Hope on Seattle's transportation horizon dawns in Georgetown

With the recent events around the Viaduct-tunnel, no tunnel, tunnel-lite, revoked funds, Gregoire vs. Nickels; I am reminded that the timing for the Airport Way Visioning Project (AWVP) couldn't have been better. While so many transportation issues seem to flounder, there are others trying to move forward, being proactive rather than reactive.

What is the AWVP, you ask? It's a project put forth by the Georgetown Merchants Association (GMA) and was successfully funded by the Department of Neighborhood's Small and Simple Fund. It was an idea about the future use, and possible reshaping of, Airport Way South, the street that runs through the heart of Georgetown's historic business district.

Since the GMA formed, all of nine months ago, the issue that comes up over and over again is parking, or lack of it. This was a topic that we tackled at one of our first meetings: we had representatives from SDOT listen to our needs and possible solutions. Most of our suggestions were flatly refused. In SDOT's eyes, changes can't be made. The reasons being are that Airport Way is a designated truck route and it is needed for detours when it comes to the viaduct and I-5.

There was no mention of the fact that Georgetown was changing, that Airport Way is now more than a truck route. There is a blossoming business district emerging on both sides of Airport Way. There is a developer that recently purchased the Rainier facility and as a result, and we will have even more businesses opening up as a result.

Yes, trucks use this roadway, but so do cars and buses and bicycles and, yes, even pedestrians.

None of these uses were mentioned in the SDOT meeting. Airport Way was simply reduced to being a truck route.

Swell. Because of Seattle's lack of vision, we were being held hostage. Realizing that changes were needed and understanding that making said changes was not going to be an easy task, the GMA quickly realized it needed a game plan. If it was going to just make demands to SDOT, GMA would get nowhere fast. As a result, the GMA saw a need to do something, so we did: we applied for a grant.

The hope is to bring together the major stakeholders of Airport Way. These include, but are not limited to, the Georgetown neighborhood, the merchants, the Manufacturing and Industry Council (MIC), landowners, freight, bus riders, surrounding neighborhoods like Beacon Hill, and commuters of all kinds, whether by car, bike or foot. The more voices that are heard, the more likely the vision - a collaborative effort - will become reality.

As a result of this grant, an urban planner will be hired, at least the GMA hopes that will be the result of their request for proposal. If so, a series of workshops in the spring will be held where people can voice what they want to see and discuss their desires for Airport Way.

Some might want to keep Airport Way as an arterial so traffic will flow and capacity won't be restricted, while others might want speeds to be lowered through calming measures. Some might want crosswalks, while others might want street lighting. Everyone can attend and all opinions will be welcomed.

This is a big project, but the parameters aren't big: we're only talking about less than a half-mile of Airport Way. That said, the goal is a lofty one. The GMA is striving to bring together many groups. And many factions haven't necessarily worked together for years.

Everybody has his or her own desire for Airport Way. No one is entering this with a predetermined plan. Compromises will have to be made. Hopefully everyone will leave this process pleased with the result and be ok with not achieving all of his or her personal wants and instead accept the collaborative effort. That's the vision for this project.

Georgetown resident and businesswoman Kathy Nyland may be reached via editor@sdistrictjournal.com.

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