Attendees overflowed into the halls for Monday evening’s open house regarding Seattle’s Westlake Cycle Track. There were so many in attendance that the formal presentation had to be held a second time to accommodate the interest. In addition to the formal presentation, the gymnasium at B.F. Day School was a hub for exhibits, experts and feedback. Representatives from Seattle Department of Transportation, Toole Design Group, as well as the Transit Master Plan were available.
The evening gave people many opportunities to learn about design proposals both for the cycle track and the streetcar plan for Westlake. Diagrams and maps of both designs flanked the walls and were laid out on tables. Representatives answered questions and pointed out specifics. Michael James, SDOT, explained how the design engineers were working with cycle track designers in planning the streetcar line. He commented, “We want to do it right rather than later to have to tear out streetcar tracks.” Michael Hintze, AICP, LEED® AP Senior Planner with Toole Design, fielded questions at a table where an aerial map of westlake was displayed. Post-it notes dotted the map with comments. A poster on one side of the room allowed participants to vote for services such as parking, lanes for bikes, transit or freight by placing dots indicating whether they consider them important or not. The open house in the gymnasium was the place for one-on-one questions and to share concerns.
Across the hall Bill Schultheiss, Principal Engineer with Toole Design, laid out an overview of the Westlake Cycle Track project. The formal presentation with the aid of powerpoint, Schultheiss explained the considerations and potential challenges of the project. He then laid out the planned schedule:
- Fall, 2013 : Data collection & analysis
- Winter/spring, 2014: Alternatives evaluation
- Begins Spring/summer, 2014 : Preferred Alternative & Design
The amount of data being collected in addition to public input is quite extensive. According to Schultheiss, freight use is one of the most critical elements of Westlake Avenue. Because this is a major freight corridor, he explained required maintaining enough of the 150’ right of way on this important arterial. He also cited the difficulty of placing the cycle track on the west side of Westlake next to the embankment due to its instability. Reforcing the embankment would be quite expensive. On the east side, it would be necessary to consider portions of the current parking lots. Schultheiss discussed the visibility issues for both automotive drivers and bicyclists. Citing his previous experience, he gave examples of how visility and aesthetics of the spaces could be enhanced. Besides the public input, the design team is working with local businesses and has collected recent parking usage data which will be used along with historic data. Schultheiss emphasized that the goal is to make Westlake Avenue safe and functional for all users.
Seattle Department of Transportation releases overview and next steps for Westlake Cycle Track: http://www.seattle.gov/transportation/wct.htm