It’s a Seattle Freeway Revolt of a different sort and now the city has the money to execute an engineering and financial feasibility study of the potential benefits “for covering more of the I-5 freeway trench in central Seattle.”
The $1.5 million in funding from the Washington State Convention Center expansion’s $83 million public benefits package is now available to the City of Seattle and an advisory council has been formed, the Lid I-5 community group announced last week:
The study funding enables OPCD to procure an expert consultant team with qualifications in civil and structural engineering, economic analysis, urban design, and environmental mitigation. The study is expected to last through 2019 and will inform the next steps in lid design, planning, permitting, and capital funding. Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) staff will be engaged during the process. Recent and ongoing freeway lid projects – including in Bellevue, Atlanta, Washington, D.C., Dallas, and Philadelphia – provide helpful case studies and a pool of experienced specialists that Seattle’s effort can draw from.
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“It’s a once in a lifetime opportunity to fix a past ￼mistake,” Lyle Bicknell, who is managing the study project for the Seattle Office of Planning & Community Development, said in the announcement of the funding. “And we want everyone to be involved in the solution…this project is made better when everybody has a chance ￼for meaningful input.”
An advisory council “of distinguished experts and community members” has also been formed to assist “with technical guidance, long-term strategy, community engagement, and fundraising.”
The study and formation of the new council follows a yearlong community design process to explore concepts for lidding I-5 that would include green spaces and public parks, schools, and affordable housing developments.
Already eight years into the process, the push to further lid I-5 between downtown and Capitol Hill will be a decades-long endeavor. WSDOT owns I-5 and the land along it and will be need to be convinced of the needs and value. And, of course, there will need to be much bigger checks in the future. Covering the freeway could end up a multi-billion-dollar civic project.