U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell, Mayor Murray, Port of Seattle and SODO business leaders celebrate funding milestone for Lander Street bridge

U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell, Mayor Ed Murray, Port Commissioner John Creighton and SODO business leaders announced a memorandum of understanding (MOU) that directs up to $10 million from the Port of Seattle towards completing the South Lander Street bridge project and $5 million towards solutions for a broader approach to ease traffic and improve safety on major freight and transit corridors throughout Seattle. The South Lander Street bridge is a critical project serving one of the busiest and most high-risk rail crossings in the country. The project is estimated to cost $123 million, funded through commitments from federal, state, and local partners. Last fall, the project was awarded a $45 million federal grant thanks to the advocacy of Senator Cantwell.

“Washington state loses millions of dollars in economic activity because of train, truck, and urban traffic congestion –at Lander Street alone. By moving freight faster, we can fuel our export economy and create good paying jobs,” said Senator Cantwell. “I’m proud to have helped secure the $45 million from the FASTLANE grant program which I championed in the FAST Act in 2015. I will continue fighting to fix our infrastructure to build strong economic growth and make our country more economically competitive.”

 “The City of Seattle, the Port of Seattle, the state of Washington, and federal leaders like United States Senators Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell all came together around this vital infrastructure project because we are all committed to building a thriving, 21st Century economy that channels our booming $38 billon maritime industry,” said Mayor Ed Murray. “I’ve worked on this project dating back to my time in the state legislature, to support our industrial and maritime economy. Our shared economic values of mobility, safety, living wage jobs, and a clean environment all aligned around this bridge to the future.”

 “The Safe and Swift Corridor Program will create efficiency for freight, and continue the safe movement of cargo through our gateway,” said Port of Seattle Commissioner John Creighton.  “This partnership will improve transportation for commuters, truckers, buses and bicyclists in these critical corridors.”

South Lander Street is an essential east-west corridor serving Port of Seattle freight, King County Metro buses, bicyclists, commuters and pedestrians. The corridor is closed for more than 4.5 hours daily due to rail traffic, impacting approximately 13,000 vehicles.

 The corridor is considered one of the most high-risk rail crossings in the state.  Since 2011, three fatalities have occurred between trains and pedestrians at the South Lander Street crossing and an average of 485 track violations occur daily as cars, pedestrians and bicycles cross the tracks when the safety gates are deployed.  The new four-lane bridge will provide safe connections for 1,400 pedestrians daily, primarily traversing between the SODO light rail station and area employers. This project will remove all at-grade access to the tracks at that location, improving safety for all.

The project is scheduled to break ground in early 2018.  For the latest updates on the South Lander Street project, click here.

 

 

 

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Mayor Murray, stakeholders announce framework to complete ‘missing link’ of Burke-Gilman Trail

 

Today, Mayor Ed Murray along with Councilmembers Mike O’Brien and Rob Johnson, Ballard business owners, and bicycle and pedestrian advocates, announced that a framework agreement has been reached to move forward on completing the “missing link” of the Burke-Gilman Trail.

“After years of disagreement, we have a path forward to finally complete the ‘missing link’ of the Burke-Gilman Trail,” said Mayor Murray. “Bicyclists and pedestrians will no longer need to weave, dodge, or hold their breath while navigating through Ballard and maritime businesses along the water will maintain access to the roads they depend on. Today’s announcement highlights our collaborative effort to complete the trail, making the Burke-Gilman safer and more accessible for all.”

As the City finishes the environmental review process, the framework calls for stakeholders to work together on the design elements of a preferred alternative route that would complete the “missing link” with a marked, dedicated trail for pedestrians and cyclists. This proposed trail would run along Market Street between the Ballard Locks and 24th Avenue Northwest, then turn on to Shilshole Avenue Northwest and run along the south-side of the street. The existing trail east of the Ballard Bridge, along Northwest 45th Street, will be improved to allow for better access for businesses and safer travel for bicyclists and pedestrians. The City expects the final environmental impact study to be released in May.

“The community has been working on a safe completion of the missing link of the Burke Gilman Trail for years and it is great to be moving one step closer to construction,” said Councilmember Mike O’Brien (District 6, Northwest Seattle). “It is also great that we have even more consensus around the best routing.”

“I am thrilled that we have an agreement to finally fix the missing link and to connect the Burke-Gilman Trail,” said Rob Johnson (District 4, Northeast Seattle). “We all benefit when residents, workers and goods can travel our streets safely and efficiently be they in a delivery truck, on a bus, walking or biking.  This is a great success for bike safety, trail access, and Seattle’s economy.”

“This is a great announcement for people who use the Burke-Gilman Trail and for nearby businesses,” said Warren Aakervik, Ballard business owner. “The City of Seattle, businesses, and all the stakeholders are committed to a trail that is safe for recreation and commuting and allows for predictable access for trucks using the corridor. Our maritime businesses are dependent on easy access to the water and roads, and this agreement gets us that. This is a win for everyone.”

“To say we are elated is a vast understatement,” said Blake Trask, Senior Policy Director of the Cascade Bicycle Club. “This project will benefit generations. We are grateful to the many parties, including local Ballard businesses, for coming together, listening to one another, and committing to building a trail that is safe and predictable for everyone.”

“This plan balances the needs of maritime industrial businesses and the community,” said Eugene Wasserman, President of the North Seattle Industrial Association. “We look forward to working with the City, bicycling and pedestrian advocates, and Ballard residents in a manner that meets the needs of everyone that uses this corridor and maintains the vitality of the Ballard maritime industry.”

 

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Mayor Murray, Councilmember Johnson comment on pedestrian safety improvements

Today, Mayor Ed Murray and Councilmember Rob Johnson issued the following statements regarding the recent series of pedestrian crashes in Seattle:

“I join many Seattleites in my growing concern over the recent series of crashes involving pedestrians around the city. I am deeply committed to improving pedestrian and bicycle safety and I am directing Scott Kubly, director of the Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT), in coordination with the Seattle Police Department, to review the circumstances of these incidents and determine any action the city should take. Seattle remains committed to the goals of Vision Zero, the plan I announced in 2015 to end traffic deaths and serious injuries by 2030 through innovative engineering, enforcement and education. Last summer, SDOT announced the reduction of speed limits on many arterial and residential streets in the city, in an effort to achieve this goal. Additionally, SDOT will be expediting $3 million in pedestrian and bicycle safety improvements announced earlier this month. We must do all we can to ensure our streets are safe for all Seattleites.”

“Over the past several days, we have had several tragic collisions on Seattle streets, including another terrible collision on NE 65th Street between a car and a pedestrian this morning,” said Councilmember Rob Johnson. “Today’s collision serves as a tragic reminder of the necessary urgency of actions to make our city streets safer for all users. I stand on NE 65th Street every day with my young daughters as we wait to catch the bus and bear witness to drivers exceeding the speed limits, ignoring pedestrians and bicyclists, and acting recklessly. I join my neighbors in their demand that the City #Fix65th. As a City, we need to emphasize and prioritize investments in critical road safety projects to prevent the next tragedy from occurring. I’m calling on SDOT and Mayor Murray to release a design plan and timeline by Valentine’s Day detailing how they will make NE 65th Street safer because everyone deserves to use our city streets without threat of injury or death.”

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Mayor Murray announces Move Seattle Levy neighborhood investments

Today, Mayor Ed Murray announced $6.5 million in awards for 12 new neighborhood improvement projects through the Neighborhood Street Fund.  These projects, which will be built over the next 3 years include pedestrian crossings, signal improvements, sidewalk investments and better access to neighborhood amenities, including public schools.  The Neighborhood Street Fund is funded by Move Seattle Levy.

“Through the Neighbor Street Fund, the city is committed to working collaboratively with residents to address community concerns through neighborhood-driven projects,” said Mayor Ed Murray. “The projects announced today will improve safety, walkability and livability in neighborhoods throughout the City and will bring us closer to the goals set out in the Move Seattle Levy.”

N. Aurora Corridor project

The City received 143 project proposals from Seattle neighborhood groups which were reviewed by the city’s 13 district councils, and vetted by the citizen resident-driven Move Seattle Oversight Committee.  Mayor Murray ultimately approved the committee’s recommendation of the following projects:

  • N 40 St and Bagley Ave N Pedestrian Improvements
  • Harbor Ave SW and SW Spokane St Intersection Improvements
  • Aurora Ave N Corridor Improvements: N 85 St to N 105 St
  • E John St & E Thomas St Corridor Crossing Improvements
  • NE 70 St and I-5 Walking and Biking Improvements
  • 15th Ave S and S Columbian Way Intersection Revision
  • S Jackson St Corridor Improvements
  • Chief Sealth High School Walkway Improvements
  • Improved Connections to Freeway Park
  • Holman Road and 13th Ave NW Signal
  • Bailey Gatzert Elementary School Pedestrian Improvements
  • Hawthorne Elementary & S Genesee St Safer Community Pedestrian Connections

“The projects chosen through the NSF Program will help address some of the locations that neighbors specifically advocated for,” said SDOT Director Scott Kubly. “And overall, the projects will have positive impacts on the neighborhoods they’re in.”

Projects were prioritized by the Move Seattle Levy Oversight Committee using criteria developed from the five core values listed in Move Seattle – Safe, Interconnected, Vibrant, Affordable, and Innovative – as well as, cost, district council ranking, and crash and collision data.

Chief Sealth High School pedestrian walkway project

The Neighborhood Street Fund Program provides $26 million over the course of the 9-year levy to neighborhood projects to improve safety, mobility and access. The program is on a three-year cycle allowing neighborhoods to build larger projects with greater impacts on walking and biking. Works selected in 2016 will be designed in 2017 and constructed in 2018.

“The oversight committee had many challenging decisions to make when selecting the final list of projects,” said Betty Spieth-Croll, co-chair of the Levy to Move Seattle Oversight Committee. “We took our role in recommending the final list of projects very seriously and we can’t wait to see them built.”

Approved by voters in 2015, the 9-year, $930 million Move Seattle Levy provides funding to improve safety for all travelers, maintain our streets and bridges, and invest in reliable, affordable travel options for a growing city.

For more information on the Move Seattle Levy or to learn more about the Neighborhood Street Fund for Large Projects, visit www.seattle.gov/LevytoMoveSeattle.

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Murray calls for creation of stabilization fund for Central Area businesses during 23rd Ave. construction

Mayor Ed Murray announced that he will work with the City Council to create a new business stabilization fund to assist local businesses affected by delays and extreme construction impacts from the 23rd Ave. road reconstruction project.

Murray also directed City departments to conduct a new evaluation through a race and social justice lens to determine if the project should continue as currently designed and whether it would lead to significant displacement of local businesses. SDOT will also conduct a review of the construction phasing and schedule to consider other ways to proceed with construction of the project to have less of an impact.

“I’ve gone to 23rd Ave. and inspected the project, and I’ve met with several of the small, family-owned primarily minority-owned businesses in the area. It is obvious that the project is having serious impacts on those businesses. It is obvious that they need help. That is why today I’m proposing the creation of a business stabilization fund to help those businesses survive,” Mayor Ed Murray said. “I’ve heard allegations from some members of the community that the work on 23rd is really an attempt to push out the existing, largely African-American owned businesses to pave the way for the gentrification of the neighborhood. That has never been the intention. This project is supposed to provide better and safer infrastructure so the community can grow and thrive. But given those allegations, the City will make a new assessment of the project to examine carefully its race and social justice impacts, to ensure the project actually benefits the community. If it does not, we will end it.”

Working with the City Council, the Mayor will propose a new 23rd Ave. business stabilization fund focused on assisting locally-owned small businesses that have struggled the most during the project, with an emphasis on low-income business owners and those in danger of displacement.

“I whole-heartedly thank the Mayor for working with the City Council on this issue, and Councilmember Sawant for bringing this issue to the Council’s attention,” said Councilmember Lisa Herbold. “Tomorrow at 9:30 a.m., the Civil Rights, Utilities, Economic Development, and Arts committee will facilitate a conversation with SDOT and the Office of Economic Development to learn more about mitigation options available for stabilizing the Central Area businesses during the 23rd Ave. construction.”

“Small businesses – especially those owned by people of color, women, and the LGBTQ community – are often left out of the political calculus of City Hall. Through organizing and activism, the 23rd Ave. small businesses have won mitigation,” said Councilmember Kshama Sawant. “I want to thank the Mayor and Councilmembers for working with me on this issue.”

“I appreciate the Mayor finding the resources to respond to the businesses who are struggling right now. As the city grows and changes, it is critical we do so in a way that doesn’t displace our longstanding businesses and residents,” said Councilmember Mike O’Brien. “As chair of the Sustainability and Transportation Committee, I look forward to working with the Mayor to examine our policies going forward to mitigate the impacts to local businesses during major transportation infrastructure projects.”

The potential revenue sources for the stabilization fund are twofold:

  • $400,000 in federal Community Development Block Grants (CDBG) dollars that have already been allocated to the City can be made available on a one-time basis without disrupting other City funding priorities; and
  • Up to $250,000 in funding that can be made available from the Seattle Investment Fund, which was established to award and oversee federal New Market Tax Credits in support of local development projects. The Fund earns fees through the allocation process, and support to distressed businesses is consistent with the Fund’s purposes

In addition to the new stabilization fund, Mayor Murray ordered that all affected businesses on the 23rd Ave. corridor, for the duration of the project, will be eligible for deferred payment of bills and fees, including:

  • City utility bills,
  • Annual Business permits,
  • Annual signage permit fees, and
  • City portion of B&O tax.

Under the Washington State Constitution (Article VIII, Section 5 and 7), local governments are prohibited from gifting local tax dollars to private entities. The new 23rd Ave. stabilization fund announced will use federal CDBG dollars and New Market Tax Credit fees which are not subject to this prohibition. A past example of when Seattle used CDBG dollars to assist local, low-income and minority owned businesses was in the Rainier Valley to create the Community Development Fund during the construction of light rail along Martin Luther King Ave. in 2006-2009.

The new stabilization fund is being proposed by the Mayor in recognition of the unexpected and significant disruptions from the construction project after it began. In the fall of 2015, a design error by a private vendor resulted in a three month delay. This delay caused changes to the originally planned project phasing. Instead of a multi-phase project where new city blocks would not undergo lane closures until previous blocks were re-opened, the result is that more of the corridor is currently under construction at one time. This represents significant and new impacts to the neighborhood, such as limited access to more storefronts at once and a greater decline in foot and car traffic than originally anticipated and promised to the community.

The proposal of a new stabilization fund also reflects the City’s renewed commitment to equitable development. According to a 2015 Growth and Equity analysis the Central Area is considered an urban village that is particularly at high-risk of displacement factors.

Designed in 2013, the 23rd Ave. improvement project was intended to improve safety and mobility for drivers, pedestrians, transit users and bicyclists. It was to include wider sidewalks, improved transit speed and reliability and build new street lights. To take advantage of another capital need, a 100 year old water main was to be replaced at the same time as the road project so the neighborhood would not have to undergo multiple construction projects. Before construction, 23rd Ave. reported 900 collisions in five years (4 fatalities), had narrow and uneven sidewalks, was rated “very poor” for pavement conditions.