With money on the table from the Washington State Convention Center Addition public benefits package, the Lid I-5 group continues to push for a feasibility study to cover portions of Interstate 5.
“Lidding the blocks of I-5, especially ones that cut through our densest neighborhoods, is not just fixing a problem, but also adding incredible benefits at the same time,” said Liz Dunn, a member of the Lid I-5 Steering Committee and prominent Capitol Hill developer.
Dunn presented the proposal to residents during a First Hill Improvement Association meeting Tuesday, April 11, at the Frye Art Museum, 704 Terry Ave.
Dunn said lidding the freeway would “heal a terrible gash in our urban fabric,” and break down barriers between many of Seattle’s neighborhoods.
She argued the central part of the city is “fundamentally lacking in open space,” and this is a “huge opportunity for public land that we are desperately in need of.” Dunn said it’s cheaper to lid the freeway than for the city to buy land.
“We have data from around country, where other cities are building lids, that tell us we can create new land in the center of our city, probably at a price that is significantly less than we could acquire it for public use,” Dunn said. “It solves a problem and creates all sorts of possibilities.”
The Seattle Design Commission approved the urban design merits of the Washington State Convention Center Addition plan at a meeting in March. Now the commission must approve a public benefits package in order for the $1.6 billion project to receive public right-of-way vacations.
A proposal by The Community Package Coalition calls for at least $66.2 million — and up to $86.5 million — of investments in public projects. The group, comprised of nine nonprofits, community organizations and advocacy groups, wants the money spent on more public open spaces, safe routes for people walking and bicycling, and affordable housing.
The Lid I-5 group wants the lid feasibility study, which is estimated to cost $1.5 million, included in that package. The group is also seeking a 14,000-square-foot lid park at the corner of Pine Street and Boren Avenue, predicted to cost $8-10 million.
The feasibility study would evaluate possible lids across the entire freeway corridor, not just in the downtown area, Dunn said. The Lid I-5 group is open to using the newly created spaces in a variety of ways, but ultimately wants them kept in the public trust.
“If there’s going to be development on top of it and if that helps fund the lidding of certain blocks, that’s great, but we should not sell the land to private developers,” Dunn said.
The group envisions the lid park at Pine Street and Boren Avenue as a demonstration project.
Dunn said the lid could also benefit the Washington State Department of Transportation.
“If we work with them in a thoughtful way, it could be win-win for them too,” Dunn said.
“If there are portions of I-5 that need to be rebuilt, it all could be done at the same time.”
She said she wants Seattle to set a standard.
“We do not rebuild sections of freeway through our downtowns without lidding them,” she said. “That should be the 21st-century standard.”
Other proposals in the larger community package put forth by The Community Package Coalition include improvements to Freeway Park, a promenade along Melrose Avenue, improvements to several overpasses and 300 units of affordable housing within a mile of the convention center.
Both District 7 Seattle City Councilmember Sally Bagshaw and District 4 Councilmember Rob Johnson support lidding I-5, as does 43rd District Sen. Jamie Pedersen.