Dear WSDOT, Give pedestrians a traffic-separated route over 520

Montlake Blvd pedestrian crossings. Image: WSDOT

Dear WSDOT,

To meet project goals for sustainability, the 520 Replacement must do more than use “green” materials — it must also encourage sustainable activities like walking and biking. Since Montlake Blvd is expected to carry more traffic due to the closure of the 520 Arboretum ramps, pedestrians walking between 520 and the Montlake Bridge will cross more intersections and access lanes than they do today. Providing simple crosswalks does not improve, and thus encourage, walking along Montlake Blvd. WSDOT should study alternatives that give pedestrians traffic-free passage to and from UW, Husky Stadium and the light rail station — and create a safe-route-to-school between Shelby/Hamlin and Montlake Elementary.

Please use the considerable resources of the lid to make safe, direct and traffic-free routes for pedestrians along the Montlake Blvd corridor.

WSDOT’s public comment period for the Seattle 520 Community Design Process ends Friday, October 5th. Submit comments to: SeattleCommunityDesign@wsdot.wa.gov. Feel free to copy and paste the above text into an email with “Dear WSDOT, Give pedestrians a traffic-separated route over 520” in the subject line.

Dear WSDOT, Reconsider dark and dangerous paths under the freeway

East Montlake Shoreline Trail under 520. All images: WSDOT

Dear WSDOT,

Despite good intentions to provide pedestrian paths underneath the new freeway, these paths still cross under low, dark and loud spaces. These conditions will inevitably attract crime and graffiti just as they do under the existing 520. Simply making under-freeway spaces “nicer” will not solve the social problems that plague them. A different approach is needed to provide safe paths for pedestrians without also creating spaces for illegal activities.

Please consider alternative ways for routing the Bill Dawson and East Montlake Shoreline Trails through safe and attractive areas.

Bill Dawson Trail passing under 520.

WSDOT’s public comment period for the Seattle 520 Community Design Process ends Friday, October 5th. Submit comments to: SeattleCommunityDesign@wsdot.wa.gov. Feel free to copy and paste the above text into an email with “Dear WSDOT, Reconsider dark and dangerous paths under the freeway” in the subject line.

Dear WSDOT, Please redesign the 40-foot wall towering over East Montlake Park

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High wall facing East Montlake Park. All images: WSDOT

Dear WSDOT,

The preferred alternative for the Montlake Lid includes a 40-foot high concrete wall facing the stormwater facility at East Montlake Park. This long blank wall will cast dark shadows and loom over the landscape. It is grossly out of character with the neighborhood and natural surroundings. The lid’s abrupt northeast edge should be redesigned with greater sensitivity to the size and scale of the neighborhood.

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WSDOT’s public comment period for the Seattle 520 Community Design Process ends Friday, October 5th. Submit comments to: SeattleCommunityDesign@wsdot.wa.gov. Feel free to copy and paste the above text into an email with “Dear WSDOT, Please redesign the 40-foot wall towering over East Montlake Park” in the subject line.

Montlake Blvd weekend closure to detour past Agua Verde pick-up window

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A full closure of Montlake Boulevard is planned for this weekend to give crews room to work on the pedestrian bridge connecting UW Station to the main campus. Northbound traffic will be re-routed around the Triangle Parking Garage, while southbound traffic will divert all the way to Boat Street, west of UW Medical Center. The southbound detour will be especially aggravating, adding an extra mile and several traffic lights just to journey past Husky Stadium.

Survival tip? Avoid Montlake Blvd all together or… when crawling past Hec-Ed, call in a taco order from Agua Verde and pick it up half-way through the detour. Take-out menu here.

Lane closure details from Sound Transit:

Friday, September 28 (7 p.m.) through Saturday, September 29, 2012 (2 a.m.)

Northbound on Montlake Blvd:

All lanes northbound on Montlake Blvd including the east sidewalk will be closed.
Northbound traffic must turn left on NE Pacific Street, right onto NE Pacific Place and turn left back onto Montlake Blvd at the signal. Pedestrians/Bicyclists must use the crosswalk and the west sidewalk between NE Pacific Street and NE Pacific Place.

Southbound on Montlake Blvd:

One southbound lane will be closed. The west sidewalk will be open between NE Pacific Street and NE Pacific Place.

Saturday, September 29 (2 a.m.) through Monday, October 1, 2012 (3 a.m.)

Northbound on Montlake Blvd:

All northbound lanes and the sidewalk will be closed between NE Pacific Street and NE Pacific Place. Northbound traffic must turn left on NE Pacific Street, right onto NE Pacific Place and turn left back onto Montlake Blvd at the signal.

Southbound on Montlake Blvd:

All southbound lanes and the sidewalk will be closed between NE Pacific Street and NE Pacific Place. Southbound traffic must turn right on NE Pacific Place, left onto Brooklyn, left onto NE Boat Street, left onto 15th Avenue NE, right onto NE Pacific Street, back to Montlake Blvd which merges with Montlake Blvd SB.

Ouch.

‘South Park Food Bridge’ proposal wins 520 Reuse design competition

20120925-161549.jpgAll images by Nicole Lew and David Dahl

A floating food bridge along the Duwamish River. What better way to reuse the old 520 Bridge pontoons once the replacement span opens in 2014? This was the winning proposal selected by a jury of experts in the Transforming Seattle’s 520 Floating Bridge design competition. And why not? The idea can’t be any more far-fetched than driving a car across Lake Washington on top of floating concrete…

The winning project, South Park Food Bridge by Nicole Lew and David Dahl, proposes towing the pontoons to the banks of the Duwamish River and putting them to dual use, as a floating wetland and community farm. From the project description:

Garden plots are excavated from the pontoon’s upper layer. Operable and removeable greenhouses enhance growing capabilities in Seattle’s climate as well as providing protection from nearby wildlife.

The boardwalk creates a buffer between the agricultural plots and the wetland ecosystem, and creates a public promenade along the river.

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Let’s do it! More South Park Food Bridge images after the jump. Images from other competition projects here.

Continue reading

Seattle Design Commission recommends changes to 520 Replacement plan ahead of City Council meeting

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The Seattle City Council meets today with WSDOT officials for an update on the S.R. 520 Replacement design and to discuss the city’s involvement in final decision making for the corridor. WSDOT’s year-long Community Design Process (CDP) has narrowed the freeway design into preferences based on community input, which will now be considered and refined by a broad range of stakeholders, city departments and transportation officials. As the CDP wraps up with a formal public comment period ending October 5th, today’s meeting marks a transition toward more local involvement in the $4.65 billion project.

Ahead of today’s meeting, the Seattle Design Commission has released its recommendations for design changes to the Montlake Lid, Portage Bay Bridge and Roanoke Lid sub-areas. The Commission, consisting of city-appointed design professionals, has worked closely with WSDOT during the CDP. Here is a summary of their recommendations for the City Council (full report here):

In recognition of this rare opportunity and the complexity inherent in a project of this scope, the SDC proposes a series of urgent procedural and design recommendations to ensure success for the City…

- Improve the quality and safety of the experience for all modes of travel. In each
sub-area, we recommend WSDOT re-examine design choices to improve multimodal connectivity.

- Enhance the sequential gateway experience along the corridor. The WSDOT team should enhance the arrival sequence by furthering designs for the places where land meets water.

- Reconsider the Montlake Sub-Area Lid: The City and WSDOT should explore alternative lid designs, including diverse options of scales that maintain benefits for users and neighbors.

- Give greater attention to project edges to further develop the relationships between the public and private realms and better integrate the project with the existing urban fabric.

- We strongly support the proposed waterside trail along East Montlake Shoreline that will connect the Arboretum area to the University, with concerns on specific design elements.

- We recommend that SDOT and the City consider opportunistic changes to the curb-to-curb dimensions of Montlake as this would be a rare window of opportunity to implement them.

- We support WSDOT’s decision to continue studying the box girder and cable stay options for the Portage Bay Bridge design.

- The addition of the Shared-Use Path on Portage Bay Bridge is an essential element as it would provide a useable, low-slope connection from the Montlake area to the Roanoke Lid, I-5 and beyond.

- Roanoke Lid Connections are invaluable commitments to bicyclists and pedestrians, providing critical linkages from the SR 520 Corridor to the rest of the City.

- Designs for Delmar Ave. should consider stronger offerings and safety elements for pedestrians and bicyclists moving between the Portage Bay Bridge and Bagley Viewpoint.

- The intersection of 10th Ave. E and E Roanoke St. deserve more considered design treatment as it is a key juncture connecting the new park and the existing Roanoke Park.

- Designs for Roanoke Park’s southern edge should celebrate its connection to the context as it is the only side of the park not bounded by streets and is a portal to the project overall.

In addition to these specific design issues, the Commission also recommends assigning a City Champion to help coordinate the project across all city departments and hiring an urban designer to improve the quality of the project. Expect these recommendations to carry weight with the Mayor and City Council as WSDOT moves toward being design-ready when construction funds become available.

Also on the agenda for today’s Council meeting is a resolution following up on the recent Nelson/Nygaard study regarding the proposed Second Montlake Bascule Bridge. The Council is expected to shelve the project until further traffic data can confirm its necessity after 520 is replaced and light rail service begins at nearby UW Station.

Weekend traffic survival guide: 520 Bridge, Arboretum, Montlake Blvd closures + Greek Festival

The 520 Bridge is closed this weekend to install fish-friendly culverts on the Eastside. Image: WSDOT Flickr stream

Your weekend traffic and Greek Festival survival guide:

520 Bridge closure

The 520 Bridge will close this weekend between I-405 in Bellevue and Montlake Blvd in Seattle, from 11pm Friday until 5am Monday morning. Drivers will have to detour around the lake or use the I-90 Bridge to avoid delays.

During the closure, WSDOT crews will dig a 30-foot deep trench under the highway, install huge fish culvert segments, cover them and repave the roadway for Monday morning’s commute. Crews will also divert the westbound lanes to the north near Evergreen Point Road.

Arboretum Lake Washington Blvd closure

This will be the last of three weekend closures for road improvements through the Arboretum. Lake Washington Blvd will be closed on Saturday and Sunday, from 6am until no later than 5pm each day. The work includes new LED street lights, a raised crosswalk, speed cushions, bicycle sharrows and asphalt repairs.

Image: transportation-nag.blogspot.com

Montlake Blvd closure

While Sound Transit contractors continue to work on the UW Station pedestrian bridge, Montlake Blvd will be partially closed from 5am-4pm on Saturday, September 21st. Details from ST:

  • Closing NB lane on Montlake Blvd and sidewalk between NE Pacific Place and Street
  • Closing the SB Metro bus lane

St. Demetrios Greek Festival free parking & shuttle

Compounding traffic problems in the neighborhood, the Saint Demetrios Greek Festival is also this weekend. Shuttle buses will bring festival-goers to the church from free parking lots at Montlake Elementary School and Seattle Prep.

Got all that? Now… time to go get some of this:

Image: cityspoonful

SLIDESHOW: Competition designers reuse 520 floating bridge pontoons

“Floating Farm” — by Nianlai Zhong

A new exhibit for the Transforming Seattle’s 520 Floating Bridge design competition opened this week, for which over 70 entries were received. The competition asked architects and urban thinkers how best to reuse 520′s 33 pontoons, each made of almost 10 million pounds of concrete. When viewed all together, the design ideas create a rich collection of possibilities — ranging from practical to fantastical — while making strong arguments against just grinding up the pontoons and throwing them away.

WSDOT currently does not have a plan for the old pontoons once the new bridge opens in 2014. Recycling is an option, but not necessarily a good one because of the intense energy needed to crush concrete and separate its steel rebar. Competition organizers hope these hypothetical ideas – urban farm, ferry dock, park space…. global-warming rescue rafts – will led better and more sustainable solutions.

The competition winners will be announced tonight during a jury discussion forum as part of the Seattle Design Festival. Moderator Peter Steinbrueck will host competition jurors Robert E. Hull (Miller|Hull Partnership), Ev Ruffcorn (NBBJ), Shannon Nichol (Gustafson Guthrie Nichol, design firm for UW’s new Rainier Vista), Ellen Sollod (Sollod Studio), and Mark Hinshaw (LMN Architects, design firm for UW Station). Event and ticket info here.

In the meantime, here are a few of the competition ideas. More are on display at the AIA gallery (1st & Stewart, until October 26th).

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Interlaken forest restoration work to close road, Friday September 21

Image: Flickr: papahazama

Friends of Interlaken Park and the Green Seattle Partnership are hosting a 150+ volunteer work party to clean up Interlaken Blvd between 21st and 24th Avenues. The road will close to vehicles during the event this Friday, from 7:30-3pm. Donations of coffee, cookies and cakes are needed to keep folks going throughout the day — contact event organizer Kari Olson at olsonka@live.com to help out.