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.

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