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Seattle Pedestrian Advisory Board

Past Minutes of the Board


August 13, 2003, 6:00 pm-8:00 pm
Key Tower, 700 5th Ave. at Columbia St.
Room 4096

Board Members Present: Robert Ketcherside (Chair), Molly McCarthy, Sarah Kavage, Jean Healy, Peg Staeheli, Charles Smith, Margaret McCauley, Amy Clark, Matthew Amster-Burton

SDOT Liaison to SPAB: Megan Hoyt

Presenters: Randy Wiger, CarSmart; Eric Tweit, SDOT

  1. Introductions
  2. Adopted minutes of 07.09.03 meeting on motion by Anderson and McCauley.
  3. Mercer Corridor Project: Eric Tweit, SDOT South Lake Union Project Manager

    SDOT was motivated by elements of the Alaskan Way Viaduct planning process to develop a plan to fix the “Mercer Mess.” The plan would hopefully include the removal of impediments to pedestrians and bicyclists, reconnection of the street grid, and a two-way Mercer street. The mayor’s priorities for the South Lake Union area, including business development and a streetcar line, were factored into the process.

    Goals for the Mercer project, which is a good candidate for funding through the Regional Transportation Investment District, include calming Valley Street, and creating a two-way Mercer Street that has three lanes in each direction, parking lanes, 15’-17’ sidewalks, a 17’-24’ median for pedestrian refuge, and presents the opportunity for east-west transit with possible connections from Queen Anne to I-5, the University District, and Capitol Hill. SDOT intends to create a neighborhood atmosphere where cars do not dominate.

    Two different plans have been proposed for the Aurora Avenue crossing. In the first option, Aurora would be lowered at a very high cost and Mercer would be built over it. Republican, Harrison, and Thomas Streets would be reconnected as well, and the goals for a two-way Mercer would remain the same. The most important aspect of this approach is the revival of direct pedestrian access over Aurora Avenue. Broad Street would disappear, and the opportunity for the redevelopment of property would emerge.

    In the second option, the Mercer underpass would widen and Aurora Ave. would not be lowered. In accordance with the South Lake Union Transportation Study, Westlake Avenue would be redeveloped as a two-way boulevard that would connect to Downtown, and 9th Avenue would also become a two-way road to lessen some of the impacts of the changes to Westlake. Terry Avenue is a “street of interest” in the South Lake Union Neighborhood Plan, as it is a key connection to South Lake Union Park. It could be made into a pedestrian street, with a signal at Valley serving as a gateway to the park. While this is not necessarily endorsed by SDOT, the plan suggests a pedestrian bridge over Valley as well. Park parking could be removed to garages in new developments between Mercer and Valley, which would force park patrons to cross Valley.

    Currently design guidelines are being created to make Terry a street that is not essential to vehicle traffic. There are still a lot of warehouses in the area and new development is expected, so there is potential for the addition of “nodes” that will draw pedestrians. Terry may be redesigned as a woonerf, with a sidewalk on one side of the street and elements that would lead to a naturally pedestrian-dominated environment.

    SDOT is working to ensure room for bikes on redone streets, either on wider sidewalks or in-street bike lanes. There is potential to move Memorial Stadium to the location of the Seattle Center parking lot, or to build parking into a new building on the reclaimed property.

    In answer to a question from the board, Tweit said that some of ideas for Westlake do stem from concepts in CityDesign’s Blue Ring/Center City Design Plan. Concerns were raised over the potential for pedestrian refuge medians to become an inducement to dangerous jaywalking on Mercer and Westlake. The medians are not intended for pedestrians to use as a sidewalk, and are essentially occupying the space that would otherwise be taken up by a turn lane. Ketcherside suggested using plantings as a barrier to jaywalking. Hoyt mentioned that development can be oriented to attract pedestrians to safe areas for crossing and travel.

    Tweit said that SDOT did consider making Mercer a boulevard with access lanes, but there were concerns over the number of lanes that would include and with exit and entry from access streets.

    Where funding is concerned, the project from Dexter Street to 5th Avenue will be funded by the Viaduct project budget. The rest is the sole responsibility of the city. SDOT will begin the EIS for Mercer (from Fairview to Dexter) this fall, likely before the Viaduct EIS is presented. There is currently no money available to this project from 520 planning, but now SDOT is looking at changing onramps and putting 520-bound express buses on Mercer.

  4. CarSmart: Randy Wiger

    Currently, 75% of vehicles on the road are in use for non-commute purposes. CarSmart uses moneys from the neighborhood matching fund to help communities reduce traffic and educate people on how to use their cars less. CarSmart is looking for creative and innovative projects that will help break down the conditioned belief that cars are essential.

    So far CarSmart has funded neighborhood maps in places such as Wedgewood and Columbia City, and an evaluation of bike racks at grocery stores. CarSmart has tried to work with schools but has not yet received a positive response from Parent-Teacher-Student Associations.

    There are four opportunities a year to apply for funding, and the next deadline is October 21, 2003. However applicants usually need about three months to complete a successful application. Ninety percent of applications are funded, but it often takes more than one try; Wiger will provide help in drafting successful applications.

  5. Boards & Commissions Training: Hoyt

    Hoyt asked for input on what kind of training might be useful for board and commission members as a whole, and for SPAB specifically. The board affirmed the usefulness of training, and suggested an overview of the purpose of boards and commissions and training in the workings of city government.

    Healy asked how SPAB members are to represent the board when attending meetings and other relevant events in the community. McCauley suggested looking over the materials put together by immediate past chair John Coney, and Ketcherside reminded the board that nearly every document recently produced by SPAB is available on the website.

    Ketcherside also said that the list of ongoing projects needs to be revisited by every board member, and that there needs to be more activity on the board. Members also need to keep in mind the extremely long—often as long as two year—timeline of most city projects.

  6. Round Robin

    Smith presented his reports to the board. McCauley is sad to be leaving the board, but will be able to walk to her new job in Washington, DC.

    Clark presented the board letter to SDOT Director Crunican, and it was approved on a motion by McCauley and Amster-Burton.

    Hoyt updated the board on the recent corridor study at Westlake Ave. North and 23rd Ave. Several crosswalks were removed, there was a lot of public involvement, and of the 8 calls her office received on the project, half were in support. Hoyt also discussed the new flopover signs that will be installed in up to 25 locations. More can be installed if they turn out to be sturdy, appreciated by pedestrians, and understood by motorists.

    McCarthy alerted the board to the August 21 Waterfront for All rally at the Seattle Art Museum. Healy attended the downtown traffic reduction meeting sponsored by SDOT.

    Ketcherside participated in the Little Saigon/Chinatown/Japan Town/International District Streetscape & Open Space Design Plan, and would be glad to present on this topic if the board is interested. Ketcherside added that in general, when he is interested in a plan in the city, he sends an email to the contact for that plan right away.

    Anderson attended the same meeting as Healy, and was shocked to learn that the city expects 1,000 buses to operate in the downtown area by 2015.

    Staeheli witnessed a pedestrian accident in a crosswalk today, reminding her that no one is ever truly safe in a crosswalk. She mentioned the recent Supreme Court ruling that the government would be obligated to remove certain barriers to sidewalk access.

    Amster-Burton brought the Pearl District Walking Map back from a visit to Portland.

  7. Future Agenda

    Ketcherside asked for ideas for the October and November meetings to be emailed to him as soon as possible.

  8. Adjourn: 8:07 PM

All SPAB meetings are public meetings of a City Advisory Board. Check the SPAB website at for SPAB minutes, advisories, meetings.