Amid 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.
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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