Eric Tweit, project manager of the Madison BRT project for Seattle Department of Transportation, answers questions at a meeting of the First Hill Improvement Association.

Photo by Ryan Murray
Eric Tweit, project manager of the Madison BRT project for Seattle Department of Transportation, answers questions at a meeting of the First Hill Improvement Association. Photo by Ryan Murray

The Madison Street Bus Rapid Transit corridor is still at least three years away, but plans are becoming more concrete.

At a First Hill Improvement Association meeting at Virginia Mason Medical Center, Eric Tweit from the Seattle Department of Transportation focused in on some details of the corridor but also gave an overview of the project.

“There have been lots of delays for buses traveling on Madison,” he said. “The corridor is a historically underserved area.”

The Madison Street Bus Rapid Transit project, also known as the RapidRide G Line is intended to speed up transit from east Seattle to Downtown and back. The line will start near the ferries and 1st Avenue, split going Eastbound on Spring Street and Westbound on Madison Street before joining again near Terry Avenue. It will continue over First Hill and into the Madison Valley.

The next big hurdle for the project is to secure federal grant funding from the Federal Transit Administration, by no means a sure thing. However, the administration has approved Seattle’s environmental assessment document.

“Obviously we are hoping for that grant,” Tweit said. “But we have other strategies without that grant. But would it be fully funded or built in stages? That’s something we would have to determine.”

Other funding is coming from the Levy to Move Seattle and Sound Transit 3. The total estimated cost of the project is $120 million. 

The major agenda item for the project locally is to work with business owners and other stakeholders to create a construction phasing schedule.

Between 1st Avenue and 8th Avenue, and again between 15th and 17th Avenues, the buses on the line would use shared business access/transit lanes. Between 6th Avenue and 15th Avenue, the route would split off into transit-only lanes. From 17th Avenue to Martin Luther King Jr. Way, the buses would merge into general purpose lanes.

At the height of the line’s usage (Monday through Saturday between 6 a.m. and 7 p.m.) buses are scheduled every six minutes. On off hours, Sundays or holidays, that drops to every 15 minutes. RapidRide G will run from 5 a.m. to 1 a.m.

Residents of First Hill were specific on questions, asking about wheelchair-accessible ramps at certain intersections.

The corridor will prohibit the left-hand turn onto Terry Avenue from Madison Street going Eastbound, prompting some concerns from business-owners on Terry. A crosswalk near the IHOP on East Madison Street and 10th Avenue was proposed.

“We almost never put a crosswalk across a four lane street,” Tweit said. “It’s definitely been discussed, but it’s far from a done deal.”

Much of the project is far from done. Throughout 2018, the city will reach out to the public. The project final design is expected this summer, and construction documents and permits are scheduled for the fall.

Construction is scheduled to begin early 2019 on the corridor, and last until late winter 2020. The line is tentatively planned to begin service in early 2021. Planning on the project began in 2014.