After three months of community meetings, letters, protests and cry fests, the Seattle Department of Transportation has issued its recommendation to Mayor Mike McGinn to change the traffic patterns of NE 125th Street, reducing the four-lane road to two-lanes between Roosevelt Way NE and Lake City Way, with a center turn lane and bike lanes in each direction (and leaving the road unchanged east of Lake City Way).
The recommendation had Seattle City Councilmember Jean Godden scrambling to lobby her last-minute disapproval of the project last week, on behalf of Lake City resident (and long-time BFF) Karen McGough. McGough has spearheaded opposition for the project, arguing that it will create nothing but traffic jams and result in more accidents (even though cars currently drive 12 miles on average over the posted speed limit, according to SDOT). When reached by phone today, Godden said that McGough was a friend but she wasn't lobbying for her benefit—many constituents had contacted her about the project. McGough sent Godden an email in July with a number of letters against the project attached. From McGough's letter:
"Now the traffic will become much worse making for more accidents because of people's impatience," wrote McGough. "Bicyclists don't use 125th as the street is too steep. Also, we will be using more gas and wearing out brakes with all the stopping for the many busses. The delivery trucks will be spending more time on the road making it more costly which we will all end up having to pay... How can 3,000 bicyclists going to work justify changing Nickerson, Columbia Way, Fauntleroy, Stone Way and 125th to single lanes when they are such a very, very small minority?"
Godden, in turn, lobbied against the road changes to SDOT, arguing that traffic congestion will worsen and bikes won't use the road: "It is a street that is rarely used by bicyclists," wrote Godden in a November 2nd letter to SDOT Director Peter Hahn. "Our Seattle rain, combined with the steep climb (an 8.5 percent grade) make it an unpopular route for bicyclists. Taking away car lanes to provide two bicycle lanes (one in each direction) seems unlikely to persuade bicyclists to use the street." Godden then urged Hahn to "take another look" at the project.
SDOT's recommendation must now be reviewed and approved by the mayor. No one from the mayor's office was available for comment.