Say “goodbye” (for now) to the floating sidewalk on Lake Union

There are many gems on Lake Union, but one that mostly locals know about (and fiercely protect) is about to disappear. It’s the floating sidewalk adjacent to the Fairview bridge that is itself adjacent to the historic City Light Steam Plant building.  The old wooden trestle bridge has done its time and must go and along with it the hidden floating sidewalk – you can’t see it from the roadway.

But it’s there all the same, down a stairway, offering a brief, delightful refuge from the street. It’s also one of the few places where you can get close to the lake and view a wide vista, as a friend of mine noted. Close, for sure, you’re walking right on it; it’s open space, a de facto park.

Pedestrians love the floating sidewalk beside the Fairview trestle.

The bridge will be replaced with something earthquake proof, streetcar ready, sturdy and modern with bike lanes and look out points. At first there were only vague promises of bringing back the floating sidewalk.  It was dependent on budget and permitting, said the city, and that didn’t sound promising. But MariLyn Yim, SDOT project manager, confirms the floating sidewalk will be rebuilt.

Rendering of new Fairview Avenue Bridge.

She had to do “some trading and swapping and talking [to get] the floating walkway OK’d,” wrote Jules James, one of its fierce defenders, in an email.

Closure and demolition of the bridge is expected to happen this fall, once improvements to Aloha Street are complete as that will be the detour route.

The roadway next to the historic Steam Plant building is actually an old wooden trestle, reinforced over the years.

Some are predicting major traffic jams with the closure of this 500 foot segment, but that’s what they said about the viaduct too and that just wasn’t the case

Catch the old floating sidewalk now while you still can. It’s just a stone’s throw from MOHAI and the Center for Wooden Boats. Walk up Eastlake Ave. for a close-up view of the historic Steam Plant and its remarkable tilework. (Eastlake Ave. is its front.) Next door is the even older Hydro House, open for breakfast and lunch weekdays with an outdoor patio that faces the lake and overlooks the old bridge.

Featured floating sidewalk sketch by Karen Berry.

Why I’m Voting for I-1631

Initiative 1631 puts a fee on the carbon pollution that is disrupting our climate, and would direct the approximately $1 billion it raises each year to investments that reduce carbon pollution.  I’m voting for it, because the climate crisis is coming home.

Here around Lake Union, it hits us in many ways.  When Lake Union water levels dropped unexpectedly a few years back due to lack of rainfall, it threatened houseboat integrity. That was a climate impact.

The smokes that have obscured our skies the last two summers came from a documented increase in wildfires.  The top three record wildfire years in Washington state took place in 2014, 2015, and 2017.  (They’re still assembling 2018 statistics.)

Seattle in recent years has experienced wild swings in climate extremes. The wettest winter on record in 2016-17 was followed by the hottest, driest summer, with the longest number of days without rain in Seattle history. This July was the hottest on record, with the May-July period the driest for those months.

I-1631 would pay for investments that reduce fossil fuel use and the carbon pollution that comes with it. I-1631 would pay for energy efficiency retrofits, improved transit, electric vehicle charging infrastructure, and more solar and wind power. It would also support investments in farms and forests to improve the capacity of natural resources to soak and absorb carbon from the atmosphere.

The opposition to I-1631 tells us everything: $25 million in money almost purely from the oil industry. They have tapped former State Attorney General Rob McKenna to be the face of the opposition, without revealing that he currently works for Chevron. The ads talk about exemptions, and there are some to preserve working class jobs. The ads don’t mention that the tax will fall on the biggest polluters, the oil companies paying for the ads. They claim bloated cost impacts on people, and totally ignore the costs climate chaos is imposing on our world, and our children’s future. Look at the destruction in Florida, the deluges in the Carolinas, or the massive fires in the west, to see a picture of a world facing radical climate change.

I-1631 is a practical measure with broad support.  See here for more. It will invest in clean energy options that will ultimately reduce costs for all of us. But it’s also a moral choice. In the final analysis, this is an investment in our children’s future, in them having a world that is not so ravaged by climate chaos that they can no longer cope with the impacts.  Vote yes on I-1631.

Something big is coming to Lake Union on June 27

Literally. The largest cruise ship to ever traverse the Ballard Locks will make its way for a tour around Lake Union June 27. That cruise ship known as the Star Legend is a recent add to the Seattle-based luxury boutique cruise ship line, Windstar Cruises. By our calculations, you should be able to spot the Star Legend as it makes its circuit somewhere on the lake between 3 and 6 p.m. this Wednesday.  The Fremont Universe has all the nautical details.