Just about all the transportation news since the city announced the Road Safety Action Plan has made me question whether safety really is the city’s top transportation priority.
Here’s what happened: The city held a press conference in South Lake Union announcing the plan and declaring the goal of zero traffic deaths by 2030.
Less than a week later, the city bailed on the community-led Ballard neighborhood greenway plan on NW 58th Street just because a couple loud people were against it for reasons that resemble misunderstandings more than legitimate project design concerns. In the process, they ignored the large amount of neighborhood support and grassroots, volunteer organizing that brought the plan this far. On top of it all, the city’s design for the project is totally awesome (see below).
The city says they will “reevaluate” and come back in the spring for another open house, thus abandoning their goal of seven miles of neighborhood greenways in 2012. Because apparently they need more research than this to put in some wayfinding signs, stop signs and median islands:
This delay comes one the heels of yet another big delay in completing the Burke-Gilman Missing Link through Ballard, where people continue to crash at an alarming rate. Sure, the city is fighting to get this project completed, but it adds to the feeling that safety projects just can’t win in Seattle.
There’s seemingly no action on the increasingly loud calls for protected bikeways downtown, no action to increase safety along the still-dangerous South Lake Union Streetcar tracks, no clear support from the city in support of the 520 biking and walking trail across Portage Bay, and few new miles of road diets on our city’s surplus of highway-like neighborhood streets.
However, the city did announce a $5 million increase in annual road maintenance money for what Mayor McGinn called “the basics, filling potholes and making more, longer-lasting repairs to our streets.” The basics? I thought road safety was a transportation basic and the city’s top priority. Clearly there is some bike safety gains from filling potholes and cracks, and I’m not against maintaining roads, of course. But maintaining dangerous roads makes no sense. We need to maintain and redesign for safety at the same time. Where’s the increased money for safety and more ADA-compliant curbs? To put this $5 million increase in perspective, that’s more than half the entire bicycle program budget.
The city also announced a Sodo arena deal that would invest $40 million to deal with Sodo traffic issues. Hopefully some of that will address the horrendous environment for people on foot and bike, but that has not been specifically mentioned as a goal.
Then the city and state announced a $30 million deal to help with car parking mitigation on Alaskan Way. No mention of safety on Alaskan Way. Meanwhile, a man was struck at Alaskan and Union Wednesday evening while crossing on foot. He went to the hospital in critical condition. I send him my best wishes and hope he heals soon.
You get the idea. In just the two weeks since the city announced their goal of zero traffic deaths, they have announced $75+ million in mostly-non-safety-related transportation investments. We’re not going to achieve significant increases in road safety unless we invest in it and make bold decisions to make it an actual priority, not just some words on paper.
When Mayor McGinn took office, he faced a lot of pushback on a bunch of neighborhood arterial redesign projects around town. Now, it’s almost impossible to imagine Greenwood Ave, Nickerson, 15th Ave S, Columbian Way, NE 125th, 11th Ave NE, Roosevelt and more as the dangerous highway-style roads they were before. Studies show big decreases in collisions and effectively no affect on vehicle throughput. It was a bold series of cost-effective projects, and it was met with a bold pushback.
But history has shown he was right, and the city’s traffic engineering was spot on. Now is not the time to let loud, angry voices stop our road safety investments. We know how to solve traffic injuries and deaths, we just need the political will to make it happen.
UPDATE: Wow, this post was sure effective! Within minutes of posting it, the PSRC announced their transpo funding recommendations, including some good biking and walking opportunities (23rd Ave!). AND the Mayor posted a series of transpo proposals to Slog, including an interesting-sounding proposal for a transit/walking/biking bridge across the Ship Canal along the Eastlake corridor.
Here’s the PSRC list:
The Puget Sound Regional Council is recommending more than $166 million in funding for projects in Seattle, part of more than $440 million in federal funds proposed by PSRC to improve transportation around the region.
· Mercer Corridor West Project – Underpass Segment (5th Ave N to 9th Ave N)* – $10,000,000
· South Lake Union Streetcar Maintenance – $515,024
· Westlake Cycle Track – $1,706,586
· 23rd Avenue Corridor Improvements – South Jackson Street to East John Street – $3,500,000
· 23rd Avenue Corridor Improvements – South Jackson Street to East Madison Street Preservation – $1,500,000
· First Hill Street Car – Broadway Extension – $850,000
· Seattle Central Waterfront Regional Passenger-Only Ferry Terminal – $1,366,530
· Bicycle Access Enhancements to King County Metro RapidRide Bus Rapid Transit – $600,000
· King County Metro Electric Trolley Fleet Replacement – $67,092,357
· Refurbishing Transit Tunnel Elevators – $2,839,594
· Third Ave Transit Corridor Improvement and RapidRide Facilities Project – $3,480,000
· Lynnwood to Northgate Link Light Rail – $26,919,692
· North Link: Extend Light Rail from UW to Northgate Transit Center – $29,442,586
· Holman Rd Northwest – NW 87th Street to Greenwood Ave North Preservation – $1,129,357
· NE 125th Street/Roosevelt Way NE/NE 130th Street – I-5 Overpass to Sand Point Way NE Preservation – $1,000,000
· South Park Bridge Replacement – $15,000,000
“These projects were selected on their merits and support the region’s economic development and growth,” said Bellevue Councilmember Claudia Balducci, chair of PSRC’s Transportation Policy Board. “When Congress approved these funds earlier this year, their focus was on growing and sustaining jobs. These projects, large and small, will put people to work and shore up the foundations of our economy for the future.”
PSRC is encouraging public comments on the projects proposed for funding and on the region’s draft Transportation Improvement Program for 2013-2016. The public comment period runs from September 13 through October 25, 2012. The vote by PSRC’s Executive Board to approve the 2013-2016 Transportation Improvement Program is scheduled for October 25. A complete list of all projects and more information is available at psrc.org.
How to make a comment:
Puget Sound Regional Council
ATTN: Kelly McGourty
1011 Western Avenue, Suite 500
Seattle, Washington 98104-1035
October 11, 2012 or October 25, 2012 at PSRC