By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor
The decision on whether the West Seattle Bridge will be repaired or replaced has not yet been made. but the topic of the day was how to pay for whichever option is chosen.
Not only was that a spotlight topic as the West Seattle Bridge Community Task Force‘s fourth meeting, it was also the topic of an SDOT Blog post published during the meeting. So that’s the topic with which we begin, after the slide deck and first of two videos from the meeting:
BRIDGE FUNDING: During her part of the meeting, SDOT’s Heather Marx reviewed the “fundamental funding truths” of the bridge project – all based on the premise that the city doesn’t have the money to fund repair or replacement without supplementation.
How much money? One consultant is already working on a Cost/Benefit Analysis, as previously announced, and the CBA’s “draft criteria” will be presented to the CTF next month. The city, Marx stressed, is doing all it can to be ready to pounce on multiple means of potential funding:
They need a specialized consultant for an “investment-grade traffic and revenue study,” Marx said, which will take a year and a half, and they’ll put out an RFQ for this soon.
This study will answer questions such as the corridor’s travel demand, potential tolling scenarios, and more. (We asked SDOT post-meeting about the study’s estimated cost: $2 million, was the reply.)
RECONNECT WEST SEATTLE: This, you might recall, is the umbrella name for the work-in-progress plan to help ease detour traffic. Marx said the proposals for neighborhood projects will go public on Friday (four days later than originally promised). CTF members will be asked to help circulate them. A postcard reminder will go into postal mail July 17th (Georgetown, South Park, SODO as well as WS), two weeks before the feedback period ends July 31st. The CTF will review results of that in August, and a final plan should be ready in early September.
The meeting began with a quick update on the bridge itself:
BRIDGE-WORK UPDATE: SDOT’s Matt Donahue presented the latest on what’s happening – starting with the stabilization work that’s under way right now. “We’re excited to be on the bridge” and doing that work, which started with “hydro-demolition” to create holes that will be used to hoist a platform. A frame will be lifted up to the bridge on Monday. Carbon-fiber wrap will follow, as will a “post-tensioning strand” that will precede release of the stuck bearing(s) on Pier 18.
TRANSPORTATION BENEFIT DISTRICT TAX: Then SDOT communications director Michael Harold, who has been facilitating the CTF meetings, recapped yesterday’s announcement of the proposed tax renewal to fund some bus service, with a spotlight on “emerging needs” resulting from the bridge closure. “We have to have the resources to be able to support (expanded transit),” Harold said.
BREAKOUT GROUPS: As noted in our coverage of the District 1 Community Network July meeting, there have been concerns that the CTF hasn’t had enough time to talk. So today after the initial half-hour of presentations, the attendees broke into 2 groups to do just that – talk. (Separate WebEx videoconferences were launched for that, so if you tried to get into the meeting late with the link we published, that’s what happened.)
We listened in on the group led by CTF co-char Paulina Lopez. “What are you hearing in the community?” was the bg question. “People are going to riot if there’s a toll,” said restaurateur Dan Austin. “Why are things taking so long?” is what West Seattle Runner (WSB sponsor) co-proprietor Tim McConnell said he’s hearing. “Clear timelines (are needed),” agreed Delridge Neighborhoods Development Association‘s David Bestock. And yet another voice for that was West Seattle Bridge Now‘s Amanda Kirk, who also said “real estate for the entire region” is a concern – “renters, homeowners, landlords, property values.” Greg Martinez from Georgetown said people are clamoring for more information on what’s going to be done to mitigate traffic. “General concerns about getting across and time it takes,” said Admiral’s Marci Carpenter. She also said something “really, really graphically clear” is needed to help people understand just how limited the low bridge’s capacity is. “Maintaining terminal access,” is what Port of Seattle commissioner Fred Felleman (filling in for Peter Steinbrueck) said the maritime community is concerned about. “It’s an existential threat to the port,” he added, noting that “the reliability … of the low bridge” is a huge concern too. Finding out more about SDOT/Sound Transit discussions regarding possible light-rail synergy was mentioned by State Rep. Joe Fitzgibbon. County Councilmember Joe McDermott brought up the West Marginal Way safety concerns of the Duwamish Tribe.
How could the task force work more efficiently? Austin said getting meeting topics/agendas sooner would be good, so they could in turn solicit more-targeted feedback from community members. Make the meetngs longer if that’s what it takes – better to end a 3-hour meeting (window) early rather than leave a 2-hour meeting feeling you didn’t get to everything. And maybe the task force should break into interest groups – geographically, especially regarding traffic mitigation, for one. Lopez voiced a common community-meeting concern – that the meeting shouldn’t just be a time to sit and listen to SDOT presentations. The fact that some information is getting released to the public first – like the mentioned-earlier SDOT Blog post about financing possibilities, published during the meeting – sparked some concern.
When the two groups reconvened as one, we video-recorded the rest of the meeting:
The group we didn’t monitor reported out these community concerns: Status of motorcycles on the low briidge, speeding in South Park, heavy traffic in Highland Park, status of Lander Street Bridge in SODO, heavy traffic in Georgetown, absence of labor voices in the CTF such as the building trades, “urgency to identify the solution,” small businesses’ struggles to concurrently deal with the bridge issues and pandemic issues, transit-capacity challenges, faster decision-making so funding can get into state/federal budgets, and the need to give people hope – and a vision.
“We are going to find a solution,” co-chair Greg Nickels promised in closing remarks.
NEXT MEETING: Two weeks from today, Wednesday, July 22nd, at noon.