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|Mastro declared competent to testify in bankruptcy trial||WSDOT, design commission meet to talk about tunnel’s south portal|
|King County homes prices, sales in April slip from year ago||In March, the Seattle Design Commission voted against a plan for the south portal of the Alaskan Way Viaduct Replacement. Yesterday, the viaduct team met with the commission again to address their concerns about landscape, design and planning for the area.
Commissioners told the Washington State Department of Transportation team to focus more on urban design. Julie Parrett, a landscape architect, said WSDOT needs to be more open about how it makes decisions.
“We may come to the same conclusions that you’ve come to,” Parrett said. “We just want to make sure that we’re seeing the thought and the care… and that you’ve thought through the alternatives.”
At issue is the new configuration for the viaduct’s south portal proposed by Seattle Tunnel Partners as part of its winning bid. WSDOT and STP, which is led by New York-based Dragados USA, signed a design-build contract in January to complete the proposed bored tunnel project. WSDOT approved the south portal change based in part on engineering benefits.
The south portal area goes from South Atlantic Street to South Dearborn Street. The previous design was short and wide, allowing more views and connections to the waterfront. The current design has a longer and narrower footprint. The previous design had two southbound exits and two northbound entrances to the tunnel. The new design has one southbound exit and two northbound entrances.
Commissioners are concerned the 25-foot-high northbound offramp, starting around Royal Brougham, would cut off the city from the waterfront and create a hazard along First Avenue. Julie Bassuk, chair of the commission, said the ramp is a major concern.
WSDOT’s team plans to create a landscaped public space with a walking trail in an open area beside the ramp, but the commissioners have expressed concern about people gathering there for illicit activities.
Ron Paananen, administrator of the WSDOT project team, said, “I think at the last meeting, we might have gotten out a little bit ahead of ourselves. So let’s take a step back and figure out how we got where we are today.”
Steve Pearce, Seattle Department of Transportation’s central waterfront project manager, said the viaduct replacement is following a set of design guidelines agreed to by WSDOT, SDOT and the commission, and called the ramp a minor issue when compared with the project as a whole.
Commissioners said they wanted to know more about how the decision to alter the ramp was made.
Paananen said WSDOT approved the change as part of STP’s proposal because engineering advantages made it worthwhile.
Clyde Joseph of STP said moving the portal should make the first 1,000 feet of boring easier. That section is expected to be the most difficult.
The WSDOT team said it will brief the commission throughout the summer on design details about the south portal.
Nori Sato of the commission said the design presented in March seemed like a degradation of what the commission originally had seen. She said she hopes WSDOT and the contractor improve the current design to make the area better.
“Don’t look at the urban design as [just] a pasting of trees,” Sato said, “but how it impacts quality and the urban area around it.”
Parrett encouraged the team to rethink other elements now that the ramp was there. “Don’t assume the addition of an elevated ramp means that everything else stays in its configuration.”
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