Traffic top concern at latest meeting on Magnolia Bridge replacement

The meeting presented the bridge replacement options that remain on the table to residents in the imme-diate area of West Galer and Thorndyke Avenue West so they could ask questions or make comments. Several public meetings have been held.

The routes
Of the three remaining alignment possibilities for replacing the Magnolia Bridge - deteriorating with age and weakened in the 2001 Nisqually Earthquake - Alternative A most closely resembles the existing bridge. Alternative A would follow the path
of the current bridge but just to the south. A diamond interchange in the bridge's mid-span would allow access to the Elliott Bay Marina area and the Port of Seattle's uplands property to the north of the existing bridge.
Kirk Jones, the Seattle Department of Transportation project manager for the Magnolia Bridge replacement,
said that an advantage to Alternative A is that it would allow the current bridge to remain open until the very end of construction when the re-
placement must hook up to the roads where the bridge now does.
"One of the things we heard [in community meetings] was, 'We don't want to be shut down for 2 to 2 1/2 years without a bridge during construction,'" Jones said.
Alternative D maintains the same end points at 15th Avenue West and West Galer Street as the existing bridge but would arc to the north. Again, this alignment would have the diamond interchange.
Alternative H, involving two bridges, offers more routes into Magnolia.
"H gets at issues people would like to see solved: If one bridge is down now, we're left with just two routes in and out of Magnolia," Jones said.
Alternative H creates two separate routes to and from Magnolia. The southern route will have an arc similar to Alternative D but will use the Galer Street Flyover to get across 15th Avenue West and the Burlington Northern-Santa Fe Railroad tracks.
On the west side of the tracks, the southern route will run north, then west on a surface road to join a new bridge up to West Galer on Magnolia Bluff.
The northern route of Alternative H would take traffic off 15th Avenue West at West Wheeler Street and move it on a bridge that links to Thorndyke Avenue at 23rd Avenue West on the bluff.
An underpass would be built beneath 15th Avenue West to get northbound traffic onto the northern route. Eastbound traffic would head south at West Armory Way to hook up with 15th Avenue West.

Traffic fallout
Alternative H worried some in the audience at the April 16 meeting. The northern bridge, they pointed out, would funnel a large number of cars that now use the Magnolia Bridge onto neighborhood streets that aren't accustomed to that volume of traffic, although Dravus and Galer already send traffic onto Thorndyke. Audience members noted that traffic controls would have to be installed where the bridge intersects Thorndyke.
With 20,000 cars per day heading across the Magnolia Bridge, Jones
sees splitting the traffic between the two bridges in option H as possibly helping to better manage traffic on 15th Avenue West and Elliott Avenue.
Speakers also suggested that instead of using money for the northern route of Alternative H, those dollars would be better spent on increasing capacity farther north, since the Dravus Street and Emerson Street bridges back up during rush hour.
More than one community member noted that drivers now speed up the Magnolia Bridge as they head into Magnolia, which can make for some hazardous traffic situations in the residential area at the top of the bridge. Marilyn Treanor, who has lived near the top of the bridge for several years, noted that the bridge traffic is dangerous and said she often can't get into her own driveway because of the traffic.
The question was raised as to how the alternatives could be designed to slow drivers down. One community member commented that building a sufficient arc into the bridge might do the trick. Someone else suggested that people should not be allowed to take a right turn onto Thorndyke at the top of the hill.
Jones told the audience that models would be prepared to analyze traffic flow for each bridge-replacement alterative. The models, Jones noted, would take into account both current and future traffic flow, including estimated traffic generated by the maximum possible development in the area. Jones said the routes will be analyzed so they can be put together in any combination and his department will know the effects.
The traffic analysis will be part of the next step in the bridge-replacement process: the Environmental Impact Statement. Some audience members objected, insisting they want a dialogue now about traffic issues.
Another concern expressed about Alternative H is the looming bridge that will be added to the landscape by the northern route, coming quite close to homes that weren't purchased with that in mind.

Development by Port
Audience members also wanted to know the Port of Seattle's preferred alternative for the bridge replacement. When the observation was made that the Port's decision for developing its uplands property, next to the existing bridge, could significantly change which replacement option would be the best choice, Jones said that was being taken into account. "We know the density of development that can occur there, and we're planning for that."
The Port has not decided the future of its uplands property but is in the master planning process, which they plan to have done later this year, which they anticipate completing later this year. While current zoning does not allow housing on the uplands acreage, Jones said one scenario the Port is looking is a multi-use development with commercial operations on the lower levels and housing above. If the Port chose to go that direction, they would have to get a zoning variance.
Jones said that the potential density for Interbay also will be factored into planning. He noted that if the bridge replacement benefits the Port, his department would seek a funding contribution from the Port.

Getting more information
A meeting is scheduled for May 21 for the Port to talk with community members about its plans for development in Interbay.
Jones announced that an Environmental Impact Statement scoping meeting will be held May 22 at Blaine.
"This [the May 22 meeting] will be the time for input, the time when the public is to say these are the issues that need to be studied. We're looking for that input from citizens as well as government agencies and Native Americans."
After the May 22 scoping meeting, there will be a two-week comment period. Then the EIS process will begin, with the draft Environmental Impact Statement to be ready by the end of the year. The final recommendation on the bridge replacement, anticipated in the summer of 2004, would then go to the Seattle City Council, which would take action that fall.
Once the council approves the Environmental Impact Statement, Jones said his department can move ahead with a full design, which will take as long as two and one-half years to complete, including the purchase of rights of way. The money for that phase still needs to be found.
"We do not have the construction money or the money to purchase the rights-of-way. We hope to have that by this time next year. The EIS will help us estimate the range of costs for each one of these alternatives," Jones said.
Jones said that coming up with a basic plan, including costs, is necessary to get money. "Many of the funding programs look to see if the city or the agency is ready with a set of funding plans," Jones said.
The earliest construction could start is 2007, according to Jones.
For more information, contact Kirk Jones at 615-0862 or kirkt.jones@, or go online to

Editor Maggie Larrick can be reached at
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