State of bicycle mobility in Montlake

Image: State of Seattle Bicycling Environment Report

Seattle Bike Blog has a rundown on the City’s State of Seattle Bicycling Environment Report, which is… getting better. Bicycle collisions are down with respect to growing numbers of bikes on city streets. Many of the “low-hanging” projects identified in the 2007 Bicycle Master Plan have been implement, but in short, there is a lot of work left to do to meet the its goal of tripling bicycle use by 2017.

Time for an update on bicycle improvements happening around the neighborhood…

Boyer: SDOT is putting down a parking lane stripe and bicycle sharrows on Montlake’s “other” speedway, Boyer Ave E. Crews have spray painted markings in preparation for the final paint job… soon… before winter rains wash ‘em away.

Arboretum: In September the Arboretum completed traffic calming work along Lake Washington Blvd including raised crosswalks, speed cushions and bicycle sharrows painted on the road.

Image: transportation-nag.blogspot.com

The Arobretum has also begun funding negotiations with WSDOT for the planned multi-use trail parallel to Lake Washington Blvd. The funds will be part of the federal TIFIA loan WSDOT received to build half of the west approach to the new 520 floating bridge. This new trail will be a major route through, or rather bypassing, Montlake and eventually will connect with facilities over/under/around the new 520 lid.

Arboretum multi-use trail. Image: Washington Park Arboretum

Planning work is ongoing. The State of Seattle Bicycling Report lists the Montlake Bridge (p.41) among the City’s highest use facilities. September’s annual Washington State bicycle survey counted over 800 bikes crossing the Montlake Bridge between 4-6pm.

The million dollar question for bicycle mobility through Montlake rests with planning efforts for the new 520 corridor. The recent Nelson/Nygaard study rated existing pedestrian and bicycle conditions along Montlake Blvd as approaching failure. WSDOT’s design proposals during the Community Design Process played it safe by only maintaining existing cycle routes on the sidewalks of Montlake Blvd — and Seattle’s bike and pedestrian advocates came out in force to ask for real improvements. Going forward, WSDOT will follow the City’s lead on local planning priorities for 520 and the Council is expected to pass a resolution of design preferences by the end of the year. The future fate of walking and cycling across 520 is, for the moment, in their hands.

Tonight: Montlake play area design review

Image: Seattle Parks

The second of three design meetings for the Montlake Playfield play area renovation is tonight from 6:30-8:30 at the Community Center.

Via Seattle Parks:

In September, Parks conducted a workshop to help gather input about this neighborhood park play area and the equipment that will be installed. At this second meeting, Parks will present the schematic designs that were developed from input and will gather additional public comments. The third and final meeting to be held in December is an opportunity for the community to see the final design, and to learn about the next steps in the project.

Parks encourages the community to come and provide input on the play equipment and design features that work best for your neighborhood.

Information and drawings from the first meeting held in September can be reviewed here.

Hurricane Sandy storm damage claims Seattle neighborhood blogs


Disruption from Hurricane Sandy has extended well beyond the east coast storm’s thousand-mile vortex. The New York web servers for central Seattle neighborhood blogs Capitol Hill Seattle, Central District News and Eastlake Ave Blog went off-line tonight shortly before 9pm. Some sites are transitioning to Facebook as it is not known when the servers might be restored.

CHS publisher Justin Carder said, “We went offline to make sure of graceful loss of service — the New York servers are still up and running but generators on reserve fuel will only last a few more hours. A flooded building has killed the pumps providing fuel for the generators.”

Temporary Facebook sites are available here for CHS & CDNews.

“We’re not East Coast-served for anything to do with natural disasters but figure the whole thing will look brilliant after the next Seattle superquake,” Carder said.

UPDATE: Tuesday 8:15am

CHS & Eastlake appear to be back online, with CDNews now redirecting to FB.

Union Bay [Halloween] Watch: Bumps in the night

All images: ©Larry Hubbell/unionbaywatch.com

This week’s Union Bay Watch eerily begins:

At day’s end when the sky begins to darken, clouds of crows descend around Union Bay. The blackness of their beaks, feathers and claws make the american crow the perfect harbinger of darkness. As the days get shorter and the nights get longer the darkness increases. The result is more time for those who make things go bump in the night…

Read the rest, if you dare.

Hauntlake Halloween !!

Trick or Treat House, East Blaine. Image: James W. Sutherland

Montlake Co-op, Saturday October 27th, 10-noon, Montlake Community Center:

The Montlake Coop is sponsoring a Halloween party tomorrow (Saturday) for 5 and unders (plus sibs) at the Montlake Community Center’s Tudor Room from 10-noon. We have room for more participants, so bring your young kids, grandkids and neighbors! Highlights include a Ghost Hunt, arts and crafts table, cookie decorating table, playdough table, snacks, tattoos and more. Cost is $3 per kid or $5 per family if you aren’t part of the Coop.

Howls & Haunted Houses, Wednesday October 31st, 5-8pm, Montlake Community Center

Seattle Parks offers the right Halloween party for everyone. Come on down and trick or treat at Montlake Community Center and enjoy activities in a safe environment. Don’t get too scared by the haunted Tudor House! Enjoy the carnival games and prizes. Ages: 5 to 12.

Trick or Treat House, Wednesday October 31st, dusk… somewhere along East Blaine Street…

Artist James W. Sutherland goes all out with his Trick or Treat House and canned food drive benefiting the Lifelong AIDS Alliance/Chicken Soup Brigade.

On October 31st, the whole piece becomes Perfomance Art as we hand out goodies and surprises to (500!) neighborhood Trick or Treaters. But only if they’re brave enough to climb the stairs!

Capitol Hill Community Council supports 520 Portage Bay Trail + WSDOT budget update

Image: WSDOT

The Capitol HIll Community Council unanimously passed a resolution tonight in support of a Portage Bay Bridge Trail for walking and biking along Seattle’s 520 corridor. The resolution states:

The Capitol Hill Community Council has voted to support family-friendly bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure as a key part of the SR-520 reconstruction project. In particular, a Portage Bay Bridge Trail and improved connections through the Montlake Hub are essential in connecting Capitol Hill to the UW, Eastside, University District, Northeast Seattle, Arboretum, Burke Gilman Trail, and Montlake.

The neighborhood is somewhat divided following the North Capitol Hill Neighborhood Association’s decision to oppose the bike trail on grounds that it will increase the width of the freeway and block views of adjacent homes. [Read the full resolution after the jump below].

Meanwhile, The Seattle Times reports that WSDOT officially signed terms today on a $300 million federal TIFIA loan. The loan amount includes financing charges and will allow WSDOT to go ahead with the Lake-to-Land plan connecting the new floating bridge to Montlake Blvd with a new 3-lane westbound viaduct across Union Bay (while still using the existing structure for eastbound traffic). 

WSDOT also revised the project budget downward, citing improved construction cost estimates. The former $4.65 billion 520 Replacement budget is now $4.13 billion. Including the now-confirmed federal loan, the unfunded need is currently $1.4 billion. Given I-90 toll revenue estimates in the neighborhood of $1 billion, *only* a few hundred dollars of new revenue (read: tax increases) are needed to complete the project.

Continue reading

Where McKenna & Inslee stand on $1.9 billion needed to replace 520 through Seattle

Image: WSDOT Flickr pool

Of our State’s many fiscal problems, the issue of raising the $1.9 billion* needed to replace 520 through Seattle is a question that continues to loom over Olympia. The next Governor will oversee this expenditure, amidst a competitive funding climate for other interests. So how does the next Governor plan to raise the money?

At last week’s Gubernatorial debate, both Jay Inslee and Rob McKenna stated their support for tolling the I-90 Bridge and each promised to include 520 funding in a comprehensive transportation package to be sent to voters. Since tolls are expected to raise around half of the $1.9 billion, the remainder will likely come as tax increases.

However, the candidates differ on how tolls should be collected on I-90. McKenna wants to study HOT tolling on the I-90 center express lanes. This would preserve toll-free general lanes while charging for the (theoretically less congested) center lanes based on real-time traffic demand — as is done on SR 167 through Kent.

I-90 Bridge with Sound Transit light rail. Image: mercerislandblogger.wordpress.com

McKenna, a long-time skeptic of running light rail over I-90, was also asked if he would obstruct Sound Transit’s East Link approved by voters in 2008. His answer: no, that’s a regional issue, not a state issue. But here McKenna enters into a catch-22: his HOT lane plan conflicts with light rail already set to use the I-90 center lanes. As Governor, McKenna will either obstruct light rail or have to find different way to raise money for 520.

While Inslee doesn’t dig himself into a hole, he also doesn’t offer specifics beyond tolling all of I-90 and putting a transportation package up for voter approval. His website statement on replacing 520:

The SR 520 Bridge Replacement and HOV Program is already creating hundreds of jobs6 – new pontoons to direct construction are being built in Aberdeen, Tacoma and Kenmore. Completion will ensure this corridor between two of Washington’s biggest economic centers remains open and safe. While the replacement of the east end of the floating bridge is financed and underway, we need to keep our commitment and momentum moving forward on the west side as well. Additionally, we should look to targeted investments in SR 520 interchanges on the east side of Lake Washington that could spur hundreds of millions of dollars in new economic investment. Companies like Microsoft and Group Health are poised to build campus expansions and mixed-use developments, equivalent to two downtown Spokanes, if we take the time to upgrade SR 520 interchanges at 124th and 148th Streets.

Watch this clip from the October 16th debate to hear more from the candidates about tolling I-90 to pay for 520. Discussion of other issues here.

* The 520 Replacement project is currently $2.2 billion short, but WSDOT expects to soon receive a federal loan worth up to $320 million. This will fund construction of half of the West Approach, connecting the new floating bridge to Montlake Blvd, and avoiding the nightmare scenario of building a floating bridge to nowhere.

UPDATE: Thursday 10/25 9:30pm

WSDOT revised its 520 Replacement budget downwards today. The unfunded need is now $1.4 billion. More details here.

Union Bay Watch: Bald eagles are back + nest news

Belted Kingfisher. All images: unionbaywatch.blogspot.com

The 520 bald eagles are back in the Broadmoor tree after taking a little vacation time elsewhere. They were spotted yesterday doing home repair, adding 2-3 foot long branches to the nest — a good sign they intend to reproduce again next year. Other birds are busy winterizing their nests as well. UBW has a new post up describing the nesting behavior of three common species found on and around Union Bay: the Belted Kingfisher, the Steller’s Jay and the Wood Duck. One nests underground, one in a woodpecker’s hollow and one uses mud as mortar.

Answers and more here.

Steller’s Jay.

Male & female Wood Ducks.

Neighbor and newly elected King County Judge Scott Johnson passes away

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Montlake resident Scott Johnson passed away early Saturday morning on a work trip to Yakima. From The Seattle Times:

King County Superior Court Judge-elect Scott Johnson died early Saturday morning in Yakima of a heart attack. He was 53.

Johnson, an attorney at Stokes Lawrence in Seattle, had run unopposed for Position 20 on the court. His term would have started on Jan. 1.

“This is a tragic loss for his family and for the court,” said Presiding Judge Richard McDermott. “He was a very special guy and a very successful lawyer who decided he wanted to apply his talents and experience to helping people by being a judge.”

Johnson was in Yakima on business for his firm, which has an office there, said Carolyn Cairns, one of his colleagues. He felt ill and went to the hospital, where he died.

Johnson was trial lawyer specializing in trust and estate work, intellectual property and general commercial litigation, Cairns said. He served on several community organizations and provided free legal services for groups that included the American Civil Liberties Union of Washington.

Johnson was taking a “huge pay cut” to become a judge, because he was devoted to public service, Cairns said.

“He was more fun to be with and more fun to work with than probably any colleague I’ve ever had,” she said. “His enthusiasm for his work and for the legal system was boundless.”

Among the changes Johnson proposed for the county court system were an increase in filing fees for regular civil cases and a reduction in the fees that weigh most heavily on families and low-income people.

Scott graduated from UW (1980) and American University (1985) before embarking on a 26-year legal career that included working with the ACLU, the Washington Coalition for Open Government, Washington Ceasefire and negotiating noise and vibration easements for Sound Transit light rail.

Scott was an active member of the Montlake community and will be greatly missed.

520 Bridge closed 11pm Friday until noon Sunday for massive girder lift in Medina

Image: WSDOT Flickr

More girders will be lifted into place for Eastside lid construction over 520, meaning it’s time for another weekend closure for the floating bridge across Lake Washington. SR 520 will close from Montlake Blvd in Seattle to I-405 in Bellevue starting at 11pm tonight until noon on Sunday. Drivers will have to divert to I-90 or drive around the lake, but the freeway should reopen to traffic well before the Sounders game on Sunday evening.

Thirty-four girders will be set at the 84th Avenue NE Lid in Medina. From WSDOT:

Each girder is up to 75 feet long and weighs as much as 85,000 pounds. These are the last girders to install on the 84th Avenue Northeast lid before crews can complete the lid deck. Crews still need to place the final girders at the new 92nd Avenue Northeast and Bellevue Way overpasses.

Crews will also shift eastbound traffic to the north at Evergreen Point Road as they make room to build a new median transit stop. Sunday afternoon and Monday morning, drivers should use extra caution adjusting to the new lane alignment.