Q1 update on the Levy to Move Seattle

Concrete work funded by Levy to Move Seattle on Green Lake Way N & N 48th St

On the heels of a very successful 2019, we had great momentum heading into 2020.

In the first three months of the year, our project teams, crews, and contractors made meaningful progress on sidewalk, road, and transit projects funded by the voter approved Levy to Move Seattle.

However, starting in late February, like everyone in the city and across the globe, we were confronted by the significant and growing uncertainty brought on by COVID-19.

As this report was being finalized, the impacts of COVID-19 on our community were just beginning to be revealed. COVID-19 will have an historic and detrimental effect on our city, our nation, and our entire global community.

Levy to move seattle logo

Public works and our transportation projects are an essential service and we will continue to move our work forward to the greatest extent of our abilities. However, early indications show that many of our plans for 2020 will be impacted.

While we are utilizing this time when there is less traffic on the road to continue to advance work, the health and safety of our community and staff remain our highest priority.

In some cases, we are already being flexible with project delivery to put public safety first. For example, we had planned to begin paving construction on NE Pacific St in early 2020, but due to its proximity to the UW Medical Center and the importance of maintaining uninterrupted access to the medical facility during COVID-19 response, we’re delaying the start of this work.

We’ve also implemented a series of changes to support travelers, our essential workers, and small businesses to respond to COVID-19 impacts:

Construction continues on Lander St Bridge

Under the Governor’s March 25, 2020, construction guidance memo, all of our capital projects in construction are exempt from the Governor’s March 23, 2020, “Stay Home Stay Healthy” order.

We are only moving forward with projects if contractors can comply with the safety requirements in the Governor’s Order, including social distancing requirements, and comply with the updated jobsite Health and Safety Plans they’ve submitted to the City.

Further, we recently implemented a two-day safety-related pause to ensure that our own Health and Safety Plans (HSP), and those of our partners, were consistent with the most current guidance, that all safety information had been appropriately shared, that all staff are adequately trained on all current procedures and guidelines, and that there is a plan in place to continue to update HSP’s as necessary, and inform and train all staff as the situation continues to evolve.

In addition to the uncertainties that COVID-19 brings, the closure of the West Seattle High-Rise Bridge brings an added level of complexity. Since we closed the bridge on March 23, 2020, we’ve been working tirelessly to plan next steps, mitigate traffic to help people and businesses in West Seattle, and prioritize public safety. Though we need more information to determine the future of the bridge, we are exploring all options so that we can make the best decision possible for the residents of West Seattle and all who rely on this critical infrastructure.

We are grateful to the voters and taxpayers who supported the City in the creation of the Levy to Move Seattle in 2015. This Levy is now one of the main reasons we are able to continue making the transportation investments our community needs.

Concrete crews pouring new curb ramp on Ashworth Ave N & N 40th St
Concrete crews pouring new curb ramp and sidewalk on Ashworth Ave N & N 40th St

Despite current headwinds, we want to highlight our levy progress from January, February, and March that are in our Q1 Levy Progress Report.

The Levy to Move Seattle makes up about 30% of our transportation budget and funds projects and maintenance that make walking and biking routes safer, improve our sidewalks and busiest arterials, and create better access to transit.

Move Seattle stamped in concrete sidewalk

As Sound Transit Link light rail stretches north and connects more neighborhoods by rail, the levy is funding significant improvements along our streets and sidewalks to provide people access to these new stations.

In Q1 we completed a section of new levy funded sidewalk along NE 95th Street between 1st Ave NE and 5th Ave, just one block south of the Northgate Station. This new sidewalk will give people walking or rolling on 5th Ave NE a direct, safe route to the new light rail station.

Northgate Bike and Pedestrian Bridge Groundbreaking
Northgate Bike and Pedestrian Bridge Groundbreaking

In January, we started major construction activities on the new levy funded Northgate Bike and Pedestrian Bridge connecting Licton Springs to the Northgate station.

Once complete, anyone living  near the Link light rail, be it Rainier Valley or the University District, will have convenient access to the services and opportunities throughout this area of North Seattle, including North Seattle College, which now offers free tuition to many Seattle residents.

Crew installing new 25 MPH sign
Crew installing new 25 MPH sign.

In Q1, 50 miles of roads had speed limits lowered to 25 MPH to make it safer for people walking, rolling, biking, and in vehicles.

Seattle is lowering speed limits across the city to 25 MPH this year. We started making changes on roads in Central and Southeast Seattle. Many of these streets that were changed first are near existing light rail stations and bus stops that have a lot of people walking, rolling, and biking.

crew painting protected bike lane on Avalon Way
Crew painting protected bike lane on Avalon Way

New levy funded protected bike lanes on Avalon Way in West Seattle will open soon, providing direct bike connections to the West Seattle Low Bridge.

We are putting final touches on the Avalon Way paving project that includes new protected bike lanes, upgraded street crossings, accessible curb ramps and sidewalks, a new RapidRide transit island, and fresh paving.

Nearly completed work on 35th Ave SW
Nearly completed work on 35th Ave SW

In West Seattle, we completed a significant safety project along 35th Ave SW, that is now part of a West Seattle Bridge reroute to the 1st Ave S Bridge.

The 35th Ave SW Phase II project includes 24 new curb ramps, new left-turn signals at SW Barton St, a new traffic signal at SW Dawson St, and new road design with turn restrictions and spot pavement repair that will enhance safety for everyone who travels on this busy West Seattle street.

While we are more committed than ever to delivering the Move Seattle levy, we’re amidst a continually evolving public health crisis and early indications show that many of our plans for 2020 will be impacted.

As we move into Q2, some work has been put on hold to enable us to continue delivering Mission Essential Functions and comply with social distancing requirements. We hope that in some cases we can mitigate the impacts later this year, but COVID-19 is the type of occurrence that has a holistic impact, which we will evaluate in the coming months

In addition to project timeline uncertainty, the City relies on a number of taxes to finance our operations and programs that depend heavily on how our economy is doing. While there are still a lot of questions about the long-term economic impacts of COVID-19, the City Budget Office is initially estimating that the City could lose between $210 million-$300 million in general government resources in 2020.

We have some tough choices ahead of us. We will make those choices thoughtfully; and we will continue to prioritize safety for our workers and community and those in our city that need support the most. We remain committed to accountability and transparency and will keep you informed as we know more throughout the year.