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City of Seattle

April 10, 1:35 PM click here to comment > 11

Announcing plans for new Ship Canal crossing and new University District to South Lake Union transit corridor

Mayor McGinn announced today that he has proposed funding to advance plans to study a new crossing of the Ship Canal and a high capacity transit corridor from downtown to the University District via South Lake Union and Eastlake. The City Council had previously approved funding to begin study of the University District to South Lake Union corridor project in 2014. McGinn is proposing in a supplemental budget request to advance that study to this year and begin the Ship Canal Crossing study this year in order to help ensure both projects can be eligible for competitive federal grants and other funding sources.Mayor Ship Canal 01 sm

“These two projects are essential to connecting more of our neighborhoods with better transit, including rail,” McGinn said. “A new crossing of the Ship Canal can significantly improve transit service, provide people who walk and bike a better alternative to congestion on our existing bridges, and create space for freight. The University District to South Lake Union project can also help bring rail to one of our most heavily used transit corridors, supporting future growth in jobs and housing.”

“We all want more transit but expanding our transit system — no matter what the mode — doesn’t just happen on its own.  It requires careful study, planning, and construction to ensure the best use of public dollars,” said Councilmember Richard Conlin, chair of the land use committee.  “The sooner we move forward with these efforts, the sooner our neighborhoods will enjoy the benefits of improved transit, walkability, and bikability.”

Traffic on the Ballard and Fremont bridges causes delays for transit and vehicles on these heavily used routes. Pedestrian and bicycle facilities on both bridges do not meet minimum design standards. The City’s Transit Master Plan and Bicycle Master Plan already envision a new crossing of the Ship Canal to address these concerns. Future growth in northwest Seattle will add to the need for a new crossing.

“More space for transit, bicyclists and pedestrians on a separate crossing will help ease congestion for freight mobility and make it easier for people to travel north-south,” said Eugene Wasserman, of the North Seattle Industrial Association. “I support funding this crossing study”.

The Ship Canal Crossing study would evaluate several crossing concepts and analyze their feasibility, focusing on pedestrian, bicycle and transit needs while considering freight and automobile functions. The study would develop conceptual design alternatives and prepare cost estimates, and coordinate with Seattle’s Transit Master Plan and Sound Transit long-range planning. The cost of this study is $500,000.

“It’s hard to get around Seattle on a bike, especially if your trip requires you to cross the Ship Canal as your options are either intimidating, inconvenient or not safe. It doesn’t have to be this way”, said Craig Benjamin of the Cascade Bicycle Club. “Another crossing would make it safer and faster for everyone to get around Seattle, whether you drive, ride transit, bike or walk.”

“Moving both of these studies forward now will help us get closer to actually building the transit we need,” said Ben Schiendelman of Seattle Subway. “A Ship Canal Crossing study would look at all options, including a tunnel. The University District to South Lake Union route is another high priority corridor that we need to study now in order to get Seattle in line for federal funding.”

The University District to South Lake Union via Eastlake route was identified as a top priority high-capacity transit corridor in the Transit Master Plan approved by the City Council in 2012. This project would serve a route that is different from Sound Transit’s University Link light rail.

Rising demand is expected to exceed existing transit capacity on this route, leading the City to propose studying improved transit service such as rail or bus rapid transit. The Transit Master Plan indicated that up to 25,000 riders per day would use passenger rail on this corridor. As South Lake Union continues to expand its capacity for office and residential growth, riders per day could be even higher.

The University District to South Lake Union High Capacity Transit study would develop conceptual design alternatives and cost estimates for rail, bus rapid transit, and enhanced bus service on that route. It would also coordinate with Metro and with Sound Transit long-range planning. The proposed budget for this study is $2,000,000. The current budget includes $1,000,000 in 2014 and $1,000,000 in 2015. Mayor McGinn proposes $300,000 to begin design in 2013.

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Posted by: Words: April Thomas, Pictures: Jen Nance


Comment from Dylan from Phinney
Time April 10, 2013 at 3:06 pm

Does this study only analyze bike/ped/transit on a new bridge, or does it simultaneously study optimizing the existing bridges? In the case of the Fremont bridge, many would argue that bike/ped/streetcar improvements should be focused there in the heart of Fremont, and that an SPU/3rd Ave NW crossing would be better optimized as a vehicle bypass of sorts (though nothing would keep transit from serving the new bridge also, such as routes 13 or 28).

Thank you for your work to make Seattle more livable!

Comment from Michael in Eastlake
Time April 11, 2013 at 8:49 am

This is great news! Eastlake Ave is ready for improvements for mobility between U-District and Downtown (and inclusive of Eastlake). Adding in safety improvements for cyclists, protecting both drivers and bikes, is an important element, and it is exciting to see it not being looked over!

Comment from Lee French
Time April 11, 2013 at 10:26 am

Given that Sound Transit has been digging a tunnel to U-District, and that the existing bridge to the U-District is not backed up (unless the bridge is “up”); and that a significant number of bus routes currently go to the U-District, — and that Aurora bridge, Freemont bridge, Ballard Bridge, I-5 Ship canal bridge are always backed up (during rush hour), how can Mayor McGinn justify ANOTHER way to get to U-District?

Comment from Al Dimond
Time April 11, 2013 at 11:27 am

I basically agree with Dylan here — if a bridge is built at 3rd, it should be used as a one-lane-in-each-direction car bypass, so that one lane of the Fremont Bridge (plus Fremont Ave and Fremont Place out to 3rd) can be converted to a bus lane in each direction. Hold the number of car lanes crossing the ship canal equal and add a lane for transit — add it where it will benefit all the transit users coming to and from Lower Fremont.

Comment from Marian Gillis
Time April 11, 2013 at 11:29 am

I applaud the Value of non-vehicular surface transportation–THIS IS economic development. in the 21st Century! Working with existing infrastructire is also impressive.

Go for it.

Comment from Scott from Seattle
Time April 11, 2013 at 12:02 pm

This basis for this study cites future growth and traffic demands as the need to fast track this work. Communities north of the ship canal (i.e. where the Mayor lives) are not the only areas of Seattle that are currently or are projected to see significant growth that will require improved traffic and transit options to access downtown. West Seattle for instance is currently experiencing tremendous growth in new housing projects, stressing an already capacity-busting roadway infrastructure.

If future transit options are going to be studied, a more forward-thinking study should be undertaken to include a more holistic system that provides a broader network of connections for a larger part of the City and not just the communities to the north. If you are going to cite future growth projections as your reasoning for the study, don’t just cherry pick favored neighborhoods where the Mayor lives and will routinely use. Projections for future growth are high all over Seattle and all residents deserve a more comprehensive study.

Specifically for this ship canal crossing study, Mayor McGinn talks about a pedestrian/bike crossing as well as transit and rail options. In order to provide efficient, reliably-scheduled transit and rail options, the structure ideally would not be affected by openings and closings for maritime traffic. Because the ship canal is a navigable waterway, Federal and maritime regulations require that if a fixed bridge to provide the uninterrupted transit service were proposed, the structure would need to have a minimum clearance of 125-feet from the water level to the underside of the structure to allow boats to travel underneath.

That 125-foot clearance is the one fact that never gets mentioned in any of these public discussions and press releases. If the proposed design was a draw bridge that gets interrupted for 20-minute intervals multiple times a day for potential boat traffic, you could never maintain a regular mass transit schedule that touts regular service every ten minutes. If you were to build a bridge for transit and rail in let’s say Ballard for example, I’m guessing the sloped grade for the bridge in order to accommodate the 125-foot clearance would start and stop somewhere near Market Street on the Ballard side and Dravus on the Interbay side. That is one massive and steeply-sloped structure to provide uninterrupted transit service, and one heck of a climb for pedestrians and bikers. Alternatively, a tunnel could be dug under the ship canal; however, that does not seem like cost-efficient scenario either.

Comment from Doug A
Time April 11, 2013 at 9:35 pm

Scott provides a thorough and well reasoned approach to the subject by saying “If future transit options are going to be studied, a more forward-thinking study should be undertaken to include a more holistic system that provides a broader network of connections for a larger part of the City and not just the communities to the north.” He cites W. Seattle as an example where tremendous growth in new housing projects has been going on, stressing an already capacity-busting roadway infrastructure. I would add that while W, Seattle is growing, the value of housing there is far below that of comparable areas of the city. The primary reason is that no transportation alternatives exist. It seems as if W. Seattle has been erased from the city’s transportation mindset. A more holistic study approach is not only justified, but mandatory. For the record, I own property north of the Ship Canal and don’t care where the current or future Mayor lives.

Comment from James Walseth
Time April 13, 2013 at 12:01 pm

Thanks to previous commentators. Nice to read a substantive discussion with a mostly respectful tone. Stepping back and observing that there should be a holistic solution is correct. When I step back I observe that this proposal is an expensive technological solution to what is fundamentally a behavioral problem: people driving alone in their cars. Yes 40% of commuters use transit in Seattle, and that’s great, but those transit users are stuck at the Fremont Bridge because it’s congested with the 60% (SOVs). Instead of another bridge I’d be happy if the city just stated that by 2020 every existing bridge will have an HOV lane.

Comment from C in Chinatown
Time April 28, 2013 at 12:44 pm

Scott and Doug A – you mention that… “If future transit options are going to be studied, a more forward-thinking study should be undertaken to include a more holistic system that provides a broader network of connections for a larger part of the City and not just the communities to the north.” That is called the Transit Master Plan. Mayor McGinn pushed for that to be completed, and it includes West Seattle routes. A West Seattle route will also be studied this year in Sound Transit’s high capacity transit studies and next year in ST’s long range plan update. Mayor McGinn worked hard as a board member of Sound Transit to prioritize that study, otherwise it would not happen until 2015 or later.

Pingback from McGinn Proposes Sooner Study of New Ship Canal Crossing from South Lake Union : Lake Union Seattle
Time May 13, 2013 at 10:44 am

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Comment from chuck hosmer
Time November 13, 2013 at 1:41 pm

Same bridge the bus sits at with cars running down same road subjected to same traffic lights competing with 2nd tax payer funded public transportation that competes to create more police state fair enforcing jobs for more revenue shortchanging locals with NOISE and DEBT and MOre Security that smothers for more wants of Extra Ticket Money..#KickOffTheMayorFromTheSOUNDERtransitBoardConspiringAgainstTaxPayerFundedTransitBusSystemNEedingALittleMoneyUnnecessaryForMOreStupidTrainsThatTakeJustasLong