Two weeks ago, the Highland Park Action Committee submitted a letter to Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan requesting funding to complete the Highland Park Way/SW Holden St Roundabout project. Please find the content of the letter below:
July 17, 2018
Mayor Jenny A. Durkan
City of Seattle
600 4th Ave, 7th Floor
Seattle, WA 98104
Dear Mayor Durkan:
The Highland Park Action Committee is pleased to learn that you will be joining us for our next meeting on September 26, 2018 and the community looks forward to your visit. In anticipation of your meeting with us and with the timeliness of the budget process currently underway, we are requesting your support in the solution proposed by the Seattle Department of Transportation to address the safety and infrastructure needs at the Highland Park Way/ SW Holden Street intersection.
On June 13, 2018, we had the pleasure of participating in a neighborhood walk-through with your Director of External Relations and Outreach, Kyla Blair, to highlight our top infrastructure needs. Our key concern is the intersection of Highland Park Way SW and SW Holden Street, which has a problematic history dating back at least 77 years.
In an effort to reduce dangerous collisions and discourage traffic from cutting into adjacent neighborhood streets to bypass the intersection, our organization has been working with SDOT to develop a long-term solution. In 2012, SDOT suggested that a large-scale roundabout (the first in the city, if built) would go a long way in promoting safety and reducing congestion. However, with a total project cost of $2.5 million, we have had little success over the last 6 years in getting this project funded. In the meantime, accidents continue to occur, including the most recent of which happened only a few days after Kyla Blair’s visit.
We have been lucky to have a strong advocate in our District 1 Councilmember, Lisa Herbold, who has been able to allocate $200K of city funding towards design for this project. An additional $300K was also identified by SDOT, for a total of $500K to date. Still, this is only 20% of the total project cost, and other efforts have been unsuccessful, including a failed WSDOT grant application in 2017 with strong support from elected officials.
Mayor, we are asking you today for assistance in closing the funding gap for the Highland Park Way SW Roundabout project. We understand that the budget proposal process is in the late stages, but we hope that you will be sympathetic to our concerns.
We have been encouraged by recent developments like the Duwamish Valley Action Plan and the awarding of $5.5K through the Equitable Development Initiative, which highlight the City of Seattle’s commitment to promoting equity in many of Seattle’s historically underserved communities.
The origins of the Highland Park neighborhood go back over a century, when the development of a private streetcar line spurred residential development in what had previously been farm-, timber-, and wildlands. When streetcar service was interrupted after a particularly nasty landslide just north of Highland Park, ownership of the line was passed to the City of Seattle, who repaired the tracks and resumed service a few years later. What was arguably the city’s first municipally owned and operated streetcar line allowed development to flourish along the service route, including neighborhoods like Highland Park.
The advent of the Great Depression and subsequent cessation of streetcar service interrupted future development in Highland Park for several years. The economic impacts were severe, and most of the Delridge area, including Highland Park, were redlined in the 1930s by the Federal Government. Only with the Second World War did development resume as the area struggled to adequately house the influx of residents who came to work in the industrial Duwamish Valley below. Highland Park became so synonymized with its working-class residents that the geological formation on which the neighborhood sits became known as “Boeing Hill.”
Future development has been punctuated by boom and bust cycles ever since, but our neighborhood has never truly recovered from the adverse effects of redlining and recessions. Data from the American Community Survey (5-year Series, 2009-2013) show that Highland Park (Census Tract 113) has a lower median income ($53,182) than Seattle as a whole ($65,277). Additionally, Highland Park has a higher proportion of residents who identify as a race or ethnicity other than White (49.8% versus Seattle’s 29.4%), and racial disparities in income inequality are well documented. Even with the recent favorable real estate market, homes in greater Delridge are still selling for well below the average price per square foot of other neighborhoods. The City has even recognized through its own analysis that residents of the Westwood-Highland Park urban village face a high risk of displacement with low access to opportunity. Mayor, Highland Park has long been in need of the kinds of improvements and investments that have spurred economic development and social opportunities in wealthier neighborhoods.
West Seattle is physically isolated from the rest of the city, and Highland Park Way SW serves as one of only three egresses off the peninsula. As West Seattle continues to densify, there will be greater pressure placed on this intersection which was not built to sustain the wear and tear of a main arterial. Additionally, increasing traffic, lack of adequate crosswalks, and awkward channelization make this intersection extremely perilous for the residents of Highland Park, including the many young children who must cross the dangerous road to catch their bus.
We understand that the additional $2 million cost needed to fully implement this project represents a significant investment. Relative to other transportation projects, however, this smaller project will have a proportionally greater impact in improving neighborhood safety for Highland Park and West Seattle commuters. With the Fauntleroy Boulevard Project on hold, one consideration might be to re-allocate part of that project’s $15-18 million funding towards the Highland Park Way roundabout.
Of course, the roundabout is not our neighborhood’s only infrastructural need. For example, we have been asking for a protected southbound left-turn signal at 16th Ave SW and SW Holden Street—our second-most problematic intersection—but have been told by SDOT that there is currently no project that will implement this improvement. Other needed infrastructural improvements include crosswalks and traffic calming measures.
We hope that our neighborhood can continue to work with the City of Seattle to bring needed infrastructural improvements online. Our needs are many, and they will not be fulfilled entirely through a single program or grant fund. It would be helpful, therefore, if the City could work with us to develop a broader neighborhood plan. I would like to note that the current Delridge Action Plan does not cover the southerly neighborhoods of greater Delridge.
In the meantime, we hope that you will favorably consider our request for funding to complete the Highland Park Way SW Roundabout project. In anticipation of your visit to Highland Park in late September, I will be following up with you in the coming months to provide more background on our neighborhood needs and concerns related to safety and community development.
Chair, Highland Park Action Committee
Gunner Scott, Vice Chair
CC: Kyla Blair, Director of External Relations and Outreach
Amanda Hohlfeld, Office of the Mayor
Andrés Mantilla, Interim Director, Department of Neighborhoods
Samuel Assefa, Director, Office of Planning and Community Development
Council Member Lisa Herbold, Chair: Civil Rights, Utilities, Economic Development and Arts
Council Member Kshama Sawant, Chair: Human Services, Equitable Development, and Renter Rights
Council Member Mike O’Brien, Chair: Sustainability and Transportation