Road repairs start in May

Ballard News Tribune

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Sand stabilization may sound like an oxymoron, but that is exactly what the Seattle Department of Transportation promises with its federally funded repair plan for the portion of Golden Gardens Drive that collapsed during a rainstorm last December.

The city received $3 million to $4 million from the Federal Highway Administration’s Emergency Relief Program to restore the damaged 56-foot hole.

Five city transportation department representatives unveiled its “final” plan to an uneasy audience of about 90 at a March 24 public meeting at Golden Gardens Park Bathhouse. Many live in the neighborhood just north of the collapse and felt their voices were not heard before the plan was set in stone, or rather, sand.

HDR Inc., the hired contractors, will start in May for the six-month major re-construction project. They will reinforce and repair the hole extending about 10 feet beyond each edge. That stretch of the drive will lie within a 160-foot “soldier pile/tieback” wall. Soldier pile walls generally utilize steel beams driven into the ground to retain a soft soil and for sites not allowing excavation into the hillside below from both sides, and both are the case here. Signage and shared lane pavement markings, or sharrows, will be added for bicyclers the following spring.

After the presentation, one audience member said he cycles Golden Gardens Drive regularly, and made a comment that seemed to resonate with the crowd more than any other.

“I came to this meeting on the pretext of being invited to ask what we want to do with the road. It seems obvious that you already knew what you were doing. So why are we here? Can we debate other options?”

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His comment was addressed to LeAnne Nelson, communications manager, and Kit Loo, projects manager, both with the Seattle Department of Transportation, who insisted there was no wiggle room in their design plan to stabilize and repave. They said that to qualify for the federal funding you must agree just to reconstruct without adding sidewalks, or widening the lanes, which they admitted are, in some places on the drive, under the city’s 10-foot width minimum standard.

“We can just fix the hole with the emergency funding,” said Nelson. “We can’t reconfigure the road.”

Loo said the “main issue for us is safety, and to maintain access of cars, emergency vehicles, and bicycles. We are battling nature.”

Someone asked if the federal funding would prevent future repairs along the troubled road.

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“To repave the entire road we estimate at over $20 million. We are trying to mitigate any future spots,” Loo said.

“It’s a crazy narrow road,” said Fred Felleeman, an environmental consultant and a founding member of Friends of Golden Gardens Park. Like others, he said he resented being left out of the decision-making process and would favor the drive becoming a one-way street with a two-way bicycle lane.

“The road is too narrow to safely squeeze in two lanes of traffic and two lanes of bicycles. I don’t see how that would violate the federal grant. It would preserve the road and make it more stable, and wouldn’t cost anymore. Why have options been taken off the table? Let’s be creative about this.”

Some neighbors chatted outside the beach house after the meeting.

“The (Ballard) Volkswagen dealership uses the road as a demo spot,” said Daniel Wren, who peddled to the meeting and suggested implementing speed bumps to slow down test-drivers and other four-wheel daredevils. “The car dealers say, ‘Once you get to Golden Gardens (Drive) open it up.'”

Felleeman laughed. “I know. I test drove one of their cars and that’s just what they told me, too, and I did!”

Wren suggested people, “Check out that huge crack a couple hundred feet past the railway tunnel. That’s the next to go, and is not even part of their plan. I talked to some maintenance workers up there who said that drainage is so bad that repairing this street is like pouring money down the drain.”

Reached the following day, Nelson acknowledged the strong audience reaction surprised her and said that, as a result of the meeting, supervisors at the transportation department “promise to look into the federal regulations of the grant to see if we are given other options on the plan.”

Steve Shay may be contacted at steves@robinsonnews.com

~ by fredfelleman on April 14, 2008.

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