Construction is set to begin on the Westlake cycle track, a protected bike lane from Fremont to South Lake Union.
After years of deliberation, design-committee meetings and legal wrangling, a contractor will finally begin construction Monday on Seattle’s Westlake Avenue North Cycle Track.
The $3.6 million project will create two, split bike lanes along the western edge of Lake Union from the Ship Canal trail to Lake Union Park, giving cyclists a flat, protected route from the Fremont Bridge to South Lake Union.
The route is one of the city’s busiest for cyclists. Nearly 1 million cyclists this year were counted crossing the Fremont Bridge.
Right now, many cyclists traveling from the bridge to downtown or South Lake Union cut through parking lots in front of the marinas and offices on the lakefront.
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The Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT) has said protected bike lanes will be a safer option for pedestrians, cyclists and drivers. Plans call for 18 pedestrian crossings along the path, which officials expect to be completed this summer.
Although the cycle track’s design cuts through parking lots, it preserves about 90 percent of the public parking spaces along the route, according to SDOT.
The project took years for the Transportation Department to pull together. The department notes in a news release that “three public meetings, 11 Design Advisory Committee meetings, five community and parking roundtables, and dozens of community briefings” were held about the cycle track’s design.
A group of Westlake residents challenged the city’s environmental review of its Bicycle Master Plan before joining a design committee for the Westlake project.
Nautical Landing, a yacht-moorage company on Lake Union, sued the city this summer with similar complaints but dropped the lawsuit after reaching a settlement with the city.
Cam Strong, who represents the group of Westlake residents, said he was disappointed in the cycle track’s design.
“We don’t believe the city has taken safety at all seriously,” he said.
Strong said Westlake residents are concerned about high-volume, high-speed bike traffic in the marina area. People will have to cross the cycle track to get to their boats or to businesses along the waterfront.
“People are going to get hurt and there’s going to be litigation,” Strong said.
Despite his seat on the committee, Strong said the city has ignored many of the Westlake community’s objections to the design. He said he was pleased that the group was able to save parking spaces in the design process, however.
At times, construction will close parts of the parking lots along the route. The first phase of construction will begin between Wheeler and Crockett streets, where trees and pavement will be removed.