UPDATE: A contract for the Nickerson project has been awarded. Work should begin mid-July.
Frustration over the Nickerson Street rechannelization came to a head at last week’s Seattle City Council Transportation Committee Meeting, but councilmembers ultimately decided it was prudent to go ahead with the important safety project. ”Bike Nerd” Josh Cohen offers a summary at Publicola, and urged readers to bring the debate back to reality.
This focus on facts hearkens back to Van Jones’s inspiring speech at City Hall the week before. Jones shared a recent meme and urged the mayor and city council to focus on actual reality rather than political reality.
Committee chair Tom Rasmussen invited the 36th legislative district delegation to speak about their concerns. While his statement to the Seattle Times about the project left us concerned, he deserves a great deal of credit for engaging us on the issue here on the blog. Rather than a referendum on the project, we saw a briefing and a promise to evaluate the road diet after its completion.
But first, Rep. Mary Lou Dickerson and Rep. Reuven Carlyle spoke largely from the perpective of the coordinated opposition to recahannelizing Nickerson. Sen. Jeanne Kohl-Welles relayed concerns as well but offered a more balanced approach, stressing the safety benefits of the rechannelization. Ironically, the presentation given by the Seattle Department of Transportation later in the hour and a half discussion would have assuaged many of the elected officials’ concerns.
Opponents of the road diet during the public comment period repeated the misconception that more data would be available about the project in September. In fact, that data has been available for some time, and Seattle’s Dept. of Transportation used it when making the decision to go ahead.
Thankfully, representatives from Cascade, Feet First, the Seattle Bicycle Advisory Board, and over a dozen grassroots supporters – including one whose roommate was sandwiched between a dump truck and a parked car – offered testimony about Nickerson’s current unsafe conditions and voiced their support for the city’s proposal.
Eric Widstrand, the City Traffic Engineer, and SDOT Director Peter Hahn offered the actual reality: they decided to move forward with the project because they know it is highly likely to make everyone safer along the corridor, and the traffic projections they received from the state show that the impacts of the tunnel project on traffic will be minimal. Moreover, the cost of the project is now estimated at $50,000 rather than $200,000. We should see a safer Nickerson this summer if everything goes as planned.
So what’s the takeaway from the last several weeks? Clearly, we need to continue to do our part to shape political reality. As much as we use evidence and actual facts to make our case, it may not be enough to overcome the resistance to change on upcoming projects. Whether it’s Dexter, 35th Ave. SW, NE 125th St., or your street, we need to keep the pressure on. We will need to see your panniers and helmets in the crowd again! Thank you to the hundreds of people who emailed Councilmember Rasmussen in support of the project and especially those who turned out last Tuesday.