Tag Archive for 'Westlake Streetcar Plaza'

McGraw Square re-opens

Westlake Streetcar Plaza (aka McGraw Square) was reopened in a ceremony yesterday. The SDOT blog has coverage of the ceremony. From the Times:

Mayor Mike McGinn, who presided over the dedication, said the plaza will create a pedestrian-friendly island in the heart of downtown Seattle. He said it’s one of three transportation hubs serving downtown.

The new plaza, at the end of the South Lake Union streetcar line, between Olive Way and Stewart Street, was built with a $900,000 grant from the state Department of Transportation.

Officials envision it filled with trees and tables, even food vendors.

Its location will make it easier to travel around downtown, with connections from the streetcar to the Monorail, light rail and the downtown bus tunnel, said those at the dedication.

There is a lot of potential for this plaza. At a minimum, the area has instantly become more pedestrian-friendly, but its success as a public space will be determined based on how well it is used.

As the trees that dot the area sprout leaves in spring and grow larger over the years, the space will likely feel more inviting and less exposed. People will spend time in the space to wait for the streetcar, but the plaza likely won’t become a lunchtime gathering spot until the city changes its restrictive food cart policies.

Anyway, it will be interesting to see what happens. Anyone else have any thoughts?


Sidewalks mostly remain open at Westlake Streetcar Plaza

Sidewalks around Westlake Streetcar Plaza have mostly remained open after the conclusion of the holiday construction moratorium.

We reported back in October that construction had closed the sidewalks around McGraw Square, significantly impacting pedestrian movement. However, those sidewalks were completely reopened to accommodate pedestrians during the holiday construction moratorium during the past few weeks.

Now that the moratorium has passed, the construction project is continuing. The sidewalks along 5th appear to be remaining open, however a concrete sidewalk along Stewart has not yet been poured, so that sidewalk has been closed again. The latest report from SDOT says that construction will be complete in early February.


Westlake Streetcar Plaza sidewalks re-opened

We reported a few weeks ago that the sidewalks surrounding Westlake Streetcar Plaza / McGraw Square had been closed, significantly impacting pedestrian movement in the area. This project was expected to be completed prior to Thanksgiving, however it has been delayed “due to unforeseen site conditions and weather delays,” according to SDOT spokesperson Rick Sheridan.

The sidewalks and crosswalks have been re-opened, however, as work on site has stopped. Seattle has a holiday construction moratorium, disallowing construction downtown from Thanksgiving through January 1. This moratorium helps businesses downtown by reducing the impacts of construction to vehicle and pedestrian traffic during this busy time of year. It is because of this moratorium and to better support pedestrians during the holiday season that SDOT has re-opened sidewalks around Westlake Streetcar Plaza and constructed a temporary sidewalk along Stewart Ave.

However, due to the weather impacts and current work stoppage, project completion will be delayed by more than two months. Sheridan says, “We estimate the project will be completed and the square opened for public use by early February.”

For now, though, it’s good that pedestrian movement is being prioritized and the sidewalks are open. SDOT will likely at least re-close the temporary sidewalk along Stewart to pour new concrete. We will check in on the area early next year when construction continues to see if SDOT chooses to re-close the already-completed sidewalks.


Westlake Streetcar Plaza Closed to Pedestrians

Westlake Streetcar Plaza under construction

Westlake Streetcar Plaza (also known as McGraw Square) is currently under construction at the southern terminus of the Seattle Streetcar. This project will provide a new public space downtown and should be a welcome improvement to people on foot in the area. However, it appears that six crosswalks will remain closed during the construction period through Thanksgiving.

The area in red below is closed to pedestrians:

View Westlake Streetcar Plaza in a larger map

Like much of downtown, this is an area of high pedestrian traffic, however the area under construction is completely closed to pedestrians. SDOT spokesperson Rick Sheridan says that safety is the reason:

The southeast corner of Stewart and Fifth is closed because buses, trucks and larger vehicles have difficulty making the corner in turning left from Stewart and often cut it. Until it is reconfigured as part of the work, it is not safe for pedestrians to stand there. The closing the sidewalk and crosswalk are due to this corner not being available for use.

The northeast corner of Olive and Fifth Ave is closed because it is now under construction. There is a deep excavation of approximately 20 feet in depth at that location. As it is now a construction zone it is no longer an area where we should have pedestrians walking.

We apologize for the inconvenience but safety is a key priority as we undertake construction. We encourage walkers to respect the closures as they exist to keep pedestrians safe.

I’m appreciative that SDOT is concerned for the safety of people walking in the area. However, sometimes obstacles can create unsafe situations as people walk around them. While passing by earlier in the week, I saw a man on crutches walking in the roadway of 5th Avenue along the fence. While that kind of behavior is not legal, it’s not surprising either.

This makes me wonder – does the closure of these crosswalks really improve safety in the area, or does it just invite people to make dangerous decisions? It seems like parts of this area could be made available to pedestrians during parts of the construction process. Should SDOT be doing more to make the area passable for pedestrians while under construction?