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SEATTLE — Mayor McGinn announced today that he has proposed funding to advance plans to study a new crossing of the Ship Canal and a high capacity transit corridor from downtown to the University District via South Lake Union and Eastlake. The City Council had previously approved funding to begin study of the University District to South Lake Union corridor project in 2014. McGinn is proposing in a supplemental budget request to advance that study to this year and begin the Ship Canal Crossing study this year in order to help ensure both projects can be eligible for competitive federal grants and other funding sources.
“These two projects are essential to connecting more of our neighborhoods with better transit, including rail,” McGinn said. “A new crossing of the Ship Canal can significantly improve transit service, provide people who walk and bike a better alternative to congestion on our existing bridges, and create space for freight. The University District to South Lake Union project can also help bring rail to one of our most heavily used transit corridors, supporting future growth in jobs and housing.”
“We all want more transit but expanding our transit system — no matter what the mode — doesn’t just happen on its own. It requires careful study, planning, and construction to ensure the best use of public dollars,” said Councilmember Richard Conlin, chair of the land use committee. “The sooner we move forward with these efforts, the sooner our neighborhoods will enjoy the benefits of improved transit, walkability, and bikability.”
Traffic on the Ballard and Fremont bridges causes delays for transit and vehicles on these heavily used routes. Pedestrian and bicycle facilities on both bridges do not meet minimum design standards. The City’s Transit Master Plan and Bicycle Master Plan already envision a new crossing of the Ship Canal to address these concerns. Future growth in northwest Seattle will add to the need for a new crossing.
“More space for transit, bicyclists and pedestrians on a separate crossing will help ease congestion for freight mobility and make it easier for people to travel north-south,” said Eugene Wasserman, of the North Seattle Industrial Association. “I support funding this crossing study”.
The Ship Canal Crossing study would evaluate several crossing concepts and analyze their feasibility, focusing on pedestrian, bicycle and transit needs while considering freight and automobile functions. The study would develop conceptual design alternatives and prepare cost estimates, and coordinate with Seattle’s Transit Master Plan and Sound Transit long-range planning. The cost of this study is $500,000.
“It’s hard to get around Seattle on a bike, especially if your trip requires you to cross the Ship Canal as your options are either intimidating, inconvenient or not safe. It doesn’t have to be this way”, said Craig Benjamin of the Cascade Bicycle Club. “Another crossing would make it safer and faster for everyone to get around Seattle, whether you drive, ride transit, bike or walk.”
“Moving both of these studies forward now will help us get closer to actually building the transit we need,” said Ben Schiendelman of Seattle Subway. “A Ship Canal Crossing study would look at all options, including a tunnel. The University District to South Lake Union route is another high priority corridor that we need to study now in order to get Seattle in line for federal funding.”
The University District to South Lake Union via Eastlake route was identified as a top priority high-capacity transit corridor in the Transit Master Plan approved by the City Council in 2012. This project would serve a route that is different from Sound Transit’s University Link light rail.
Rising demand is expected to exceed existing transit capacity on this route, leading the City to propose studying improved transit service such as rail or bus rapid transit. The Transit Master Plan indicated that up to 25,000 riders per day would use passenger rail on this corridor. As South Lake Union continues to expand its capacity for office and residential growth, riders per day could be even higher.
The University District to South Lake Union High Capacity Transit study would develop conceptual design alternatives and cost estimates for rail, bus rapid transit, and enhanced bus service on that route. It would also coordinate with Metro and with Sound Transit long-range planning. The proposed budget for this study is $2,000,000. The current budget includes $1,000,000 in 2014 and $1,000,000 in 2015. Mayor McGinn proposes $300,000 to begin design in 2013.