Westlake corridor sprucing up moves forward ; improvements to utilities and streets include public art

The project follows four years of extensive public meetings plus two more years of multi-agency planning and permitting, said Richard Smith, project manager for Seattle Public Utilities.
Besides SPU, the Seattle Transportation Department, Seattle City Light, the Seattle Parks and Recreation Department and the Seattle Arts Commission are involved in the $14 million project, he said.
It is unusual to have all of the agencies work together on a project, but the city promised local businesses and residents in the area that the work would not be tackled on a piecemeal basis, according to Smith.
"There's been a great deal of effort to work together to get everything done at once," he added.
Although each city department prepared its own design, all the work will be done under one contract with Mid Mountain Contractors Inc., Smith said.

Utility improvements
Work on the Westlake Avenue project will stretch between the south end of Lake Union to the south end of the Fremont Bridge. SPU will replace an aging drainage system along the street right of way.
There are 15 storm-water outfalls that dump surface runoff water from parking lots and the roadway into Lake Union.
"All the oils and heavy metals go directly into Lake Union," Smith said.
That will change, though. The 15 outlets will be consolidated into just four at Halladay, Crockett, Blaine and Galer Streets, and each will treat the surface runoff before it is released into the lake, he said. The treatment is close to 100 percent effective, Smith added.
"By the time the project is finished, we're going to reduce flooding in the area."
The locations of the new outfalls also will be turned into street-end viewpoints, he said.
Electrical work will include a new substation on Westlake. Currently there is only one substation at Broad Street providing feeder lines to Interbay, Westlake, Queen Anne and Magnolia, said City Light spokesman Dan Williams.
"That substation is almost maxed out," he said.
Adding a new substation will increase capacity for the system, which Smith said is a necessary step. The need for additional capacity is being driven by multi-family projects under development on Aurora Avenue and Westlake and by construction of the Immunex Helix project in Interbay, Smith said.

Roads, parking and art
Westlake Avenue will be resurfaced in the project area, crosswalks will be re-striped, and entryways to businesses along the lake will be improved, Smith said.
Ten small access points to the businesses will be eliminated as part of the project. They will be replaced with wider, more defined entrances that include new curb cuts. The reconfigured entrances will improve sight lines for traffic trying to pull into traffic on Westlake, he said.
The Seattle Transportation Department - which no longer wants to be referred to as Seatran - also plans to reconfigure parking in the area, Smith said. There are currently around 1,400 parking spaces along the 1.6-mile stretch of Westlake Avenue, he said.
"We're losing roughly 2 percent of those."
Seattle Transportation also will build an 8- to 10-foot-wide pathway along the east side of Westlake where railroad tracks had been located. The tracks have already been removed, Smith said.
"We're going to improve pedestrian access and safety because of the path."
Smith said 1 percent of the project's cost will be spent on public art for the area. The Seattle Arts Commission picked artist Maggie Smith to come up with the design.
"Rather than adding tack-on art, we're adding functional art," he said of benches, paving, and guard rails.
Some of the art will be part of several pocket parks the parks department plans to build for the project, Smith said.

A yearlong project
Work on the Westlake Avenue project began Feb. 6 and should continue for a year, Smith said. As part of the project, the two southbound lanes on Westlake have been reduced to one lane, while there are still two northbound lanes.
Seattle Transportation kept two northbound lanes open because most traffic is heading north during the p.m. peak hours, Smith said. Still, traffic could be restricted at some point to just two lanes, he added.
"We'll see how traffic responds," he said of the current lane revisions. "We actually think it's working well."
Access to local businesses will be maintained throughout the project, but impacts will be impossible to avoid. Smith said businesses will be notified of potential problems such as electrical outages or traffic revisions "so we don't cause them any headaches."[[In-content Ad]]