Obliteride spins through Montlake on Sunday

20130809-184147.jpgImage and post by Amy Anderson

Have you seen the bright orange Obliteride signs (like the one above) around town? They’re even a few in Montlake announcing the inaugural ride organized by Fred Hutch to obliterate cancer.

The first-ever Obliteride spins through Montlake this Sunday as the 180-mile riders head toward the finish line at Magnuson Park mid-day. No roads will be closed but organizers are asking people to look out for riders in bright orange Obliteride jerseys and cheer them on as they ride to end cancer.

Around 100 cyclists are participating in the 180-mile ride, the longest of the four Obliteride routes which also includes 25-,50- and 100-mile options. On Day 2, Sunday, August 11, the 180-mile Obliteride route starts at the University of Puget Sound in Tacoma and finishes in Magnuson Park in North Seattle.

Look for cyclists in Montlake starting around 11 a.m. on Lake Washington Boulevard E., 24th Avenue E., E. Park Dr. East, East Shelby St., and Montlake Boulevard enroute to the Burke Gilman Trail.

Community Festival—More than a Bike Ride…

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520 Bridge pontoon overruns hit $81 million, more to come

WSDOT has released cost figures for repairs and design changes to the first pontoons built for the new 520 Bridge. The bill? $81 million. So far.

From The Seattle Times:

The state’s costs are $9.9 million to fix damage to the first batch, when a poorly designed corner section broke apart at Grays Harbor; another $48.8 million to seal cracks in the first batch, including the drydock work; and $22.4 million for extra work needed to strengthen the second batch. Construction is now under way on the third of six batches at Grays Harbor.

The overruns will be paid to contractor Kiewit-General through the project’s risk reserve fund (a sort of rainy day budget provision) which currently stands at $100 million after the charges announced today. Given that the change orders for the cycle 2 pontoons in the Aberdeen casting basin were $22 million, adding similar work for cycles 3-6 could approach draining the remaining reserve. Those cost figures will be finalized later this year.

With the pontoon repairs now well under way, WSDOT expects the new floating bridge to open in late-2015 or early-2016.

Photo roundup: Pontoon W heads back out to sea

Image: @bertandpatty

Image: @bertandpatty

The new 520 Bridge is on the move again. Tugboats Westrac and West Point towed the east end “Pontoon W” back out to Elliot Bay last night, on its way to a Harbor Island dry dock for structural repairs. Of all the recent pontoon movements through the Lake Washington Ship Canal, W’s retreat made for an awkward, if not surreal, scene.

Image: @HeatherGrafK5

Image: @HeatherGrafK5

Image: @andrewbernathy

Image: @andrewbernathy

Image: @stefgg

Image: @stefgg

Also surreal, this time-lapse video showing crews digging a 25′ trench and installing a fish culvert under 520 during last weekend’s closure:







City Council approves employee permits within Restricted Parking Zones

The Seattle City Council voted unanimously today to allow the Director of Transportation to grant parking permits to employees working within Restricted Parking Zones (RPZ). The legislation will allow employees, under certain conditions, to have parking privileges similar to residents living near commercial districts and light rail stations.

The legislation was proposed by Transportation Committee Chair Tom Rasmussen after local residents asked the city to give Montlake Elementary School teachers RPZ 1 permits, allowing them all-day access to on-street parking near the school. In recent years, as RPZ 1 has expanded throughout Montlake, school teachers were forced to park farther and farther away, or move their cars every 2 hours. To reduce the burden, some residents donated their guest parking passes to the school. This new legislation could change all of that…

This is where “under certain conditions” come into play. The new rules intend to allow permits for employees without good alternatives for parking, as determined by the director of SDOT. The Council adopted the following guidelines to inform each judgement call:

Among the criteria the Director shall consider in determining whether to grant requests for employee RPZ permits are:

1. Availability of on-street parking on non-RPZ- signed blocks that is within a reasonable walking distance of the employer;

2. Availability of alternate modes of transportation within a reasonable distance;

3. Availability of off-street parking within a reasonable distance;

4. Availability of on-street parking in the RPZ;

5. Time of day that employees work;

6. Number of permits requested by the employer;

7. Existence of other employers within the RPZ that could potentially also request employee permits; and

8. Other hardships that may exist.

For many Montlake residents the call is clear — teachers should be able to park near their school. Whether local businesses should also have the same privileges for their employees is perhaps not as clear. Implementing these new rules is now the pleasure of Seattle’s Director of Transportation.

520 weekend closure comes with wicked I-405 twist + Falcon maintenance

20130712-065401.jpgImages: WSDOT Flickr stream

The 520 Bridge will close this weekend for its annual inspection and maintenance, from 11pm Friday to 5am Monday, as has become routine during 520 replacement construction over the past few years. But this won’t be a typical weekend shutdown. Crews will also close the northbound lanes of I-405 through Bellevue, complicating things for drivers detouring around Lake Washington.

Ouch. You’ve been warned.

“There’s a lot of work to be done,” said WSDOT Northwest Regional Administrator Lorena Eng. “But combining it in one weekend helps reduce the number of closures we need this summer. We also want to avoid conflicts with special events like Seafair, the Bite of Seattle and the Bellevue Arts Festival.”

On northbound I-405, crews will replace all the concrete panels in the two left lanes between Southeast Eighth and Main streets. These panels – which stretch the length of a dozen football fields – are failing. Crews will also tear out and replace panels in many other locations. Panels in the two right lanes will be repaired later this summer.

On SR 520, bridge maintenance crews will inspect the floating bridge. This annual inspection includes checks of the electrical system and drawspan machinery. Crews will also tackle repair and maintenance tasks such as concrete and expansion joint repair. Eastside Transit and HOV project construction crews will take advantage of the closure to install an 11-foot-diameter, fish-friendly culvert beneath all lanes of SR 520 just west of I-405 and requires a multi-day closure to complete.

In other bridge news, state biologists recently climbed onto the I-5 Ship Canal Bridge to visit the peregrine falcon nest and tag this year’s babies. The falcons keep away pigeons and their paint eating poop which saves maintenance costs, so there.


More freeway falcon photos here.

Nighttime rail deliveries to UW Station set for July 8th-14th

Images: Sound Transit Flickr feed

Sound Transit construction crews are ready to lay tracks through the U-Link light rail tunnel under Montlake after installing rails from Capitol Hill Station to Downtown over the spring. Starting Monday, July 8th trucks carrying 60′ steel rails will begin a week of nighttime deliveries to UW Station. Sound Transit says to expect a bit more activity and noise around the job site than usual, as the rails are off-loaded and lowered into the station pit. From ST:

The trucks carrying 60’ lengths of rail will approach the construction site from the south via I-5 north, to SR520 and then to Montlake Blvd. After the delivery is complete, the rail will be lowered by crane into the station box where it will be welded and then installed in each tunnel.

To minimize traffic impacts from these large vehicles, delivery will take place during the nighttime hours of 8:00 pm and 6:00 am. Sound Transit’s contractor has obtained a temporary noise variance from the City of Seattle in order to deliver and unload the rail. What to expect during this work:

  • Increased truck activity near the site. There will be approximately 6 trucks delivering rail to the site per hour.
  • Intermittent noise from trucks entering the site and from crane operations.
  • Flashing lights from trucks.

You are always invited to contact me with any questions at 206-398-5300 or ulink@soundtransit.org. For issues that need immediate attention after normal business hours, call Sound Transit’s 24-hour Construction Hotline at (888) 298-2395.

The $1.9 billion U-Link light rail project remains under budget and on time for its scheduled opening in late-2016. Here’s to hoping crews take care and grind those welded rail joints nice and smooth

Candidates for Mayor talk livable streets


Candidates for Mayor (L to R): Bruce Harrell, Kate Martin, Ed Murray, Joey Gray, Charlie Staadecker, Mary Martin, Mike McGinn and Peter Steinbrueck. Image: Montlaker

Eight candidates for mayor attended last night’s Livable Streets Forum, squaring off in a fierce battle of friendliness. The Seattle Neighborhood Greenways sponsored event drew a crowd of about 150 people, all presumably curious to hear how each candidate plans to make our streets more walk and bike friendly. Who can argue with safer streets for pedestrians and cyclists? Well, Mary Martin can…

Notable, quotable moments from the forum:

Steinbrueck: Wants to return to a time when kids can safely ride bikes to school. Suggests folks might be able to cross through private easements, even backyards.

McGinn: Reminds crowd he built sidewalks, implemented “Complete Streets” design guidelines, put up speed cameras near schools.

Staadecker: Wants to paint wildebeests in crosswalks to appeal to kids. More seriously, encourage schools and neighborhoods to fund their own crossing guards.

Gray: A life-long bike advocate. As Mayor, would build information system to leverage existing safe-routes-to-school research.

Murray: Funded safe routes to school program as a state legislator. Supports the Bridging the Gap levy to fund local improvement projects. Is big into chicanes.

Kate Martin: A strong Neighborhood Greenways advocate. In contrast to McGinn’s “400-year plan” to fund greenways, Martin has a 10-year plan. Says McGinn hasn’t done enough.

Harrell: Important to enrich the safety around schools, not just routes to them. Would fund Community Service Officers to help walk students to school.

McGinn: Hopes to see a total transformation of city streets by the time he’s 85.

Mary Martin: The capitalist system is in collapse. Need to free “Cuban Five” political prisoners.

Staadecker: All candidates will make great promises about improving streets, but it costs money. As mayor, would work faster than McGinn.

Gray: We need extreme action to end climate change now. Supports ADA.

Murray: Once tripped on a broken sidewalk, tore rotator cuff. We need better funding and planning.

Harrell: Suggests looking at a vehicle licensing fee and really “selling” it to the voters to raise funds, improve streets.

Steinbrueck: Mother-in-law killed at a Seattle intersection a few years ago. Would like to eliminate all bicycle and pedestrian fatalities on city streets. Neighborhood Greenways is the antidote.

Moderator: How would you allocate $100 to road repair, sidewalks, bike lanes, street trees and transit service? All candidates prioritized road repair first, except Mary Martin who dismissed the premise of the question, suggesting a public jobs program instead.

McGinn: “Stop wasting money on massive new highways.” Dings Murray: Olympia failed us by not passing a transportation package this year.

While Steinbrueck and McGinn vied for shortest pledge to complete Seattle’s Pedestrian Master Plan (8 and 7 years respectively), Harrell went for the cold-hard-truth approach — 25 years — suggesting it would take many hundreds of millions of dollars to complete.

Moderator: Do you support 2015 levy to fund Seattle’s Pedestrian and Bicycle Master Plans? All candidates: Yes, except Mary Martin, who wants jobs.

Moderator: Should kids play in the street? Staadecker: yes, if closed off.

Steinbrueck: We should prioritize our streets for pedestrians, bikes, transit and vehicles. In that order.

Moderator: What other cities inspire you? Gray likes nifty bicycle uphill assist things in Norway. Murray likes Amsterdam, Barcelona cycle tracks and Grafton Street in Dublin. Harrell: “Well, I’ve never been to Amsterdam and Barcelona, but I have been to Portland.”

Murray: McGinn criticizes Olympia — we need to work with Olympia.

Kate Martin: Retrofit the Viaduct and turn top deck into a park, watch sunsets.

Harrell: Portland has done a good job of driving pedestrian project costs down with efficiencies.

Steinbrueck: A student of cities all over the world, but likes New York City, San Francisco and Cambridge.

Mary Martin: “We can’t bike our way to power.” Envisions a Seattle that looks like Cuba. “We need a class revolution.”

Woodpecker fledgling leaves Interlaken Park nest

Images: unionbaywatch.blogspot.com

Union Bay Watch has been following the family nest of Elvis the Woodpecker in Interlaken Park and has posted photos showing the rapid growth of two hatchlings likely born around June 1st. On Monday, one of the youngsters fledged the nest and was seen foraging the forest floor with Papa Elvis, prompting UBW’s Larry Hubbell to send out a dual purpose special alert:

First to let you know to watch for this beautiful little Pileated Woodpecker as you visit the park. Secondly to gently remind dog owners, of which I am one, that this would be a wonderful time to keep your pet on a leash. This young bird is just about the size of a squirrel and could be very attractive to a dog.
Given that this little fellow hatched out approximately 4 weeks ago and left the nest just two days ago. It simply has not had time to learn about danger in the real world. In addition its ability to fly has not yet reached the skill of a mature bird. Your help in protecting this young bird would be greatly appreciated.
Many more incredible photos showing the hatchlings’ busy little lives here.

Drunk driver pleads guilty in fatal wrong way crash

Michael Robertson pleaded guilty today to vehicular homicide in the April 4th wrong way crash that killed Seattle’s Morgan Williams, according to KIRO. Police found Robertson at the scene inside his SUV with a bottle of whiskey on the front seat.

Robertson’s attorney said he remembers nothing of the incident but that he admits responsibility for the crash, in which he u-turned on 520 near Montlake Blvd and slammed head on into William’s sedan at a high rate of speed. Williams’ family expressed relief at today’s hearing:

Prosecutors recommend a 126-month sentence, including an extra 24 months for a previous DUI violation in Tacoma. Sentencing is expected July 26th.

Construction for 520 ‘West Connection Bridge’ off Madison Park set for next month

The West Connection Bridge. Image: WSDOT

The West Connection Bridge. Image: WSDOT

How do you connect a new 6-lane floating bridge to an old 4-lane highway? That’s the challenge for the next phase of 520 construction set to begin next month — the West Connection Bridge. This will be an interim span allowing the new floating bridge to transition to the existing 520 West Approach near Madison Park.

Mowat-American A Joint Venture will build the 1,330-foot-long structure under a $22.1 million contract. Completion is expected late next summer.

WSDOT has carefully planned the 520 replacement project in phases so that each new section will function until future sections are complete. When the new floating bridge opens, it will merge its 6-new-lanes into 4-old-lanes on the Seattle side. This interim West Connection will keep traffic moving until the next phase is complete.

However, the next phase, the West Approach Bridge North (WABN), has for the moment an uncertain future. The House Transportation Budget in April sought to delay WABN’s construction start from 2014 until 2015, or until tolls are implemented across the I-90 floating bridge. The WABN phase has been unpopular in Seattle, as it would continue the new 6-lane corridor all the way to Montlake Blvd with no funding in place to complete the rest of the $1.4 billion project. Given the dire budget situation in Olympia, Seattleites are leary of a bait-and-switch leaving us with even worse traffic in Montlake.

West Connection phase (blue) with the future WABN phase (orange). Image: WSDOT

West Connection phase (blue) with the future WABN phase (orange). Image: WSDOT

The fate of WABN will be settled just as soon as a budget deal is decided in Olympia (next week?). And while the West Connection is expected to finish next summer, delays with the floating bridge pontoons may push its completion into 2015.

To learn more about the project and its parts and pieces, you can talk directly with WSDOT folks at a series of public outreach events in Seattle next week:

  • West side drop-in event: 5-7 p.m., Monday, June 24 — Montlake Branch, Seattle Public Library, 2401 24th Avenue East
  • West Connection Bridge Project pre-construction meeting: 4:30-7 p.m., Wednesday, June 26 — Madison Park Pioneer Hall. 1642 43rd Avenue East
  • West side drop-in event: 12-2 p.m., Thursday, June 27 — U.W. Magnuson Health Sciences Center, Rotunda Foyer, 1959 Northeast Pacific Street