This article was originally posted yesterday afternoon.
Mayor Mike McGinn rolled out a proposal this afternoon to expand walking, biking, and transit use in the city today but did not propose any specific plans to fund it. Instead, he said he would hold community meetings to gauge what people's priorities are, update the city's Transit Master Plan, use existing city resources to fund biking, walking, and transit improvements, and prioritize alternatives to driving in the 2011 and 2012 city budgets. He also said he would do further analysis of light rail to Ballard or West Seattle.
Standing outside the Beacon Hill light rail station, McGinn told reporters to "wait until you see our budget before you say we're not going to fund it. We'll announce [a funding plan] when we announce our budget."The city faces a budget shortfall of about $120 million over the next two years, and McGinn has asked departments, including the Department of Transportation (SDOT) to identify cuts between 1.5 and 3 percent. A new group called Streets for All Seattle, many of whom flanked McGinn during his announcement (which also included an odd appearance by King County Council member Larry Phillips) wants the city to dedicate an additional $30 million a year to walking, biking, and transit infrastructure.
The biggest news out of today's announcement was that the city now plans to move forward with a "road diet" (essentially, removing one eastbound and one westbound lane, adding bike lanes or sharrows, and adding a center turn lane, as shown below) on West Nickerson St.
As I reported for The Stranger last year, those plans were put on hold after nearby businesses complained—predictably—that removing car lanes for bikes would create intolerable traffic, SDOT postponed the project indefinitely, saying it needed to analyze how the road diet would work with traffic to and from the north portal of the Alaskan Way deep-bore tunnel.
When I asked McGinn what had changed between now and then, he paused, then responded, "Well, number one, we have a new mayor." Then he said SDOT has completed it analysis of the traffic impact of the tunnel and found that "the road functions very well with through movements of vehicles as well as from a safety perspective" in SDOT's models.
After the press conference, I spoke briefly with SDOT director Peter Hahn, who pointed out that every time the city proposes road diets, residents and businesses predict that "the world is going to end," and it doesn't. Two weeks ago, Hahn and McGinn met with business leaders from Ballard and Fremont, and "to a person, they said road conditions were going to deteriorate. They said the same thing with Fauntleroy, they said the same thing with Stone Way, and it never happens."
And if the sky does fall? "It's completely reversible. It's just paint. It's not something where you're stuck forever," Hahn said.
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