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2017 Convention Center construction will bring 133K+ truck trips to base of Capitol Hill

map_image_2-LMNComing in at a eye-glazing 516 pages, the draft environmental analysis for building the new addition to Seattle’s convention center is the most detailed account to date of how the massive project will transform Denny Triangle, Downtown, and Capitol Hill.

Around 40 people gathered at the Washington State Convention Center last week to comment on the draft environmental impact study of the $1.4 billion project (included at the bottom of this post).

Truck traffic, especially along the Terry Ave green street, easily topped the list of concerns. While trucks won’t be rumbling up Capitol Hill, the flood of truck traffic arriving in 2017 will impact car, bike, and pedestrian movement between downtown and Capitol Hill.

Excavation of 574,000 cubic yards of material will require an estimated 57,4000 round-trip truck trips through the site. Tens of thousands more truck trips would follow during the foundation and construction phases. Overall the project would require more than133,000 round trips, according to the analysis by the EIS team lead by EA Engineering.Screen Shot 2016-03-31 at 1.41.31 PM

Several representatives from Cornish College of the Arts voiced concerns about the truck traffic route along the school’s downtown campus. According to the draft EIS, “outbound freight/truck traffic would utilize Terry Ave. to exit the site (including during the PM peak hour) and could affect the Green Street character of Terry Ave. to the north of the site.”

“As an urban school we are excited to see our neighborhood grow,” said Cornish president Nancy Uscher. “We’re ready to accept a new convention center … we’re not ready to accept semi trucks traveling in front of our school daily.”

The EIS, required by the state due to the size of the project, identifies adverse environmental impacts to the project and proposes alternatives. It covers a wide range of topics, including shadows the new buildings will cast, the amount of soil that will be dug up, construction noise, greenhouse gas emissions, and pre/post-construction impacts on traffic.

Around 20 people offered comments, including a few residents who were mostly supportive of the project. The public comment period on the draft EIS ends April 11th. The Final EIS will be completed later this year. You can add your comment via email to

The WSCC addition will be built on land along the north side of Pine just across I-5 from Capitol Hill where King County Metro’s soon to be defunct Convention Place Station is located today. Plans are currently in the works to phase buses out of the existing transit tunnel in order to vacate the space. In November, WSCC reached a deal with the County to buy 4 acres in downtown for $147 million.

Pine Street’s speedy pace on the project has slowed substantially since it really got underway last year. The project is in the midst of acquiring 44 permits or approvals from 18 local, state, and federal departments or agencies.

There is also a $24.5 million fight underway over the decision by Pine Street to drop the general contractor and construction management company that had been lined up to build the planned 1.2 million-square-foot pavilion. Lawyers for the Skanska-Hunt joint venture recently filed a lawsuit attempting to block a rebidding of the job and calling the decision illegal.

CHS wrote about the various public benefits discussions surrounding the Convention Center expansion projects earlier this year as the project began its tour with the Seattle Design Commission, one of the myriad review processes that will — slowly — shape it. The next round of design reviews is scheduled for May.

Meanwhile, organizers of a campaign to have the WSCC work towards creating a lid over I-5 as part of its public benefits package are ready to start taking public feedback. Friends of Lidding I-5 is holding its first design charrette May 7th at Capitol Hill Housing from 8 a.m. and 1 p.m.

CHS Notes:

  • Pike/Pine Urban Neighborhood Council chair John Feit lamented the project’s severe impact on Boren Ave. “Poor Boren Avenue. Boren Avenue is kind of the whipping boy of downtown Seattle,” he said. “This is Boren’s last chance to be a proper street and this project is going to continue the abuse, unfortunately.”
  • “We want the convention center, but we want the convention center keeping our quality of life on our campus,” said one Cornish trustee.
  • Another Cornish official said the amount truck traffic through Terry and Virginia was very troubling.
  • Briel Schmitz, head of Spruce Street School, said she was concerned about the safety of 200 elementary school kids in the area.
  • “The Denny Triangle is growing as a neighborhood,” said Cascade Bicycle Club’s Andrea Clinkscales. “This plan to route trucks down Terry at all hours of the day will really quash that vision.” She also asked developers to consider bike route impacts.
  • A proposal to temporarily close Olive Way to pedestrians was “unacceptable” said one Capitol Hill resident who uses the street to walk to his job downtown.
  • Developers proposed an “anemic amount of street trees,” said one commenter.
  • Proposed construction truck traffic along 9th Ave threatens to shut down the Paramount, said STG president Greg Mollner, and cut revenues for the theater by up to 10%.
  • Developers proposed several ways to promote public transit options in the city:
  • Transit pass promotions for events, including free light rail rides from Sea-Tac.
  • Include transit information on a WSCC app.
  • Invest in Commute Seattle, Bike Month, and Transit Month.
  • Real-time transit information screens in and around WSCC properties
  • Offer Pronto bike sharing maps and information.
  • If far-fetched hypotheticals interest you, the EIS did address what would likely happen if plans for the addition and co-development sites were abandoned altogether:

In all probability, once King County Metro no longer needs the CPS site (Site A), subsequent, commercial or residential development would occur. Such development would comply with existing development standards and be consistent with potential, future development that was envisioned in Seattle’s Downtown Height and Density Changes Final EIS for the CPS site. 10 That analysis anticipated a mixed-use complex of buildings that included: 900 residential units; a 600,000-sq.-ft. office tower; and an 800-room, 400,000-sq.-ft. hotel. Similarly, Site B and Site C could also be expected to be redeveloped – consistent with the DMC 340/290-400 zoning that exists. No City rights-of-way would be vacated. This alternative would not include a WSDOT ground/air rights lease.

WSCC Addition Draft EIS

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13 thoughts on “2017 Convention Center construction will bring 133K+ truck trips to base of Capitol Hill

  1. What has not been mentioned is the fact that when the previous convention center expansion opened in 2001, attendance from out of state (the supposed driver for travel and tourism spending that the convention center generates) DECLINED, and has continued to decline since. This is a boondoggle. The billions of dollars of public money intended for this project would be better spent on literally anything else. Build transit, build schools, build affordable housing. All of these would have more positive economic impact than building more convention center. This is a waste of money and a waste of 4 blocks of downtown Seattle.

    • Amen. Not to mention a total blight. I don’t think they could have made the current convention center look worse especially with that disgusting sky bridge across Pike street. Tear it all down and fill it with towers of low income rental units.

    • Dave,

      Care to provide a link for the those #’s you’re spouting off. I’m especially interested in reading the analysis that outlines how low income housing rather than an expanded convention center would be economic boon for the city.


      Annual reports show national/international vs. local/regional attendance. In 1997, prior to construction of the 2001 expansion, national/international attendance was reported as well over 180,000. After construction, that number never rose above pre-construction levels. In 2007, the WSCC got close to exceeding pre-construction levels, but in 2014, that number was just 126,000.

      The WSCC claims that the construction jobs for this project will be a benefit, but construction jobs can be generated by building anything, including affordable housing. Affordable brings residents to occupy this neighborhood rather than a giant building that sits empty most of the time. When residents pay an affordable rent, they can spend their earnings on other consumer goods and services also boosting economic activity. An empty building does not provide that.

      Hotels are full in Seattle, but it’s because Seattle is booming, and visitors are coming to do business and vacation. Visitors are not coming for conventions in the numbers they have in the past. The sooner the WSCC and the City of Seattle recognize that, the better.

    • @dave

      i think you are being misleading by quoting just one portion of the statistics. the decline that you cite is ONLY in national/international attendance; it doesn’t take into account the growth in local/regional attendance.

      in looking at the 2014 overview report – – and the TOTAL attendance, it shows that it had a 1% growth which, admittedly i would call flat (could this be that they need more space to get more attendees?).

      but even that doesn’t tell the full story. let’s look at operating income; that grew 79% from ’12 to ’14 – from $1.683M to $3.014M. and then there’s the economic benefits from attendee spending and sales tax generated (by out-of-state attendees) which grew from $279.7M in ’12 to $333.1M in ’14.

      to me, this seems like a growing business opportunity and if there is room to improve by allowing them to expand then i think it’s good for the city. but calling out a single stat as representative of the total performance of the convention center is disingenuous at best.

      true, we should ensure that the construction doesn’t negatively impact the daily lives of citizens and we should get some better street-level improvements. but to call out a single line item as reason to scrap any plans to expand doesn’t make much sense.

    • In looking at the 2014 financial report, building rent made up about 4% of total revenue. Tax revenue made up over 60%, without which the WSCC would have been in the red by $20 million. Interest expenses (likely to pay off previous municipal bonds) alone accounted for almost four times the revenue generated by building rent.

    • @ Dave.

      I believe the main rational for this expansion is that it will attract larger conventions which currently do not consider Seattle for their events. I don’t know if this will hold true or not, but hopefully the WSCC brass did some good research to bolster their case.

  2. Link? I find it perplexing that a city with the hotel occupancy rates of Seattle (85%+) has had 15 years of declines like that. I’d be really interested to see the data.

  3. I don’t understand why the need to build another convention center. Their own web site states it is not using all the square feet available for rentals. One booking a year brings in about 40,000 people. The rest of they year the average is under 2,000 people per event. Most events are for 35 to 150 people.
    Don’t waste the peoples money building this.

  4. “That analysis anticipated a mixed-use complex of buildings that included: 900 residential units; a 600,000-sq.-ft. office tower; and an 800-room, 400,000-sq.-ft. hotel.”

    Am I alone in thinking all of that sounds a lot better than more convention center?

  5. As you a tenant of the one & only standing remaining affordable housing among the development, The Olive Tower, owned by Bellwether Housing. the lone 14 story building…will just have to hold our breath when this re-design is developed. We will lose our views, those of us who face West. We will witness the growth of a 10 stories, 28 stories, 8 stories, & the new one to come on 1800 Terry, 36 stories, & of course the mega hotel, 42 stories. But that’s life. They will close down Olive. that’s a major street to reach I-5 North. We will listen to crew work from 5:30 am to 7 pm , 6 days a week for at least 4 years. So…it would be nice to see some affordable housing included with the development, meanwhile the former Honda maintenance building has people occupying it. Soon, it will all change.