Well none of us were able to make it to the press conference this morning but here are some news clippings. [Update from Sherwin 5:34pm: The Seattle Channel has full video coverage of the event here.]
From what I have gathered it was an interesting showing of elected officials from all level of government, something very unusual. It appears that there are divergent opinions among those advocating for something besides the A+, i.e. better transit connections for some, narrower footprint for others, less traffic for others, but the fact that House Speaker Chopp, Senator Murray, Rep. Pedersen, Mayor McGinn and City Council members Licata and O’Brien were all in attendance is interesting never-the-less. Stay tuned.
Coverage from those that actually get paid to report below the jump.
But behind the scenes, supporters of the plan acknowledged that it was unlikely to get off the ground. And state House transportation chair Judy Clibborn said flatly that she would oppose any effort to jettison the state’s preferred option to replace the bridge.
This morning, Seattle neighborhood groups and legislators—including City Council members Nick Licata and Mike O’Brien, all three representatives of the 43rd legislative district (Reps. Frank Chopp and Jamie Pedersen and Sen. Ed Murray), Mayor Mike McGinn, and representatives of the neighborhoods surrounding the west side of the bridge—came out in favor of a six-lane bridge replacement with smaller on-ramps than the state option, less impact on the Arboretum, and two lanes dedicated exclusively to high-capacity transit (bus-rapid transit now, rails installed now for light rail later).
…However, Clibborn was adamant this afternoon that the proposal “can’t go forward.” First, she said, a new bridge design would require the state to do an entirely new environmental review, setting the project back two years or more. Second, she said the new option would be more expensive than the state’s current preferred alignment, particularly because “there’s no money for rail” across 520. Finally, she said, “you can’t stop this project at this point without losing huge amounts of time, which is money and jobs.”
Seattle has taken an important political step in the effort to find a greener design for the Highway 520 replacement bridge, House Speaker Frank Chopp said in a brief speech Monday morning.
Unlike many earlier years, Seattle has both a new mayor, Mike McGinn, and a city council that are engaged, he said.
“The mayor and the council now stand united against the current plan,” Chopp said.
Chopp was among about 100 people gathered in a green space next to the highway, with marshes and abandoned road ramps in the foreground and the roar of morning traffic over the lake.
Gregoire: “We have heard that some may wish to revisit the legislative direction regarding the use of the two additional lanes for high occupancy vehicles (HOV)… Changing the configuration now would require a new environmental process. The office of the Attorney General tells us that revisiting these decisions from several years ago would set the project back at least 18 to 24 months. Our commitment to ensuring public safety does not allow that kind of delay.”
(Side note: Funny how she cares about the environmental review process for SR-520 but not the Viaduct. Does this bode well for the lawsuit again WSDOT for the deep bore tunnel?)
According to polling commissioned by private groups the new transit focus is popular. People were asked:
Transportation department plans call for a six lane bridge, with two new H-O-V lanes. Others want the new lanes dedicated to transit, carrying light rail and buses.
Which approach do you prefer?
- 16 percent prefer H-O-V lanes.
- 69 percent prefer light rail and bus lanes.
- 15 percent unsure.
The survey of 1,852 people in Seattle plus the 41st, 45th and 48th legislative districts east of the lake was taken Jan. 22-24. The margin of error was 2.7 percent for Seattle and 3.85 percent for the Eastside. The pollster was Constituent Dynamics, which is run by Bill Broadhead, who was one of McGinn’s key advisors during the recent mayoral race.