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Ballard greenway presentation draws mixed reactions

Posted by Meghan Walker on July 27th, 2012

By Andrew Gospe, UW News Lab

Community members met with representatives from the Seattle Department of Transportation(SDOT) last night, July 26, to discuss a proposed greenway that will run along NW 58thStreet between 32nd Avenue NW and 4th Avenue NW. Some attendees, however, were not pleased with how SDOT organized the meeting, which was held at Adams Elementary School.

After SDOT reps gave a 30-minute presentation outlining the specifics of the project, there was to be a 45-minute “open house.” Community members could then ask questions to individual SDOT representatives about greenways, which are bicycle- and pedestrian-friendly routes onstreets with low traffic.

City traffic engineer Dongho Chang fields questions from Ballard community members during the open-house portion of an SDOT-led meeting last night at Adams Elementary School. Photo credit Andrew Gospe

But when the presentation ended, several audience members requested that their questions be fielded in front of the whole group, which comprised around 100 people. However, following about 10 minutes of public questions, the open house went on as scheduled when SDOT cut off group questioning and directed attendees to representatives stationed around the room. Paper forms for written comments were also made available.

The meeting’s format upset some audience members. Ballard resident Cindy Christy Robertson said she isn’t necessarily opposed to the greenway, but that the city’s tactics seemed like a way to “spread out dissent.”

“When you come to a meeting, you usually have an open mic,” she said. “Someone might go up and ask a question, maybe that might prompt somebody else to ask a similar follow-up question. For me, the way this was done was a divide and conquer.”

Douglas Cox, an associate transportation planner at SDOT who gave the presentation, said that although work on the greenway is set to begin this fall, the discussion is far from over.

“This is the beginning of the conversation, and we want to hear back from people,” he said. “We want to have faith that this is what the community really wants. Nothing is ever really done until it’s built.”

According to SDOT, the greenway project includes pavement markings to alert drivers of cyclists, median islands to prevent drivers from cutting through residential streets, and stop signs for traffic crossing the greenway. The estimated cost of the project is $320,000, funded through a 2006 local transportation levy called Bridging the Gap.

Jennifer Litowski of the Ballard Greenways community group, said the project was first proposed to SDOT at the end of last year. Litowski was motivated to advocate safer routes forbicyclists and pedestrians after finding it difficult to travel with her young son once he left his stroller.

“We realized we couldn’t stand next to him holding his hand with people going past on Market Street at sometimes 30 or 40 miles per hour. But then we tried to walk on some of the quieter neighborhood streets, and we were blocked,” she said. “It was the same thing a year later when I bought a trailer bike. It was really difficult to go to the places that we do on a weekly basis.”

Litowski said the project’s final design will be modified to accommodate community feedback, and she encourages Ballard residents to voice their opinions.

“I would encourage everyone to write comments and contact us,” she said. “We want to make it as good of a neighborhood and as good of a design as possible.”

Contact SDOT by email at walkandbike@seattle.gov or by phone at 206-684-7583. The BallardGreenways community group can be reached on their website.

Andrew Gospe is a student in the University of Washington Department of Communication News Laboratory.

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