing bike investments right now in Seattle. The last few years there really seems to be a huge focus on the areas around Lake Union and the ship canal such as Ballard, Fremont and South Lake Union. While the idea of redesigning Westlake is appealing, and I strongly support infrastructure investments, it strikes me that Westlake is really as a lower priority for Seattle given the large investment made to Dexter within the last few years. A good question for the mayoral candidates is: do you plan to make an equitable investment in bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure in Seattle in the next four years by fairly distributing the projects throughout the city.

    It is extremely difficult to ride to destinations from Beacon Hill and Rainier Valley. I’d like to see a cycle track on Beacon Avenue, Martin Luther King Way or some other major route in South Seattle right now! Try biking on Beacon – there are worn away sharrows and the street is full of huge pot holes. Cars use Rainier Avenue like a highway, and if you try try to ride on the sidewalk it is uneven and totally impossible to ride on. The real issue is that we need an equitable solution to bicycle infrastructure in Seattle as opposed to inflammatory headlines about one infrastructure project.

    • Fred Flintstoned says:

      Get the southend gentrified some more and you’ll get more bike lanes.

    • Regardless of where the bike trips are coming from, most of them are still ending up downtown – that’s the most cost effective place to put a dollar in infrastructure, and it’s where the most people see it (and then say “hey, I want that in my neighborhood.”) It makes sense to start with the center when it’s clear there isn’t a supportive majority.

    • There really wasn’t any “large investment” in Dexter for bikes per se. Dexter was up for scheduled repainting, and they simply put the new paint in different places than the old paint in order to give the bike lanes a buffer—but that paint would’ve been used all the same. The only real money was the bus islands. And while it’s nice that they designed them in order to accommodate the bike lane and prevent bus/bike conflicts, it’s hard to call them an investment in bicycle infrastructure. And Dexter only got the attention it did because the City wasn’t willing to put the bike route on Westlake, where it logically belongs (flat, huge right-of-way).

      All that said, I agree that focusing on Westlake isn’t worthwhile. SDOT may not have invested a lot of actual capital in Dexter, but they’ve put a lot of political capital on the line: by focusing so much on Dexter, they’ve made it impossible to add significant bike infrastructure to Westlake without losing a ton of face. It was also only 11 years ago that SDOT completely redid the eastern half of the Westlake ROW, tearing up the old railroad tracks and putting in that the lovely parking lot, ignoring 20 years of pleas from cyclists to put in a trail. To tear it up barely a decade later to put a cycletrack in would only highlight SDOT’s utter incompetence and shortsightedness. Better to focus on other projects for a while, build up some positive sentiment for SDOT and for bike infrastructure, then come back to Westlake.

  13. Fred Flintstoned says:

    Since 95% of cyclists in this town are white, clearly Murray hates white people.

  14. http://www.co.snohomish.wa.us/documents/County_Information/interurbmap.pdf
    an irony: the ROW was once for the Interurban rail line; now it is free parking.

  15. There is a lot of misunderstanding and misinformation in this thread. I live in the Westlake corridor, and worked for 2 years on a committee to figure out how to handle the parking. I am also an avid bike rider — equally distressed about the dangerous mix of cars, trucks, bicyclists, and pedestrians. I write this post in the memory of Nora Folkenflik, a bright young bicyclist who died in our parking lot ~20 years ago, having been hit by a car.

    I can see why, on the surface, you guys say the kinds of things you are advocating in this thread. In fact, if you knew more, you might understand this is a much more sensitive and complicated mile of road than you realize.

    My main goal is to keep Lake Union a “working lake”, with actual maritime businesses — many of which are along this stretch of Westlake. (I do not own nor work in one of these businesses.) They are highly sensitive to issues of parking, traffic flow-through, ability to accommodate trucks, etc. It’s easy to think we should just blast a cycle track through here, to hell with everyone else; what could be more important than bicycles? I disagree. If such a track is not planned out with significant consideration of the neighborhood, many of these businesses will disappear. It shouldn’t be either /or — we need both cars/trucks AND bicycles.

    Who wants a “Lake Bellevue” here? Not I. I believe Lake Union is unique in the world (a deep, fresh-water lake with access to the sea; and in a major city) — with significant mixed use. Let’s keep it that way!

    • According to the newspaper accounts, Folkenflik she was riding in the curb lane of Westlake when she was hit and killed. Had there been a trail along the lake, there’s a very good chance she wouldn’t’ve been riding on the road where she was hit. Unfortunately for Nora, back in 1979, when the City and cycling advocates proposed a trail in the old railroad right-of-way along the lake, Westlake businesses complained that they didn’t want to lose their precious parking, and the trail was never built.

      Keep telling yourself that the people who want bike infrastructure on Westlake only care about bicycles. Keep telling yourself that they want to see Westlake turn into Bellevue. And keep telling yourself you’re doing Nora’s memory justice. But telling yourself something doesn’t make it true.

      • You are correct — she was in the street, hit, knocked into our parking lot.(The parking lot was probably still an unpaved mud hole, with railroad tracks.) An unnecessary tragedy, which illustrates the need for better bike options, and separating cars and bikes. I totally agree. I took a day off work, on my own nickle, to argue that point, in her name, during very early planning for Westlake paving and parking.

        At the same time, I think it is unrealistic to imagine we will get rid of cars and trucks, or that their usage is not important to businesses. One also needs to understand that a city functions economically by supporting its businesses. As I said previously, I believe we need both cars/trucks AND bicycles. (AND pedestrians.)

        I was impressed with Ed Murray’s observation, at our little gathering, that Seattle does not have a comprehensive traffic plan — hence pits one interest group against another. That is not a productive path for anyone. Since he led a coalition of interest groups — from environmentalists to truckers — to come to consensus on a traffic plan when he was in the Legislature, I feel confident he can and will do the same in Seattle. He will not ignore bicycles; but nor will he ignore businesses. There can be a plan that supports both needs — we just need to find it.

  16. I’d like to add, the most common gripes I hear around here about bicycles are:

    A) bicyclists are rude (to both pedestrians and cars around them), ride dangerously, and ignore traffic rules
    B) bicyclists pay no taxes toward the roads / sidewalks / tracks upon which they ride.

    My observations on (A) are that, while most bicyclists just ride to and fro, there are enough jerks to give us all a bad name. I see several most days. We hear from people living near the track on 65th that there are still tons of problems with bicyclists — in the road, on the sidewalk, and in the track. I don’t know what could be done on this point, but it doesn’t help sell people on the idea.

    And, other than sales tax when purchasing a bike, I believe (B) is true. I, myself, wouldn’t mind paying a small ‘bike tax’ toward better paths / tracks.

Trackbacks

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