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Potential strategies to keep the region moving through downtown Seattle construction outlined today

Summary

Potential strategies to improve the mobility and experience of people through downtown Seattle were jointly released today by the City of Seattle, King County Metro, Sound Transit, and the Downtown Seattle Association.

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Potential strategies to improve the mobility and experience of people through downtown Seattle were jointly released today by the City of Seattle, King County Metro, Sound Transit, and the Downtown Seattle Association. The four agencies are working together under the umbrella of One Center City to keep commuters from across the region moving through Downtown Seattle as growth continues and major transportation projects move forward.

Nearly 230,000 people commute in and out of downtown Seattle from throughout the region, with many thousands more coming to shop and attend cultural events. Over the next 20 years, Seattle’s center city is projected to add 55,000 more jobs, which will employ people from throughout the region, and 25,000 more households. All this activity places even more demands on our regional transportation systems. One Center City is developing a 20-year vision for keeping people moving to and through the downtown core, with recommendations to also address some temporary mobility challenges from a number of near-term projects happening concurrently from 2018 to 2023, including:

  • Demolition of the Alaskan Way Viaduct and construction of a new Seattle waterfront,
  • Construction of a new downtown streetcar which will connect the First Hill and South Lake Union streetcar lines via 1st Avenue and Stewart Street,
  • Continuing public and private construction, including expansion of the Washington State Convention Center set to begin in late 2018, an
  • The long-planned conversion of the Downtown Seattle Transit Tunnel to a rail-only facility. Relocating buses that now use the tunnel to surface streets will enable the extension of light rail to Northgate in 2021 and the Eastside and Lynnwood in 2023 – at which time light rail can operate every four minutes in each direction through the Center City, with four-car trains that can move up to 800 riders each.

Without action, studies show the resulting congestion on downtown streets will slow cars and buses on major thoroughfares to a walking pace during the afternoon rush hour. The potential strategies outlined today seek to avoid those outcomes:

  • Street and traffic improvements – These include priority transit treatment through downtown, channelization, signal timing, changes to curb uses, improvements to pedestrian walkways, and new protected bike lanes.
  • Transit service restructuring options – Bus routes now using the tunnel would be shifted to surface streets as soon as late 2018; others could be rerouted to connect with light rail stations at the north and south ends of downtown Seattle with transfer to and from congestion-free light rail.

These potential strategies are being shared with the project Advisory Group, key stakeholders, community organizations and traditionally underserved populations, and are available for review and comment at onecentercity.org, where an on-line open house will be available from January 27 through February 17.

The four partner agencies will use input received in February to develop a package of recommended strategies for further outreach and evaluation. Metro Transit and Sound Transit will conduct outreach over the coming year on potential changes to transit service, and no changes to transit service can be made without approval by the Metropolitan King County Council and the Sound Transit Board of Directors.

One Center City is an unprecedented public/private partnership between the City of Seattle, King County, Sound Transit and the Downtown Seattle Association to create a 20-year plan for how we move through, connect to and experience Center City.  The plan will set priorities for how we use our streets, and identify specific programs and projects for an integrated transportation system and enhanced public spaces.