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Thomas Street proposal lacking, makes concessions to that lame tunnel

Proposed street design at Thomas and 5th

Josh Cohen at Publicola reports that the city’s proposed changes to Thomas Street so far appear to give many concessions to cars and concerns about traffic caused by the north portal for the proposed state deep bore tunnel. The new proposal was presented by Geoff Wentlandt and Dave LaClergue from the Seattle Department of Planning and Development (“DPD”) at Wednesday’s Bike Advisory Board meeting.

Unfortunately, DPD’s current design hands over too much of the road to motorized vehicles to really make it a green street. The plan calls for one travel lane in each direction with a dedicated center turn lane. That configuration only leaves room for a single westbound bike lane. Bicyclists heading east would be expected to go one block north to the busier, four-lane Harrison St.

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According to Wentlandt, WSDOT is predicting Thomas will feed a significant number of cars to and from the north portal of the SR-99 tunnel. In WSDOT’s view, that increased traffic creates the need for a dedicated center turn lane. But with traffic volumes in the tunnel predicted to be as low as 62,000 vehicles per day (about half of the Alaskan Way Viaduct’s current volume), and with the faster, four-lane Harrison St. just one block north, it seems unlikely that traffic on Thomas will be heavy enough to warrant sacrificing bike facilities.

If the city removed the center turn lane, there would be room to build a two-way cycletrack on the north side of the street.

As anyone who tries biking to Lower Queen Anne knows, a good route connecting the neighborhood to north-south bike arterials (like Dexter) is desperately needed. It would be unacceptable if this opportunity, which is supposed to yield a “green street,” gives into perceived car traffic “needs” and becomes just another street with lacking bike amenities.

There will be more opportunities for input and changes. We’ll keep up with the story. Here’s a background presentation from March if you want to get caught up a bit.

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