Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Newly Appointed SR520 Ombudsman To Serve As Liaison With Public And WSDOT

WSDOT recently appointed David Goldberg as ombudsman of the SR520 bridge project with the purpose of being a liaison between WSDOT and affected entities.

The Laurelhurst Community Club (LCC) and also a concerned  northeast Seattle group of neighbors have been working on and monitoring SR520 lighting and noise issues.

In March, the group provided an update to the Laurelhurst Blog, as well as a presentation
of the lighting impacts, key issues and concerns, and WSDOT activity regarding the issues.

Recently the group met with the WSDOT 520 Project Team to hear an update on the lighting for the Regional Shared Use Path (RSUP) as well as other issues and provided an update.

LCC provided this information from the recent meeting with Goldberg and other nearby neighborhood Councils:

In the multi-phased project, the Eastside HOV highway, the Floating Bridge and the Western Lands are now considered mostly complete. The West Approach Bridge North (WABN) is the portion in Union Bay, and is expected to be completed in early fall 2108.  
The next phase is  "Rest of the West" which will be the new Montlake Interchange, then the section  to I-5 on the Portage Bay Bridge, and lastly, a second bascule bridge is planned to be sited adjacent to  the existing historic one on Montlake Build.
David has been diving into SR520  issues for the past 30 days, especially the elements that will affect those new construction segments.  
Our meeting  recapped the pending issues that the coalition of community councils identified for both the City of Seattle, and for WSDOT. The goal for taxpayers  is  to address before the next  Request for Proposal (RFP) is completed by the State and send out for bidding by interested contractors. 
Fortunately, David has a background for understanding how the RFP system works, so he can help  to navigate the process with the State and its citizens. He does not have jurisdiction in the City of Seattle,  (he is an employee of WSDOT) but will be able to advocate for their issues to WSDOT as they arise. 
Some key discussed included the preservation of the Montlake gas station and the market, using hauling techniques to minimize use of trucks on roads, demolition of the old structures without contamination the water of Union and Portage Bays, pre-testing of the  lighting and expansion joint system to prevent the problems from the Floating Bridge, and consider the Design/Bid/Build process instead of Design/Build which delineates the  specific design and construction features, preventing some of the prior problems with the contractor. 
In addition, Goldberg will work with WSDOT and the communities  to help develop more targeted noise variance application by WSDOT since the blanket, seven year night noise variance was denied by the City of Seattle, largely due to strong and vocal opposition by citizens and community organizations, including LCC. 
Community organizations and WSDOT will be able to contact the new ombudsman on all future issues that may need vetting for SR520.

Here is the WSDOT Press Release:
West Approach Bridge North Project construction update

David Goldberg
My name is David Goldberg, and I am thrilled to be your new ombudsman, or community liaison, for the SR 520 Bridge Replacement and HOV Program.
What is an ombudsman? The US Ombudsman Association defines a public sector ombudsman as a public official, often appointed by the legislature, who receives citizen complaints about administrative acts of government and conducts an “impartial and independent investigation” of them.
As your ombudsman, my role is to look into issues that you or other members of the community raise, and to try to work out a resolution where possible. Members of the community could include nearby residents, users of the transportation system, community-based organizations, elected representatives or
other affected stakeholders. In this video I shed a bit more
light on how I view my responsibilities to you and your
neighbors. You can also
check out my WSDOT webpage.
 Why an SR 520 ombudsman?
Megaprojects like the SR 520 Program in Seattle can
deliver numerous benefits for many people. In this case
we can look forward to: safer bridges that can withstand
earthquakes; neighborhoods reconnected via lids over
the highway and a land bridge; better and safer bicycle
and pedestrian connections; more reliable transit trips
and more pleasant places to wait for buses; a world-class,
regional bike-walk trail network; and smoother
driving connections between the east and west sides
of Lake Washington, from I-5 to I-405.
But building such megaprojects also comes with
impacts, challenges and trade-offs for members of
the community. Throughout the next several
years of construction, WSDOT and Washington’s
governor and Legislature want to ensure that citizens
have somewhere to go with concerns about
those issues, where they can be confident of a fair
hearing at the highest levels of the agency and state
That’s now my job.
On the part of WSDOT, the creation of an ombudsman
role represents a serious commitment to being the best
possible neighbor, as well as a responsible steward of taxpayer
dollars, as it goes about the admittedly disruptive process of
building for the future.  I take that commitment seriously myself,
and hope that I can work with you to help the state fulfill it.
Over the next few years, surrounding communities will
endure noise, dust, work lights at night and disruption to
traffic patterns, walking and biking routes. There will be kinks
to work out in how all the modes – driving, transit, walking and
biking – are integrated, and esthetic concerns over how the
finished product looks. There will be snags few of us can foresee.
Together we will work through them.
Who I am
As I help you address your concerns, I will draw on a long
and varied background. I have worked as an investigative
reporter looking into the operations of a state DOT and other
government agencies. I’ve been a neighborhood activist, fighting
for my little corner of the world. I’ve also been a national advocate
for safe and complete streets, better transit systems and
smarter urban planning. I’ve often been a translator, rendering
wonk speak and technical language for people who aren’t
steeped in insider jargon. In Seattle I have been a member of
the city’s Pedestrian Advisory Board and continue to be involved
in civic activities. I care deeply about the quality of life in this
city we are forever making, and I have been drawn to the
work I do because I care about people, their aspirations and their
health and safety.
I won’t claim to be able to work miracles or solve every issue.
But I do pledge to do all I can to facilitate clear communication,
make sure questions are answered, and to elevate legitimate
issues to the highest appropriate level. For the next weeks
and months I will have my ears and eyes wide open as I learn
about this very complicated set of projects, their ramifications
for neighborhoods and the city, and the concerns of community
members throughout construction.
I look forward to hearing from you and working together.

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