Shoreline council micromanages 175th pedestrian project

Thursday, June 6, 2024

A sign warns pedestrians to stay off 175th street. photo by Oliver Moffat
By Oliver Moffat

On Monday, June 3, council members Keith Scully and Annette Ademasu called the city’s traffic engineers back to the council chambers to listen to input from residents concerned about trees that will be removed to make way for sidewalks and bike lanes along the 175th corridor.

“I think a check-in at this point when it’s not too late to make some changes seemed to make a lot of sense,” said council member Keith Scully about why he called for the study session while also acknowledging, “this is more council micromanagement then I usually support.”

The Shoreline city council has approved the 175th corridor project seven times since 2018; not to mention the times when the council reviewed the plan in the Transportation Improvement Plan and the Capital Improvement Plan

The city reviewed input from over 1,500 residents and incorporated the council-approved Climate Action Plan, Transportation Master Plan, Transportation Element, Complete Streets Ordinance, ADA Transition Plan, and the Sidewalk Prioritization Plan.

Although the project is complicated, there was little debate about the intersection of 175th and Meridian.

In 2003, a city risk assessment, warned it was built on pilings driven into soil that “has the potential for liquefaction” - now (twenty years later) an earthquake could still send the road “slipping and sliding” into nearby Ronald Bog along with sewage from neighborhood residents.

“While we can’t replace a mature tree, we can’t replace a life. And the safety aspects have been enumerated several times by people in the audience,” said Deputy Mayor Laura Mork. “I think it’s imperative we get phase one done to be safe as soon as possible,” she said about the Meridian intersection.

A screen shot from the city staff report shows the 51 foot bottleneck from Densmore to Wallingford where 175th squeezes four traffic lanes through rock retaining walls topped by mature conifer trees.

There was less unanimity about subsequent phases of the project - especially the 51 foot bottleneck from Densmore to Wallingford where 175th squeezes four traffic lanes through rock retaining walls topped by mature conifer trees.

Council member Annette Ademasu asked city staff to consider a proposal from Save Shoreline Trees that would shrink the sidewalks to five feet and detour bike lanes up 178th street. “That would be just a couple minutes out of the way,” she said about the 178th street bike route.

In written comments, city staff said, “eliminating bike facilities from any portion of the 175th Corridor Project is not in alignment with the City’s Complete Streets ordinance, Bike Plan (TE), and would make the pursuit of future construction funding difficult.“ 

Grant applications for bike lanes and sidewalks that meet route directness and level of traffic stress standards are more competitive.

Although Representative Pramila Jayapal recently announced she requested $3 million for 175th, the city doesn’t have the estimated $88 million needed for the project.

“What I’m concerned about is the cost,” said Council member Eben Pobee. “I don’t entirely agree with redesigning everything. That would not be a good decision financially,” he said. But he said he supported incorporating additional discreet modifications to save more trees.

Citing data from the United Nation’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, council member John Ramsdell said, “the most important thing we have to do is reduce the amount of CO2 and greenhouse gasses we are emitting and that is going to be the most effective way we can save our planet. And so when I look at this report, the 175th street project, the way it is currently designed, does just that.“

“I didn’t hear one person here say we needed four lanes between Meridian and Midvale,” said Mayor Chris Roberts. “I looked and saw we have traffic volumes of about 21,000 vehicles per day in this segment… if we were to get to one lane in each direction, not only would we have reduced traffic speeds, we would make it easier for pedestrians to cross two lanes of traffic instead of four lanes of traffic west of Meridian Park elementary. We might be able to get protected bike lanes, sidewalks and buffers in the existing right of way,” he said.

An architectural rendering from the city shows the what 175th might look like with bike lanes and sidewalks

If the city meets its Climate Action Plan goal to reduce per capita driving 50% by 2050, 175th would be a good candidate for a road diet, according to the Federal Highway Administration.

The conversation about 175th is not over. “I know we are going to have a discussion coming up about speed zone cameras and red light cameras. With most of that focused on this intersection. Most of that focused on this segment,” said Roberts.

At the June 10 meeting, the city council will discuss Traffic Cameras after reviewing the annual Traffic Report and  residents are encouraged to attend and make public comments.


Anonymous,  June 6, 2024 at 9:26 AM  

Thank you for the article.
I've come to question the insistence of bike lanes as a part of every street project, especially arterials. Studies show that bike ridership remains flat at just 7% of all modes of public transportation. Yet they keep growing because it's an easy win for officials want to show something is being done.

If the city truly want to get people to drive less they need increase bus routes, widen sidewalks and promote the development of more and smaller commercial zones that used to be a fixture in every neighborhood.

Kathleen Russell,  June 6, 2024 at 2:09 PM  

Save Shoreline Trees response: Even though the City has reviewed the project seven times in the past and there were over 1500 public comments to the outreach surveys, the public was not informed until Oct 26, 2023 that 274 trees would be removed along N 175th. The draft arborist report is dated Dec 7, 2022. It took the City almost a year to provide this information to the public. This delay means the response from the public regarding tree removal was postponed and now too late.

Save Shoreline Trees agrees the safety of children and parents walking/biking to and from school is of paramount importance. We understand bicyclists must absolutely have safe lanes. We are asking the City team to consider additional options to retain the 125 evergreen trees that are on the list of 274 trees to be cut down. This list of significant trees includes Douglas firs, cedars, pines, hemlocks, Norway spruce, and Pacific madrone.

Anonymous,  June 6, 2024 at 3:47 PM  

Let the city planners do their job: they have been thorough, considerate, and future focused. In fact they stated we are at 30k cars per day down 175th, so a road diet is not possible at this time. We need safe sidewalks. Any modifications to the plan doesn’t really save that many more trees and endangers the timeline and funding. Let’s just get this done!

Anonymous,  June 6, 2024 at 4:18 PM  

I love all of the trees in Shoreline. But as a parent and teacher at Meridian Park Elementary the sidewalks approaching the school on both sides on 175th are unsafe and disgraceful. Many families walk on these "sidewalks" to and from school each day. The sidewalks are narrow, and they do not have a nature strip with protective curb. I will absolutely support any tree removals if it allows pedestrians and families more safety as they walk and bike to school.

Anonymous,  June 6, 2024 at 8:54 PM  

How does having an open discussion on plan modifications for N. 175th imply that tree advocates in Shoreline or Seattle, many who are moms, dads, and grandparents, would ever want to compromise safety to the public on sidewalks and streets. Nothing is accomplished with either/or thinking. One asks why hasn't the city done more for safety in that area by actually installing a traffic enforcement camera. Even with wide sidewalks etc, careless drivers still will careen down the corridor and there are many careless drivers out there.

Anonymous,  June 6, 2024 at 9:00 PM  

Actually only a small minority of people use bicycles in this area to commute (base on size of the population), and many people cannot use bicycles. Also the notion of a shared pedestrian and bicycle 13 ft sidewalk, when pedestrians have been harmed by careless bicyclists, seems irresponsible if the city truly cared about safety. There are many irresponsible bicyclists out there who have greatly harmed pedestrians including children and older adults.

Anonymous,  June 7, 2024 at 6:17 AM  

I do not think the City Council micromanaged the N. 175th street project. Mr. Moffet should recognize that threats posed by climate change have truly become apparent over the past several years. Shoreline city too has made judgment errors in the past regards major projects that would affect us all locally - reported in this paper . For example in 2017 when Hamlin Park itself was under threat of losing 4 acres of forest and habitat by City dept decisions. Public outcry stopped this. In this city we have a Council - Manager legislative system that encourages neighborhood input into the political process. I applaud the City Council for having this recent discussion and hope there will be more such actions in the future.

Anonymous,  June 7, 2024 at 8:47 AM  

“Micromanages?” Really Oliver?

Don’t you think the councilmembers job is to provide oversight and provide ideas?

Should they just rubber stamp an $89 million project ?

Their scrutiny is valuable!

Your term “micromanagement “ is not.

Anonymous,  June 7, 2024 at 9:27 AM  

I fear taking the 4 lanes down to 2 anywhere between 15th NE and Rte 99 would have an adverse effect, similar to the one in I5, where 4 lanes were reduced to two: a huge backup and very frustrated drivers. I find it hard to believe moving bike lanes to 178th would be an exorbitant expensive and it could save lives.

Anonymous,  June 7, 2024 at 9:52 AM  

I bet biking is less than 7% of transportation in Shoreline. During the winter months it vanishes. It's nuts to eat the roadway up for this.

Anonymous,  June 7, 2024 at 12:59 PM  

I appreciate the reporting and the discussion and the civic engagement, but is this all a moot point if this is true “the city doesn’t have the estimated $88 million needed for the project.”

Anonymous,  June 7, 2024 at 1:48 PM  

Does letting city planners do their job include withholding information from the public until input is too late? Or failing to inform city council members that funding it contingent on bikes lanes? I think city staff is failing us and doing deliberately.

Anonymous,  June 7, 2024 at 5:42 PM  

I don’t know how many tens of thousands of trees we have in Shoreline, but I’m looking forward to having more safe bike infrastructure to get around town with my daughter. I wrote the council to ignore the tree folk and I’m glad they are doing the right thing for our future.

Anonymous,  June 8, 2024 at 7:20 AM  

Hi Oliver - like a lot of your work, but the title inclusion of "micromanages" makes me wince. "Micromanages" is a subjective opinion, and not a fact. This comes across as an opinion piece, and not as unbiased news reporting.

Really love the Shoreline Area News (we've moved here to start a family, as well as many other 'Seattleites' we know, and use it for local knowledge) and hoping it establishes itself as a consistently respectable news source.

Ben,  June 8, 2024 at 5:35 PM  

It doesn't make a lot of sense for the city to prioritize car drivers' enjoyment of these trees as they speed through here when we have emissions targets to hit. Lowering emissions means getting people out of their cars and that means safe sidewalks. Improving 175th will be good for the environment and safety. The status quo is good only for car drivers and terribly unsafe for local schoolchildren who walk along this path every day and for everyone else not in a car.

DKH June 9, 2024 at 2:24 AM  

Anonymous June 7, 8:47am and
Anonymous June 8, 7:20M
Please read the quotation in the 2nd paragraph:

“I think a check-in at this point when it’s not too late to make some changes seemed to make a lot of sense,” said council member Keith Scully about why he called for the study session while also acknowledging, “this is more council micromanagement then I usually support.”

Anonymous,  June 9, 2024 at 3:21 AM  

It makes zero sense to consider road dieting 175th between Aurora and Meridian -- or for that matter, between Aurora and 15th NE. Advocates, please explain to us how it makes sense to create a massive bottleneck between I-5 and Shorewood High School in order to serve a tiny minority of traffic.

Cyclists can ride this road right now if they wish. They don't need dedicated infrastructure on this critical arterial. All they have to do is to drop a few gears and wear a Superflash on the rear so that traffic knows to pass them going up the hill. Coming down the hill? Upshift and do 30 like everyone else.

Cyclists who don't feel confident on 175th now won't feel any more confident just because of a road diet. They should ride on 178th which is better suited for lower speeds.

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