Saturday, July 21, 2007

FEDERATION Complete Streets Ordinance, Ordinance 122386 LETTER


June 28, 2007

Councilmember Jan Drago, Chair
Transportation Committee and
Members of the Committee
699 4th Avenue, 2nd Floor
P.O. Box 34025
Seattle, Washington 98124-4025

RE: Complete Streets Ordinance, Ordinance 122386

Dear Councilmembers Drago, Steinbrueck, Rasmussen, Godden and Conlin:

We urge you to repeal Section 3 of Ordinance 122386, which gives trucking absolute priority over all other uses and users in the design and layout of Seattle’s bridges across waterways and on its major arterials. Section 3 states:

“Because freight is important to the basic economy of the City and has unique right-of-way needs to support that role, freight will be the major priority on streets classified as Major Truck Streets. Complete Street Improvements that are consistent with freight mobility but also support other modes may be considered on these streets.” (emphasis supplied)

These two sentences place moving freight before moving people in emergency vehicles or on public transit. “Major Truck Streets” include the bridges over Seattle’s waterways, its freeways and major arterials, connecting arterials, and Alaskan Way and Western Avenue downtown—in fact, the most traveled streets throughout Seattle used by buses, emergency vehicles, cars, bicycles and the RTA.

Section 3 will control the allocation of roadway space, signalization, painting and striping and construction of new roadways as well as reconstruction of our existing ones, and will shape the master plans for cycling, transit, pedestrians (now in progress) and the City’s growth management plan. It has these major impacts:

1) Section 3 impairs transit only lanes during peak hours such as are found on Aurora Avenue North and HOV lanes like those on NE Pacific Street by the University Medical Center. Trucks prefer the curb land for the convenience of loading and unloading goods. Those are the very lanes needed by transit and emergency vehicles for boarding.

2) Section 3 impairs signalization to disfavor buses and emergency vehicles. Many cities equip buses and emergency vehicles to preempt traffic signals so that they can go through without waiting. That may be an inconvenience to truckers coming from a different direction. In conferring “the major priority” upon truckers, Section 3 lets them demand similar devices to seize the right of way.

3) Section 3 preempts master planning for transit, bicycles and pedestrians, which is now underway. Transit and cyclists use—and need—to use bridges and level arterials. In fact, the proposed Bicycle Master Plan calls for the use of Shilshole Avenue, NE Pacific Street, Westlake, Mercer and Valley, Alaskan Way, Western, Dearborn, West Marginal Way and Fauntleroy Way, among other streets classified as Major Truck Streets. To even be considered in their design or for future use, METRO, cyclists and pedestrians will need to prove to Seattle’s Department of Transportation (already heavily oriented to cars and trucks) that their use would be consistent with trucking. The Benson Street Car Line may never get back on track. Pedestrians enjoy the Alaskan Way waterfront, a gateway to Sculpture Gardens Park. Street beautification (such as tree planting and artworks) does not by their nature support other modes of travel and may not even be considered on Major Truck Streets.

4) Section 3 conflicts with transit only lanes on I-90 and HOV lanes on I-5 and SR 520 unless trucks get equal usage. I-5, I-90 and SR 520 are all Major Truck Streets. Seattle will now align itself with the Port of Seattle in seeking use of HOV lanes for heavy trucks—an idea opposed by environmentalists, car poolers and METRO.

5) Section 3’s truck preference contradicts the Bridging the Gap levy adopted as Ordinance 122232 last November. Section 6 of the levy emphasizes transit, bicycle, pedestrian and safety improvements and maintenance and management of streets for multiple uses (including urban forestry). It makes no mention of trucking preference. To build support, the City Council had passed Resolution 30915. It contains an attachment, Version 3, which declares as its guiding principle: “To design, operate and maintain Seattle’s streets to promote safe and convenient access and travel for all users; pedestrians, bicyclists, transit riders, and disabled users as well as cars and trucks.” Freight is one of the many uses. It made planning subject to the overriding principle that “in each case user needs must be balanced.” As long as Section 3 remains, City government will be misusing Bridging the Gap levy moneys in spending it on Major Truck Streets since the design would not be balanced as the levy calls for.

6) Section 3 will cost voter support for the Regional Transportation Improvement District Levy. That levy would raise sales taxes paid by the general public—not gas taxes paid by highway users. Most of the money would be spent on Major Truck Streets. It thereby taxes the electorate for roadway design and construction that puts trucks ahead of transit and emergency vehicles, demotes their use of improved highways with private cars to
third class status, and precludes non-transportation uses. Its casts a shadow over the effectiveness of the transit moneys.

7) Section 3 contradicts Seattle’s comprehensive plan, which emphasizes transit. It is a de facto plan amendment and should only have been considered through the plan amendment process. That process was not considered or followed.

8) The inclusion of Section 3 violates the Seattle City Charter, Article IV, Section 7, which requires that “Every ordinance shall be clearly entitled and shall contain but one subject, which shall be clearly expressed in its title.” The title of Ordinance 122386 relates to “Seattle Complete Street policy” for planning, designing and constructing street”…to encourage walking, bicycling and transit use while promoting safe operation for all users.” Section 3 makes the title of Ordinance 122386 misleading. It does not mention truck preference at all. Repealing Section 3 furthers the Complete Streets policy as contained in Resolution 30915.

In light of the compelling arguments we have raised, we urge you to reconsider Ordinance 122386 and repeal Section 3. Thank you for considering the views of the Seattle Community Council Federation.


Jeannie Hale, President
3425 West Laurelhurst Drive NE
Seattle, Washington 98105
206-525-5135 / fax 206-525-9631

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