Once again plans for an SDOT road diet are upsetting someone. This time it’s the road diets planned for Airport Way and East Marginal that are being opposed Seattle’s industrial interests. At a forum sponsored by the Port of Seattle, PubliCola reports:
The city has proposed some version of a “road diet” on both streets. On East Marginal Way, which carries only about half of the cars it was built to accommodate in the 1960s, the city would reduce the number of lanes from six to four, plus a turning lane. On Airport, it would add bus bulbs and reconfigure parking to improve pedestrian safety; that proposal was generated by the surrounding community.
Longshore union representative Harold Ugles said accommodating more cyclists and pedestrians on either street would lead to job losses and traffic gridlock. “We’re under attack,” Ugles said. “What we’re trying to do is prevent gridlock, because gridlock drives away the jobs, it pisses off the public, and it’s a problem for everybody.” BNSF government affairs director Terry Finn warned grimly that if Seattle keeps adding “luxuries” like sidewalks and bike lanes, we’ll end up like Portland, a supposed dystopia where “income is 20 percent below that in Seattle.”
Seattle transportation director Peter Hahn tried to counter the dire warnings, noting that although opponents have predicted disaster every time the city has proposed a road diet, those predictions have never come true. “The harm that has been forecast did not occur.” And if it did, Hahn noted, the city could always just re-stripe the road for cars again. “It doesn’t cost millions to reverse it.”
Seattle Industry, a magazine and web site covering issues important to industry, laments that “SDOT’s top priority isn’t mobility – it’s safety, especially more safety for bicyclists and pedestrians.” (via PubliCola) The industry eBulletin suggests that this focus on safety threatens Boeing Field’s productivity.
However, as usual the impact of these road diets will be minimal to mobility and significant for safety. The lane rechannelization on East Marginal takes 5 lanes of vehicle traffic to 4, taking a lane away from the less-busy side of the road, which now has 3 lanes. The road diet on Airport Way makes the neighborhood of Georgetown safer for pedestrians by adding curb bulbs to allow pedestrians to cross safer. This closes a southbound lane to vehicular traffic (the less-busy side of the road, again) that is currently used for parking the 22 out of 24 hours in the day.