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South Park group group seeks to reclaim neighborhood land from a dangerous, redundant freeway

All photographs from Domesticate South Park.

South Park has a number of the most dangerous air high quality of any residential neighborhood in Seattle and King County, and it doesn’t take lengthy to determine the place a number of it comes from: The freeway that splits the neighborhood in two.

It’s a narrative that has been repeated many occasions throughout the town and the nation. Low-income communities and communities of colour are sometimes situated within the areas with the worst air high quality and essentially the most harmful roadways. This isn’t an accident. Maybe no neighborhood higher represents our area’s environmental racism extra starkly than South Park.

Map of the traffic-related air pollution in South Park with community and youth center locations marked within the worst zones.“The cumulative impacts of those environmental burdens end in a 13-year decrease life expectancy for South Park residents in contrast with different Seattle neighborhoods,” in keeping with Domesticate South Park, a “resident-led Asset-Based mostly Group Growth group.” Nevertheless it doesn’t should be this manner. South Park is a flourishing group that deserves clear air and secure, related streets, and Domesticate South Park is taking over the most important barrier to each of those targets: SR-99.

“What if we had been to shut this section of 99 and reclaim 40 acres of land for reasonably priced housing, group owned companies, parks and facilities that serve the individuals of South Park?” That’s the daring and really thrilling query on the heart of the group’s Reconnect South Parks proposal. With management on the nationwide, state and metropolis ranges all speaking about decreasing the group hurt attributable to previous freeway tasks, this mission is the proper alternative to face by these phrases.

Whereas eradicating a freeway seems like a really lofty aim at first, it’s necessary to keep in mind that even busy freeways are sometimes inflicting extra site visitors issues than they repair. Particularly inside cities, the restricted freeway entry factors create choke factors which might be not possible to treatment. Freeway engineering digs trenches and builds partitions that reduce off the road grid, and this truly limits mobility slightly than bettering it, particularly for anybody not in a automobile.

However this proposal shouldn’t be about eradicating a busy freeway, and that’s what makes it extraordinarily possible low-hanging fruit as a freeway removing mission. This stretch of SR-99 is redundant, overbuilt and underutilized. It’s surrounded on all sides by a lot busier freeways with higher or comparable entry to almost all regional locations. When you open Google Maps, it’s truly form of tough to get this system to counsel taking SR-99 by South Park over the alternate options. The opposite choices are practically all the time quicker or inside a minute of taking South Park’s SR-99.

Traffic count map shows 20 to 33 thousand vehicles per day, a low count compared to nearby freeways.

In consequence, the site visitors counts on this stretch of SR-99 are extraordinarily low. At 29,000 to 33,000 autos per day, this freeway carries fewer automobiles than many Seattle neighborhood arterial streets. For comparability, NE forty fifth Avenue within the U District carries about 34,000 autos per day and MLK Jr Means S in Rainier Valley carries about 45,000. Even South Park’s major road, 14th Ave S, carries 39,000 autos per day, practically 10,000 greater than this large freeway (these are all pre-Covid, pre-West Seattle Bridge failure 2019 figures). The area merely has no use for a freeway right here. This facility was constructed to hold a number of occasions extra autos than have a motive to make use of it.

Although this stretch will get the SR-99 designation, SR-509 is the first freeway connection to SR-99 south of the Duwamish River. Many individuals driving south on SR-99 in all probability don’t even understand they’ve modified freeway numbers as they cross the river. The stretch by South Parks blasts by the neighborhood as a full-fledged freeway earlier than turning into the business Tukwila Worldwide Boulevard. Even the economic companies close by would probably profit from a reconnected road grid since there are only a few entry factors to the freeway at present. This freeway was designed to bypass South Park, to not serve it.

To prime all of it off, there may be an egregiously huge full cloverleaf interchange the place SR-99, 14th Ave S and Des Moines Memorial Drive S come collectively. Folks biking to and from the Inexperienced River Path know this interchange effectively as a result of it’s so large and tense to get previous on a motorcycle. That is the form of factor you discover the place main city freeways meet, not a couple of neighborhood arterials. It’s frankly embarrassing that the state put such an outsized piece of infrastructure right here. It’s like utilizing a jackhammer to hold a photograph on the wall.

Satelite map showing in more detail which sections could be reclaimed.

Right here is the place the Reconnect South Park imaginative and prescient will get actually thrilling. The group has some actually cool concepts for a way this reclaimed land might be put to raised use. First, they might reconnect the road grid, enabling individuals to soundly and simply stroll, bike and drive across the neighborhood as soon as once more. It will additionally probably make it simpler to supply high quality bus service to the houses and locations west of SR-99. The brand new streets might additionally present the entire neighborhood with simpler and safer entry to the Duwamish Path to the north and the Inexperienced River Path to the south.

Even after reconnecting streets, there could be a number of new industrial, residential and enterprise land obtainable. The group imagines new inexperienced area, which is sorely wanted, in addition to new reasonably priced housing and community-owned land. The enormous cloverleaf might be repurposed for inexperienced stormwater infrastructure or enterprise incubators. The alternatives are broad open, and the neighborhood ought to take the lead on figuring out find out how to higher serve residents.

The neighborhood has confronted a protracted historical past of displacement as main infrastructure and industrial tasks pressured individuals out or divided their group. It’s gone time for the infrastructure to maneuver out of the way in which of the residents.

“I feel the freeway is one thing residents have simply accepted,” Crystal Brown, a South Park resident who’s a part of the mission, informed The Urbanist. “Who thinks you’ll be able to transfer a freeway?”

You may get concerned by signing up for the Reconnecting South Park electronic mail checklist on the backside of the mission web site. You may also donate to Domesticate South Park or fill out their volunteer type.



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