WSDOT needs to hear from us by this Friday – October 5th – about their proposed design preferences for the new SR-520 bridge design (click here for more information on these design preferences). Currently the design does not include a multi-use trail on the Portage Bay Bridge. The trail comes all the way from Redmond and then dead ends in Montlake rather than continuing to Capitol Hill and beyond.
A lot has happen in the last few weeks. Here in Seattle, representatives from Central Seattle Greenways met with the citywide group to discuss which routes will be prioritized for next year and the multiuse trail on the Portage Bay Bridge has keep us busy as well. Meanwhile, you haven’t seen too many updates here on the website because I’ve been in South America, checking out how Buenos Aires and Rio de Janeiro have been adapting to the challenges of urban transportation.
South America has seen a number of innovative, and at times daring, active transportation initiatives that reflect a new vision about what they want their cities to be like. Gone are the days where cars were seen as the sole future of transportation, an ideal best embodied by the completely master planned Brasilia. What we see today are cities all over the continent working to create places where people have more transportation choices and where cycling and walking can take root again. There seems to be a change in attitude towards cars and their role in society, including the quote from an ex-Mayor of Bogotá: “An advanced city is not a place where the poor move about in cars, rather it’s where even the rich use public transportation.“*
A new Portage Bay bridge is coming as part of the 520 replacement project. The bridges that we build today will shape how people get around the region and our city for the next 60-75 years. When we built the I-90 bridge, we created brand new links across the lake and enabled people to get from one side to the other on foot or bike. The success of that link is partly because we made the choice to maximize the benefit of that investment by building bike and pedestrian tunnels that made getting to downtown and the central Seattle neighborhoods easy and direct. Today, we are in the process of deciding whether or not we want to maximize the investment being made in the new link across the lake on the 520 bridge by connecting it with the rest of Seattle with a multi-use trail on the new Portage Bay bridge.
Recently, we asked for your support in asking the city to ask WSDOT to include the multi-use trail as part of the Portage Bay Replacement. We quickly collected 346 signatures from regular people all across the city, including long time residents of Montlake who will be neighbors to the new bridge and are interested in what is best for their community and for Seattle. Since then, the Seattle Design Commission has come out in support of the multi-use trail and the Seattle Bicycle Advisory Board is expected to follow suit. While we have had broad support, we have also seen concerns from some members of the community who are concerned about the additional width of the bridge that the multi-use trail would cause.
The other week some of us with Central Seattle Greenways went down to Portland to see their neighborhood greenways in action. We had a chance to meet with representatives from many of the groups that have been active in creating a bike and pedestrian friendly city, including the Portland Bureau of Transportation (PBOT), Alta Planning & Design, Friends of Trees, and the Urban Greenspaces Institute.
While we can’t copy/paste their strategy from Portland into Seattle, we did have over 40 miles on our bikes to reflect on what could work and what might not translate well to our city and here in Central Seattle. The biggest take away from the trip is that with not much intervention, we can dramatically change the feel of moving through the neighborhood. Greenways in Portland involve modest changes that are inexpensive to do, but end up creating safer and more effective streets for bikes and pedestrians.
If you want a bike and pedestrian shared use path on the Portage Bay bridge, add your name to our letter to WSDOT and SDOT!
The multi-use trail on the 520 bridge is a new, important link in the regional bike and pedestrian network, but the current plan is for the trail to end in Montlake. We see this as a half-built trail and have, along with other greenway and community advocates, been active in pushing for WSDOT to complete the trail by building the final link on the Portage Bay bridge. We believe that the neighborhoods of Seattle would be best served by a simple, safe and direct connection between Montlake and the Delmar lid (where I-5 and 520 meet), and are happy that we have been able to help put this back in the spotlight where it needs to be.
The current plan calls for people trying to reach Downtown, Capitol Hill, or Eastlake to wind through the neighborhood after the trail ends by Montlake Blvd. The problem is that these routes all have either steep hills, busy streets with high-speed traffic, or circuitous routes that can be up to double the length that the portage bay multi-use trail would be. While these routes serve local connections inside Montlake well, they don’t foster inter-neighborhood connections that are dramatically different from what we have today. A multi-use trail on Portage Bay would do that and if it is going to be done, now is the time to do it. If it is not built with the replacement now, the cost and hassle of jury rigging something later is going to make sure it never happens.
Next week is the last Community Design Process public meeting for the 520 bridge project. We need your help to ensure that the project links our communities together with high-quality and family-friendly pedestrian and bicycle infrastructure. If done poorly, this massive construction project could make it even more difficult for people ages 8-80 to get around on foot or on bike. Our largest ask of WSDOT is the continuation of the multi-use trail from Montlake to Roanoake. Building this trail will better connect all of the surrounding neighborhoods and the region.
From Melrose Promenade:
“On Friday morning, we greeted morning commuters at the corner of Melrose and Denny with free muffins, coffee, and conversation at our second Muffins on Melrose event. Thank you to the dozens of community members who stopped by our table to learn more about our vision for the Melrose Promenade, and especially for all your encouragement and helpful advice. Thank you also to our volunteers who helped make the event a success!
Interesting fact: We counted more than 400 pedestrians and bicyclists passing through the intersection of Melrose and Denny between 8am and 9:30am. (Our friends at SDOT, did you hear that?) Who ever said Seattle couldn’t be a walking and biking sort of town?”