Gwen Davis
The June meeting of the West Seattle Transportation Coalition featured a discussion of the SR99 issues and viaduct with guest Lynn Peterson in attendance to outline the plan going forward for the tunnel.

West Seattle Transportation Coalition discusses SR-99 Viaduct

By Gwen Davis


--> There are upcoming events to celebrate the West Seattle Bridge (see for details)

--> On the 21st there is the Morgan Community Festival.

--> SDOT recently delivered a presentation to the City Council Transportation Committee to make adjustments to parking meters. Discussions included using newer machines that will adjust based on time. They will also look at having different rates for different times of day.

The Meeting:

The meeting's featured guest was Washington State Secretary of Transportation and head of WSDOT Lynn Peterson to discuss the current state of the SR-99 Viaduct, its impact on West Seattle and related issues.

The meeting began quickly.

"We do apologize for rushing quickly at the start of the meeting, and will do more formal intros in the middle of the meeting," board member Michael Taylor-Judd said, due to Peterson's rush.

The secretary began by tell the coalition about her credentials and general philosophy.

SDOT recently delivered a presentation to the City Council Transportation Committee to make adjustments to parking meters. Discussions included using newer machines that will adjust based on time. They will also look at having different rates for different times of day.

The strategic plan: (it's on a business card)
Goal: Strategic Investments
Goal 2: Modal Integration
Goal 3: Environmental Stewardship
Goal 4: Organizational Strength
Goal 5: Community Engagement
Goal 6: Smart Technology

"We need to make sure we're connecting modes, that those gaps are strategically filled so the entire system works," Peterson continued. "We have had no training at WSDOT, we haven't been training our people."

"How do we include more technology?," she also brought up. "How many of you remember how much distance you should leave behind a car?" Participants guessed. "It's two seconds," she said, with counting 'one Mississippi, two Mississippi. "I think we should be on the forefront of testing technology" that reduces distance but maximizes safety.

"There's endless opportunity," she said. "I have 10 reforms that go along with these strategic goals. How do we not make mistakes we made in the past. If you go online you'll see the 10 reforms," this includes giving more work to minority workers. "It's the way the world works," she said.

"The thing that gets me going is practical design," she said and further elaborated on additional thinking. "Figure out what you need now. Safety is number one... You don't get a second chance. But now we have more data and there's been more research with safety which is amazing." She said the bottom line is getting more things safer for more people.

About the Alaska Way Viaduct, she addressed the coalition:

"We are achieving goals: replacing the Viaduct, accommodating a port and having a better waterfront to reconnect people. There's economic vitality just in that." She specifically talked about the Bertha machine. "While Bertha is not working and is not owned by WSDOT, our product is the tunnel. We didn't design the machine and the contractors still need to fix it. While we have confidence we will have a tunnel that is safe, we don't know exactly what date we will open that tunnel. We are holding them accountable to fix their tool and not have that be a tax-payer expense.

"For every day after Jan. 2, we will deduct money, eventually $100,000 a day," she said. This is to hold the company accountable and make sure they can be employed by other agencies in the future.

Todd Trepanier, Assistant Regional Administrator for Construction, Maintenance & Operations at WSDOT also addressed the council:

"We're building this tunnel product to replace the existing viaduct," he said. "When we looked at the way we do structures, that was when earthquake happened. We need to keep that tunnel operational." However, "if it is not safe, we will shut it down," he made clear.

He talked about how and why the structure became unsafe. He said some of the work will need to be done in the fall, due to other projects. There are 3 things they will do on I-99 at certain times.

"We do not see a problem. We will nurse it along. It is safe," he said.

But what if there is another earthquake? There are other plans. Essentially there are robust emergency plans (cut this sentence out). There will be signs, used (cut this word out) detours and coordination with metro. Everyone is a player in this. We don't dwell on these problems every day, he said. But we do have things in place for worst case scenarios.

Peterson answered Taylor-Judd's questions about projects which have been slow such as improvements on the ferry system.

WSDOT projects have a price tag, which mentally tax WSDOT officials.

Protecting the salmon habitat, which WSDOT will be forced to do by the Supreme Court, costs $3 million.

Repainting the Ship Canal Bridge will be around $38 million.

Board member Martin Westerman asked: "Have you coordinated with US Coast Guard so traffic is not backed up [in?" Peterson nor Trepanier had an answer to his question.

Board member Amanda Kay Helmick said there is confusion about which emergency agency should come out when people call for road-side assistance.

Peterson: "We've done coordination on I-5."

Trepanier: "If state takes control over towing, there is a large outcry among private towing companies. Washington has not been able to get passed the lobbyists."

Peterson: "But we can look into the protocols. The outcome is you want a tow truck. I guess what I would say, focus on the outcome and think about," instead of being upset about who exactly takes care of emergency calls.

"I feel WSDOT has done a wonderful job responding to accidents," one board member said. "Given that you have that down, can you take over SR 99 and take care of the accidents?"

Peterson said the budget is tight, but will look at the protocol.

"Concering, Bertha, assuming a design flaw that caused it to fail, is the state monitoring what the processes are so we don't go half way through again?" a participant asked.

Trepanier: "This is the company's machine and they haven't come up with what they say is a design flaw, when they restart this machine we will ask them to commit a bunch of different info to us to make sure [the mistake is not.

Peterson left at 7:35 p.m. due to her husband visiting the emergency room earlier that day due to the flew (he is fine, Peterson said).

"Basically, this is a fixed-priced contract. Most projects are broken down into pieces and payed by quantity and paid throughout the project," This was not the case with Bertha, Trepanier said.

Bertha cost $80 million.

He answered a few more questions from participants.

"How involved with you in the rebuilding of Alaskan Way?" asked Helmick. "Are there thoughts about saving the Seneca St. onramp and a chunk of the Viaduct to use as a public space?" asked another participant. They were answered, and Trepanier left the meeting.

Coalition Updates:

--> The Action Committee is working on the safe routes to school program. There is a lot of money coming from the traffic cameras, Helmick said. The city doesn't know what to do with all the money. She encouraged attendees to join the committee.

--> Board member Joe Szilagyi: "We have four letters to send to the city, asking for studies, does anyone want to work on that? The letters are asking for studies to be done" on various areas, he said. They include 4th Ave. and 6th Ave. Several participants responded that they were willing to join that effort.

--> Ask to fill open seats.

--> A bylaw amendment was passed: "Amendment to allow backfilling of vacant board positions (like #11)." There are vacancies on coalition, and members want to fill

--> Sound Transit looks at all the different transportation routes and does successive wave of studies until they have the best option to move forward with their projects.

Council members discussed Peterson. They liked how she was able to gracefully distance herself from parts of the system that have not been capable.

WSTC Board Members (who were just confirmed this past spring) include:

  • Joe Szilagyi
  • Amanda Kay Helmick
  • Michael Taylor-Judd
  • Deb Barker
  • Vicky Nelson
  • Alon Bassak
  • Tod Rodman
  • Marci Carpenter
  • Ray Krueger
  • Marty Westerman

The West Seattle Transportation Coalition meets the 2nd Tuesday of the month, 6:30 pm to 8:30 pm, at High Point Neighborhood House, 6400 Sylvan Way SW, Room 207B (enter from the rear plaza).

“The West Seattle Transportation Coalition (the WSTC) is a Peninsula-wide organization working to address transportation and mobility issues for Seattle’s largest constituency. The WSTC formed in September 2013, in response to the looming 27% cuts to King County Metro to West Seattle. We represent up to 100,000 people the 10 square mile area between the Duwamish River and Puget Sound.”

Upcoming Meeting:
August 12, 2014
WSTC General Meeting
Starts: 6:30 pm
Ends: August 12, 2014 - 8:30 pm
Location: High Point Neighborhood House, 6400 Sylvan Way Southwest, High Point, Seattle
Description: August 2014 general meeting; Agenda pending.
Connect with WSTC!

E-mail list:

We encourage our readers to comment. No registration is required. We ask that you keep your comments free of profanity and keep them civil. They are moderated and objectionable comments will be removed.