Photo by Brandon Macz: Demolition of KeyArena continues, with plans for nighttime construction to start later this month.
Photo by Brandon Macz: Demolition of KeyArena continues, with plans for nighttime construction to start later this month.

SDOT and Seattle Center Arena developers are still drafting plans for how to avoid massive congestion and welcome in the crowds when the sports and performance venue opens in 2021. Many members of the Queen Anne Community Council pushed back on those plans, protesting a lack of inclusion in the process when the massive project was still under environmental review.

Not everything has been resolved, and the transportation department and Oak View Group will be working together on an Arena Access Management Plan up until just before the new arena opens in 2021, said SDOT strategic advisor Sara Zora during the June 5 QACC meeting.

But changes are coming to streets in Uptown prior to the first tip off or puck drop, and QACC members expressed concerns Wednesday, not only about the loss of general-purpose lanes, but also arena-goers parking along Queen Anne’s residential streets.

SDOT plans to add a two-way protected bike lane on First Avenue North, from Denny Way to Thomas Street, and add a bus-only lane. There will be flex space north of Thomas, on First Avenue North, Zora said, where a through-lane would be able to change to parking space if needed. There will also be a transit-only lane, and added curb bulbs and/or widened crosswalks at Harrison and Republican streets.

Adjustments are planned for the Second Avenue protected bike lane, to provide a connection from Broad Street to First Avenue North.

Thomas Street, between First and Warren avenues north, could also be closed when any arena event with 10,000 or more attendees takes place.

New traffic signals, with adaptive signal capabilities, are planned for installation at First and Thomas and Queen Anne Avenue North and Thomas.

SDOT also plans to convert one general-purpose lane for transit-only on Queen Anne Avenue North, from Mercer to John streets. A protected bike lane will be added from Mercer to Thomas.

An environmental impact statement for the project, which will nearly double the arena’s size, from 450,000 square feet to 850,000 square feet, studied 58 intersections around Seattle Center; Queen Anne Avenue North to Interstate 5, and Roy Street to a half-mile south of Denny Way.

“We did not come up the hill to Queen Anne, as you will notice,” Zora said.

Marty Kaplan, who chairs QACC’s Land Use Review Committee, said the community council pushed to be included in the community advisory group that could have influenced including Queen Anne streets in the EIS.

“We begged,” said QACC member Don Harper. “We begged to be in this study.”

Harper, who is running for city council, said the community council doesn’t trust SDOT, and that the transportation committee only listens to advocacy groups.

Mark Ostrow with Queen Anne Greenways said people could only expect congestion to become worse if the city doesn’t invest in infrastructure improvements for pedestrians, cyclists and transit. Improving reliability is key for transit. First and Queen Anne avenues north are not currently safe for pedestrians and cyclists, he said.

If bus transit is not improved on those streets, more people will be stuck in traffic, Zora said.

QACC member Robert Kettle said the city was so focused on I-5, it didn’t consider Mercer to Elliott Avenue. John Merrick with SDOT said its work with Expedia, which is moving to a new campus in Interbay, includes adding adaptive signals on Western Avenue, and on Elliott, all the way to 15th Avenue West.

“We’ll be able to kind of tie that all in,” he said.

The new Seattle Center Arena is expected to play host to twice as many events as KeyArena did before its closure, up from around 100 a year to 200-250. Even if the arena rebuild wasn’t happening, Zora said, Uptown congestion would still be exacerbated by anticipated job and population growth in the area.

The Arena Access Management Plan (AAMP) will address how to manage traffic controls before and after an event. Zora said how to handle an estimated 900 ride-hailing vehicles after an event is still being worked out, and OVG believes that number will be higher. Zora said there’s potential that ride-hailing vehicles could be prohibited in certain areas around Seattle Center.

A baseline assumption from the EIS is that 63 percent of arena attendees will take private vehicles when the arena opens, and then drop down to 35 percent in 2035, when a new light rail extension reaches Seattle Center. Ride-hailing use is projected to increase 10 percent.

The project goals are to reduce the use of private vehicles to 31 percent by 2035 and increase transit by 30 percent, much higher than the estimated 6 percent in the 2035 baseline assumption. Zora said the arena team is providing King County Metro with funding to increase post-event service to Ballard and the University District.

There will be 450 underground parking spaces at the new arena, but one requirement of the master use permit is that OVG work to push cars to park a half-mile away. Zora said discussions are ongoing about whether to offer reserved parking at the arena.

“We would like it if people from Everett knew exactly where they’re going to park before they leave the house,” she said.

There is also the potential for a mobility app to be created to provide information regarding the best mode of travel for reaching the arena.

As for construction of the arena, the completion of which was pushed back a year, OVG spokesperson Morgan Littlefield said demolition continues, and nighttime work is expected to start later this month. It will still be some time before the landmarked roof needs to be supported and a new arena is built under it, she said. The iconic roof weighs 44 million pounds.