Friday, September 23, 2011

A fine mess: City to detour E. Madison Street through Madison Valley beginning Monday

One-week closure has merchants up in arms

It wasn't supposed to happen this way.  When the Madison Valley Stormwater Project was conceived, nothing other than the intermittent blockage of E. Madison St. was anticipated.  That was then, this is now.

Next week, due to "unavoidable" circumstances, Madison Street will be closed to traffic through the Martin Luther King, Jr. Way E./28th Avenue E. intersection (the red area shown on the map below). The 18,000 vehicles that transit the area daily will be channelled through side streets for five straight days,  beginning Monday morning and continuing at least until sometime Friday afternoon.

The purpose of this temporary closure is to repave the intersection, which happens to be the location where four large boulders were discovered by the tunneling machine near the end of last year.  The machine was boring an underground tunnel for the pipeline that will be used to divert stormwater into the new high-capacity tank being constructed near the ball field in Washington Park.  The boulders, however, proved to be immovable objects, other than through above-ground excavation.  As a result, the intersection had to be torn up--and this caused, in the parlance of Seattle Public Utilities (SPU), "a differing site condition." Meaning, therefore, the implementation of a "street restoration plan." In other words, big-time repaving.

According to Grace Manzano, SPU's project manager, Madison Street's repaving will involve a significant amount of concrete pouring and the integration of steel rebar into the works.  This is in order to properly distribute traffic loads on E Madison.  It's "unfortunate," she tells us, that the area will be further disrupted by this additional work, but it's all in a good cause.  "SPU wants to complete the work as quickly as possible so the merchants can return to earning their livelihoods," she says.  "This is the end phase."

When the City announced the detour plan earlier this week, Madison Parkers may have detected a wailing sound coming from the Valley. Those were the Madison Valley merchants, whose general response to this unexpected challenge seems to be "You're killing us!!!"  Anger and frustration boiled over in an email sent by Marie Harris of Veritables earlier this week.  Accusing SPU of being "tone deaf" she railed, "We were assured you would be out of our business district by the end of summer...We have cooperated to the point of rolling over and playing dead."  She requested that the project be put on hold at least until January, after the holiday selling season is ended.

Madison Valley Merchants Association (MVMA) president Larry Levine, meanwhile, sent the Mayor a letter on behalf of the Association.  In it he stated that "many merchants have given up publicly expressing their concerns or contacting SPU with their concerns.  They feel that their concerns fall on deaf ears."  A later meeting at Cafe Flora between SPU and some of the merchants did not result in a delay of the repaving, however.  It is moving forward as planned.

In here (28th E. )

Here's the rundown of how the detour will work.  Westbound traffic will be detoured onto 28th Avenue E. (at the corner where the restaurant Luc is located), it will be channeled onto E. Mercer Street after one block, and then be routed onto 27th Avenue E. for one block back to E. Madison Street.

Out here (27th E.)

Traffic moving in the opposite direction will be detoured off E. Madison at 27th E. and head eastbound on E. Arthur Place for a block before being re-routed back onto E. Madison.  There will be limited parking, if any, on these detour streets, although parking will still be allowed on E. Madison St., other than in the area of the intersection repaving. There is a separate truck detour route which is a far longer, more cumbersome way into and out of Madison Park:

The Madison Valley Community Council has come out with an announcement encouraging all area residents to patronize the Valley's merchants during the construction period.  Signs will be posted reminding everyone that the district is still open for business.  It is hoped that all paving will be completed before the dinner crowd arrives in the Valley on Friday evening.

For what it's worth, SPU's Manzano tells us that everyone on the project understands the merchants' frustration.  We're giving the last word, however, to Madison Valley resident Richard Winsler II, who in an email to the MVMA summed up the frustrations of people living in the construction zone.  He said he opposed any efforts by neighborhood businesses to have the repaving delayed until next year. "While we may sympathize with the local businesses," he wrote, "we will do everything we possibly can to have the construction over with ASAP. We will NOT allow for it to be put on hold."

"Please don't forget," he added, "that the residents agreed to have the night work happen to help out the merchants back in March. While all the business owners were home sleeping soundly, nearly every single resident was kept up every night for two weeks during the night time construction. The residents have had enough and want this construction to be done with promptly and with no interruptions."


  1. Part of why I love living here are amenities provided by the businesses. I want them to stay in business.

    I'm going to do some holiday shopping and plan some dinning in the Valley this week. It's important for us to do what we can to support the businesses we love.

  2. It is supposed to rain all next week. No way will that work get finished in time. What a mess.

  3. So how can this happen with only a few days notice and what are the plans for Metro and the 11 E Madison Bus?

  4. I was told by SPU that Metro has tested the detour route and will be running their regular schedule.

  5. Lindy, I applaud your thinking and add that small businesses in Madison Park and Madison Valley need everyone's support everyday, not just on these special occasions.


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