SECO Development is cementing its footprint deeper into Renton by introducing a new transportation alternative, one that aims to relieve commuters from long hours on the highway.
The development announced last week it is pursuing a water taxi pilot project that will connect the Southport region of Renton to South Lake Union in Seattle.
The program is logical step given the region’s traffic patterns, said Rocale Timmons, director of planning and development at SECO.
“The biggest reason is to address the transportation concerns in the region. We believe it is necessary to provide an alternative solution to one of the biggest challenges, which is transportation. Having this alternative mode of transportation, which is a water taxi on the lake, is waste free; There’s not the cost associated with construction and it really made sense,” she said.
With initial services projected for 2020, the water taxis are expected to cut down commute times, especially during peak hours.
During a test run, Timmons said they were able to navigate from Renton to South Lake Union in about 42 minutes.
“We also believe that it’s a predictable commute than on the roads that have traffic challenges,” she said. “Having a water taxi program on the lake, you would leave at a certain time and arrive on the certain time every day.”
Why is a private developer putting a foot into the transportation game? Timmons said it’s because they share the same responsibility to provide solutions for a growing community.
“We share, as a real estate developer, the same responsibilities as other public entities solve some of these challenges in terms of our growth,” she said. “That’s the reason why we’ve committed to this pilot program. We don’t want (the lake) to be a barrier…. (The water taxi) removes that barrier and becomes a connector.”
Timmons said SECO is in the thick of the conceptual design phase and does not have details on how many vessels they plan to build or how often the taxi service will run, but said the vessels will be “floating offices.”
The vessels are expected to carry up to 149 passengers and will have high speed wifi, adjustable desks and food and beverage services.
The program is expected to serve the growing population and workforce in and around Renton and South Lake Union. Timmons estimated the Southport region will see an upward of 20,000 workers, following the opening of the 730,000-square-foot office space that’s expected to open in 2018.
The dock on Lake Washington, located behind the Hyatt Regency, already has the necessary infrastructure to support a project like this, making Renton an ideal spot to pilot such a program, Timmons said.
There is a potential for the program to expand to other parts of the region as density and demand grows.
Timmons said the program is an aid for the region’s emergency preparedness as well.
“God forbid something compromises our bridges, the water taxi program provides redundancy and resiliency in a situation like that. We’re excited for what the water taxis does for our emergency preparedness,” she said.
Timmons said SECO is aware of residents’ concerns regarding the environmental impacts of the project, and said the water taxis are eco-friendly.
“We share the same sensitivities as many of the homeowners around the lake because we’re a property on the lake as well. We want to maintain the serenity we experience and enjoy every day,” she said. “We are prioritizing the eco-friendliness of this program and making sure we are not impacting the environment and that the vessels we make are compatible with the environment it’s in.”
Mayor Denis Law showed his support for the project and its prospect of relieving the region’s transportation issues.
“We are very pleased with the development at Southport in Renton,” said Mayor Denis Law in a press release. “From the world-class Hyatt hotel to the high-quality office campus that is under construction, Renton has changed dramatically and has become a very popular place to live and work. These changes also highlight the need to address the transportation needs of Renton and our region and it makes sense to explore how a water taxi can help meet these needs.”