The intersection of University Way Northeast and Northeast 45th Street is shown on Monday, October 5, 2019, from UW Tower in Seattle. 
    Slideshow Icon 2 slides
Enlarge Icon
The intersection of University Way Northeast and Northeast 45th Street is shown on Monday, October 5, 2019, from UW Tower in Seattle.
Credit: KUOW Photo/Megan Farmer

The Ave without cars? More bike lanes? City Council candidates debate U District future

Who is The Ave for?

The future of the U District’s signature street features prominently in the District 4 campaign for Seattle City Council.

At a debate Saturday, candidates Shaun Scott and Alex Pedersen presented differing visions.

Scott, who has made climate change a central part of his campaign, said The Ave — the nickname for University Way — of the future should be for pedestrians.

“We want to get to a point where The Ave and other major streets and corridors throughout the city are only to be explored outside of cars,” he said.

Pedersen didn’t go that far. He said his ideas reflect what he's heard from local businesses.

“The vision is that The Ave is safe, it's affordable, it's vibrant,” he said.

The U District light rail station opens in 2021, and much of the neighborhood has already been upzoned.

But The Ave’s fate has yet to be decided; it was removed from that upzoning earlier this year.

Then last month Scott and Pedersen issued an unusual joint letter asking the City Council to suspend any upzone of The Ave.

So no matter who wins in November in District 4, there could be a voice resisting a rezone.

On another topic at the debate, the candidates were asked about their support for dedicated bike lanes. This spring the city dropped a long-planned bike lane on 35th Avenue Northeast. Bicyclists have complained that forcing them onto side streets is inefficient and unsafe.

On Saturday, Pedersen backed the city’s decision. He said the city should have listened more carefully to businesses and some residents who opposed the bike lanes in the first place.

“I support an interconnected bike network, but I think sometimes greenways on side streets are better,” he said.

But Scott called it the wrong move. “We have to get real about putting bike lanes on major arterial roads,” he said.

This was the sixth of seven debates between City Council candidates hosted by Seattle CityClub with media partners KUOW, The Seattle Times, Crosscut, KCTS, KOMO, KING and The Seattle Channel.

The final debate is Thursday between District 1’s Lisa Herbold and challenger Phil Tavel. KUOW’s Ross Reynolds and the Times’ Heidi Groover are the moderators.

You can sign up to attend here.