Yesterday, the SR 520 ESSB 6392 Workgroup held a meeting to discuss draft recommendations on various aspects of the SR 520 replacement project. Transit supporters will be disappointed to learn that very little has changed from the last meeting regarding bus stop locations and transit flow from Montlake Blvd to the UW Triangle. The second Montlake bascule bridge is thrown further in doubt with the Seattle City Council representative expressing concern with its construction timing and the need for a second bridge, while WSDOT staff are developing transit travel time and pedestrian/bicycle level-of-service measures that would trigger construction of the bridge. The bridge is expected to be the last piece of the project to be constructed, sometime around 2016-2018. If you haven’t already, read Martin’s writeup on the changes coming to Montlake Blvd and the presentation from the meeting.
Analysis of the transit proposal and its impact on transit operations will be detailed in a technical report to be released on Monday, September 13. That same day at 2:30 pm, the Seattle City Council will convene a special committee meeting on SR 520. The public will be able to comment on the report and technical white papers until September 24. The next and final workgroup meeting is tentatively scheduled for November 18, 2010.
In attendance were representatives from WSDOT, SDOT, the University of Washington, Sound Transit, King County Metro and the Seattle City Council.
More details after the jump.
Additional Information and Discussion
Kerry Ruth, the SR 520 I-5 to Medina project manager, gave a presentation of the Technical Coordination Team’s recommendations on roadway operations, transit connectivity, accommodating light rail and urban design. She said that the team agreed that the left turn from 24th Ave to the Arboretum is necessary to maintain transit reliability through Montlake and that it still reduces traffic through the Arboretum compared to the No Build scenario. If that left turn is prohibited, Montlake Blvd would need to accommodate an additional 480 vehicles during peak period. There is a possibility that left turns will be allowed only during peak period and prohibited other times.
The reversible HOV ramps from WB 520 to the SB I-5 Express lanes will require taking a lane from the express lanes to accommodate the ramp. David Hull, service planning supervisor at King County Metro, would like to see another HOV ramp to the north. Such a ramp would be built in a future I-5 project instead of as part of the 520 project.
The location of bus stops in Montlake and the UW triangle remain largely unchanged, though it looks like nothing has changed when the presentations from this and last meetings are compared. The EB/WB 520 stops are moved closer to Montlake Blvd and the NB stop which could have sight distance issues. Hull made a remark that this arrangement does not replace the Montlake Freeway Station’s functions. The SB stop remains near the Hop-In Market, further south from the existing island stop.
SDOT representative Bob Powers raised questions on how transit operations will be affected without a second Montlake bascule bridge. He asked whether any modeling has been done and how the lack of a second bridge will impact transit mobility north and south on Montlake? A WSDOT staff member responds that the process of developing trigger measures and analysis will show any impacts.
As for accommodating future light rail across the bridge there are two options: converting the center HOV lanes to light rail or keeping the HOV lanes and adding separate light rail tracks. Both options would require supplemental stability pontoons to handle the additional weight and permission from the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) to reduce the shoulder widths from the standard 4 feet inside and 10 feet outside and keep within the 115-foot width.
Six people made public comments at the meeting. First was Paul Locke, a frequent sight at public comment periods, who somehow related streetcar driver wages and related it to the need for an driverless system like the failed Monorail and Sea-Tac Airport inter-terminal trains. He also expressed concern about toll revenue not covering the cost of maintaining the bridge.
Second was STB commenter Brent White, who echoed our concerns with the current proposal’s inadequacy in ensuring a fast and reliable transit connection from SR 520 to the UW Link station. He said money should not be wasted on duplicate service to both downtown and the U-District and that Link should be fully realized as a transit spine to save bus service hours. He also suggested putting the NB bus lanes on the outside, not on the inside.
Third was Mark Weed, from the Seattle Chamber of Commerce, who thinks difficulties will arise with transit and freight mobility resulting from a lack of capacity without the second Montlake bascule bridge. Personally, he sees no sense in delaying construction of the second bascule bridge.
Forth was Virginia Gunby, representing the Ravenna Bryant Community Association. She supports giving transit preferential treatment through the area and using tolls to encourage transit use and reduce auto trips. She pointed the need for a corridor management agreement, not simply a plan, to keep transit moving.
Fifth was Jorgen Bader, with the University District Community Council, who concurred with Gunby’s comments. He stated that the second bascule bridge is needed. He reiterated that according to Paige Miller of the Arboretum Foundation that left turns from 24th Ave would be allowed only during rush hours. He also commented on the urban design aspects, calling the 520 bridge pillars “brutalist” and Montlake lid “sterile”. He said the lid should serve its purpose as a connection to the Arboretum.
Finally, John Niles, from the Coalition for Effective Transportation Alternatives (CETA), cited mode share figures from PSRC’s computer modeling for Transportation 2040. He said that by 2040, rail boardings will increase 40 fold and bus boardings will double, however, bus boardings will outnumber that of rail 4:1 despite a large light rail network. He stated buses major role and that it is important to keep buses flowing.