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Council adds neighborhood greenways, downtown cycle track to 2013-14 budget

From the DRAFT Bike Master Plan. Blue mean cycle track, yellow means conventional & buffered bike lanes

The City Council Budget Committee voted Friday on a series of changes to Mayor McGinn’s proposed 2013-14 budget, electing to add funding to accelerate neighborhood greenways and the downtown cycle track network. The Council will vote on a final budget November 19.

The Council added about $2.75 million to accelerate implementation of neighborhood greenways in Ballard and West Seattle, improve the Lower West Seattle Bridge trail, and design a downtown cycle track network.

As the Council signaled in October, they cut funding to study an Eastlake streetcar to the U District and a study of a potential transit, walking and biking bridge across the Ship Canal in the Ballard area.

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In our post about the mayor’s proposed budget, we noted that while his proposed center city mobility study of potential cycle tracks (AKA “separated bike lanes”) downtown was exciting, we wished there were some actual funding for construction of a downtown cycle track (or two). The Council has proposed the next best thing: Funding for significant design of about two miles of downtown cycle tracks and construction of a portion of one of them. That construction could start as early as 2014, according to a budget green sheet.

Cycle tracks are bike lanes physically separated from motor vehicle traffic, either by a barrier or parked cars. They have proven successful around the country and world at encouraging more people to cycle and have a proven safety record, reducing injuries for people biking by as much as half while also increasing safety for people driving and walking.

The budget does not indicate where the funded cycle tracks would be or whether they would be two-way or one-way facilities (that’s the point of the study), but both conventional wisdom and the draft Bike Master Plan suggests Pike/Pine, 2nd Ave (to replace the horrible existing bike lane) and 4th or 5th Ave are likely candidates.

Using an estimate from SDOT that cycle tracks could cost $4-5 million per mile, Council estimated that they could build 0.25 miles of cycle track with the included funding. However, this is by far the highest cost estimate for cycle tracks we have seen compared to other cities (Chicago has built cheapo cycle tracks for $170,000 per mile and Long Beach recently spent about $300,000 per mile, though Vancouver’s downtown cycle track on Hornby cost about 3 million Canadian dollars for a mile). We are following up to learn where such a high estimate came from, and we’re hopeful a less expensive price point could lead to construction of even more of the downtown plan.

The budget also includes $160,000 for a walking and biking access study as part of the 520 Bridge replacement project. This includes a bike counter on the Montlake Bridge.

Here’s more information on the added neighborhood greenway, West Seattle Lower Bridge and cycle track funding, from a Council green sheet:

Ballard neighborhood greenway: The Ballard neighborhood greenway is envisioned to be about 6 miles in length in a square shape of four routes generally in the area between NW 58th Street and NW 77th Street and between 6th Avenue NW and 34th Avenue NW. In 2012, SDOT currently has $275,000  budgeted for portions of this project. SDOT has developed a very preliminary planning level cost estimate of $5M to $7M to design and construct the entire greenway, depending on the specific streets selected during preliminary design and outreach.

Delridge neighborhood greenway: The Delridge neighborhood greenway is envisioned to create an approximately 3.5 mile loop connecting 26th Avenue SW from SW Andover Street to SW Graham Street and 21st Avenue SW from the West Seattle lower bridge trail to SW Myrtle street with a connector along SW Andover Street to Delridge Way SW at an estimated planning level cost of about $1.9M. In 2012, SDOT currently has $225,000 budgeted for portions of this project.

The planning level cost estimates for neighborhood greenways developed by SDOT include design and outreach, and where indicated construction. Cost estimates will be refined as projects are further developed. Costs include sidewalk repair, signs and pavement markings, pavement repair, speed humps, and crossing improvements at arterials (signals, curb ramps, or other treatments as appropriate). According to SDOT, sidewalk repair is an important part of making the neighborhood greenways accessible for all ages and abilities. It can account for one-quarter to one-half of total estimated project costs. Sidewalk repair has not been previously factored by SDOT into neighborhood greenway costs, and SDOT has not previously funded sidewalk repairs on non-arterial streets at this scale.

West Seattle lower bridge multimodal trail: The existing West Seattle lower bridge trail approaches from Delridge Way SW and Harbor Ave SW/SW Avalon Way, and the 5-way intersection of Delridge Way SW, SW Spokane St, W Marginal Way SW, and Chelan Ave SW create confusing pedestrian, bicycle, and vehicular movements. This Green Sheet would fund an evaluation of existing conditions and development of potential concepts to improve traffic operations and make physical improvements through a design charrette would be the first step (10% design) in developing a capital project.

Downtown cycle track network: The Bicycle Master Plan update includes recommendations for a connected bicycle network to, through, and within the Downtown area as part of the broader citywide bicycle network. This will include identifying corridors where a separated on-street bicycle facility such as a cycle track (or buffered bicycle lane) could be built. The Downtown cycle track network is envisioned to be somewhere between Denny Way and Yesler Street and 2nd and 7th Avenues. The Mayor’s 2013-2014 Proposed Budget includes $150,000 for concept development work (10% design), which would include identifying specific routes and improvement types, and developing preliminary cost estimates. The 30% design work funded through this Green Sheet will begin after this concept development work is complete and will likely extend into 2014.

SDOT was awarded a $1.7 million grant for design of a 1.25 mile two-way cycle track along Westlake Avenue N between the existing trail to the north that leads to the Fremont Bridge and an existing trail at Aloha Street to the south. Design will begin in 2013. In addition, the Amazon development along 7th Avenue will construct a cycle track in front of their properties on 7th Avenue between Blanchard and Virginia Streets. Amazon has also provided the City with $250,000 to advance design work to extend the cycle track south from Virginia to Pine Streets.

Cycle tracks vary in cost depending on factors including pavement condition, type of barrier, grades, drainage, utility conflicts, signal modification, lighting, number of intersections and driveways, etc. SDOT preliminarily estimates the cost of cycle tracks between $4M and $5M per mile. This green sheet increases funding to accelerate design and outreach so that an initial Downtown cycle track segment can start construction by the end of 2014.

This green sheet appropriates $1M in REET II and $500,000 in VLF funds for bicycle and pedestrian improvements. Real Estate Excise Tax (REET II) revenues are projected to be higher due to the sale of properties in the South Lake Union area. Based on experience and data on Vehicle License Fee (VLF) revenue over the past year, Council staff is revising VLF revenues upward for the 2013-2014 biennium.

Here’s a broader look at the changes the City Council made to Mayor McGinn’s proposed budget:


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13 responses to “Council adds neighborhood greenways, downtown cycle track to 2013-14 budget”

  1. Fortunately, on the Montlake Bridge and its surroundings, even in the presence of a bike counter we cyclists will have no trouble at all continuing to feel unwelcome, and will be able to go peacefully on in our seasonal ennui.

    1. To be a little more thorough and less snarky… I don’t know what the count of cyclists and pedestrians is there, but there isn’t an absolute capacity issue. I go through there daily during rush hour, and the cyclists and pedestrians get along fine unless some cyclist decides to be a total asshole (which happens occasionally). The real problems are:

      1. The confusing arrangement of crosswalks. If you’re trying to follow the Lake Washington Loop southbound and forget that Hamlin is missing a crosswalk you’re going to have a bad time.

      2. Long light cycles. They may be necessary for traffic flow, but there’s no question about it, they suck for pedestrians and cyclists.

      3. Confusing/slow routes for bikes. Especially going south, there are many ways to bike it, all equally bad, so everyone does something a little different.

      4. In the future, when more cyclists need to get across the canal to go between the BGT and 520 trail and potentially more pedestrians are walking across the bridge to access Light Rail, there may be a capacity issue.

      Numbers 1-3 don’t depend on count at all. #4 can’t be measured yet (there’s hardly a good bike facility south of the bridge today at all). And a bike-ped bridge would be silly… the best solution for just about everyone will be to have pedestrians on the existing sidewalks and bikes on a new facility. This is obvious without study.

  2. Matthew

    I’m not a city planner, so sometimes the dollar figures don’t necessarily make sense to me. How do you spend $1.7 million to “design” a 1.25 mile cycletrack on Westlake? Or does the “design” process also mean construction? I could see how putting a cycletrack downtown could require an extensive design process, because of all of the intersections, lights, changes in grade, etc. But Westlake seems pretty straightforward to me.

    There are a LOT of other bike-related projects that could use that $1.7 million a heck of a lot more than a Westlake cycletrack.

    1. Tom Fucoloro

      I was under the impression that $1.7 was to build it. I don’t see how it could possibly cost that much just to plan it, when Chicago is BUILDING them for about $200K/mile. Maybe they want it to be sidewalk level?

      I know every public works project costs more in Seattle for some reason (unlike Chicago, our mayor can’t just do whatever he wants. See: Meigs Field), but our cycle track dreams will be crushed if we can’t make less expensive ones.

      1. Matthew

        After a little more digging, it looks like the total cost for the project, including construction, is about $2.3 million. Just under $2 million is the construction cost, which just seems… well, it just seems ludicrous to me. There’s no other way to say it. I agree, Tom, that if we can’t get these kinds of projects built cheaper, then we’re probably not going to get these projects built at all.

        I found a copy of the grant proposal which has some cost breakdowns in it.

        They’re adding a 2-foot-wide curb island basically in the parking lot, repainting the stripes, doing minor drainage and signage work, and a few other parking lot construction things which largely seem to be car-related rather than directly bike-related. I assume it’s these latter things that are driving the cost because I can’t imagine installing a curb costs that much.

      2. Bruce Nourish

        Actually, curbs can be some of the most ludicrously expensive pieces of street infrastructure to put in, if they end up requiring you to add drainage pipes — you have to dig a trench to the nearest sewer pipe. I’ve no idea if that’s the case here, but it could be.

        Portland’s greenway planners, where possible, prefer to improve crosswalks with center refuge islands rather than curb extensions, largely for this reason.

  3. AiliL

    I do hope that if a cycletrack is planned for 4th/5th that the access is planned well for those wanting to access the track traveling northbound from the south (SODO/West Seattle/South Park/Ferry dock/etc.). The southern start/end of the planned track ends at the steep East/West grades, making access from the waterfront extremely problematic. This is very essential since the entire waterfront will be changing drastically in the next several years – that waterfront plan needs to be integrated into these track plans.
    1) How do cyclists get from waterfront to track, signage, bike lanes, crosswalks from waterfront, another cycle track?
    2) If the grade is very steep is the sidewalk along the route to the track wide enough to walk with a bike in a pedestrian heavy area?
    3) Proved assurance that the track be extended to Jackson to utilize the easier grade?
    4) Provide good signage and the ability to make turns off of the track, left or right, especially right when heading southbound, for those needing to access the waterfront to continue to the ferries/southbound.

  4. […] options will be studied further in a center city mobility study funded by the 2013-14 budget. The first cycle track downtown is very likely to be on 7th Ave connecting Dexter to Pike […]

  5. […] money in the 2013-14 budget set aside specifically for Ballard neighborhood greenway projects, the group is hopeful a lot of […]

  6. […] based on the cost of Vancouver’s Hornby cycle track, is much higher than Chicago’s, as we reported previously: Using an estimate from SDOT that cycle tracks could cost $4-5 million per mile, Council estimated […]

  7. […] city has budgeted money for 2013 to create a center city mobility plan that will include cycle tracks. However, we will not […]

  8. […] improvements, including greenways for West Seattle and Ballard, a downtown cycle track — and $160,000 to study bicycle and pedestrian improvements across 520 and the Montlake […]

  9. […] through Eastlake to the University District. These projects were mostly delayed by Council action during the fall budget process. The Ballard project could result in a new Ship Canal crossing for people walking, biking and using […]

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