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Vital E Marginal Way bike route to West Seattle is fully funded

Project design map.
Excerpt from the project design (PDF).

With $20 million in federal funding, Seattle now has enough money to complete a long-planned E Marginal Way rebuild in SODO. Final design is scheduled to be complete in early 2022, with work beginning later in the year. Construction should be complete by 2025.

The funded phase stretches from S Atlantic Street near T-Mobile Park to the West Seattle Bridge, and there is a continuous and protected bikeway the entire length connecting the downtown Alaskan Way Trail at the north and the West Seattle trail network at the south. Plans for a multi-use trail between the West Seattle Bridge and Diagonal Ave S in Georgetown have been moved to a later Phase 2.

The $20 million in federal funding comes from the Rebuilding American Infrastructure with Sustainability and Equity (RAISE) program, and an additional $7.1 million comes from the Move Seattle Levy. The Port of Seattle and the Freight Mobility Strategic Investment Board will also contribute funds to the project.

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“The grant funding will enable us to do both the safety improvements and the road reconstruction at the same time,” SDOT wrote in a press release. “This means that there will be fewer disruptions to freight traffic during construction.”

The project has such a high price tag primarily because the entire roadway will be reconstructed to accommodate heavy trucks from the Port. The existing sidewalk will also be reconstructed and brought up to accessibility codes. The new protected bike lane will travel along the east side of the roadway for most of the route. Between S Horton Street and the West Seattle Bridge, an additional two-way bikeway will travel along the west side of the street to connect the West Seattle trail network to the new bikeway.

If we zoom out a little bit, the implications of this project are remarkable. When combined with the under-construction downtown waterfront bikeway, the E Marginal Way bikeway would create a fully complete and protected bike route from Alki to downtown Seattle and beyond. If the waterfront bike lanes are indeed connected to the Elliott Bay Trail like they should be, then there will be a connection through Interbay to the Ship Canal Trail (and therefore the Burke-Gilman Trail) and the larger regional trail network. Then if the Duwamish Trail is finally connected to the Green River Trail, wow. In a few years, it should be feasible to bike more than 50 miles from the northern border of King County in Woodinville to the southern county line beyond Auburn almost entirely on trails or protected bike lanes. Suddenly, connecting the Foothills Trail in Pierce County to the Centennial Trail in Snohomish County feels within reach.

Combined with the EasTrail work underway over the next few years, the number of new additions and connections for the regional trail network are enormous. So many people have worked on so many different pieces of walking and biking improvements across the region, and they’re all coming together in the next few years. Get ready.

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11 responses to “Vital E Marginal Way bike route to West Seattle is fully funded”

  1. Gary

    Wow, three years for construction?

    1. Tom Fucoloro

      It’s not entirely clear how long it will all take (I assume that’s something they work out with the contractor), but the timeline has construction starting in late 2022, and the press release says it will be open in 2025. I can’t imagine it takes a full two years, but we’ll see.

    2. Ballard Biker

      They’re likely going to be rebuilding all below ground utilities in addition to keeping EMW open to port traffic at a minimum. Not to mention, that area will be mostly unworkable during the wet seasons.

      The staging and sequencing for a major roadway project like this will easily take two years.

  2. Jort

    We must remain HYPER vigilant, however, because several areas identified in this plan to be dedicated bike facilities are designated as future “Truck Parking Areas to be Investigated” on a map included as part of the *bribe* SDOT took from the Port of Seattle to pay for repairs to the West Seattle Bridge. (The same bribe also allowed the Port of Seattle to have veto power over any bike lane project within what they consider their exclusive freight-related purview.) More here: https://westseattleblog.com/2021/09/west-seattle-bridge-port-agrees-to-contribute-9-million-heres-what-it-gets-in-return/

    Even though these now-funded plans seem pretty baked-in, do not underestimate the Port’s desire to stand athwart any cycling progress whatsoever. With anti-bike supervillain Peter Steinbrueck being kicked out of office due mostly to voters rejecting his dictatorial, despotic anti-bike crusade, we may be in better shape. But never, ever underestimate how much the Port feels they — and nobody else — should decide what’s best for the city of Seattle.

    1. Wow, that’s an interesting complication. It’s a good idea to be vigilant. But I don’t think P of S would get very far in nixing the plans since it is such a heavily used route by cyclists.

  3. I find it difficult to praise this project. Certainly, I support bike improvements in general.

    But is this one coming at the expense of other high priority routes ? We still have no connection from spokane street to georgetown or other areas to the south. There’s little infrastructure on rainier. Not much in west seattle either. So much missing and money being dumped on a route that is mostly pretty good already – adding jersey barriers and paint would be enough.

    Second, why is P of S dumping money in support of trucks shuttling goods between the docks and the rails ? They already have rails going directly to some docks, but apparently they are underused. I understand there’s a heavy investment in trucks and the drivers want to see payback on their expensive investments. But throwing more money at it ? No !

    1. I don’t understand this mentality. We get a win which will bring a much needed improvement to a popular bike route making it closer to an actual all ages and abilities facility, and then we complain about the cost potentially reducing the chance of currently non existent projects like Rainier?

      In order to reach for and realize the vision of Seattle as a cycling city we need to stop thinking this way. We shouldn’t have to decide between this and a connection to Georgetown, we need both. We shouldn’t have to decide between PBLs on MLK or Rainier, we need both. We shouldn’t have to decide between pedestrianizing Pike Place or The Ave, we need both. We shouldn’t have to decide what streets need sidewalks, every right of way in Seattle needs to be accessible. In order to become a cycling city, we need all of these projects to be funded and built. It can be done in a short time. Look at the transformation Paris has taken with one mayor that has vision. However, if we continue to beg for table scraps instead of presenting a vision of a future that actually helps us reach our Vision Zero and climate goals, we won’t make the progress we need.

      1. Agreed, we shouldn’t have to beg for scraps. However, until that changes, I think we should be using the little money available to add more infrastructure, which is desperately needed – more so than improving E Marginal way. We aren’t going to get “both” unless the political stance changes quite a bit.

  4. This is really good news. The Port of Seattle, SDOT, the seaport tenants, shipping companies, bike advocacy groups, truck drivers and the railroads city are all on the same page working together to make this happen. Rep. Jayapal gave it a push for this federal grant.

    Peri, the port terminals along East Marginal Way S do not have rail connections to the intermodal freight rail yards, and railroads do not connect to many of the sources and destinations for freight. The trucks are necessary. If rail connections from the tracks across EMW were put in to the terminals on EMW, the bike route would be blocked by trains like the cross-streets in SODO are now, and we’d be back to having dangerous on-grade track crossings. This seaport is the reason that Seattle is a city. The terminals and the road are on liquifaction-prone fill soil. Look into what happened to our sister city of Kobe, Japan, after a big earthquake struck their very similar seaport. The roadway has to be rebuilt to make it resilient and to provide room for bikes. We need safe separation between heavy trucks and bikes at the intersections with separate signal phases, not just some jersey barriers where they happen to fit. This project is essential for our regional economy and essential for commuting by bike from West Seattle and South Park. The next phase, not funded yet, connects to Georgetown. The vast majority of the cost of this phase is for rebuilidng the roadway for heavy trucks. The Move Seattle Levy part of the funding is from the freight budget, not from the bike/ped budget. We need to pay attention to the design details, but can be grateful for reaching this milestone.

    1. Ok, I’ll accept your points about liquefaction and jersey barriers not being sufficient.

      On the other hand, terminal 5 is direct-to-rail. They certainly could add rail to terminals along E Marginal by crossing – at right angle – the bikepath along spokane street. I don’t think that would pose a dangerous situation with regard to getting trapped in the groove. However, if there is a lot of freight traffic, it might cause significant delays while trains pass across. More thought is needed. Perhaps it’s possible for tracks to pass under the east end of the low bridge.

  5. ronp

    This is very cool! Man, I remember my attempt to ride from downtown to Sodo Costco. It sucked!

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