Shoreline Council approves $42 Million for 145th Project after hearing comments on tree removals

Wednesday, December 13, 2023

By Oliver Moffat

The Shoreline City Council voted to approve more than $42 million in funding for the 145th roadway improvement on Monday night December 11, 2023, paving the way to support increased car traffic on the border between Seattle and Shoreline. 

In another indication of the complex challenges Shoreline faces as our city grows, more than 60 residents provided public comments pleading for a halt to save trees that will be removed to make way for the expanded roadway.

A rendering from the city’s website showing the roundabouts, on-ramp improvements, and improved sidewalks and bike lanes that will be built as part of the 145th project.

A rendering from the city’s website shows the placement of the new 145th center turn-lane and widened sidewalk

It has been over twenty years since 145th last was repaved and restriped - the only improvements made to the busy motorway in decades. The project will widen the I-5 on-ramps and off-ramps and replace the traffic lights, currently plagued with traffic jams, with roundabouts

The project will widen the roadway to add a fifth, center turn lane to reduce traffic jams caused by drivers turning south. And the project will widen the sidewalk to create a multi-use path that is accessible to wheelchair users and bicyclists.

The action by the City Council on Monday night was little more than a procedural formality as the 145th Street Projects have been in planning for a decade, with multiple rounds of public open houses, and published reports. 

According to reports by city staff, the Council had to approve the funds or risk millions of dollars in cost overruns and with the 145th light rail station opening soon, upgrades to provide safe pedestrian pathways will become a life-or-death safety measure.

Despite the procedural nature of the Council action, dozens of public comments highlighted how rapid development and change is causing frustration for some residents. 

Public comments voiced disappointment and surprise that more than 300 trees will be removed to make way for the 145th project. 

Although most comments did not question the need for improving the roadway for drivers, many comments specifically questioned the need for a thirteen foot multi-use path that can accommodate bicyclists, suggesting that a narrower sidewalk would save trees while sending bicyclists into the roadway.

A screen shot from a city staff report shows areas where trees will be removed to make way for 145th improvements.

A screen shot from a city staff report shows the number of trees that will be planted to mitigate the impacts of the removal of more than 300 trees.

Deputy Mayor Betsy Robertson pointed out the dire consequences of not approving the funds,
“This is not a Shoreline project. This is a regional project… There are millions and millions of dollars that are threatened by us not proceeding tonight… 
We would be sacrificing the safety of commuters, bikers, walkers, all those things, if this were not to get done… the train has left the station.”

Councilmember Chris Roberts emphasized the complexities inherent in a massive project such as this, saying, 

“I think this project really illustrates the trade offs that are going to be necessary and that we have to think about as we move forward with these bigger projects… moving forward, we need to be clear about what our priorities are. 
"We need to be clear with these road infrastructure projects our priority must be safety, safety for all users.”
Mayor Keith Skully emphasized the broader environmental context of the project “

The point of this is environmental. The point of this is to save trees in areas other than Shoreline. We can build affordable, dense housing here, so we don’t have to build it somewhere that is currently forested or farmland.”

In retrospect, the Mayor promised more transparency going forward, 

“what we learned on other projects recently is folks telling us we didn’t know how many trees were coming down. And so what we’ve started doing is putting that front and center. That’s always been available but we haven’t necessarily been leading with that. That’s an improvement that we need to make.” 

Looking forward, he said, “I think council and I are ready to say let’s start prioritizing trees. Both preservation and adding them in.”


Anonymous,  December 14, 2023 at 7:02 AM  

IMO, our city should embrace the native conifers and plant new western red cedars and Douglas firs. Let's not turn Shoreline into a south Lake Union neighborhood with ornamental, boring and non life sustaining trees.

Anonymous,  December 14, 2023 at 10:41 AM  

I think they made the right call for this project given the circumstances—the benefits of completing the infrastructure projects in time for the light rail opening outweigh the downsides—but I hope in the future they more strongly consider reallocating space from existing roadways rather than widening them. Chris Roberts made this same point: safety and environmental preservation should come before vehicle capacity.

Anonymous,  December 14, 2023 at 4:21 PM  

Mayor Scully unwittingly told the truth. The point is to save trees in places other than Shoreline. Within Shoreline itself, all bets are off in the name of density, growth, and loss of livability. This council doesn't care about trees in the community, so we shouldn't be surprised when our neighborhoods are denuded by developers.

Anonymous,  December 15, 2023 at 9:14 AM  

Agree wholeheartedly. Whatever tree canopy can be established can do double duty as habitat.

Anonymous,  December 15, 2023 at 11:47 AM  

So Richmond Beach resident Mayor Scully is happy to sacrifice the little people living east of Aurora for the greater good of humanity. But until we have elections that are contested (2 of the 3 council seats were uncontested at our last election) Shoreline will remain in the grasp of the developers.

Anonymous,  December 16, 2023 at 9:30 AM  

" ...suggesting that a narrower sidewalk would save trees while sending bicyclists into the roadway."

When we're seeing rising pedestrian deaths it's irresponsible to suggest a course of action that prioritizes trees over human lives. It would be awesome to be able to have both, but these folks need to get a grip.

Anonymous,  December 17, 2023 at 10:14 AM  

We need to be clear about the true causes of pedestrian deaths in this community, because there are two causes, neither of which are a sidewalk that's 8 feet wide rather than 16 feet.

1) Distracted/poorly skilled drivers with a face full of phone instead of paying attention to their driving like they should be.
2) Pollyanna pedestrians dressed like ninjas, darting across roads without the slightest instinct of self preservation during our dark months. Carry a light, look both ways .... this is basic stuff, folks. Honorable mention goes to the cyclists making the same potentially fatal mistakes.

Anonymous,  December 17, 2023 at 5:03 PM  

For the sake of native birds, we need native plants for the soft-bodied insects that live on them. Studies show that once you've replaced more than a 3rd of native shrubs and trees with aliens, native bird populations plummet; there are no longer enough soft-bodied moths, butterflies, skippers, caterpillars, etc necessary to fledge their young. There are some pretty effective ways to provide for non-compacted soil for root growth of native large trees. I agree with a previous anonymous poster that pointed out we need to figure out a way to provide the occasional space for our native plants. If there is "no room" for our large cedars, hemlocks, firs, then choose a diverse group of native shrubs that support a diverse group of arthropods.

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