This weekend, we learned that Councilmember Mike O’Brien will be introducing an amendment to the budget at 2:00 today to move the Ship Canal Crossing study from 2015 back to 2014.

This study is key for both Bridging the Gap’s renewal in 2015 and for a potential Sound Transit 3 in 2016. For Bridging the Gap, as the Ballard Bridge is high on the list of SDOT’s priorities, having a plan for configuring the ship canal crossings is key to making the right investments for repair or replacement. For Sound Transit 3, we need to be sure SDOT has the right data to ensure Sound Transit’s next line works well with existing traffic and transit service, and potentially serves bicycles and pedestrians, whether it’s a bridge or an undercrossing.

ST3’s project list may be locked down early in 2015, as the legislature needs to provide them authority, and any Sound Transit proposal¬†must go through a state expert review panel before it goes to the voters. Bridging the Gap will probably be assembled in early 2015 to go before voters in November of that year. To be ready, a year plus long study must happen soon to be complete before BtG or ST3 are put together.

With both SLU and Ballard growing quickly, no matter what your priorities – cars, transit, bicycles, pedestrians – this study is a key piece in serving everyone. Delaying the crossing study could lead to missing high priority transit projects, or wasting money on fixes that turn out to be temporary.

32 Replies to “To City Council: Fund the Ship Canal Crossing Study!”

  1. To the City Council: we built 7 crossings* of the Ship Canal/Lake Union between 1914-1962, and haven’t built a damn thing in 51 years (except the admittedly awesome upcoming U-Link crossing). Meanwhile, our city population has doubled since the days when we actually built things, and we have hundreds of square miles of northern suburbs now too that generate additional demand pressure. Don’t you think that traffic of all modes would be well-served by cutting the 1.7 miles distance between the Ballard and Fremont bridges roughly in half? Don’t you think a great city deserves more than 6 means of traveling between its northern and southern halves?

    *Ship Canal Crossings:
    Salmon Bay (1914)
    Ballard (1917)
    Fremont (1917)
    Aurora (1932)
    I-5 (1962)
    University (1919)
    Montlake (1925)
    University Link Tunnel (2016)

  2. I *still* think light rail would fit on the Aurora Bridge. Which is high level and therefore never needs to open for ships. But an actual study could determine this one way or another. :-)

    1. So are we talking a street car here then? I don’t object to having street cars, but we also need grade separated options.

      1. We could just be talking a new bridge with no new transit tied to it. It could decrease overall congestion on the Fremont and Ballard bridges thereby making the current bus network better. Even with a new 3rd ave bridge I don’t see dedicated transit lanes on Fremont or Ballard bridges.

        I do agree that this should be studied as soon as possible.

      2. @Fil Oh I don’t disagree on that. My question was specifically targeted at the “we should put rail on the Aurora bridge” idea that Nathanael was talking about.

        As far as bridges go, I can see a need for one or more new ones. We will probably want either a new bridge or tunnel on the Ballard side just for the Ballard transit expansion (for ST3). That would be in addition to any new bridge(s) we would need for road traffic and bicycles that comes out of this study.

    2. @Nathanael ,

      You are free to have that opinion, but the engineering reality is that the Aurora Bridge was deliberately built NOT to support streetcars. It was designed to be for rubber tired vehicles only. If it can’t support a streetcar structure, it certainly can’t support a full-fledged — and very heavy — LRT trackway.

      1. I’m not even sure what “build not to support streetcars” is supposed to mean.

        Is there a truck weight limit on the Aurora Ave. bridge? Are overweight trucks carrying giant steel beams detoured around it? Does it have a “only so many trucks on the bridge at a time” limit, perhaps, to keep them spaced out and to prevent an overweight load on the bridge?

        Because if there isn’t any such limit, then it can be made to support light rail. Period. Trucks are heavy.

        But again, my point is that an actual engineering study — and I have NOT seen one — could assess the viability of this and all other such options. The Washington Avenue Bridge in Minneapolis (trucks prohibited!) was retrofitted to carry light rail. The Aurora Avenue bridge is if anything easier to retrofit.

  3. Ok so here’s the question..

    Why not have a form letter here for everyone in the forum to send to the city council members?

    For those of us who are voters in the city, it might at least have some effect to let the council members know that people are paying attention to their votes.

    1. Because no one has time on the short notice that we hear about these issues. But we’re starting to fix that.

      1. True. It looks like we missed this opportunity, but is there something else we can do?

        Even if we can’t force a re-vote, we can still as private citizens make our disappointment about this vote be known with the members who voted against it and at least let them know that voters are paying attention to it.

  4. And the council delays this critical funding once again:

    “Mike O’Brien The amendment failed 4-5. But others indicated that would support adding it in the supplemental budget in September. Not ideal, but better than waiting until the November budget vote.”

    1. Blek, sounds like we heard too late to do anything about it.

      I wish there was some way for normal citizens to be of any use in affecting these sitations (other than the occasional election).

      1. Licata, Rasmussen, Clark, Godden, Burgess voted against it.

        September is too late. Procurement takes 3-4 months.

    2. What possible justification could their be for doing in September, but not now? If you’re for it in September, why wouldn’t you be for it now as well? Unless this is just cynical politics from the anti-McGinn coalition on the council, I don’t get it.

  5. This is stupid. Sound Transit just put out 9 routes crossing the ship canal including three bridges. The city shouldn’t double up on this.

    1. This isn’t doubling up, it’s advancing understanding of how the overall crossings (all of them) need to be configured in each of those cases, and how to serve bicycles and pedestrians as well. Sound Transit isn’t studying bicycle or pedestrian service, or how to move cars. A new structure of any kind needs to be built as part of a larger plan.

  6. Rather than begging the City Council for funds, aka asking for handouts, why not consider going the route of soliciting donations from Ballard, Phinney and UQA neighborhood private citizens and companies. THEN, solicit bids from a reputable transportation firm, ensuring it is not one associated with the boardmembers as that would constitute a conflict of interest. Be proactive! Don’t rely so much on govco.

    1. The whole idea of telling people not to rely on government seems to forget what government is: a body that exists for the purpose of enabling us, the people of Seattle, to get things done collectively that we could not get done individually.

      Elected officials are elected by us. They represent us. They decide which of the activities are the highest priority based on our feedback. They then allocate the money that we have raised collectively through taxes to get them done. Relying on government to get major infrastructure built is relying on ourselves, because the government is something created of and by us, the people of Seattle.

      We are not asking the city council for handouts, we are asking them to do their job.

      1. You need to read Stephen Covey’s book…”7 Habits of Highly Effective People.”

        I understand the function of Govco. No need for the civics lesson, please. You are asking the council to spend $200k+ if not more on yet another transportation study. Taxpayers are tired of studies. Routes are getting cut…funding isn’t there…and ST3 passage isn’t very likely if you are banking on Pierce and SnoCo pitching in the vote. Transportation studies aren’t cheap. …and with everyone tightening the belt, this is frivolous spending in my book.

        Raise the funds privately.

      2. Are you daft?

        You’re honestly arguing that it would be easier to form some kind of corporation, get business owners to donate $200k (to an org that just formed), learn how to write the kind of contracts that will get us a study the city and ST can use, and do all the followup, etc IN TWO MONTHS instead of just lobby our government to do what they should be doing anyway?

        Considering the city is the one that most needs the study results, the city has all the staff, experience, and expertise needed to bid out and oversee such a study, and the city has the money, the city is clearly best poised to do this.

      3. @CR
        “raise the funds privately” reads like ” sail to japan on a raft”.
        Its a simple instruction, with maybe a 0.01% chance of success.
        I think you’re massively underestimating the difficulty of raising money *in that amount* for *something like this*

    2. While I respect your opinion, I think that the course of action you’re suggesting is WAY too ambitious. I can think of a few massive difficulties right off the top of my head.
      1) *The amount of money needed*
      This is not a collection for a new peapatch. This would require a minimum of a million dollars. Thats a very hard number to reach by doorbelling a few neighborhoods, especially when…
      2) *People wouldnt understand why they should give “us” the money*
      Most people view this sort of project as very much a government sort of thing, and would be skeptical of strangers in t-shirts knocking on thier door and asking for large sums of money for things the government is for. Maybe you could get around this, but to do so…
      3)*getting the word out would be expensive*
      Convincing tons of people the project is nessissary would require advertising, which costs money. The same money that we need to do the study.
      4)*this would take a ton of work*
      To accomplish all this you’d need a lot of volunteer hours. A LOT. Who’s going to do this? You and me?

  7. I think that Seattle needs to petition the feds (coast guard?) to push the first opening of the bridge, after evening rush hour, from 6 to 6:30. 6 might have made sense when work hours were pretty strictly 8-5, but now with a lot more business allowing flex hours, there’s still a lot of traffic (cars, buses, bikes, pedestrians) crossing the bridges at 6.

    It’s frustrating to see one guy on his sailboat delaying hundreds of people.

    1. Does anyone know if they have tried? This is extremely frustrating. Every time I’m at a standstill at 6:05 and I see the top of a mast go by it makes me want to go all Monkey Wrench Gang on sailboats.

      1. A below grade crossing is imperative for mass transit to Ballard. Without it, any LRT would be nearly DOA.

        A separate above grade crossing is necessary just for mobility’s sake and to support the exploding growth north of the cut.

      2. @RapidRider The 140ft bridge option would also work, as it would be tall enough to not require a drawbridge. I am fine with either solution personally.

        I agree that the drawbridge light rail bridge is a non-starter.

      3. The 140 ft bridge option is still making me scratch my head. I just can’t see a West Seattle-like bridge going anywhere in or around Salmon Bay.

  8. If you’re going to write council-members about their NO vote, be sure to get the right Sally in your email. Otherwise, you may end up apologizing to the one that voted appropriately.


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