West Seattle Bridge Update: May 29; Planning for Seattle’s Economic Recovery; New Dashboard Shows King County’s Progress on Key COVID Indicators; Premium Pay for Essential Workers; Delridge Rapid Ride H Line Project: Work Starting Week of June 8

West Seattle Bridge Update: May 29

Lower Bridge Maintenance Closure

SDOT has announced that the lower bridge will be closed for maintenance during the evening and early morning over the next few days, in order to work on the bridge’s controls and communications systems used to operate the bridge. Here’s the schedule for closure:

  • Friday night: 8PM to 5AM
  • Saturday night: 6PM to 3AM
  • Sunday night: 6PM to 3AM (if needed)

Traffic, including transit, will be detoured to the 1st Avenue South or South Park bridges. The bridge will also be closed to bicyclists and pedestrians; emergency vehicles will have limited access across the bridge.

Bridge advisory groups

SDOT has announced the formation of two advisory groups.

The first, the Technical Advisory Panel, is composed of independent experts with experience in bridge design and construction (especially concrete), to advise SDOT at key milestones in the process.

The second, the Community Task Force, includes residents and business representatives; I’ll be serving as an ex officio member, along with elected officials from the county, state, port, and office of U.S. Representative Jayapal.

Former Mayor and West Seattle resident Greg Nickels, and Paulina Lopez, of the Duwamish River Coalition, will serve as co-chairs. SDOT said, “Members will help ensure transparency, clear communication, and broad community engagement and understanding around both traffic mitigation efforts and the future path forward for the West Seattle High-Rise Bridge as we address new data, public input, fiscal challenges, and many other important factors that will inform consideration of repair versus replace scenarios.”

In the press release, I noted the importance of community voices being involved:

“Community voices must be at the table when considering the future of the West Seattle Bridge. The West Seattle Town Hall last month revealed that many residents, those living with the reality of the West Seattle Bridge closure, have good ideas to improve traffic flow and public transit during the closure. I appreciate SDOT’s commitment to, with this task force, considering the thoughtful suggestions of those most impacted in future planning decisions.” Councilmember Lisa Herbold, District 1, West Seattle and South Park.

Traffic update

SDOT has updated its traffic data format, to include mapping, and travel times by time of day. The most recent updates are below. Traffic on West Marginal and Highland Park Way continues to be high.

The numbers below show average travel times during peak travel times:

SDOT has a blog post with a summary of actions to mitigate the impacts of the closure of the West Seattle Bridge, including installation of traffic monitors, signal timing adjustments, travel displays for route planning, and accelerating road work at South Spokane Street and 6th Avenue South, repaving and adjusting signals at the 5-way intersection by the lower bridge, and links to some of the community letters they have responded to. Paving work, jointly carried out by SDOT and King County SDOT, between 16th and 18th on Roxbury is scheduled to be completed today.

SDOT plans to install “Do Not Block” signs at intersections and driveways on West Marginal Way in response to concerns from businesses about difficulty exiting and entering their properties.

Traffic volumes on Michigan Street in Georgetown continue to increase. SDOT is trying different signal adjustments to keep vehicles moving, though the 1st Avenue South Bridge does have capacity limitations.

SDOT is doing ground penetrating radar surveys to locate drill holes for mounting external post-tensioning in preparation of Pier 18 restrain release.

I’ve requested SDOT provide an update about what they have learned from the recently installed monitoring equipment regarding the stability of the West Seattle Bridge.

Planning for Seattle’s Economic Recovery

It’s no secret that the coronavirus pandemic is damaging more than just our health.  Businesses and nonprofits have had to close or significantly cut back operations, leaving workers without the ability to support their families, or pay rent or mortgages.  With significant portions of our economy slowed or shuttered, the tax revenue generated by our economy shrinks; and as a result, the City of Seattle is facing an estimated $300 million shortfall for 2020 in a slow recovery, according to an April 22 presentation by the City Budget Office.

While upcoming budget discussions will be difficult, we need to keep in mind the lessons from the past and make investments in people and our economy that will quickly spur growth.  After the Great Recession of 2008, the Center for American Progress undertook an analysis of the impact of government spending on economic recovery.  They found that by 2012, economic recovery was swifter and unemployment lower in the 30 states that increased government spending, compared to the 20 states that embraced an austerity mindset and cut spending.

Unfortunately, Washington was among the 20 states that embraced an austerity approach to budgeting following the Great Recession.  This time, with even more at stake, we must resist the urge to mindlessly cut, and instead choose investments in Seattle residents that will spur our economic recovery.   The lessons of the past are clear:

 A fragile economy can be buttressed and boosted by increased public spending on investments like education, infrastructure, energy efficiency, and putting money in people’s pockets through safety-net programs like unemployment insurance and Medicaid. The government—like families and businesses—also buys a tremendous volume of goods and services from the private market. As businesses see more sales and potential customers, they will have confidence in the economy to add jobs and crank up the economy’s private-sector engine. Dramatically cutting spending in a fragile economy, however, can pull the rug out from nascent economic growth.”

This lesson makes it more important than ever that Seattle identify new sources of revenue that ask those who are thriving right now to contribute more toward our collective recovery.  The truth is that while some of Seattle’s key industries – such as tourism or restaurants – have experienced significant downturns, other portions of Seattle’s economy have been able to continue work largely as usual.

Last week, 65% of Portland area voters approved $2.5 billion in new taxes over 10 years to tackle their homelessness crisis.  They approved progressive taxes that ask people and businesses who are thriving to contribute more with a 1% marginal income tax for people who make $125,000 annually or couples who earn $200,000 combined; and a 1% tax on businesses that generate at least $5 million annually. Importantly, this measure gained the support of a large range of allies, including faith communities, elected officials, and Portland’s leading business association.

I’m grateful to Councilmember Teresa Mosqueda for organizing an Economic Realities of COVID Forum last week, and to those who shared their expertise from Washington State Budget & Policy Center, Front and Centered, People’s Economy Lab, In the Public Interest, Economic Policy Institute, Ventures, Washington Low Income Housing Alliance, ProTec17, and Chief Seattle Club.    You can watch video of the forum here.

New Dashboard Shows King County’s Progress on Key COVID Indicators

Public Health – Seattle & King County just released a new data dashboard that tracks King County’s progress on key indicators related to COVID, such as trends in reported cases, testing capacity, and healthcare system readiness. These indicators, along with many other data, are key considerations for reviewing current restrictions on activity, recommendations and precautions to prevent the spread of COVID-19. The indicators help determine if current actions are adequate, need to be strengthened, or might be carefully relaxed.

The first couple of indicators are shown below.  To see the full dashboard and check for updates, click here.

Premium Pay for Essential Workers

On Tuesday Councilmember Lewis and I introduced legislation to establish a temporary $5 premium fee per ride for Transportation Network Companies, TNCs like Uber and Lyft, as well as for delivery for food delivery network companies, now often being referred to as “FDNCs.” FDNCs are companies such as UberEats, DoorDash, Instacart, and Postmates. Drivers for these companies are typically independent contractors – often misclassified – and are not subject to the City’s $15 minimum wage or other local labor laws.

This $5 fee – while recognizing the important and hazardous work these drivers are doing – would also compensate workers for their time and supplies to adequately clean their vehicles to meet public health guidelines. Furthermore, these workers often make less than minimum wage once tips are removed and expenses for their vehicle, mileage, and other supplies are taken into account. This $5 fee per delivery will help bring them closer into alignment with the City’s minimum wage.

Council Central Staff presented the legislation to Council on Tuesday morning, you can see their presentation here.

Another piece of legislation that Councilmember Mosqueda has been working on is providing this same group of workers Paid Sick and Safe Time (PSST). The City of Seattle has had PSST as a local labor law since 2012, and this legislation would temporarily expand it to independent contractors that work for FDNCs and transportation network companies such as Uber and Lyft.  Currently these workers do not receive paid sick and safe time and they may be faced with a decision to work even when they are sick.

Delridge Rapid Ride H Line Project: Work Starting Week of June 8

SDOT has announced that work will begin the week of June 8 on the Delridge RapidRide H Line project.

The project (formerly called the Delridge Multimodal Corridor Project) includes improvement to Delridge Avenue SW designed to increase transit speed and access, in coordination with King County’s planned transition to convert Bus 120 into the RapidRide H line in September, 2021. The H Line will provide Delridge with a direct connection to South Lake Union. Travel times are expected to improve 10-15%; the project will include new shelters, lighting, ORCA card readers, and real-time arrival displays. The project also includes repaving Delridge from Orchard to Andover.

34% of households along the route operate without a personal vehicle.

An online open house has additional information about the project, final design, how community feedback was incorporated, and construction planned for this summer.  If you have questions or comments, please email DelridgeTransit@seattle.gov or call 206-775-8739.

Delridge Way SW will remain open to traffic with 1 lane in each direction during most of the construction. Temporary detours may be needed for some work.

I sponsored “stage gating” requirements for SDOT to report to the Council at 10% design, and at 30% design, before receiving funding to continue, to ensure community input.

In the 2020 budget, I proposed a requirement that SDOT report back to the Council on several issues before proceeding.

The most recent traffic count showed traffic 75% below pre-COVID volumes on Delridge at Andover.

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