by Kirby LindsayAttendees to the August 2010 meeting of the Fremont Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors were alerted about a potential traffic redesign along Dexter Avenue North, between the Fremont Bridge and Roy Street. Two City web pages (one on the repaving project scheduled between February and October 2011, and the other city-wide transit changes) describe the proposed changes. These include removal of the center turning lane, installation of buffered, wider bike lanes, occasional transit islands and in-lane transit stops.
With construction on Aurora Avenue and at Mercer Street, Dexter will provide an even more vital connection between Fremont and Downtown Seattle. A goal of these changes, according to another webpage, is to ‘result in motor vehicle speeds that are more in line with the speed limit”. As buses load and unload of passengers within traffic lanes, density increases when Mercer becomes impassable, and paving proceeds – congestion rather than speed might be a bigger problem.
Shades of Nickerson
Nickerson Street also provides a vital East-West traffic corridor, one of only two for the maritime industry in North Seattle. Many business people remain distressed about the recent ‘road diet’ performed by the Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT). This narrowed Nickerson from four lanes (two in each direction) to two lanes (one in each direction) with a center turn-lane and a bike lane in each direction – similar to the current configuration of Dexter.
According to Peter Philips, publisher of several maritime trade magazines (including Pacific Maritime Magazine and Fisherman’s News), and current President of the Seattle Marine Business Coalition, “traffic studies from around the world show road diets have a negative impact on vehicle mobility for arterials in excess of 20,000 vehicles.” Nickerson exceeds 20,000 vehicles per day, and the empirical evidence shows, Philips pointed out, “it doesn’t work.”
“The first settlers came to Seattle on a boat,” he further explained, “since that day the maritime industry has been here.” A recent study shows maritime industry businesses provide 22,000 jobs each year in Seattle, with an annual average wage of $70,750. Over the last decade, employment in maritime industry businesses has grown 3%, while payroll has grown 20% - as the industry remains virtually untouched by the current recession.
Yet, according to Philips, owners of Ocean Beauty, “testified that the diet will have a devastating effect on their ability to move their product.” This business has been located along the Nickerson corridor for over 100 years, and employs huge numbers of workers – all of whom depend upon it for their jobs.
“We have a situation where we have two remaining East-West corridors,” explained Doug Dixon, General Manager of Pacific Fisherman. This shipyard depends on suppliers, gear, customers and employees being able to access the yard. “This throttling down,” he explained, “hurts.” He heard a transportation expert use North 45th Street as an example of a ‘success,’ although for Dixon, and other freight haulers, that street cannot be used.
Safety As A Scapegoat
“It is my life-blood,” Paula Cassidy said, describing Nickerson. She lives one-and-a-half blocks off the arterial, and depends upon it to connect the two locations of her business, the Wild Salmon Seafood Market. She learned about the changes made, when they happened – without advance notification – she said. When asked why they narrowed it down, she reported, “I was told it was an unsafe street.”
She believes City leadership used “safety as a scapegoat.” If the Mayor wants bike lanes, she stated, he should say so. “If the majority want bike lanes,” Cassidy allowed, “I’ll go with that, but I don’t hear that…” Instead, as she speaks to her neighbors, she hears similar concerns to what Philips reported - that the road diet can destroy the mobility of businesses and local residents. When residents no longer can move around their neighborhoods, Philips suggested, “It pushes them out of the neighborhoods, and the City, and to the big box stores.”
He asked that concerned citizens contact the Seattle City Council. “They have the power to legislate,” Philips explained, “convince them it’s imperative that they take action.” Cassidy also recommended contacting the Mayor, to let him know what Seattlites (and Fremonsters) want to see happen. To learn more about the Dexter project, contact George Frost, SDOT Public Information Officer, by e-mail or at 206/615-0786.
- Reinforce, Install and Retrofit Coming For The Aurora Bridge
- by Kirby Lindsay, April 19, 2010
- When Propulsion Counts More Than Pretty
- by Kirby Lindsay, July 28, 2010
©2010 Kirby Lindsay. This column is protected by intellectual property laws, including U.S. copyright laws. Reproduction, adaptation or distribution without permission is prohibited.