One of the biggest stories of the year for neighborhood groups has been Ed Murray’s dissolving of the District Neighborhood Councils. As we covered before, one of the biggest tasks that the DNCs had on their plates was a front-line say in the distribution of grant money, namely in the form of Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT) street improvement grants. Neighborhood Park and Street Fund (NPSF) grants are handed out once per year, and the larger Neighborhood Street Fund (NSF) grants are given out once every three years.
Earlier this year the NSF grants began their cycle again: prior to Ed Murray’s announcement all 13 district councils had selected a top five project list and SDOT was in the process of evaluating them for cost and scope. Projects must involve SDOT right-of-way and generally have a total cost of $1 million or less.
The District Councils will remain in place for the remainder of the grant approval process this year. I want to detail the projects both out of an interest in providing information on vital improvements to our streets, and also as an illustration of the type of projects that the current District Neighborhood Council produces. As the process changes and the City finds new ways to invest the money currently invested in staffing the DNCs, the stakeholders that the grant process brings to the table will change too.
This first post will focus on improvements in Central Seattle and we will cover the proposals in the remaining districts in subsequent posts.
- Reconstruction of the sidewalk on 3rd Ave S between Yesler Way and S Washington Street. Estimated cost: $1.3 million
- Greenway features on S King Street between 8th Ave S and 10th Ave S. The SDOT analysis only mentioned the installation of wider sidewalks resulting in a narrower roadway, and did not mention other greenway features like speed humps or diverters. This area passes under I-5 and improvements there are likely going to involve multiple city departments in addition to coordination with WSDOT. Estimated cost: $1 million.
- Improvements to Vine Street between Elliott Ave and Western Ave intended to fix the irrigation system for the Belltown P-Patch. This system is intended to funnel storm water into the community gardens for use there but is in need of repair. The project would also add a crosswalk for pedestrians with signal on the south side of Vine Street crossing Elliott Ave when one currently exists only on the north side. Estimated cost: $400K
- Improvements to pedestrian lighting in the International District. This project would implement the recommendations of a study currently being conducted on where lighting improvements would most benefit pedestrians in the ID. Estimated cost: $1 million
- Improvements to Freeway Park entrances. Proposes improving lighting at 7 entrances to Freeway Park, as well as patterned sidewalk treatment that indicates to passersby that the park entrance is publicly accessible. A more extensive improvement at 6th Ave and Seneca Street would include a curb bulb and an extension of the pedestrian island between the street and the freeway on-ramp. Estimated cost: $525K
Queen Anne and Magnolia
- Dexter Avenue N crossing improvements in Queen Anne. Would install Rectangular Rapid Flashing Beacons (RRFBs) at all marked intersections: Newton, Comstock, and Galer, and install curb bulbs at all three intersections. Estimated cost: $385K
- Festival street in Magnolia on W McGraw Street. This street is home to the Magnolia Farmer’s Market and for other community activities. The proposal would convert one side of the street from parallel to back angle parking, increasing the amount of parking spaces. The proposal also notes that the bicycle master plan calls for a protected bike lane on this street and the design does not include one. Estimated cost: $506K
- W Galer Street on the top of Queen Anne improvements. This would involve installing curb bulbs at offset intersections of 2nd Ave W and 3rd Ave W and installing a parklet. Estimated cost: $185K
- Protected bike lane installation on Roy Street between 1st Ave N and 5th Avenue N replacing the existing buffered bike lane. A traffic study is needed to determined how to implement a PBL between Queen Anne Ave N and 1st Ave N. Estimated cost: $405K
- Painted crosswalk installation and/or RRFB installation at 10 intersections throughout Queen Anne. 9 additional intersections were suggested for these improvements but were disqualified by SDOT after being analyzed. Estimated cost: $1,060,000.
East (First Hill, Capitol Hill, Madison Valley, Madison Park, Montlake)
- Improvements to Madison St & McGilvra Boulevard. This application subsequently proved to be unneeded after an NPSF grant was approved for the intersection, so this project will not receive NSF money. Madison Park Greenways applied for grant after grant to get improvements at the intersection after a serious injury occurred there, and those improvements are moving forward.
- Greenway style improvements at three intersections around Montlake elementary: SDOT reviewed traffic study information at 19th Ave E & E McGraw and 20th Ave E & E McGraw and E Calhoun Streets and concluded that RRFBs, raised crosswalks, or new four-way stop signs were not warranted, so this project too will not receive NSF funding.
- 12th and Main pedestrian crossing. SDOT concluded that this intersection does not warrant a marked crosswalk or other improvements, so no NSF funding for this project either.
- Melrose promenade: Pike to Pine. Melrose promenade, which was recently earmarked to get $3 million in federal construction funds, had two finalists for NSF money as well in the east district. The improvements to Melrose between Pike and Pine would create a curbless pedestrian oriented street, add a streatery outside Mamnoon restaurant, and narrow the turning areas for cars at the intersections. The promenade was the recipient of a 2015 NPSF grant which SDOT used to construct a pedestrian signal across Pike and Minor despite this not being in the submitted grant proposal. Melrose is a future designated greenway, and some plans have called for a protected bike lane between Denny Way and First Hill using this block. Estimated cost: $1,045,000, with $100,000 of that coming from bike master plan implementation funds, for the protected bike lanes.
- Melrose promenade: Olive Way & I-5. Improvements here are more basic than the reimagining of urban space between Pike and Pine. Curb extensions would reduce crossing distances on the currently huge unmarked crosswalks at Olive Way, Olive Street, and Yale Ave. Estimated cost $180K.
Central (Central District, Madrona, Leschi)
- Improvements to the streets around Garfield High School. Includes sidewalk repair, improved pedestrian lighting, wayfinding signs, and seating benches. E Alder Street would be reconfigured from back angle parking to parallel to convert the lanes to standard widths. Estimated cost: $985K
- Improvements around Bailey Gatzert elementary. The original grant proposal identified many issues around this school, which is at the confluence of many dangerous intersections, namely Boren Ave, Yesler Way, and 12th Ave S. SDOT determined most of these outside the scope of the NSF, either because they would be addressed through improvements to the First Hill Streetcar, or because they will be addressed through the Safe Routes to Schools program (SRTS). Therefore, only a concrete curb bulb at Washington and 14th, a new sign for the school to help alert drivers to the need to drive slow, and another flashing beacon on 12th Ave S ended up in the final proposal. Estimated cost: $130K, with $100K of that coming from SRTS funds.
- E John & E Thomas improvements. Would involve the installation of curb bulbs all along John and Thomas streets from Broadway to 23rd at high-use intersections. This would also leverage $100,000 in funds for pedestrian master plan improvements (exact funding source unknown). Notable in the project notes is the fact that opening a westbound lane to traffic during AM peak is not needed: “This is meant to facilitate traffic in the morning peaks, however, when reviewed, this second lane is not needed due to lower traffic volumes.” This begs the question of how to best utilize this valuable roadway space through one of Seattle’s most dense neighborhoods. Estimated cost: $1,045,000
- Jackson Street “Main Street” concept improvements. Include a midblock crosswalk across from Washington Middle School with RRFBs, real-time arrival signs for buses at 23rd and Jackson, and curb bulbs at Jackson and 26th Ave. Estimated cost: $280K
- Regrading S Judkins Street at 22nd Ave S so that storm water collects properly. I’d just like to say that this should not be something that neighborhoods have to request a grant to fix. But that’s where we are. Estimated cost: $260K.
The next step for these proposals is they get ranked by the district councils that selected them in the first place, only now they have the full feasibility analysis conducted by SDOT and the cost estimates. But an extra added level of process is added this year as the Move Seattle levy oversight board will review the proposals after the councils, and it is that board that will make recommendations to the Mayor and to the City Council for inclusion in the 2017 budget.
Ryan Packer lives in the Summit Slope neighborhood of Capitol Hill and has been writing for the The Urbanist since 2015. They report on multimodal transportation issues, #VisionZero, preservation, and local politics. They believe in using Seattle's history to help attain the vibrant, diverse city that we all wish to inhabit. Ryan's writing has appeared in Capitol Hill Seattle Blog, Bike Portland, and Seattle Bike Blog, where they also did a four-month stint as temporary editor.