CHOKEPOINTS

West Marginal Way could lose half its capacity, even as lifeline for West Seattle

Sep 24, 2020, 6:28 AM | Updated: 11:08 am
West Marginal Way...
The five-way intersection entering West Marginal Way. (SDOT, Flickr Creative Commons)
(SDOT, Flickr Creative Commons)

It’s been six months and a day since the West Seattle Bridge closed because of cracking concrete. People living in that part of Seattle are begging for something to be done quickly, while the city weighs whether to reduce capacity on West Marginal Way, a key alternate route for residents of the area.

Why is it taking so long to figure out the West Seattle Bridge?

October 21 is the day Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan is supposed to make her decision on whether to repair or replace the cracking bridge. Then comes the long discussion of how a repair or a replacement will be done, and how much those potential options will cost.

And despite the growing frustration over how long it’s taking to make real decisions, Director of Downtown Mobility Heather Marx said they are going faster on decision-making than you think.

“It might not always feel fast, but I assure you that both by city standards and municipal standards anywhere, we are really breaking land speed records,” she told the community task force, which met again Wednesday.

Co-chair and former Seattle Mayor Greg Nickels expressed what many on the task force are feeling, that they just don’t have enough information on the costs and the timelines of potential choices to make an informed decision.

“We need to know how long the thing is going to last if it’s repaired, what it’s going to cost, will it be fully functional, or will it have to be restricted,” he said.

Without that data, he said, this is just an exercise in process. Nickels hinted that some of those very important details could come over the next two weeks.

There continues to be a fight over some of the proposed traffic mitigation projects that are supposed to help people move around without the bridge. The biggest fight is over what to do with West Marginal Way, which has seen huge increases in travel with the bridge closed, and has become a lifeline for West Seattle residents trying to get in and out of their neighborhoods.

The city wants to get rid of two of the four lanes along West Marginal Way. One would become a northbound freight-only lane, and another would become a southbound protected bike lane. But it sounds like the groups those changes would potentially serve don’t even want them. Port of Seattle President Peter Steinbrueck made that quite clear.

“The Port of Seattle does not support a dedicated northbound freight lane,” Steinbrueck said. “We don’t see value in it. We see it as creating another safety issue, potential conflicts, and [it will] actually slow traffic.”

SDOT says West Seattle Bridge can be fixed, debates whether it should be

Bicycle advocate Peter Goldman doesn’t see the need for a protected bike lane either, which he admitted is an odd position for him.

“I’ve ridden this hundreds of times,” Goldman said. “I know every square inch of it. The goal needs to be to just have something that’s wide enough for pedestrians and bikes.”

He doesn’t believe this is a good spot for a protected bike lane.

“That road is going to be a highway for years now, and we know that,” Goldman noted.

It also sounds like the city doesn’t even have current data on how many bikes actually use West Marginal, so expect this fight to continue.

The city will be adding six “your speed is” signs on West Marginal later this year to help with speeding.

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West Marginal Way could lose half its capacity, even as lifeline for West Seattle