West Seattle Bridge update, October 16; Budget Update; RV Pump-out Program; West Seattle Junction BIA Public Safety Meeting; Lowman Beach Racket Court Redesign; Free Learning Hub at SW Teen Life Center; Virtual Office Hours

West Seattle Bridge Update, October 16

Three updates at West Seattle Bridge Community Task Force Meeting

At the meeting of the West Seattle Bridge Community Task Force on Wednesday, we received three important updates from SDOT regarding the decision on whether to repair or replace the West Seattle Bridge.

First of all, SDOT Director Zimbabwe announced that SDOT will release the final Cost Benefit Analysis (CBA) on Monday. The CBA is developed to inform the decision whether to repair or replace the West Seattle Bridge. It’s critical for the members of the task force (and the public) to have this information, in order to fulfill their intended function of providing advice about the decision. Members of the task force expressed frustration last week at the amount of information they had received, and not having cost estimates beyond dollar signs from one to five, for both construction and maintenance and operations. I’ve heard the CBA is approximately 80 pages, and will likely be released Monday, so it will be challenging for task force members to digest by the next meeting on October 21st. There will likely be another meeting added the following week to better allow members to fulfill the function of providing informed advice.

Secondly, given the timing of the availability of the CBA, the Mayor is no longer expected to announce a decision at the task force meeting on the 21st.

Third, SDOT Director Zimbabwe announced their design contractor, HNTB, has brought forward a  replacement alternative based on the Lake Champlain Bridge, a two-lane bridge between New York and Vermont which opened in 2011. Here’s a  “white paper” prepared by the two state transportation agencies and the Federal Highway Administration, available at the NYDOT project page. SDOT will be presenting about it  at the task force meeting on Wednesday; I have not received any information about this beyond what is publicly available.

The replacement options considered to date have been presented to inform the decision whether to repair or replace the bridge; a Type, Size and Location study will be needed to decide what replacement would be used. The options presented so far include estimated opening dates in 2026, compared to 2022 for a repair. There’s been a suggestion that a new “rapid replacement” option could potentially be done in three years.

According to the white paper, the Lake Champlain project was completed in shortly over two years, through approaches on permitting, design and construction, and demolition of the bridge.

The white paper notes there was an unusual amount of close cooperation on permitting, including with  federal agencies, and between federal agencies.  A design-bid-build process was used, which can save time compared to standard processes.

Environmental review was condensed to five months, rather than e.g. 5+ years. No EIS was required; the project was able to receive a “Categorical Exclusion with Documentation;” it was built along the same alignment as the original bridge.

Off-site construction was used to build bridge elements, and brought into place on a barge; the center span was raised 75 feet.

In addition, the previous bridge was demolished (see 40 seconds in), and went into the lake.

The white paper indicates 80% of funding was provided by the federal government, with the rest split between the two states.

Compared to that project, there is a more challenging environment adjacent to the West Seattle Bridge, with the Port of Seattle and numerous adjacent maritime businesses, a salmon run and Native treaty fishing rights, and an urban environment.  In addition, much of the bridge is above land. It’s hard to see approval for any permitting to demolish the bridge into the Duwamish, for example. In addition, conceptual options for replacement presented to date by SDOT for Superstructure Replacement and Full Replacement include replacing portions of the bridge that are over land. An earlier option to replace only the center span (which is mostly over the water) was deemed infeasible.

While it’s unlikely all these conditions of the Lake Champlain Bridge could be replicated for the West Seattle Bridge, it’s important to learn what we can about accelerating timelines from other projects, as well as innovative approaches toward permitting and interagency coordination  whether we proceed with a repair or a replacement.

Permitting Risk and BNSF Rail Bridge

Schedule and permitting risks are an important element of the West Seattle Bridge decision. One of the risks mentioned in the cost/benefit analysis is permitting, e.g. vertical clearance required by the US Coast Guard.

In this spirit, recent developments on the ship canal rail bridge are worth keeping in mind. Last week BNSF Railroad announced they will be repairing the 1914 railroad bridge over the ship canal.

Two years ago BNSF had announced they planned a new bridge, with a vertical lift span, that would have 155 feet of vertical clearance, 15 feet more than the West Seattle Bridge

I have heard that the Coast Guard may have wanted additional vertical clearance beyond that. So I believe the risk re: delays for Coast Guard permitting must be fully vetted, and strongly encourage SDOT to contact BNSF re: their experience. We cannot end up in that kind of position two years from now, deciding to change course.

Survey says?

On October 12 at approximately 7 p.m., I conducted an online survey asking whether people support a repair or a replacement of the West Seattle Bridge.

It’s not a scientific survey, and geographic responses aren’t representative of District 1 overall.  That said, it is useful for receiving feedback from constituents at this point in time. Thank you to all who engaged.

As of 7 p.m. on October 14, approximately 7,000 people had participated and of them, 59.8% favored repair, 36% supported replacement, and 4.2% supported other.

39% of replies were from 98116, the zip code furthest north in West Seattle. Other zip codes, such as 98106 and 98126, stretch from north to south, 98126 is in the central portion, 98106 in the eastern portion. 98136 is the SW portion of West Seattle, and 98108 includes South Park.  98146 includes the very southwest portions of the city.

Zip Repair Replace % of Total Replies
98116 66.8% 29.6% 39% of total
98126 64.7% 31.39% 24% of total
98136 58.6% 37.1% 16% of total
98106 41.7% 54.6% 16% of total
98146 37.3% 60% 4% of total
98108 34% 66% 1% of total


Here are the most recent traffic numbers:

The most recent travel times are below:

This Week in the Budget

On Tuesday, the Council’s Budget Committee began work on Issue Identification sessions, where Central Staff reports on the Mayor’s proposed budget, and identifies potential issues for the Council to address. Councilmembers can also raise issues, or potential proposals. Here’s the schedule, and presentations available so far; departments not identified are included in the “Miscellaneous Issues” section.

October 15

Introduction and Issue Identification Overview | Presentation

General Fund Balancing Analysis | Central Staff Memo | Presentation

October 16

Department of Sustainability and Environment | Central Staff Memo | Presentation

Department of Neighborhoods | Central Staff Memo | Presentation

Seattle Public Library | Central Staff Memo | Presentation

Miscellaneous Issue Identification | Central Staff Memo | Presentation

Issue ID meetings will continue on Tuesday and Wednesday next week:

October 20:

  • Parks
  • SDOT
  • Police

October 21:

  • Community Safety
  • Human Services
  • Homelessness
  • COVID-19

On October 22:

deadline for Council Budget Actions and Statements of Legislative Intent (SLIs) that will be presented beginning on October 28th. Items must have three sponsors, and specific dollar amounts.

You can view or download the full Select Budget Committee meeting calendar here.  Sign up to receive Select Budget Committee agendas by email here.

Public comment will be taken at the start of each meeting at 9:30 a.m. You can register to give comment on this page. The signup form is available two hours before each session begins.

There will be a second public hearing October 27 at 5:30 p.m.

Below are some of the items I have proposed this week; more of my proposals will come next week:

Automated External Defibrillators (AEDs):

The Seattle Fire Department does not currently own AEDs, also known as Lucas Devices. These devices are used when it’s difficult or unsafe for a medic to perform CPR.

Funding for Bunking Gear:

Some of the Seattle Fire Department’s bunking gear that our Fire Fighters currently wear each day is getting older, expiring, wearing out, and does not provide our first responders with the best technology available to keep them safe at extreme fires and other dangerous emergencies. High quality bunking gear protects firefighters and contributes to savings lives.

Provide funding to a. reverse cut of Fire exams and b. reverse cut of 20 firefighters from SFD recruit class

This budget action would allow SFD to maintain current hiring and testing capacity. The hiring freeze instituted by the Mayor only effects civilian employees and therefore the SFD should maintain its ability to test and recruit new firefighters.  The Seattle Fire Department has recently seen an increase in firefighter separations, and If the same attrition pattern on average over the last five years (38 separations) continues in 2021, SFD could have 75 vacancies with an additional 412 eligible for retirement. The City should continue its testing and hiring to ensure that the increase in separations, if continued, does not affect SFD operations.

South Park Public Safety Coordinator:

One of my top priorities is to provide funding to continue the work of the South Park Public Safety Coordinator. This position was the top priority recommendation in the 2017 South Park Public Safety Taskforce Report funded by the City Council. The report recommended a bilingual resident to coordinate community public safety efforts in South Park, working with the South Park Safety Partners.

Current priorities include facilitating community safety dialogue around South Park’s experience around policing and alternatives to police in South Park; street and safety concerns due to West Seattle Bridge closure, business district concerns, and youth engagement. Recent work includes coordinating Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design (CPTED) work in youth art murals and a Clean Streets Initiative, community support during COVID, neighborhood walks, and facilitating and distributing a neighborhood newsletter in English, Spanish and Vietnamese.

South Park is a low-income, majority BIPOC neighborhood, with numerous residents who are immigrants; a majority of South Park neighbors speak a language other than English at home; the median income is 33% less than the city average; 83% of students are eligible for free and reduced lunch programs.

Update on SPU RV Pump-out Program

In last year’s budget process I worked to add $180,000 to fund a RV pump-out pilot program that provides contracted mobile pump-out services, of black and gray water, to RVs located in environmentally sensitive areas. This effort was in response to recommendations of the City Auditor.  The program was originally planned to service between 40 and 64 RVs per month in order to protect our waterways as well as providing critical public health services to unhoused people who live in RVs.

At the beginning of the public health emergency in March Seattle Public Utilities (SPU) expanded their goals to provide increased hygiene services. Between July and August SPU averaged over 100 pumps-outs and they expect to continue providing this level of service. Furthermore, SPU has developed program flyers for outreach and has created a text service to communicate with RV occupants about when and where the next pump-out will take place. Finally, SPU has also begun partnering with Saint Vincent DePaul, helping to connect RV occupants with additional services during the pump-out.

West Seattle Junction BIA Public Safety Meeting

I participated in a meeting on Tuesday, October 13th hosted by the West Seattle Junction Business Improvement Area to discuss public safety concerns around Junction Plaza Park.  The City’s executive branch was represented by members of the Hygiene Station Team, including: Tess Colby – Senior Advisor, Office of the Mayor, Tom Van Bronkhorst – Strategic Advisor, Department of Neighborhoods, Bill Benzer – Seattle Public Utilities, Joe Everett – Precinct Liaison Attorney City Attorney’s Office, and Sina Ebinger – Operations Lieutenant Seattle Police Department.

Aaron Burkhalter, program manager for LEAD in West Seattle, also participated to talk about LEAD’s recent expansion into West Seattle.  I had connected LEAD with the BIA, which is coordinating neighborhood input, in order to begin to address some of the concerns expressed about Junction Plaza Park.  LEAD provides services to individuals who commit low-level criminal offenses (such as drug possession, sales, and prostitution offenses) in order to improve public safety, and its approach has been found to reduce criminal recidivism.  Aaron also participated in my Town Hall on September 30th; you can view his remarks here at about the 22 minute mark.

At some hygiene stations, the City has a contract with Millionair’s Club to provide cleaning services, staffing, and security.  I suggested this approach to the Hygiene Station Team during the meeting, and am inquiring about the cost of a such an approach.

As part of the 2021 budget deliberations, I’ll be proposing the addition of a homeless outreach worker dedicated to West Seattle and South Park.

Lowman Beach Racket Court Redesign

At Lowman Beach Park, 7017 Beach Dr. S W., the existing court will be removed as part of the Shoreline Restoration and Seawall Replacement project.  The Lowman Beach Park seawall began to fail in 2015. As visitors to the park have seen, the existing seawall is slowly falling over/sliding towards the water. SPR’s goal is to remove the existing seawall and continue the shoreline restoration work that began when the south half of the seawall failed in the mid-1990s and was removed.

For more information or to review the meeting in August please visit https://www.seattle.gov/parks/about-us/current-projects/lowman-beach-racket-court-design.

Free Learning Hub at SW Teen Life Center (With Food!) for Your Middle or High School Student

Looking for a safe, welcoming space for your young person to work on daily virtual learning? Seattle Parks and Recreation has learning hubs for middle or high school students at seven locations across the city, including SW Teen Life Center.

Free, with wifi, these spaces are equipped with community center and youth program staff who can help your student get engaged in learning.  The facilities offer a stable, productive environment by providing access to Seattle Public School’s virtual learning portals, along with recreational, enrichment and mentoring programs and in-person assistance with connectivity and academics. Breakfast and lunch are provided daily.

The hubs adhere to current public health standards by performing regular cleaning, sanitizing and daily wellness/temperature checks. All staff and students are required to wear masks, and social distancing and room occupancy limits are followed.

Wi-fi is available; participants must bring a laptop or tablet. Bringing a refillable water bottle is also suggested.  The hub sites are open Monday through Friday from 8:30 am to 5 pm, and run until June 18, 2021. For more information, click here or call SW Teen Life Center at 206-684-7438 – interpretation available.

Virtual Office Hours

On Friday October 23, I will be hosting virtual office hours between 2pm and 6pm, with the last meeting of the day beginning at 5:30pm. These office hours are being rescheduled from October 30 due to a Budget Committee meeting scheduled all day.

Due to the nature of virtual office hours, you will need to contact my scheduler Alex Clardy (alex.clardy@seattle.gov) in order to receive the call-in information and schedule a time.

Additionally, here is the tentatively scheduled office hours for the month of December. These are subject to change.

  • Friday, December 18, 2020; 2-6pm
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