The phrase,'Unsound Transit', was coined by the Wall Street Journal to describe Seattle where,"Light Rail Madness eats billions that could otherwise be devoted to truly efficient transportation technologies." The Puget Sound's traffic congestion is a growing cancer on the region's prosperity. This website, captures news and expert opinion about ways to address the crisis. This is not a blog, but a knowledge base, which collects the best articles and presents them in a searchable format. My goal is to arm residents with knowledge so they can champion fact-based, rather than emotional, solutions.


Saturday, March 15, 2008

Dialling for Dollars in Seattle

Seattle eyes other sources to pay for big road project


Left without $323 million in cash because a ballot measure failed, Seattle is looking to sources like private landowners to finance the widening of Mercer Street and the Spokane Street Viaduct.

The Nickels administration proposes to tap part of its recently enacted parking and employment taxes to help make up the shortfall.

Voters in November rejected the Proposition 1 roads and transit ballot measure, which included funding for the Mercer and Spokane projects and a railroad overpass on South Lander Street.

All three projects were justified as ways to improve street-level traffic flow during construction to replace the Alaskan Way Viaduct. Looking for support, administration officials said Friday they're focusing on finding more money for the Spokane and Mercer projects, though Lander remains a priority.

Of the newly estimated $192.9 million cost of the Mercer widening, the city now hopes to raise $36.2 million from private sources in the neighborhood, possibly from mitigation fees or providing needed property or construction easements. Officials said they've not proposed a specific method yet.

Bob Powers, deputy director of the city Department of Transportation, said the plan is to raise another $70.6 million in bonds using money from the 2006 street-improvement tax levy and from city parking and employment taxes, which officials said are producing more cash than anticipated.

Another $26 million, for utility relocation and improvements, would come from city agencies, and the city will seek $51.7 million in additional state and federal grants. About $8.4 million already has been secured.

The Mercer cost estimate has increased $78 million since late last year, chiefly because of inflation and advanced design work that now includes property costs. The project would widen Mercer between Dexter Avenue and I-5 but not include reconnecting streets above Aurora Avenue.

Some $78.9 million has been secured for the Spokane widening, now estimated to cost $168.5 million, which includes $3.4 million from the Port of Seattle; new ramps would connect the Spokane Street Viaduct to the waterfront.

The new plan, subject to approval by City Council members, is to find another $40 million from state and federal sources and $49.6 million from the street-improvement, parking and employment levies. Inflation and advanced design have increased the estimated Spokane project cost by $16.2 million since the last quarter of 2007.

The $26 million in utility costs for the Mercer project would be paid for city-wide. Officials said that's normal practice. They also said the new plan wouldn't take money from other street work to be financed by the 2006 transportation levy.

A city study said the Mercer widening would decrease some travel times and increase others. Powers said it will improve transit service and "benefits all modes of transportation."

Seattle City Council President Richard Conlin and Transportation Committee Chairwoman Jan Drago both said they were pleased the administration had developed a plan. Conlin wouldn't predict approval before reviewing it. Drago said her committee will discuss the proposal April 1.

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