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Seattle halts downtown bike lane project, preparing for ‘mega gridlock’

(File, Associated Press)

As Seattle prepares for “mega gridlock” downtown, Mayor Jenny Durkan is removing one hampering factor — a bike lane.

RELATED: An action movie, or the next three years of Seattle construction/traffic?

At least, Durkan requested delaying construction of a bike lane on Fourth Avenue as the city faces a “period of maximum constraint” that will significantly snarl downtown traffic, according to The Seattle Times. Instead, they are focusing efforts on getting an extension of the Second Avenue bike lane already up and running. The 8-foot-wide lane proposed for Fourth Avenue will have to wait until at least 2021.

It is the second time in a week that Durkan has put the brakes on downtown projects related to transit. Last week, the mayor stopped all work on the City Center Connector project to expand the streetcar through downtown. Recent estimates indicate the streetcar project is considerably over budget.

Period of maximum constraint

The next three years in Seattle includes an immense amount of construction: new buildings; the convention center expansion project; the KeyArena remodel; the tear-down of the Alaskan Way Viaduct. And that’s all on top of the construction that has become common in Seattle. The city has set records for having the most construction cranes.

The plan for the Fourth Avenue bike lane became official in September 2017 when Scott Kubly was still director of the Seattle Department of Transportation. SDOT’s interim director, however, told the Times that the bike lane would only add to delays during a traffic blockages. He cited the infamous fish truck incident that snarled Seattle traffic in 2015 as an example, according to the Times.

More bike lanes coming

Despite the delay, more bike lanes are coming to downtown Seattle, according to plans by the city, King County Metro, and Sound Transit.

Planned bike lanes include:

  • A bike lane on Seventh Avenue is expected in 2018
  • A connector built between Second Avenue and Dearborn Street in 2019
  • The city will build out the bike lanes on Pike and Pine Streets in 2021

According to city plans, the Fourth Avenue protected bike lane between Vine and Main Streets will come in 2021. SDOT will fund all the bike lane projects.

Objections

As the Times points out, there is pushback from the city’s bike-friendly community. Councilmember Mike O’Brien is among the crowd. When the Fourth Avenue bike lane was discussed in February 2017, he likened the city’s bike / pedestrian accidents and fatalities to gun violence. O’Brien argued that the city needed safer bike paths to counter the collisions between bicycles and cars.

Upon hearing about the delay, O’Brien said: “We were told to wait until the One Center City planning happens to get near-term, high-value actions like the Fourth Avenue protected bike lane. And we waited. And we got nothing. We can’t wait any longer.”

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