For many years, SDOT has sought to build an overpass separating cars, trucks, and buses on Lander Street in Sodo from crossing train traffic. Last time we checked in, the project was included in the Move Seattle project list and had secured a $45 million federal grant, but was still $40 million short of full funding. On Wednesday, the city announced that it achieved full funding, thanks to a combination of a $17 million lower cost estimate after final design, additional appropriations from the City Council, and an additional $10 million contribution from the Port of Seattle. Construction is expected to begin next year, for completion in 2019.
The project has been controversial among local urbanists, because it is expensive and intended primarily for vehicular traffic, especially Port of Seattle truck traffic. I think the concept of the overpass has more merit than is often acknowledged, because it would improve bus reliability and has the potential to make walking to transit safer.
The benefits to bus reliability already look promising. Lander is the primary transit-accessible route between the West Seattle Bridge and Sodo destinations. Today, it serves one major frequent bus route (5/21), one infrequent local route (50), and a few commuter routes. Anecdotal evidence suggests that train crossings at Lander are responsible for a substantial portion of overall delays on routes 5 and 21, especially northbound route 5 service. In its long-range plan, Metro expects to expand service on Lander further, upgrading the frequent Sodo-West Seattle route to RapidRide (while changing its routing) and adding a pair of routes that would provide frequent service to South Park and Tukwila. A Lander overpass would improve reliability of all of these services substantially.