Construction Begins on Montlake Lid + Legislative Updates

In this newsletter:

  1. Call to action: Support the Transportation for All bill in the state legislature.
  2. Updates on the lid feasibility study and next steps.
  3. Recent media coverage of the Lid I-5 campaign from The Stranger and KING 5.
  4. The Montlake Lid is starting construction.

Also: Join us at the DSA State of Downtown event on February 13, where Lid I-5 will be part of a panel discussion on the project.

Support Transportation For All

After the passage of Initiative 976, big challenges lie ahead for transportation funding. Cities and transit agencies face hard choices about street repair, safety programs, bus service, and light rail expansion.

But there is meaningful action you can take right now: Write your legislators to support the Transportation for All bill (HB 2688/SB 6398), which will improve accountability for how our tax dollars are spent. The proposal is supported by the Climate Alliance for Clean Jobs and Energy, a major statewide coalition of environmental, labor, cultural, and transportation groups. The bill will:

  • Update the State’s transportation goals to reflect Washington’s shared values of safety, health, equity, access, and sustainability.
  • Require evaluation of transportation projects that are up for funding based on health impacts, sustainability outcomes, and financial responsibility. Currently, there is no objective method for prioritizing projects.
  • Provide information to legislators and bring transparency to the project selection process.

With your help, we can make sure our transportation spending gets us closer to the future we all want – including communities reconnected with lids, safe and well-maintained highways, and robust funding for transit, bicycling, and walking. Take action now to thank your elected officials for starting this urgent discussion, and tell them why you support a more transparent project selection process.

Read more about the Alliance’s argument for sustainable and progressive transportation funding in an op-ed at The Seattle Times.

 Progress on Technical Studies

I-5 Lid Feasibility
The Lid Feasibility Study Committee last met on December 11 to hear more from the WSP-led consultant team. The team presented three development test cases that will be analyzed from structural, financial, and urban design perspectives:

  • The least public cost scenario, with a majority of the new lids dedicated to public parks
  • The mixed scenario, involving a variety of public open space, civic buildings, and private development
  • The highest investment return ratio, with a majority of the new lids hosting private residential and commercial buildings

These scenarios are not being tested against each other nor are they alternatives for final design – rather, they are intended to assess the range of feasibility and introduce the tradeoffs the public will weigh in future phases of planning. However, they are at least partly inspired by the extensive work of the Central Hills Triangle Collaborative, a yearlong volunteer design program, that Lid I-5 led in 2018.

Downtown Street Network Study
Thank you for sending in letters of support to the City Council on this project last year! The Seattle Department of Transportation has acquired $250,000 to initiate the study and hire a consultant. The project will develop scenarios for improving the Downtown street system for pedestrians and enhancing the public realm. This study is a follow-up to the big ideas in the Imagine Greater Downtown initiative.

The Lid I-5 team will be investigating the scope of work. It is critical for the study to include scenarios with I-5 lids and alternative configurations of on-ramps and off-ramps, in close coordination with WSDOT. We may be back at City Council in the fall to help SDOT additional funds for detailed traffic modeling.

I-5 Corridor Planning
We have recently seen replacement of the I-90 floating bridges, the reconstruction of State Route 520, and the demolition of the Highway 99 viaduct. Now the region’s attention is turning to Interstate 5 in Seattle, an infrastructure asset that is poorly designed and seismically vulnerable.

WSDOT continues to seek funding for extending the I-5 Systems Partnership and beginning in-depth corridor planning. Lid I-5 is supporting these efforts because lidding the freeway will likely be coordinated with addressing the underlying infrastructure. Stay tuned for updates.

Lidding I-5 in the News

Image courtesy Tori Shao and Lester Black

Writer Lester Black has been busy this winter. We enjoyed his coverage of alternative concepts to address the aging Interstate 5 freeway: lid it and keep the transportation function, or get rid of it entirely and require a regional paradigm shift in commuting, freight mobility, and housing? Check out his article in The Stranger for information on earthquake safety from multiple experts – and quotes from Lid I-5 Steering Committee member Natalie Bicknell.

Lester joined KING 5’s New Day program to discuss the same ideas. You can watch the 6-minute video here. Steering Committee member John Feit also joined the same program in October 2018 to discuss the lid concept in detail – see that video here.

Montlake Lid Breaks Ground

Image courtesy Washington State Department of Transportation

Construction crews on the State Route 520 rebuild have started working on the Montlake Lid. The first visible piece is rebar for the center supporting wall. This is an exciting project that proves not only are lids feasible in a complex urban environment, but that WSDOT has an ongoing willingness and ability to mitigate key portions of freeway corridors.

Check out construction photos on the WSDOT Flickr page. And learn more about the Montlake Lid design, which consists of a small park and traffic lanes, on the project page.