City unveils five alternatives for Mercer Place expansion

 The Seattle Department of Transportation has five separate plans for its West Mercer Place project in lower Queen Anne, and so far has more than half of the money needed to pay for expanding the roadway, according to SDOT Project Manager Eric Tweit.

In an e-mail exchange, Tweit also mentioned that the wooden trestle, which originally supported the Mercer Place roadway, does not appear to still exist, according to tests conducted by SDOT.

“The adopted 2011-2016 Capital Improvement Program budget for the entire Mercer West Project is $100 million,” wrote Tweit.  “This is based on the preliminary cost estimate for the Widened Mercer between Dexter Avenue North and Fifth Avenue North, and the conversion of Mercer and Roy streets to two-way operation between Fifth Avenue North and Queen Anne Avenue North.

“Of the $100 million,” Tweit continued, “ $62.5 million in funding has been identified, and the Mayor and City Council will determine how to fill the remaining $37.5 million gap over the next 12 to 18 months. If the City decides to proceed with any improvements on West Mercer Place, we will have to identify funding for those improvements in addition to the overall project's $100 million cost.”

As to the question of the trestle, Tweit wrote that SDOT has “information on the soils in this area from past projects and investigations, and have used that information for our cost estimates. We have not found any evidence that the trestle is still there in our initial investigation of the archives, but we have included a contingency for this in the cost estimates.

“Given that soil testing would be intrusive,” he concludes, “we are not planning to do further tests until a decision is made on which, if any, alternative to pursue on West Mercer Place. If the City decides to move forward with design of a particular alternative we will complete detailed analyses of soil conditions and the trestle, as needed for the specific alternative.”

The first alternative for the Project involves adding an 8-foot wide sidewalk extending to Elliott Avenue West, plus a 250-foot long retaining wall to the south. With an estimated budget of $2.7 million, this is the second-cheapest of the five proposed alternatives.  

The second alternative involves adding the 8-foot sidewalk, plus a new 5-foot wide uphill bike lane and a retaining wall running along 330 feet of the hillside to the south. This alternative carries an estimated cost of $4.2 million.

The third alternative includes the sidewalk, the bike lane, a 330-foot long wall to the south plus a 380-foot long wall to the north, and the extension of the merge lane halfway up the hill. The vehicle entrance to Kinnear Park would also be modified. This alternative carries an estimated cost of $8 million, and incorporates the difficulty of bringing traffic noise closer to homes.

The fourth alternative includes the sidewalk, bike lane, a 330-foot wall to the south plus a 700-foot long wall to the north, and the extension of the merge lane completely up the hill.  This would also bring traffic noise closer to homes. Unlike the earlier alternatives, this SDOT projects a 1-5 second reduction in travel time.  This alternative carries an estimated cost of $12.9 million.

The fifth and final alternative involves simply extending the left-turn lanes on Elliott Avenue West.  This, according to SDOT, would improve travel times. With an estimated cost of only $200,000, this is by far the cheapest alternative of the five proposals.

SDOT plans to meet with community groups and “other interested stakeholders” in March and April to “present the study results and gather input.”  SDOT will also present the study results, with a project update, to the City Council Transportation Committee on March 22nd. A final recommendation to the Mayor will follow. Tweit encourages interested parties to visit the project’s web site, Questions and comments can be sent to Tweit at or by dialing 206.684.8834 .


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