West Seattle Bridge Update, May 22; Highland Park Way/SW Holden Safety Project Update; City Employees Redeployed to Help Provide Basic Needs; Tackling Chronic Homelessness in King County; Little Free Pantries Hosts Needed in District 1; East Marginal Way Project Letter of Support; $7 Million in Food Access;

West Seattle Bridge Update, May 22

SDOT released a “Conceptual Modes of Failure” memo earlier this week, developed by SDOT’s structural engineering consultant, WSP. The memo models how the bridge could deteriorate and potentially fail, and thus helps to identify warning signs. While this study was being developed, it informed the development of the multi-agency emergency plan for evacuation of areas near the bridge, if needed. SDOT has stated there is no imminent threat of a bridge collapse.

The memo recommends nine mitigation actions, in order of priority:

  1. Continue daily visual inspections of the structure.
  2. Implement an automated survey system that collects data in real time, with manual surveys in the near term until the automated system is functional.
  3. Implement localized deformation data logging using an automated system that will report total deformation across multiple cracks.
  4. Undertake non-destructive testing (NDT) of select vertical posttensioned tendons in the webs.
  5. Design and construct interim repairs at the distressed locations to arrest the crack propagation in the near term.
  6. Repair the bearings at Pier 18 that are restricting thermal expansion and contraction movements of the structure.
  7. Design, fabricate, and deploy temporary shoring to support the bridge in case of partial or multi-span superstructure collapse.
  8. Evaluate full repair alternatives relative to the potential need for bridge replacement.
  9. Design and construct full repairs if feasible or demolish the bridge and plan for a bridge replacement.

Steps 1-4 assist in better understanding the structural integrity of the bridge, and are being implemented. Step 6, to repair bearing at Pier 18, will proceed if the bridge is stable enough. Step 9 acknowledges repair may not be possible, in which case a replacement will be needed. SDOT has indicated that the addition of monitoring equipment will provide a clearer picture in coming weeks of what is viable.

A collapse in the center portion of the bridge could damage adjacent portions of the bridge, and columns. That’s why the emergency evacuation zone extends beyond the central portions of the bridge where cracking is occurring, to the approach structures.

While this isn’t pleasant to contemplate, I appreciate SDOT making this information public. Here’s a link to SDOT’s blog post. Below are images of potential failure scenarios:

SDOT is conducting daily safety sweeps on the bridge each morning before city staff and consultants begin their work.

Roxbury paving

King County DOT has confirmed they will be coordinating work with SDOT on repaving Roxbury between 16th Avenue SW and 18th Avenue SW, to do the work at the same time. Seattle owns the northern portion of the street; King County the southern portion. Thanks to King County DOT and King County Councilmember Joe McDermott for their work on facilitating this.

Traffic data

The most recent data shows traffic volumes increasing in some locations. For example, West Marginal Way SW @ SW Idaho Street is at 205% of baseline volumes. Highland Park and West Marginal is 57% above average (the figure listed is a typo; it should be 27,240).

South Park Bridge traffic is nearly at baseline levels. SW Roxbury at 15th is also approaching baseline levels. Traffic at Michigan and 4th Avenue South increased above baseline levels.

SDOT’s latest citywide estimates for traffic show it now rising slightly above 50% earlier this week. The neighborhood-based plans SDOT is developing will be very important for managing this; traffic levels will  continue to increase.

King County Metro’s latest update shows bus ridership 71% to 74% below average last week, with ridership 77% below average on the C Line, and 63% on Route 120.

SPD lower bridge enforcement

At my request SPD provided a summary of lower bridge enforcement. The first week was focused on warnings, then switched to citations. Between April 6 and May 8, 177 warnings and 489 citations were issued; nearly every citation was for failing to adhere to the signs regarding use of the bridge.


Highland Park Way/SW Holden Safety Project Update, Survey

After the closure of the West Seattle Bridge, SDOT installed a temporary traffic signal at the intersection of Highland Park Way SW and SW Holden Street.

Before that, however, work had begun on permanent improvements to the intersection. Funding for early planning and design was first obtained in 2017; during the 2020 budget, the Council adopted funding for a permanent signal, or a roundabout. SDOT has now reached 10% design for a signal, and other improvements (funding is not sufficient for a roundabout).

SDOT’s 10% design is available at the Highland Park Way SW and SW Holden St Safety Project website. You can fill out a survey there and share your thoughts about the proposal, through May 31st.

There is a presentation on the website; here’s a link to the presentation slides. The presentation notes the increased traffic seen at the intersection shortly after the closure of the West Seattle Bridge, and down the hill at West Marginal Way. SDOT has indicated they will continue to monitor traffic levels.

Proposed improvements in the project area (which goes beyond just the intersection) include a permanent traffic signal with left turn phasing at the Highland Park/Holden intersection; concrete curb bulbs and sidewalks, and widening the existing path that goes down the hill on the east side of Highland Park Way SW. SDOT also notes a potential southbound protected bike lane; the presentation notes it will be re-evaluated when traffic volumes normalize. The proposed improvements slide also notes evaluating 16th and Holden for left-turn signal phasing. A Your Voice Your Choice funding grant is funding adding a left-turn lane at the signal on 16th.

A design update and review meeting is planned for fall 2020, with implementation for neighborhood traffic calming in the 4th quarter of 2020, and construction in the 4th quarter of 2021.

You can take the project survey here; translation services are available at 206-727-8697.

City Employees Redeployed to Help Provide Basic Needs

Over the past couple of months, I’ve shared a lot of information about City programs quickly designed to help people impacted by coronavirus.  From deferred utility payments and grocery vouchers to support for artists and grants to small businesses, every City department has been asked to find ways to pitch in.

I’ve been especially impressed with an effort that hasn’t garnered much attention: City employees being reassigned to work at community organizations.  In their new (temporary) roles, these employees are on the frontlines of the coronavirus response, working alongside nonprofit employees, responding to our neighbors’ increased needs for food, shelter, and safety.

Human Services Department (HSD) staff have been reporting to work at homeless shelters and food banks from almost the first days of the public health emergency.  They’re filling a critical gap and allowing essential services to stay open, as many nonprofits are struggling with short staffing, fewer volunteers, and increased operating costs.  For instance…

  • Between March 26 and April 25, HSD staff covered 242 shifts at two different homeless shelters, contributing a total of 723 hours of service.
  • Since May 6, HSD staff have covered 78 shifts at food distribution sites, contributing a total of 380 hours of service.

And of course, many more HSD staff were already on the frontlines in their usual jobs, providing care and support to help more Seattleites thrive.

This morning, I had the opportunity to volunteer alongside redeployed HSD staff at the South Park Senior Center, where we helped pack food for distribution to neighbors.  I am immensely proud of our City employees for their willingness to take on this work during the public health emergency.  Thank you to the Human Services Department, all of our providers, and to everyone who is helping neighbors in need stay safe, healthy, and warm during this difficult time.

Tackling Chronic Homelessness in King County

This week, I joined a coalition of business leaders, nonprofits, researchers, and advocates at the launch of an ambitious effort to help neighbors who have persistently struggled with homelessness.  The Third Door Coalition unites an unlikely group of allies around a common goal – bringing people living outside into safe, permanent homes – and an ambitious plan to build sufficient permanent supportive housing within five years. 

Permanent supportive housing (PSH) is well-established as the most effective and cost effective solution to chronic homelessness – people living outside or unstably for long stretches of their lives, struggling with disabilities and unable to afford rent.  Ninety-five percent of people housed in PSH, stay housed, regardless of their disability, mental health challenges or substance abuse disorder.  Research conducted at Seattle University School of Law found that:

“…PSH is associated with better outcomes related to quality of life, emergency services, physical and psychiatric hospitalizations, and substance use…  Better outcomes for residents also save money, making PSH the most cost-effective, long-term solution to chronic homelessness. When people experiencing chronic homelessness receive PSH, they are less likely to use emergency departments, hospitals, detoxification facilities, and shelters. PSH residents are also less likely to interact with law enforcement, get arrested, and be incarcerated.”

It’s effective for people and a much better use of public resources than hospitals or jails, the place that – without sufficient housing – people with mental health, disabilities, and substance abuse disorder end up.  On year of Permanent Supportive Housing costs the same as only 3 days in the hospital or 3 months in jail.  That’s why I have consistently called for doubling the City’s investment in permanent supportive housing.

Third Door Coalition members have identified a plan that will reduce the cost of building PSH, while raising the resources required to bring PSH to scale across the region: 6,500 units in five years.  Their work recognizes that cities can not do this work alone.  I was glad to be an inaugural signatory to their call to action, which includes these declarations:

  • We need the support of a county-wide, broad-based, cross-sector coalition of businesses, nonprofit service providers, academic institutions, healthcare providers, faith communities, advocacy organizations, funders, individuals, government and more.
  • The clear solution is to build, lease, or otherwise provide enough permanent supportive housing to meet the needs of people experiencing chronic homelessness in King County.
  • Government alone cannot solve the issue, especially with the strain on budgets as a result of the pandemic. A public-private partnership can fund the level of permanent supportive housing we need.
  • The time to act is now.

If you have ever been concerned about how our region can help more people leave homelessness behind for good, please take a look at Third Door Coalition’s smart ideas and follow their work.

Little Free Pantries Hosts Needed in District 1

Are you looking for a way to help feed your neighbors?  Little Free Pantries volunteers just hand-built eighteen new pantries, and they’re looking for District 1 hosts!  Hosts agree to paint and personalize their Little Free Pantry, securely install it in their yard, keep it stocked and in good repair, and spread the news to your neighbors.  Learn more and ask about becoming a Little Free Pantry host here.

Here’s how LFP founder Molly Harmon describes it:

“Little Free Pantries help neighbors feed neighbors.  They aren’t intended to replace food security agencies or eliminate the need to support them; rather, they work alongside each other to draw awareness to food insecurity and create community through collective action in a neighborhood.

“LFPs bring this issue front and center to our neighborhoods, but in a supportive and caring way.  Micro-communities form around Little Free Pantries and in turn, connect neighbors who otherwise would not have met.  By neighbors stocking their neighborhood Little Free Pantry with non-perishable foods, it keeps the pantry full and helps those needing a meal.   Whether a need for food or a need to give, Little Free Pantries help neighbors feed neighbors, nourishing neighborhoods.”

Check out this recent Seattle Times article about Little Free Pantries, and follow LFP’s work here.


East Marginal Way Project Letter of Support

On Monday I coordinated the Council signing a letter in support of a federal BUILD grant application for the East Marginal Way Corridor Project.

The Council signed a similar letter in February for a separate federal grant.

The grant application is for $20 million; the SDOT Capital Improvement Project (CIP) budget listing indicated SDOT was considering approaches for full funding; the earlier federal grant application was for $13 million (an INFRA grant); the Port of Seattle is also contributing $5 million to the project. The funding gap listed in the CIP was $38 million.

The project is important for West Seattle, to improve safety by separating bike commuters from traffic; with the closure of the West Seattle Bridge though at least the end of 2021, this corridor will be increasingly important, as freight uses the lower bridge to West Seattle as well.

East Marginal Way is a major freight corridor that provides access to the Port of Seattle terminals, rail yards, industrial businesses and the regional highway system. The project will Improve safety and reliability in the movement of people and goods in this industrial and maritime area; support freight loads by rebuilding the roadway and promote efficiency through signal modifications and intelligent transportation systems (ITS).

SDOT could apply for federal grants for the West Seattle Bridge in the future; for this funding cycle, with uncertainty about which solution to pursue, it wasn’t ready for a grant proposal.

$7 Million in Food Access

Last Wednesday the Mayor announced an additional $7 million in food access program for older adults and people experiencing homelessness. The funding comes from the Federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act and Families First Coronavirus Response Act and will be dispersed by the Seattle Human Services Department.

Working at the West Seattle Food Bank, and this week at the South Park Senior Center, has given me insight to the enormity of the food access challenge during this crisis. I’m so grateful that food banks and free school lunches are helping children and families, but we know that seniors and those experiencing homelessness need more access. This city’s direct investment of $7 million will ensure older adults and our homeless neighbors don’t go hungry during this pandemic.


Emergency Water Main Repair Tonight

Tonight Seattle Public Utilities will begin work on repairing a 16-inch water main that is leaking near SW Holly Street between California Ave SW and 39th Ave SW. The West Seattle Blog has the report here. Repairs will require water to be turned off between 9pm today and 5am on Saturday, May 23. The loudest portion of construction will occur between 8pm and 10pm tonight when crews break up the pavement to access the leaking water main.

Some of you may remember an old drainage issue nearby at California Ave and SW Orchard St, this was not a leaking water pipe, but what’s called “seep” where water naturally surfaces. I had communicated with both Seattle Department of Transportation and SPU to try and effectuate a fix as this was a safety hazard in the winter when the water turned to ice. It wasn’t until late December 2017 when SPU Drainage and Wastewater operations staff discovered an abandoned storm water pipe which allowed SPU to correct the problem of the water collection because that they could use the abandoned storm water pipe as a connection to newly route the water away from the street surface. SPU does not believe these issues are related.


Virtual Office Hours

On Friday May 29, I will be hosting virtual office hours to comply with the extended Stay Home, Stay Healthy order from Governor Inslee. They will begin at 3pm and go until 6pm, with the last meeting of the day beginning at 5:30pm.

Due to the nature of virtual office hours, you will need to contact my schedule Alex Clardy (alex.clardy@seattle.gov) in order to receive the call-in information and schedule a time. We will be using Skype for Business, and you can either utilize the application or the dial-in number.

Additionally, here is a list of my tentatively scheduled office hours. These are subject to change.

  • Friday, June 26, 2020
    South Park Community Center, 8319 8th Avenue S
  • Friday, July 31, 2020
    Southwest Customer Service Center, 2801 SW Thistle St
  • Friday, August 21, 2020
    Senior Center of West Seattle, 4217 SW Oregon St
  • Friday, September 25, 2020
    South Park Community Center, 8319 8th Avenue S
  • Friday, October 30, 2020
    Southwest Customer Service Center, 2801 SW Thistle St
  • Friday, December 18, 2020
    South Park Community Center, 8319 8th Avenue S
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