In this newsletter:
- Big win for lidding I-5! The Legislature funds I-5 corridor planning. Read details and send a note of thanks.
- Other Seattle funding victories around state highways were secured in South Park and North Seattle.
- Support lidding I-5 in the PSRC Regional Transportation Plan.
- Seattle considers redistricting the City Council boundaries.
Big Win! Legislature Funds I-5 Corridor Planning
We did it! Together, we secured funding for the Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) to continue its much needed I-5 corridor planning, where we can work to integrate freeway lids into the conversation. This is part of the broader Move Ahead Washington transportation package passed by the Legislature this month.
Thank you, thank you, thank you to every community member and partner organization who sent in messages of support not only this year, but also in the past. We have been working on this issue every year since WSDOT released their I-5 System Partnership Call to Action in 2019.
Here are the details: WSDOT is provided $2.5 million for a statewide I-5 Planning and Environmental Linkage Study (PELS) under bill SSB 5975 § 209. We also helped overturn the budget restriction on WSDOT studying the Marysville-to-Tumwater corridor under ESSB 5689 § 219.
A PELS is a relatively new type of study meant to streamline planning processes. For I-5, WSDOT will take a broad look at preservation, traffic safety, climate change, and corridor efficiency. WSDOT must engage the public and stakeholders, and must assess the economic and equity impacts of I-5. The work is a precursor to a later I-5 Master Plan and the design of future system improvements, which we think should include lidding I-5 for reconnecting communities. The PELS is likely to begin this summer with a report due to the Legislature in June 2023.
More specifically, by December 2022 WSDOT is requested to also prepare a scope of work for a seismic risk analysis of I-5 between Boeing Field and Lake City Way. This follows public polling last year which found over 80% of Seattle voters are concerned about the capability of I-5 to survive a major earthquake. Our team will work to ensure the Central Seattle lid opportunities are included in the analysis.
Send a note of thanks: In the Senate draft of the transportation package, WSDOT would have been required to conduct further studies for Central Seattle I-5 lids in the PELS. Unfortunately, that lid-specific language was removed in final negotiations with the House Transportation Committee. The fact that this level of support made it to the state budget process is another major achievement, and it gives us momentum to engage closely with the PELS and to fight for lid funding again next year.
We encourage you to send a note of thanks to Senate Transportation Chair Marko Liias (firstname.lastname@example.org), Vice-Chair Rebecca Saldaña (email@example.com), and Senator Jamie Pedersen (firstname.lastname@example.org) for their support of the Lid I-5 community effort and WSDOT’s corridor planning work. The Lid I-5 team looks forward to collaborating with them more, and we know our community will be there with us.
Victories for Other Communities
Lid I-5 celebrates the hard work and new state funding of communities to support mission-aligned projects to reverse the harm of highways.
In South Seattle, the Reconnect South Park effort receives $600,000 to study decommissioning SR 99 in the neighborhood. With South Park residents highly impacted by environmental justice issues like air and noise pollution, this low-traffic portion of SR 99 is a ripe opportunity to be equitably converted to community use. The work will include traffic studies, environmental analysis, evaluating the potential for a neighborhood-based land trust, and a public engagement process. The funding goes to the Seattle Office of Planning and Community Development and a report is due to the state by January 2025.
This achievement is particularly impressive since the community has only been publicly advocating for about a year. The funding follows the neighborhood’s success in updating the City of Seattle’s 2022 legislative agenda to specifically endorse the project. We will be following South Park’s lead and seeking the same city-level endorsement for lidding I-5.
In North Seattle, the Aurora Reimagined Coalition secured $50 million for constructing physical corridor safety improvements. As one of Seattle’s deadliest transportation corridors, big changes are needed for this roadway to better serve the residents and businesses that depend on it. The project is directed to install full sidewalks and new pedestrian crossings, facilitate safe bicycling routes, add safe routes to schools, consolidate driveways, and increase transit accessibility. The funding goes to the Seattle Department of Transportation, who must begin construction by March 2024 after completing an ongoing planning study.
Similarly to South Park, we are inspired by this new coalition’s rapid success. They give significant credit to the vision of Senator Reuven Carlyle, even though the focus area falls outside his district. Learn more on the coalition website and media coverage (KING 5, The Urbanist).
Statewide, the final, $17 billion “Move Ahead Washington” transportation package includes historic investments in transit service, high-speed rail planning, multiple pedestrian and bike projects, highway preservation and safety, and environmental work like public fleet electrification and salmon culvert replacements. Unfortunately, it also includes several highway extensions or widenings. Good summaries are available from The Seattle Times, Seattle Bike Blog, The Cascadia Advocate, and The Urbanist.
Support Lidding I-5 in the Regional Transportation Plan
The Regional Transportation Plan is published by the Puget Sound Regional Council (PSRC) every four years. It identifies all major transportation projects planned by local and state governments through 2050.
The current plan draft briefly describes opportunities to transform our highways into more people-centered places, but we believe the lid concept can be more strongly integrated. To that end, Lid I-5 wrote a letter to the Transportation Policy Board last month.
The official comment deadline has passed, but you can still send support for lidding I-5 to individual transportation board members representing Seattle: Dan Strauss, city councilmember (email@example.com); Alex Pedersen, city councilmember (firstname.lastname@example.org); Darrell Rodgers, public health department (email@example.com); and Toshiko Grace Hasegawa, port commissioner (Hasegawa.firstname.lastname@example.org).
You can see our recommendations in our letter, or use these summary points:
- The I-5 lid concept should be described more directly and fully in the Regional Transportation Plan.
- The Regional Transportation Plan should commit PSRC to more relevant and bolder action on lidding I-5.
- The opportunity to integrate lidding I-5 into freeway preservation work should be addressed.
- The proposed widening of I-5 at Lake City Way (project #4198) and reconstructing the Mercer Street and SR 520 Interchanges (project #4200) should both be scoped to include meaningful community mitigation such as substantial lids.
Thanks for your help!
Seattle Considers Redistricting Options
It’s that time of the decade when the updated Census leads to updated political boundaries. In Seattle, four concepts have been developed for the seven City Council districts, with changes based on population growth.
Of interest to Lid I-5 supporters will be which districts will cover the Central Seattle study area. District 3 is set to shrink in size and there’s a possibility the edge of District 7 will pull back from the freeway.
Public comment is being accepted in multiple ways, including with an online survey. The organization does not have an official stance on which draft concept is preferable, but we encourage you to take a look and send in your thoughts today.