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Seattle’s transit system may be radically behind the times as compared with other cities worldwide, but commuters are about to see at least one form of improvement… if they travel between Seattle and Vancouver.

Starting April 26th, Seattle’s Kenmore Air and Vancouver, B.C.’s Harbour Air will be launching a seaplane service between South Lake Union and downtown Vancouver. The air service takes just under an hour, a considerable drop from the three-hour trip by car, which is unpredictable because of the variable border crossing times. Flying commercially via Seatac Airport is relatively inexpensive and the flight itself only takes an hour, but travelers need to account at least 2 hours of additional time to get to the airport and get through security on time.

This new service will run $285 one-way.

Microsoft is celebrating the service, since the company has a large presence in Vancouver. They have been a leading voice in the demand for high-speed travel between Seattle and the Canadian city, and even supplemented Washington State’s $300,000 budget to study a plan for fast trains with $50,000. British Columbia’s government also said it would match Washington’s budget to study corridor service, which would reach Portland as well.

“This new direct seaplane route between Seattle and Vancouver, B.C., will be an important link in connecting the Cascadia Innovation Corridor,” Microsoft President Brad Smith said in a news release. “This association between two historic Pacific Northwest companies will accelerate cross-border business and collaboration for the entire region.”

The launch of this seaplane service comes after years of talks, but the Vancouver Harbour Flight Centre’s brand new customs facility and pilot program announced earlier this month seem to have been the last step.

Numerous businesses in Seattle’s Lake Union will benefit from this new service, including Amazon of course, who announced last fall that it would be doubling its Vancouver-based workforce from 1,000 people.

“With approximately 20,000 annual passengers currently traveling between Seattle and Victoria, we’re confident this new route will support the growing demand for further cross-border travel,” said Kenmore Air President Todd Banks. “Increasing cross-border collaboration has been top of mind for government, technology and business leaders alike, and we believe this route provides a fast, convenient and much needed solution.”

The new seaplane service will offer round-trip flights Monday through Friday, which accommodate nine passengers. All passengers must present a valid passport and will be subject to customs inspection upon arrival.

The Anne Frank sapling planted in the Peace Garden at Seattle Center.  (Holocaust Center for Humanity)

An actual offshoot/descendant of the chestnut tree that young Anne Frank drew solace from, looking down from her attic window in Amsterdam, is planted in the Peace Garden at the Seattle Center. It was a gift to the Holocaust Center for Humanity in downtown Seattle, only one of 11 saplings sent to America through The Sapling Project.

Undated photo of Anne Frank from the Anne Frank Center, USA. (AP Photo)

The original tree lived 170 years in the Netherlands, 50 years beyond its young Jewish admirer, who died at 15 years old in a Nazi concentration camp. While Anne and her family hid for two years in a concealed attic during World War II, she wrote in her diary of birds, the blue sky, and her chestnut tree out the window: “As long as this exists, how can I be sad?”

Holocaust Remembrance Day (Yom Hashoah) is this week, and the Holocaust Center for Humanity is holding a commemoration day on April 15th. Their current exhibit, “Let Me Be Myself: The Life Story of Anne Frank” runs through May 30th, reservations required.

Interesting news video about Anne’s Tree when it first arrived in Seattle:
http://komonews.com/news/local/offshoot-from-anne-franks-tree-of-hope-to-grow-in-seattle

Anne Frank’s attic window, looking out on the original chestnut tree in Amsterdam.  (KIRO7)

By David Gutman

Seattle will develop a plan to toll city roadways as part of its efforts to reduce traffic congestion and greenhouse-gas emissions, Mayor Jenny Durkan said Tuesday.

Details of what such a plan might look like are sparse, and will hinge on a tolling study focused on downtown neighborhoods that should have initial results later this year.

While several foreign cities use broad congestion-pricing schemes to reduce car travel in their most-clogged downtown areas, no American city has established a similar widespread tolling system.

Durkan said she was hopeful a congestion-pricing system could be in place by the end of her first term, in 2021.

“Obviously, we’ve got to work with stakeholders, we have to get through a lot of those things, but I think it makes a lot of sense for us to move to congestion pricing to, one, increase mobility and safety downtown and, two, to really restrict some of those greenhouse gases that are released in the urban corridor,” the mayor said in an interview.

Durkan said during her campaign last fall that the city should explore congestion pricing.

Credit: Greg Gilbert/The Seattle Times

Seattle could implement tolling within the city without the permission of the state Legislature, but it would almost certainly require the approval of city voters.

In 2015, 56 percent of Puget Sound-area voters said systemwide tolling was a bad or very bad idea, according to a poll from the Puget Sound Regional Council.

Congestion pricing can take a number of forms, and it’s unclear which the city may pursue.

Charging varying amounts to use an entire roadway or just individual lanes — like on Interstate 405 — to discourage rush-hour traffic is a form of congestion pricing.

So is so-called cordon tolling, where a heavily trafficked area (think downtown and South Lake Union) is virtually “cordoned” off and tolls are charged to enter the area.

New York City has been discussing cordon tolling in Manhattan, without taking action, for more than a decade.

Durkan is proposing congestion pricing as part of a push to cut the city’s greenhouse-gas emissions. Seattle’s four previous mayors have all tried, and mostly failed, to reduce the city’s carbon output, as a booming population has offset decreases in per-person emissions.

Transportation is responsible for about two-thirds of Seattle’s greenhouse-gas emissions, and most of Durkan’s proposed changes focus on that sector.

The mayor also wants to make Seattle much more hospitable to electric cars. She said she will introduce legislation requiring that new developments (or renovations) that build parking also include electric-vehicle charging stations.

And she wants to continue adding to the city’s fleet of electric vehicles “to phase out the use of fossil fuels in all fleet vehicles.”

“We want to make, ideally, charging stations as frequent as gas stations,” Durkan said.

Revenues from congestion pricing would be used to increase transit service throughout the city and to support more electric transportation infrastructure, Durkan said.

“We want to make it easier for people to get on transit so they don’t have to drive,” she said. “We as a city and as a region have to make real on the promise of frequent transit service.”

Durkan’s climate action plan, spurred along by the Trump administration’s withdrawal from the Paris climate agreement, also aims to develop programs to increase building energy efficiency around the city.

“If our country is going to do anything significant on climate, the leadership has to come from states and cities,” Durkan said.

Limited tolling is already coming to downtown Seattle, with the opening of the Highway 99 tunnel, scheduled for later this year. But the state Transportation Commission continues to struggle deciding how much to tolland when to start tolling.

Whatever price the agency settles on, the tolls will cause some drivers to skip the tunnel, pushing more cars onto already suffocating downtown streets.

That’s why, last year, the City Council authorized $200,000to study the effects of the tunnel’s tolls and to explore congestion pricing in Seattle.

“The study would focus on the broader equity implications of congestion pricing in Seattle (particularly who is driving at what times) and explore options, such as the idea of pricing downtown Seattle exits, to ensure that transit service continues to operate reliably,” the proposal for the study said.

City Councilmember Mike O’Brien, who proposed the study, said last fall the city was “a long ways” from considering congestion pricing but that the study would be useful information to have when that discussion did happen.

O’Brien’s office said Tuesday that the study would likely be put out for bid in the next couple of weeks and they hope for initial findings by October.

Durkan said that study would be the “starting point” for a plan on congestion pricing, “looking exactly where those corridors are where it makes sense both from a city betterment project and a greenhouse gas project.”

Seattle has studied congestion pricing previously.

2003 study by the Puget Sound Regional Council found that regionwide variable tolling — charging varying amounts on all major roads at different times — “could make excessive reoccurring congestion a thing of the past.”

2009 study, commissioned by the city, recommended tolls as a way to lower the city’s greenhouse- gas emissions, deal with congestion and raise revenue.

And, while not exactly tolling, the state is currently studying a tax on every mile driven, as a way to replace the gas tax.

Foreign cities that have implemented widespread tolling — London, Stockholm and Milan are prominent examples — have generally faced public opposition that faded away after the system was put in place and traffic congestion decreased.

“Road pricing tends to poll poorly,” Matthew Gibson, an economist at Williams College who has studied tolling, said in an interview last year. “After people experience it for a while, support tends to increase.”

New York City is the only other American city to look seriously at congestion pricing, but it has repeatedly backed away.

Just last week, New York legislators agreed on a budget that did not include Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s much-discussed proposal for a nearly $12 daily fee to drive into midtown Manhattan.

Syndicated from The Seattle Times

By Mike Rosenberg

Seattle’s record construction boom may have peaked: Development activity across the central part of the city is declining at the fastest rate in at least 12 years.

At the end of this past year, there were 57 active projects underway in the area that stretches from South Lake Union to Sodo, according to a report released Monday by the Downtown Seattle Association. That’s down from a record high of 74 projects six months prior.

The 23 percent decline amounts to the biggest six-month drop since the downtown association began its twice-a-year construction counts in 2005.

It comes after a recent survey found Seattle’s crane count had dipped for the first time in years.

Of course, the slowdown is all relative: Even with the recent decrease, the development activity going on now surpasses anything seen before 2015 — even beating out the surge from this past decade before the recession hit. And Seattle’s falling crane count is still good enough to lead the country.

Will the slowing trend continue? On one hand, nearly half of the projects underway now are set to wrap up by the end of the year, and the downtown group expects fewer apartments to open in the next few years than in 2017.

But there are still 220 potential future projects in the pipeline for the greater downtown region (not all of those will get built, and some will be delayed many years, but several are in the final planning stages).

The construction frenzy that began half a decade ago has remade the skyline and added density to areas once filled with parking lots, as new apartments and offices sprout up to transform the city.

As residents and commuters know all too well, the surge has also caused headaches: It’s tough to travel even a few blocks without hitting a closed street, a blocked sidewalk or closed-off street parking, and jackhammering noise has become an unofficial soundtrack to city life.

About two-thirds of the projects getting built now have a residential component, and almost all of those are apartment buildings.

About 5,700 new apartments opened just in the past year across the greater downtown region, and an additional 3,600 are set to be completed this year.

Rents downtown have begun dropping for the first time since last decade amid the construction boom, as some of the new luxury apartments opening in the city’s hottest neighborhoods have sat empty. Altogether, the area has added more than 20,000 new housing units in the past decade.

There are up to 30,000 apartments still left in the pipeline, though developers recently have reported a pullback in new apartment plans now that rents are no longer keeping up with rising construction costs.

The second-most common type of development — new office buildings — is also on the decline.

After peaking with about 5 million square feet of office underway at the end of 2015 and 2016, office construction fell to 3.6 million square feet at the end of 2017. The downtown association has about 10 million square feet identified in the pipeline for the next three years.

Amazon continues to drive the office market — and through its employees, the apartment market — as it looks to add several million square feet through the next few years. It recently has begun expanding beyond South Lake Union and the Denny Triangle and into the downtown core. But huge projects for Google and Facebook are also underway, and some developers are building offices without tenants already lined up.

Hotel-room openings, which fell off a cliff during the recession, are set to boom this year because of the planned opening of the 1,260-room Hyatt Regency at Eighth and Howell. It will be the biggest hotel in the Pacific Northwest when it opens this fall.

The downtown association’s report covers South Lake Union, Lower Queen Anne, Capitol Hill, First Hill, the downtown core, the central waterfront, Denny Triangle, Belltown, Pioneer Square, the Chinatown/International District and Sodo.

The hottest neighborhood for development continues to be South Lake Union — the area has 15 active projects right now. The downtown core and First Hill also have an outsized number of projects.

Downtown Seattle Association Map:

Syndicated from The Seattle Times.

By Sarah Anne Lloyd

Social media giant Facebook first set foot in Seattle in 2010—the year Amazon first moved into South Lake Union—with just three engineers. But as the surrounding tech sector has grown, so has Facebook’s interest in Seattle.

In May of 2016, its 1,000 employees expanded into a Frank Gehry-designed open office on Dexter, and since then, its Seattle employee count has doubled. Now with more than 2,000 employees in the city, Seattle has more Facebook engineers than anywhere outside of its Menlo Park headquarters (although it first hit that milestone in 2015 with just 500).

So Facebook set its sights on another South Lake Union property, the six-story, 150,000-square-foot 1101 Westlake building, adding seats for around 900 more employee butts. This time around, design credit goes to Studios Architecture.

It shouldn’t be much of a surprise that, as has been in vogue in tech for quite some time, it’s also an open office, which Facebook says “enables our teams to be collaborative and transparent.” The design plays to this, too—it’s not only unwalled workspaces, but open staircases, floor-to-ceiling windows, and even semi-private spaces flowing into the rest of the office through big, glass doors.

While the space all has “open” in common, there are a few different vibes of open space: some are more social spaces with tables or booths, and while a library provides a different feel for small meetings. While employees have dedicated workstations, they can pop into these different spaces when they need a change of scenery.

Overall, the office has 47 day offices and more than 30 conference rooms, along with additional cozier workspaces, training rooms, and more informal meeting spaces.

The building’s colorful art installations come from local artists: Maria Sivak, Mary Iverson, Robert Hardgrave, Joey Veltkamp, Jesse LeDoux, Urban Artworks with Brian Sanchez, Shaun Kardinal, Ellen Lesperance, and Kate Sweeney.

And, as is all the rage in South Lake Union, the building has amenities, like a bike repair shop on the bottom floor, along with a bike cage with 96 spots inside. A transit center provides route consultations and trip planning to employees, plus “end-of-trip facilities” like showers and “a dedicated drying room.” Westlake Cafe operates a cafe in the building.

Facebook seems poised to grow even more in Seattle, especially as the city becomes more and more of a tech center. In addition to its team of engineers in Seattle, Facebook, along with Google and Huawei, also funds the University of Washington’s Reality Lab. It also signed on to the City of Seattle’s digital equity initiative. (Another way Facebook’s interacting with Seattle, although not directly related to locating here: it recently got a very hands-on lesson in Seattle election law.)

Employees started moving into the facility at the end of February.

Syndicated from Seattle.Curbed.com

After Mayor Jenny Durkan took office in November, she is now putting forth her first piece of mayor legislation for a proposal to fund programs for the homeless. The city is planning to sell a piece of South Lake Union property at 1933 Minor Avenue in the near future and expects to collect $11 million from the sale. Durkan proposes using half of those proceeds to fund short-term programs such as building new tiny houses and supporting a rental housing assistance program.

“Looking at the sale of the property we’re talking about today, I had a simple question. What can we do with the sale of the property to improve our position on homelessness?” Durkan said at a press conference. “It is not a parcel that lends itself to building our own housing because of the size of its proximity to different places, so wanted to make sure we could squeeze as much as we could out of this property.”

Of the $5.5 million Durkan wants to use for this proposal, approximately $2 million would cover the rental housing assistance program, where 150 people are currently on a waitlist for subsidized housing. Other projects include building 1,000 new tiny houses, an idea that was kickstarted during Mayor Ed Murray’s administration where tiny houses were allowed to be built in sanctioned encampments.

Durkan further plans to develop a sub-cabinet within the city’s Department of Housing to identify the best locations for shelters and new transitional housing.

The remaining $5.5 million from the sale would cover the cost to relocate the city’s IT communication shop, which is currently located at 1933 Minor Avenue, and design a new fire station.

Today, Mayor Durkan asked the Seattle City Council to pass a resolution to designate these funds according to her proposal. The results are forthcoming.

By Harrison Jacobs

Amazon’s decision in 2007 to locate its headquarters in downtown Seattle has transformed the city in its image.

As the global e-commerce giant has grown from 5,000 employees in the city to more than 40,000, a flurry of development has followed.

The sea of parking lots, warehouses, motels, and car rental agencies that made up Seattle’s South Lake Union and Denny Triangle has become gleaming skyscrapers, luxury rental towers, tech offices, and restaurants.

Using Google Street View’s Time Machine feature, we collected before and after pictures to show just how radically the neighborhoods have been remade in a decade.

This is the corner of 6th Ave and Virginia Street in Denny Triangle in 2007. It is now the heart of Amazon’s urban campus.

This is the corner of 6th Ave and Virginia Street in Denny Triangle in 2007. It is now the heart of Amazon's urban campus.

Google Street View/Compiled by Harrison Jacobs

The building on the right is Amazon’s Doppler Tower. Doppler was the internal codename for the Amazon Echo.

The building on the right is Amazon's Doppler Tower. Doppler was the internal codename for the Amazon Echo.

Google Street View/Compiled by Harrison Jacobs

Denny Triangle and South Lake Union were once full of empty parking lots, car rental agencies, motels, industrial buildings, and warehouses. This is 7th Avenue and Blanchard Street.

Denny Triangle and South Lake Union were once full of empty parking lots, car rental agencies, motels, industrial buildings, and warehouses. This is 7th Avenue and Blanchard Street.

Google Street View/Compiled by Harrison Jacobs

This intersection continues to be remade. On the right is Amazon’s Day 1 Tower, the first floor of which is Amazon Go, the company’s cashier-less grocery store concept. On the left, construction is underway for another Amazon office tower.

This intersection continues to be remade. On the right is Amazon's Day 1 Tower, the first floor of which is Amazon Go, the company's cashier-less grocery store concept. On the left, construction is underway for another Amazon office tower.

Google Street View/Compiled by Harrison Jacobs

Westlake Avenue is the main thoroughfare of South Lake Union. Development had already begun by 2007 in the area.

Westlake Avenue is the main thoroughfare of South Lake Union. Development had already begun by 2007 in the area.

Google Street View/Compiled by Harrison Jacobs

By last September, several new office and residential towers had been completed. Amazon isn’t the only company driving development. The Paul Allen-owned company Vulcan owns much of the area’s real estate and has spurred construction.

By last September, several new office and residential towers had been completed. Amazon isn't the only company driving development. The Paul Allen-owned company Vulcan owns much of the area's real estate and has spurred construction.

Google Street View/Compiled by Harrison Jacobs

The city of Seattle has long wanted to turn South Lake Union into a new business district. The $200 million mixed-use development housing Whole Foods was completed in 2006 by Vulcan.

The city of Seattle has long wanted to turn South Lake Union into a new business district. The $200 million mixed-use development housing Whole Foods was completed in 2006 by Vulcan.

Google Street View/Compiled by Harrison Jacobs

Source: Vulcan Real Estate

As one of the first parts of South Lake Union to be developed, this particular intersection hasn’t changed much in the last decade.

As one of the first parts of South Lake Union to be developed, this particular intersection hasn't changed much in the last decade.

Google Street View/Compiled by Harrison Jacobs

There’s still tons of areas in the neighborhood that are currently being developed. Fairview Avenue on the eastern side of South Lake Union was untouched even in 2011.

There's still tons of areas in the neighborhood that are currently being developed. Fairview Avenue on the eastern side of South Lake Union was untouched even in 2011.

Google Street View/Compiled by Harrison Jacobs

But by last year, it has largely been developed. Swedish developer Skanska built the 13-story tower on the right. It combines 320,000 square-feet of office space with 17,000 square-feet of ground-level retail.

But by last year, it has largely been developed. Swedish developer Skanska built the 13-story tower on the right. It combines 320,000 square-feet of office space with 17,000 square-feet of ground-level retail.

Google Street View/Compiled by Harrison Jacobs

Source: Curbed Seattle

Mercer Street has been nicknamed the “Mercer Mess” since development of South Lake Union began. It connects downtown Seattle to Interstate 5, the main route for commuters. Construction and an influx of new commuters has turned it into a traffic nightmare.

Mercer Street has been nicknamed the "Mercer Mess" since development of South Lake Union began. It connects downtown Seattle to Interstate 5, the main route for commuters. Construction and an influx of new commuters has turned it into a traffic nightmare.

Google Street View/Compiled by Harrison Jacobs

Source: GeekWire

On the right is Amazon’s Nessie building. Vulcan is currently developing four new buildings for Google on Mercer.

On the right is Amazon's Nessie building. Vulcan is currently developing four new buildings for Google on Mercer.

Google Street View/Compiled by Harrison Jacobs

Source: Vulcan Real Estate

This is Republican Street and 9th Ave in 2007. The intersection still has the area’s signature low-slung industrial buildings.

This is Republican Street and 9th Ave in 2007. The intersection still has the area's signature low-slung industrial buildings.

Google Street View/Compiled by Harrison Jacobs

Now the street is flanked by Amazon’s Nessie and Brazil buildings. The shuttle on the right is one of Amazon’s buses to ferry employees to and from far-out suburbs. Unlike other companies, Amazon has kept the shuttles white and without signage.

Now the street is flanked by Amazon's Nessie and Brazil buildings. The shuttle on the right is one of Amazon's buses to ferry employees to and from far-out suburbs. Unlike other companies, Amazon has kept the shuttles white and without signage.

Google Street View/Compiled by Harrison Jacobs

Development had just begun on corner of Thomas and Terry Street in 2007.

Development had just begun on corner of Thomas and Terry Street in 2007.

Google Street View/Compiled by Harrison Jacobs

Amazon’s Arizona and Ruby office buildings now sit on the block. Ruby is home to a few restaurants, like Cactus and Brave Horse Tavern, on the ground floor.

Amazon's Arizona and Ruby office buildings now sit on the block. Ruby is home to a few restaurants, like Cactus and Brave Horse Tavern, on the ground floor.

Google Street View/Compiled by Harrison Jacobs

Though Vulcan had already completed the Whole Foods on Westlake in 2007, the rest of the avenue looked more like this.

Though Vulcan had already completed the Whole Foods on Westlake in 2007, the rest of the avenue looked more like this.

Google Street View/Compiled by Harrison Jacobs

Now the block has a Umqua Bank, a Homegrown sandwich shop, a Chipotle, and a few other businesses. Amazon occupies the upper floors of the building.

Now the block has a Umqua Bank, a Homegrown sandwich shop, a Chipotle, and a few other businesses. Amazon occupies the upper floors of the building.

Google Street View/Compiled by Harrison Jacobs

This is the same block, viewed from the other direction. You can see that some construction was underway on Westlake in 2007.

This is the same block, viewed from the other direction. You can see that some construction was underway on Westlake in 2007.

Google Street View/Compiled by Harrison Jacobs

In 2017, the neighborhood looks practically brand new. On the left are Amazon offices. The office of Sellen Construction, which has developed numerous projects in the area, is on the right.

In 2017, the neighborhood looks practically brand new. On the left are Amazon offices. The office of Sellen Construction, which has developed numerous projects in the area, is on the right.

Google Street View/Compiled by Harrison Jacobs

Syndicated from BusinessInsider.com

By Matt Day

Ten years ago Thursday, December 21st, Amazon announced it would move to South Lake Union, consolidating the company’s growing footprint into an 11-building campus and abandoning the former hospital building on Beacon Hill that the company had called home.

Amazon’s SLU campus in 2007. Photo credit: Tom Reese / The Seattle Times

City planners estimated Amazon might have 6,000 employees there by the time the campus would be finished in 2011.

That prediction would fall short by a third, and it wouldn’t be the last time people underestimated the scale of Amazon’s ambitions.

Today, the company has come to dominate the neighborhood and much of the face of the city itself, employing more  than 40,000 people in Seattle, spread over 37 offices. The company is  planning to add at least that many people to a second headquarters city after selecting a separate and “equal” home next year.

But before Amazon moved into South Lake Union, Paul Allen’s Vulcan had to bag an increase in the neighborhood’s height limits.

It was an open secret that Amazon was shopping for a new home, and that Vulcan’s megaproject for its South Lake Union real estate holdings had a very specific tenant in mind.

One area of debate was how much in affordable housing and other impact fees to tack onto the development. Then-city councilmember Peter Steinbrueck warned that the city planned to offer Vulcan a discount to standard rates, and said the plan was inappropriate given an ongoing housing crisis.

The Seattle Post-Intelligencer’s editorial board raised concerns about carving out exceptions to city code for a single company or project, a warning that could seem out of fashion today as some municipalities offer Amazon billions of dollars to lure its second headquarters.

“The city’s unseemly questions seem to have been: How high should we jump?” the editorial read, weeks before Amazon’s announcement. “And how soon?”

Deputy mayor Tim Ceis warned that the big target tenant “could move out of Seattle to a suburban alternative” if the city’s demands were too high.

Jeff Bezos, whether the city knew it or not, had no such plans. The Amazon founder and chief executive had committed to Seattle, deputizing his real estate group to find a new, long-term home within the city.

The deal announced on Dec. 21, 2007 to bring Amazon to South Lake Union included $6.4 million in affordable housing and other fees, or about $1.2 million less than Steinbrueck estimated would have been owed if Vulcan had built the same development downtown.

 City officials and the real estate industry heralded the news as a milestone in the redevelopment of the district of low-slung, light industrial and commercial concerns.

“I think it’s a statement about the coming of age of South Lake Union,” David Yuan of architectural firm NBBJ told the Seattle Times. “South Lake Union is now a legitimate business address.”

And, lest we think gridlock is a modern phenomenon, even a decade ago some worried about getting around.

“I think it’s probably a good thing,” a citizen told KING 5 news. Still, “I don’t know what it will do to the traffic.”

Syndicated from The Seattle Times.

By Megan Hill

Upscale beer-bar chain Henry’s Tavern, whose first Seattle outpost has been a go-to for pre- and post-game revelry thanks to its location near Safeco Field, opens a new location in South Lake Union today with a smaller footprint and grab-and-go options for breakfast and lunch.

Henry’s SLU spot sits on the ground floor of an Amazon office tower at 501 Fairview Avenue N. This bar isn’t as big as the sprawling SoDo spot, but there are still 50 beers on tap and a menu of sandwiches, burgers, and wok dishes. For those who dine in, there are also 16 televisions for watching sports, a shuffleboard table, and a happy hour with 10 discounted plates.

The grab-and-go counter will be open Monday through Friday at breakfast and lunch with coffee, soda, juice, and snacks like energy bars and yogurt. Lighter fare like a pear, walnut, and prosciutto salad, protein power bowl, and crab and avocado roll are also available. This Henry’s location fills crowlers (can-growlers) to go, too.

Henry’s Tavern got its start in downtown Portland; other branches are located at the Portland International Airport, in Denver, and in Plano, Texas. The SoDo location opened in 2013, and a Bellevue location followed this past August as part of the massive Lincoln Square expansion.

Syndicated from Eater Seattle.

By Mike Lindblom

A common theme emerged Tuesday, as a state commission launched its toll-rate talks for Highway 99:

Keep the rates down, so drivers choose to use the new tunnel under downtown Seattle, rather than clog other roads.

Tolls might begin March 1, 2019, ranging from $1 overnight to a top rate of $2.50 for an afternoon-commute trip between Sodo and South Lake Union, under one leading option.

Members of the media walk in what will be an area below the northbound deck of the Highway 99 tunnel during a tour on Nov. 2, 2017. The tunnel is expected to be open in January 2019. (Ellen M. Banner/The Seattle Times)

Highway 99 tunnel tolls

Here’s one leading option. Tolls would vary by time of day, as on the 520 bridge. The lower the price, the fewer drivers would divert onto crowded surface streets, state officials assume.

  • • Overnight and weekends: $1
  • • Weekday mornings 5-6 a.m., midday 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., and weekday evenings 6-11 p.m., $1.50
  • • Morning peak weekdays, 6-9 a.m., $1.75
  • • Afternoon peak weekdays, 3-6 p.m., $2.50

Source: Washington State Transportation Commission

At prices like those, the misery of alternate commuting streets will outweigh the price of tolls, an adviser told the Washington State Transportation Commission.

“You’re not seeing a lot of traffic moving out of the tunnel, because the trip is worth it, because of the time savings,” said Steve Abendschein, senior planner for the Stantec consulting firm.

Instead, he predicted an “oscillating” pattern for travel demand.

Tolls rise for the afternoon peaks. Drivers divert. Downtown streets clog. Other drivers arrive and choose the quicker tunnel.

Commissioners won’t decide the toll rates until September 2018, after meetings and public hearings. State lawmakers delegated the thankless job of setting toll rates to the transportation commission, an appointed board.

Tunnel tolls are required by the state Legislature, to repay $200 million of construction bonds. Lawmakers in 2009 initially set the toll goal at $400 million, but then retreated in 2012 when they realized how unrealistic their numbers were.

Tolls would also cover $5 million a year in the tunnel’s maintenance and utilities costs, a state chart released Tuesday shows. The overhead cost of collecting tolls, roughly $8 million a year, could use up more than one-fourth of the income.

To avoid a mobility disaster, the state is certain to leave cash on the table.

If maximum income were the sole aim, tolls would reach $6.80 in afternoon peak, according to Stantec.

Years ago, Ron Paananen, former Highway 99 administrator, guessed the top rate would wind up somewhere between $2.40 and $4.

At the peak rate of around $2.50, most diversion to surface streets or I-5 would happen midday, because peak diversion is barely possible, said Abendschein. An earlier chart this spring showed about 51,800 vehicles using the tunnel per weekday in this scenario — which is 4,400 fewer than if the maximum rate were only $1.25. Some people would cancel their trips or use transit.

Commissioners discussed other minor variations, such as free overnight or weekend drives.

Some of Tuesday’s discussion revolved around trucks, which would make up an expected 7 percent of traffic in a toll-free road. Some members want rates that encourage freight to use the tunnel.

An overall $200 million toll contribution represents a mere fraction of the overall $3.2 billion replacement for the Alaskan Way Viaduct. The state might wind up spending more, if lawsuits go badly with contractors who want $600 million in extra payment for delays and overruns.

Retired state Rep. Larry Seaquist, D-Gig Harbor, told commissioners to suspect that the state would inflate its costs to maintain and operate the tunnel systems, and he questioned whether tolls will actually support the $200 million target, based on his observations at Tacoma Narrows Bridge.

During the 2019 tunnel startup, central Seattle will be choking on other construction, he added. The projects include a waterfront boulevard rebuild, a First Avenue streetcar, bus detours and a convention-center expansion.

“The tunnel is going to create a mess. The people are not ready. The facilities are not ready,” he said.

Seaquist urged commissioners to speak up about that.

Syndicated from The Seattle Times.