“The biggest transportation challenge with this project is retrofitting a very auto-oriented place to be more supportive of walking, biking, and transit,” shared Public Works Transportation Senior Planner Michelle Swanson.
Swanson presented the Transportation Projects & Connectivity the community requested during the city’s Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Committee (BPAC), which met last night for the city’s Capital Mall Triangle Subarea Plan and Environmental Impact Statement Briefing.
The plan also addresses congestion management by building roundabouts and a well-connected street grid.
“Roundabouts increase efficiency and safety at intersections, and a well-connected street grid helps dispersed traffic, among many other benefits,” Swanson added.
Community Planning and Development Senior Planner David Ginther led the presentation, saying there were roughly 300 written comments and presentations from community members who shared their insights on the draft plan.
“Generally, the people want a complete neighborhood with all aspects and amenities that you would expect in an urban neighborhood, such as public areas-- plazas, parks, library, community centers, and other necessary kinds of businesses and services,” Ginther said.
Aside from public spaces, residents also needed a climate-resilient, sustainable area with safer connections.
During the latest community input opportunity, residents chose Alternative 3 on the draft EIS/Subarea Plan, but with aspects of Alternative 2 embedded in it.
This will mean building heights, housing, connectivity and safety, smaller plazas, parks, open space, bus rapid transit on Harrison, and green development.
“The third approach is a much bold[er] way to approach the issue. It has everything in number two, three… and recommends actions, such as allowing taller buildings and changes to parking requirements,” Ginther said.
As a recap, Alternative 1 is a “baseline” where no action or changes will be made over the next 20 years. Alternative 2 is “moderate” and will develop three hubs, focusing on pedestrian connections between existing neighborhoods and the triangle. Alternative 3 is “bold,” which involves removing barriers and providing flexibility for developing a new interior hub while addressing climate mitigation goals by supporting increased urban density, transit, and mobility actions and reducing urban sprawl.
Olympia’s 20-year Comprehensive Plan includes the Capital Mall Triangle Subarea Plan, projected to remain a regional destination for shopping and services and grow into a more “people-oriented urban neighborhood.”
This project would create a district where residents can commute, shop, recreate, and meet basic needs without using a car.
Ginther also presented the draft Environmental Impact Statement (EIS), which contains safeguards to ensure the long-range development is consistent with the city's adopted plans and environmental goals.
“People did want to make sure that development in the area was environmentally sensitive and environmentally responsible,” Ginther said.
According to the draft, the EIS aims to inform and assist the public and City of Olympia decision-makers in considering future growth, multimodal transportation improvements, and policy/code proposals appropriate within the subarea.
The Final EIS and Subarea Plan are expected to be completed early next year. The planned action ordinance or mitigation measures to be applied to development will be mid-next year.
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