I’ve talked here a few times about building the West Seattle – Ballard corridor. There are a lot of routing and design options that I’m sure will be explored in a future post, but what I’d like to explore here is how much money is available, and what would need to happen right away.
Currently, the planning for these corridors is fairly old. The Seattle Monorail Project did some study in this corridor, but to the best of my understanding, these documents are sealed. Prior to that, in 2001, Seattle’s Intermediate Capacity Transit study projected 2020 ridership (PDF) in some potential corridors. There were some interesting numbers in that study that shine some light on what we might build – a West Seattle-Downtown streetcar was only projected at some 12,000 daily riders, for example, but an elevated alternative would achieve more than 25,000.
Sound Transit has studies for these corridors planned to be executed in 2015. As McGinn has made it clear he would work with Sound Transit on these projects, it seems that the first course of action would be to fund them immediately, as they’ll take at least a year, likely 18-24 months,to produce useful data. This is something that should get traction from other local leaders as well – last year, Dow Constantine and Larry Phillips penned an op-ed touting Proposition 1 as the next step in getting rail to West Seattle and Ballard, so I’d imagine they’ll be supportive. If planning were under way immediately next year, a vote could happen in 2011.
Currently, there are several funding options available (with voter approval):
- A $100 vehicle license fee, which could generate up to $45 $20 million a year.
- Sales tax of 0.2%, which would probably generate closer to $30 million a year (although that’s a back-of-the-napkin calculation).
- Local improvement districts, very possible for station areas.
- Tolls on city arterials – mentioned in Lindblom’s piece, but unlikely.
None of these produce that much revenue alone, so we’ll be largely dependent on federal grants. I want to point out that sales tax revenue in Seattle hasn’t really dropped (PDF, page 27, “North King” at the top), so a project based on that revenue should have stable funding – but that’s less than half of the local revenue used to build Link, so multiple sources would likely be necessary.
Depending on the money available and the results of the public outreach process, the time to wait before issuing bonds can vary a lot. It sounds like McGinn is interested in a Portland or Rainier Valley-like alignment, running mostly at-grade, so some money could be saved through providing city right of way (similar to how Bellevue can raise money for a tunnel). Given McGinn’s campaign so far, I’d imagine there would be significant neighborhood involvement, and that is also likely to drive up costs.
It’s all speculation right now – I’m waiting until the planners look at the corridor before I’d venture any guess of cost or completion year – but if McGinn is elected, his next steps seem clear.