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Gone Bikin’: We must stop Seattle’s ‘highway on top of a highway’

IMG_2882.JPGSeattle Bike Blog Editor Tom Fucoloro has Gone Bikin’ until Labor Day. In the meantime, we will be periodically posting short news bits and excerpts from good reads floating around the web.

We have been fully against the state’s horrendous plans for a surface highway on the reconstructed downtown Seattle waterfront ever since the agency dropped its first looks.

It is still horrible. There are simply too many lanes of traffic, leading to very long crossing distances and creating dangerous and likely deadly conditions for people moving between the downtown core and the newly-rebuilt waterfront.

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The state needs to drop one of the general purpose lanes in each direction. They are already digging a highway tunnel at immense (and growing) cost. We don’t need or want a surface highway to complement it.

Josh Cohen dives into the issue in a recent story for Next City:

“When you get to south of Columbia you still have an eight-lane highway,” says Quinn. “The waterfront is a transportation hub for people walking. We’re the most vulnerable. But we’re not being prioritized, we’re being compromised.”

Part of the problem stems from the many, many competing needs of the major north-south corridor. As Quinn says, there is significant foot traffic from tourists, ferry riders, bus riders and residents. There is bike traffic. There will be heavy car traffic from drivers getting off the ferry and people heading into downtown since the highway tunnel will bypass downtown. Alaskan is an important route for freight traffic coming out of the port. And the ferry uses space on the road to queue its car traffic.

“There’s so much trying to happen in a constrained space it does have a very practical challenge in terms of the width of that road,” says Marshall Foster, director of Seattle’s Office of the Waterfront. “We’re trying to strike this very, very hard balance. But without throwing someone off the island — transit or ferries or something else — this is the optimized solution that’s going to make everybody be able to do what they have to do.”

Compelled by feedback from constituents (including a set of strongly worded letters co-signed by Feet First, Transportation Choices Coalition and Cascade Bicycle Club), the city looked at alternative designs that could narrow the road width. But Foster says freight capacity and ferry queuing lanes weren’t up for negotiation, and projected traffic volumes will require two general travel lanes in each direction. So dedicated transit lanes were the only thing on the chopping block, an outcome nobody wanted.

But the plan does “throw someone off the island.” That’s what we’re saying. The plan is not safe or comfortable for people on the ground. Or to phrase that another way: “Projected safety and public comfort needs will require fewer lanes in each direction.”

Vision Zero says that deaths and serious injuries are preventable, buy only if cities and states make safety the top priority in their street designs. If you compromise safety, then you are contributing to death and injury. Stop.

It seems the bureaucratic, public feedback route isn’t working here. They aren’t listening. Is it time to start planning protests?


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8 responses to “Gone Bikin’: We must stop Seattle’s ‘highway on top of a highway’”

  1. RDPence

    The core of the problem is the design of the new tunnel — it has no on- or off-ramps in downtown. The new tunnel connects only to Aurora Avenue. Travelers who used the viaduct ramps at Elliott, Western, Seneca and Columbia will be traveling on surface Alaskan Way, or some other surface route, to complete their journey. Responsible traffic engineers cannot just ignore the expected traffic volumes on surface Alaskan Way.

    1. eric.br

      I believe this is sufficient evidence that cars will find a way, when their downtown highways are removed.


      Portland and San Francisco amongst others made the leap. We can too.

  2. ronp

    Something needs to be done. I would like even fewer lanes than the revised proposal above.

    We have buses and light rail that get people into the city, yes there are cars loading on the ferries, but keep them trapped at the ferry dock.

  3. Anthony

    If anyone has voted for these current clowns running Seattle and the state they get the government they deserve, and I still can’t fathom that people were dense enough to vote for these anti-bike nutjobs in the first place.

    Go ahead, let them vote for these charlatans again this November and see if it gets any better, Inslee is a joke and anyone voting for Murray must frankly have a vested interest of some sort in the City or they just want to screw bikes over even more.

  4. asdf2

    I thought the two general purpose lanes were legally protected in the funding agreement between the city and the port, as were the ferry queuing lanes – that the only option for narrowing the road would be to remove the transit lanes.

  5. […] Seattle is planning to top its underground highway with another high-speed, very wide road. Photo: Seattle Bike Blog […]

  6. Clyde McQueen

    This isn’t a short-term solution, but has anybody studied moving the WA State auto ferry terminal to Harbor Island? Foot ferries could continue to land at Coleman Dock. That would reduce the car footprint on Alaskan Way.

  7. Dave

    How about built in timing devices under the pavement and mailing speeding tickets? It’s time to remind ourselves that the word “automobile” does not appear anywhere in the US Constitution. Build the new highway for robotic enforcement and as a ticketing device for the city. If people don’t want speeding tickets they can learn to drive in a civil manner. This could be a great opportunity for the kind of driver behavior control that is long overdue.

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