Op Ed: SDOT needs to push pause on West Marginal Way lane changes
By John Persak
West Seattle residents’ access to the rest of Seattle remains crucial, especially when the time frame of the West Seattle Bridge repair is uncertain. Small businesses continue to struggle, health care workers’ commutes are 90-plus minutes long, and the patience of West Seattle residents is wearing thin overall.
So why would the Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT) be moving so swiftly to remove additional lane capacity on West Marginal Way, the connector for everyone living north of the Alaska Junction?
Last year, SDOT rolled out plans to remove a portion of a southbound lane of West Marginal, to complete a “missing link” of a bike route. They did so without getting support from the stakeholders that rely on this corridor, and without presenting alternative solutions. Maritime related businesses, who rely on West Marginal, are perplexed. When alternatives were finally presented to these stakeholders last week, SDOT provided nothing more than a cursory analysis of their viability.
When West Seattle residents were polled by the city on ideas on how to address bridge closure, something else happened. Well funded bicycle advocacy groups from across the city embarked on a web and social media campaign, to flood SDOT with requests for the West Marginal proposal. This campaign was in full tilt, before other people could even put their boots on.
And there is nothing wrong with advocating for your issue. But SDOT needs to allow time for everyone else to get caught up. Meanwhile, less affluent communities such as Georgetown and South Park are suffering from the bridge detour traffic impacts. SDOT has taken a pass on getting the bike connectivity to downtown that has been demanded by these communities for years. Instead, the focus is on a corridor where there is near zero demand for bicycles. Access to West Marginal from South Park, for riders of all abilities, is a nightmare. When the bike lane for East Marginal Way was proposed, SDOT had all stakeholders at the table. They left with a successful design and implementation plan that everyone could live with. West Marginal deserves at least this same consideration, as we move toward the exit of COVID, which will only increase traffic demand.
Seattle’s transportation department needs to push pause on this project immediately, and convene all stakeholders, if they expect a successful outcome that all communities will support.
And why did they lower the speed on West Marginal?
Why would WSDOT care about disadvantaged communities and less affluent neighborhoods when it's a lot easier and politically expedient for them to specifically cater to the whim of a relatively few well-heeled, entitled cyclists who abuse their knowledge of the web and social media to get their way. And why would these well funded bicycle advocacy groups even care about the opinion of the working masses who have to commute by vehicle when those advocacy groups can fake "public" opinion. It appears that the only one who will defend the less affluent is Westside Seattle.
As a member of West Seattle's only bike advocacy group, I'd like to point out that we are not well funded. We don't even have a bank account. Neither have we flooded social media or SDOT with requests. We are engaging in conversations with SDOT, the Port of Seattle, District 1 Community Network, West Seattle Transportation Coalition, and other community groups. Our only letter to SDOT for this project follows John's Freight Advisory Board letters by over two months. There is no project to pause. There is a proposal that needs continued discussion.