SPU CIP Update: Ship Canal Water Quality Project; 35th Avenue Paving Update; Fireworks in Seattle

SPU CIP Update – Ship Canal Water Quality Project

In my committee this week Seattle Public Utilities (SPU) presented  their Capital Improvement Program (CIP). The CIP is the vehicle for rehabilitating, replacing, improving, and expanding the network of sewer and drainage systems throughout the City of Seattle, as well as constructing projects that protect, conserve, and enhance our region’s environmental resources. Proposed spending in the SPU Strategic Business Plan is $1.8 billion, on hundreds of projects, through 2023 and is funded by ratepayers, 69% through bonds.

One very large project that SPU highlighted is the Ship Canal Water Quality Project (SCWQP).  This is a joint project with King County and the largest project that SPU has ever undertaken. This joint project will keep 60 million gallons of combined sewage overflow out of our waterways each year. SPU’s total projected costs for their part of this project are estimated at $423 million. This project is part of a larger program for both King County and the City to address combined sewer overflows throughout the City under a Federal and State Consent Decree.

In their presentation, SPU outlined the strengths and risks with the SCWQP and noted that regional construction market conditions are a risk to the project coming in on time and on budget because of rising labor, equipment, and materials costs. The chart below demonstrates SPU’s assumption for the index value that includes labor, equipment, and materials. The blue line shows the index value to date, the dotted red line shows prior SPU projections for the life of the project, and the pink line shows the potential new index value based on a recent consultant study (the other two tan lines represent the new high and low projections based upon the same study).  We’ll learn more in upcoming months about whether SPU intends to revise the budget for this particular project based upon cost estimate verification of the consultant’s index value projections.  I appreciate SPU letting the Council and the public know this information early in their review of the project costs projections.

SPU’s overview of the CIP also included a discussion of a process called “stage gate,” in which authorization to continue CIP projects must be granted before moving onto the next stage. They also described the “cone of uncertainty,” a concept which represents how project risk that is high at the beginning of a multi-year capital project reduces over the life of the project. SPU presented a timeline of trends in CIP spending: when new facilities are built or major capital programs are initiated, spending – and rates – go up, and when those projects are completed, spending go down.

SPU committed to working with the Mayor’s office and the Council to improve quarterly CIP reports; and will discuss different approaches to help manage their 2018-2023 rate path with my committee on July 11th during the Strategic Business Plan discussion.


35th Avenue paving update

You may recall that, in April, I sent SDOT Director Kubly a letter requesting that SDOT expedite the schedule for re-paving 35th Avenue SW, currently not planned until 2023 in SDOT’s 2016-2024 pavement plan.

This week I received a reply from SDOT. In response to hearing not only from me, but many of you as well, they have indicated they have scheduled the rebuild of 35th from Alaska to Avalon for 2019 (in conjunction with Avalon re-paving project). This segment of 35th carries the highest bus traffic. They also indicated they are considering moving forward, from 2023 to 2019, the re-paving work on the Roxbury to Morgan segment of 35th.

In addition, they are planning on spot repairs in 2017 for the northbound travel lanes from Cloverdale to Thistle, Holden to Austin, and Othello to Webster.

After sending the letter, I further asked about a question several constituents have asked about whether the lane reduction from Roxbury to Holly had resulted in a differential weight distribution than the road was originally designed for, thus possibly leading to greater degradation of the road.

SDOT replied that this has been an issue with some lane reductions in Seattle, but they didn’t believe it was much of a factor on 35th, except perhaps in some places. They noted that southbound, the lane reduction had shifted traffic onto concrete, which is structurally more robust. Northbound, there may be some accelerated deterioration in spots that they proposed to mitigate with spot repairs in 2017, as noted above.

I appreciate SDOT’s responsiveness to the requests of my office as well as District 1 constituents in this matter.  SDOT’s reply to my original letter is copied below:

“Dear Council Member Herbold:

Thank you for your letter regarding the condition of 35th Ave SW and for the opportunity to respond. SDOT crews immediately began working on 35th Ave SW when we received your letter in April. SDOT crews also made a concerted effort during the 2017 Pothole Palooza to address additional requests that were reported on 35th Ave SW as a result of the event. If and when your constituents have specific locations that are still needing pothole repairs, they can submit a request by calling the SDOT ROAD line at (206) 684-ROAD (7623), by submitting an online pothole request at www.seattle.gov/transportation/potholereport.htm, or by using the City’s “Find It, Fix It” mobile app for smartphones. We promptly respond to these requests, usually within three business days.

In addition to pothole repairs, SDOT has mapped out some areas of spot paving along 35th Ave SW.  Spot repairs are not a long-term solution but users will likely notice improved pavement quality along the corridor most damaged areas.  Due to the impact of the traffic shift and the striping removal on the northbound lane, SDOT’s Vision Zero program has agreed to share some of the costs, allowing these much-needed spot improvements to be prioritized.  As funds and crew availability/resources allow, staff have mapped out the following repairs for 2017:

  • SW Cloverdale St to SW Thistle St, NB Travel Lane
  • SW Holden St to SW Austin St, NB Travel Lane
  • SW Othello St to SW Webster St, NB Travel Lane

SDOT would appreciate the opportunity to work with your office to let your constituents know that these spot improvements along 35th Ave SW, while not a full rebuild, will improve pavement conditions in the worst areas of the corridor and is in addition to regular pothole maintenance. 

In response to your inquiry about the pavement condition, a contract is currently in process to gather updated 2017 condition data. The data presented in the 2015 SDOT Asset Management Report is the most current assessment we have, which was derived from the last pavement condition assessment completed in 2013.

That stated, it has been clear since 2013 that 35th Ave SW is breaking down structurally under heavy vehicle loading (mainly buses).  The entire length of 35th Ave SW will eventually have to be completely reconstructed. SDOT has scheduled the first leg of this reconstruction from SW Roxbury St to SW Morgan St; this will cost an estimated $25 to $31 million and has been scheduled for 2023 as a part of the Move Seattle Levy. The estimated costs for the entire (low to high) reconstruction are as follows:

  • $25.6 to 31.2M – 35th Ave SW, SW Roxbury St to SW Morgan St
  • $18.9 to 23.1M – 35th Ave SW, SW Morgan St to SW Alaska St
  • $4.6 to 5.6M – 35th Ave SW, SW Alaska St to Avalon Way SW

SDOT is currently reviewing the possibility of moving forward the Roxbury to Morgan segment from 2023 to 2019. We have also scheduled the rebuild of the Alaska to Avalon segment for 2019. (That section carries the heaviest bus traffic).

We apologize for the delay in our response but because of the size and cost of the other two segments, we must re-evaluate the budget, distribution, and schedule of our entire 9-year Move Seattle paving program.  This will determine if we have the ability to fund the $18 to $23 million Morgan to Alaska segment. However, it is important to note that funding this segment will require us to eliminate other Move Seattle paving projects throughout the City. At this time, SDOT is still evaluating these impacts before we make a final determination.  We hope to have this answer to you soon.”


Fireworks in Seattle

It seems that this time of year a lot of people forget that, except for permitted fireworks displays, fireworks are illegal in Seattle under the Seattle Fire Code,.

Federal, state, county and city regulations make enforcement challenging.  Though fireworks are banned in many Western Washington cities, according to a 2013 Pemco poll, about one-third of the state’s households set off their own fireworks.

The Seattle Fire Department notes that fireworks pose a fire hazard to property and present a safety risk. When we have a spell of warmer, dry weather, like we do now, the risk is greater.

The Seattle Police Department has noted that “the Fourth is typically a loud and busy day for police and firefighters, and frequent fireworks noise complaints make it more difficult for 911 operators, police, and fire officials to respond to life-threatening emergencies across the city.”

The Fire Department and Seattle Police Department both note that, on July 4th 911 call centers can become overloaded with non-emergency fireworks calls. They both urge people to not call 911 unless you have a life-threatening emergency that needs immediate help from police, fire or medics. Other fireworks violations may be reported by calling the Seattle Police Department non-emergency number at 206-625-5011.

Seattle’s population is 18% immigrants, some from war-torn countries, for whom fireworks may be frightening. Pets can be frightened as well.

For safety’s sake, the consideration of people who don’t like or are frightened by loud noises, and the comfort of our furry friends please enjoy a local, legal, permitted fireworks display, so we all can have a happy and safe 4th!

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