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Westlake Bikeway Update: Design committee members will be announced soon, construction to start in 2015

Westlake Exist-no scaleAmid all the squabbling over the Bike Master Plan lawsuit, it may have been easy to forget that, wow, the city is actually going to build a modern bikeway on Westlake. The goal is to start construction in 2015.

Mayor Ed Murray is nearly finished selecting the members of the Design Advisory Committee, which was created as part of a settlement so the Westlake Stakeholders Group would drop the Bike Plan lawsuit. The 13 members should be announced soon, according to a Wednesday presentation to the Bicycle Advisory Board.

The committee will meet regularly throughout most of 2014, when the design team is doing the heavy lifting for developing the plans. The committee may evolve into a another role later as is needed or helpful.

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The committee is advisory, and SDOT will retain final design decision ability. Here’s the committee’s planned makeup, according to the project website:

The Design Advisory Committee will bring the local knowledge and perspectives needed to ensure the project meets all objectives. The Committee will include 13 individuals representing a variety of perspectives including:

  • Air/water transportation/tourism
  • Bicycle, pedestrian and freight movement
  • Non-vehicle commuters
  • Lake Union floating home or live-aboard community
  • Lake Union marina operators
  • Lake Union Park users
  • Westlake businesses

Committee meetings will not exactly be secret, but also not totally public. They are trying to cut down on disruption, hoping the committee members will be able to develop relationships with each other and act as liaisons to their various communities.

It is not clear yet if the project scope will meet the requirements for an environmental impact statement, but they have scheduled much of 2015 for that process. A final design should be identified by this fall, a full year before construction is scheduled to begin. Hopefully that full year will not be needed.

The next open house about the project will be in May, giving the public a chance to comment on the evolving design options.

There are about 1,275 city-owned parking spaces in the corridor. Different options will clearly have different impacts on parking space numbers, a key issue among people who joined the now-dropped lawsuit.

A survey will go out to Westlake residents and businesses tomorrow to gather information on how they use the corridor so the plans can meet their needs and create a bikeway that is safe for people of all ages and abilities.

So what is SDOT’s response to people who ask why they are building a bike lane on Westlake when Dexter is so close?

  • If you’re on Westlake, you can’t get up to Dexter (there’s a big hill)
  • There is a lot of residential growth in the area which will not be connected to Dexter.
  • Dexter is not an all-ages-and-abilities facility as the bike lanes are not protected from traffic. The Westlake Bikeway will feel more like a trail, safe for kids and people unsure about cycling near fast-moving cars.

The project budget is expected to be $3.6 million with $1.7 million coming from a Puget Sound Regional Council grant.

One of the design options would be to locate the cycle track on the west side of the street (the left side in the image above). However, that is looking pretty pricey. If it were to be located beyond the street, it would require building extremely expensive retaining walls into the steep hillside. If it is built into the street, occupying one of the lanes in the street, the drainage would need to be redone, again at a high cost.

City is working with the planners of the Ballard light rail project, but they are not necessarily waiting for them. Westlake is one of the options for a high capacity transit route to Ballard and beyond, but that project is operating on a much longer time frame than this project and has no funding at the moment. Westlake needs to be safe today, while Ballard light rail construction would not be likely in this decade.

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8 responses to “Westlake Bikeway Update: Design committee members will be announced soon, construction to start in 2015”

  1. jeik

    Is a “non-vehicle commuter” just someone who walks to work? Jogging commuters too?Perhaps it means “non-motorized? Bicycles are definitely vehicles.

    I’m worried we will end up with an alignment between the parking lot and the street. I had a close call (not that close) with a vehicle that was turning left into the parking lot. Left turners would have to cross two lanes of traffic and two-way bicycle traffic. It just sounds like a recipe for disaster.

  2. Brian Porter

    Another great reason to build a protected bike infrastructure on Westlake is because that’s a place that people want to go to. There are businesses, homes, nice views, and a park along that stretch. Also, the Westlake corridor connects more or less directly to Westlake Ave through SLU, which despite the rail is still the best way to get downtown if you are coming from Fremont and points north.

    It’s all about the destinations.

  3. Kirk

    After the shenanigans of the Westlake Stakeholders Group, I will never spend any money there. I will also never spend any money with Salmon Bay Sand and Gravel, or Ballard Oil for their NIMBY lawsuit against the Missing Link.
    The one positive about the Westlake Stakeholders Group’s lawsuit of the Bicycle Master Plan is that it showed how cheaply and easily it is to derail a Master Plan. The Freight Master Plan is close to being presented by Ballard Oil’s Warren Aakervik, chair of the Freight Advisory Board. Perhaps Veris Law Group is available to assist with a lawsuit…

  4. Gary Anderson

    It seems like it would be preferable to have the cycle path on the west side of Westlake assuming that the majority of the cycle traffic is going completely through the area between Fremont and downtown rather than having a Westlake destination. I wouldn’t like to see a design where there are a lot of cycle path vehicle crossing locations (at the entrance/exit to Westlake parking lots).

  5. Matthew Snyder

    What does it mean that “the drainage would need to be redone” to route the cycletrack along the west side of Westlake? Does this mean relocating the drainage grates to minimize the number of tire-eating obstacles?

    It would be helpful to have actual numbers. How much would it actually cost to build the retaining walls or redo the drainage? It would be a shame to spend $3.6 million on a major piece of infrastructure with a suboptimal alignment, when we could have spent X dollars more to get what we really wanted.

    1. Tom Fucoloro

      That info will be part of the analysis (likely at the may open house). I mentioned it just to give a heads up to folks who like that alignment and because it was mentioned. FWIW, it’s not my favorite option, but i’ll reserve final opinion after seeing the data.

      1. Mark J

        The rough price estimate given at the fall public meeting was between $600k – $800k to reengineer the west side of Westlake to place the cycle track on that side of the road. This would bring the total cost to over $4 million and the consultant felt it was unlikely the city would be able to find the extra money to do so. There are spots along the west side and especially on the south side when Westlake turns west under the Aurora bridge, where the hill is essentially melting onto the sidewalk.

  6. […] unfamiliar with the history of this project and its struggles, the Seattle Bike Blog provides good primers on the saga. To summarize, this committee is the direct result of a […]

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