Melrose Promenade, a community powered effort to transform Melrose Ave along I-5 into a showcase greenway, has come one step closer to seeing that vision become a reality. Last week the Puget Sound Region Council formally endorsed a $3 million federal grant application to fund construction of a protected bike lane and greenway along 2.3 miles of Melrose Ave, Minor Ave, and Lakeview Blvd. E.
While the application still needs approval at the federal level, the endorsement of the Seattle Department of Transportation proposal means there is “virtually no risk” in the money coming through, according to an SDOT official.
“This is an extraordinarily significant success for the project and for our community,” said Mike Kent, who founded the Melrose Promenade project in 2010.
With some of the most commanding views of Seattle on a public right-of-way, the promenade project area stretches along Melrose from E Pike to Lakeview Blvd. E. Formally introduced as part of the city’s 2014 Bike Master Plan, SDOT’s $4.6 million project would create a protected bicycle lane on Minor and Melrose Aves between University and E Denny Way. The project would also make a number of other improvements to the area.
- Build a neighborhood greenway on Melrose between E Denny Way and Roy.
- Upgrade the trail between Roy and Lakeview.
- Upgrade bicycle lanes on Lakeview between the Melrose Trail and Harvard Ave.
- Upgrade existing facilities between Roy and Harvard and “extend these bicycle facilities south through the Capitol Hill and First Hill neighborhoods.”
PSRC’s endorsement puts SDOT on track to begin design work as early as next year, although construction is not expected to start until 2019 and will likely finish in 2020. Supporters of the project are hoping they won’t have to wait that long.
“Since the urgent need for these important safety improvements exists today, I would encourage our partners at SDOT to begin this design and construction work in 2017 or as early as possible,” Kent said.
Broadway’s protected bike lane was installed as part of the First Hill Streetcar project to provide riders a safer space to ride away from the system’s tracks. Partially opened in 2013 and fully operational along its 1.1-mile stretch by May of 2014, the Broadway bikeway is planned to eventually be extended north on Broadway along with the streetcar. Those Smurfy blue bollards will not be part of the plan.
In its federal grant application, SDOT laid out why the Melrose project was crucial to the city’s biking and pedestrian goals.
The street occupies the lowest point on the Hill and thus serves as the flattest option for walking and biking from residences in the north to the Pike/Pine commercial district and downtown to the south. The project is located within the First Hill/Capitol Hill Urban Center and strongly supports the Seattle CBD Urban Center, two of the densest of all of the Puget Sound Regional Council’s urban growth centers.
Construction of the bike lane and greenway would be the most significant work on the Melrose Promenade to date, but the project has seen some recent gains after years of outreach.
Last year, CHS reported on the Melrose Promenade group’s success in driving an initiative to create a safer crosswalk across Pike at Melrose that was boosted by the presence of the Starbucks Roastery. In that project, “high pedestrian demand” — read: Starbucks and the nearby Melrose Market — pushed SDOT to move up the schedule for a previously awarded project “using funds made available through construction savings on 2015 projects,” SDOT officials told CHS.
The group is also in the running for a $90,000 Neighborhood Park and Street Fund grant to further fund improvements. While the projects will make much of the promenade group’s vision a reality, future ideas still include public art, improved lighting and seating, and outdoor public festivals.
“I hesitate to say the vision will ever be complete, as the Melrose Promenade vision involves neighbors continually coming together to act as good stewards of Melrose, to dream up creative projects to make our city streets safer, more beautiful, more inviting, and to pursue the resources to make them possible,” Kent said.
UPDATE: Here’s a small bit of news about Capitol Hill’s *other* protected bikeway. CHS has seen a few questions about a sign posted announcing a closure of the lanes later this week. A SDOT rep tells us Sound Transit has a temporary water service line connected to the water main here for past construction at the Capitol Hill Station site that still has to be removed. The contractor is lined up to begin the work this week. “The plan is to get things opened, capped, filled, and restored to permanent use as quickly as is feasible under the circumstances,” the representative tells CHS.
— Gordon Werner (@GordonWerner) August 15, 2016