Council Letter Supports Nickerson Road Diet

By Josh Cohen June 21, 2010

Today, the City Council sent a unanimously-signed letter to Mayor Mike McGinn supporting the W. Nickerson rechannelization project. The letter is a significant shift in position for the council members, some of whom have voiced concerns and discussed ways to block the project since the Mayor announced it in May as part of his Walk Bike Ride campaign.

The "road diet" will re-stripe Nickerson from two lanes in each direction to one lane with a dedicated center turn lane, add sharrows and bike lanes, and improve pedestrian crossing safety. It received the support of pedestrian and bicycling groups and the ire of business and industry interests.

In addition to offering support, the council letter requests a comprehensive study of the effects of the rechannelization on travel time of vehicles and freight, and requesting an explanation of how the Mayor will maintain former-Mayor Greg Nickels' commitment to retain access for freight on Nickerson during the deep bore tunnel construction.

The council letter references comments made by the 36th-district legislators at June's Council transportation committee meeting. Reps. Mary Lou Dickerson and Reuven Caryle each cited an April 15, 2009 letter from former-mayor Greg Nickels which promised a commitment to ensure "adequate and efficient access for freight and vehicles as well as for neighborhood residents along the State Route 99 corridor." The council letter requests an explanation from Mayor McGinn on how he will "follow-through and meet the commitments made by Mayor Nickels."

The council letter also cites a letter written by the Seattle Bicycle Advisory Board to transportation committee chair Tom Rasmussen supporting the Nickerson project and recommending that "SDOT perform before and after monitoring to ensure that the rechannelization project is functioning for all roadway users."

The council seconds SBAB's recommendations and urges the Mayor to follow them. The council letter specifically requests a study that includes: " ... a data matrix that compares time travel of vehicles and freight before and after the rechannelization: this would include time travel and average vehicle speeds along Nickerson as well as how long it takes vehicles and trucks to turn onto Nickerson Street."

The requests for information and studies aside, the council letter voices support for the Nickerson project and recognizes the connection between improved alternative-transportation infrastructure and their carbon-neutrality goals. They write:
We also recognize that in order to address our commitments to climate change and do our part to comply with state law regarding VMT and CO2 reductions, we face the challenge of maintaining mobility for people and goods, while simultaneously reducing vehicle miles traveled on our roads ...

Again, we support the laudable goals of the rechannelization projects to improve safety for all traffic and for pedestrians and bicyclists and we support this effort on W. Nickerson Street as well. But, knowing how complex and challenging the next several years will be for people who live and work the west and northwest side of the City due to all the transportation projects, we will monitor the project closely and will recommend that the rechannelization be reversed should the project not work as planned.

Construction on the W. Nickerson project is slated to begin in mid-July.
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