P-I Columnist Joel Connelly whines about new transportation spending, and in the meantime displays a pretty shocking lack of due diligence:

“What did you do with the money we gave you?” A few years back, Seattle voted for Bridging the Gap, a transportation levy topping $350 million that was the largest in the city’s history…

…Still, the city needs an accounting of how Bridging the Gap bucks have been spent. Voters need to see what higher taxes delivered — or didn’t deliver.”

I’m not sure why it takes a not-even-part-time transportation blogger to invest the two minutes to go on the internet and find the Bridging the Gap website, which has last April’s Annual Report on BTG progress. It’s written to be really accessible to the layman.

With a few clicks, I can find that the report covers the first three years of a nine-year plan. 70% has been spent on maintenance, 22% on pedestrian/bike safety, and 8% on transit. The reports gives lots of details about crosswalks painted and so on.

I realize that’s it’s not in the style of newspapers to break down semi-wonky documents, particularly if they put a pretty happy spin on what’s happening. Nevertheless, if Seattle voters don’t know what the progress of BTG is, there’s only one group to blame and it isn’t the government.

31 Replies to “To Joel Connelly: Try Google”

      1. The PI globe is a good metaphor for what’s left of the organization as a whole: half the lights are out, it don’t go ’round and someone should just pull the plug.

        In a year of reading Seattle local news, the only interesting and original content I’ve seen on the PI are some of the archival photos from the ’50s and earlier.

  1. OK, seeing this BTG website answers my questions, although I still don’t like the answers. Crumbling roads, potholes many inches deep–all this BEFORE the winter storms–and the city is spending money on drainage and sidewalks? I understand logically why those things need to be done, but every time I ride a bus up Greenwood Avenue, or drive along 85th Avenue or Northgate Way, my emotions come up and I feel very strong that it’s more important to get those roads fixed. Love that transit/bus bubbles are being built, though!

    1. Cinesea: Make sure you call 684-ROAD and report all those potholes. Though they’re currently facing a pretty big backlog, the pothole crew tries to fill reported potholes within 72 hours. But they can’t fill potholes they don’t know about.

      1. Andreas,

        Yes, I have called quite a few times to report potholes, and they are usually filled within two or three days. What I’m talking about in my post is the block upon block of a street in which it is cracked, rutted, potholed…basically what you’d see in a third-world country. 85th Street from Interstate 5 to 15th Avenue West is a perfect excample. Greenwood Avenue North from 112th to 145th is another. N. 105th/Northgate Way from Aurora to Meridian is a perfect example. Pothole repair won’t fix those streets, they need to be completely repaved and have needed it for many years.

      2. I called a long time ago about the biggest pothole EVER at the U Village bus stop on Montlake Blvd/45th Street (where routes 65 and 75 stop) but it is still there.

      3. Cinesea: this document lists the schedule for the street repaving.

        Many of the streets you mentioned are slated to be fixed.

        In 2012, N / NW 85 ST from 15th Ave NW to I-5 (concrete reconstruction and new asphalt)

        In 2013, Greenwood Ave N from N 73rd to N 85th (new asphalt)

        In 2014, N 105 ST / N NORTHGATE WAY from Greenwood to 1st Ave NE (new asphalt, reconstruction)

        Elbar: some “potholes” cannot be repaired by patching asphalt. See the Pothole Rangers webpage for details.

        (Disclaimer: I work for the city but this comment is solely my own and is not an official response. All of this information is publicly available on the city’s website.)

      4. Oran,

        What are we supposed to do about Northgate Way for the next 3 years? Yikes, that road is possibly the worst! There’s no way to go around the potholes and trenches because the road is so narrow. At least on 85th Street, we can go around them a bit.

      5. Cinesea, that document was last updated a year ago. If pavement conditions have indeed severely deteriorated since then, they could re-prioritize and move up Northgate to be done sooner, like they did for downtown streets. Those streets have been crumbling for years due to deferred maintenance. Be patient, now that you know those streets will finally be brought to a state of good repair, thanks to BTG. It’s just a matter of which one needs to be done first. What you could do now is let them know what you think. In the meantime, they’ll probably try to fill as many potholes as they can (only if you report them).

        Again, just my personal thoughts, not representing the city here or in any comments.

    2. There is a *HUGE* backlog, to be sure. But, I’ve noticed a massive improvement in Seattle’s arterial roadways during the few years that I’ve been driving in the city. Olive Way & Stewart streets, Dearborn st, 2nd, 3rd, & 4th Aves, Airport Way, 6th Ave S have all been repaved within the last few years. Most areas with heavy bus traffic have been paved with concrete that should last for 30+ years. At a minimum, frequent bus routes have concrete pads for us to stop on so we don’t destroy the new roads.

      Driving through the UW I sometimes feel I should receive pay as a bus driver AND as a road demolition worker. We [buses] are effectively pounding 15th Ave NE into rubble. Good timing since SDOT is slated to rebuild virtually all of 15th in the UW this year.

      It took decades for the roads to get this bad, it’s going to take a while to get them back in shape. When it comes time to renew the BTG levy, consider voting “YES”. I probably would if I were still a resident of Seattle – It’s money well spent.

      1. Velo,
        If I spent more time in downtown or the south end, I might see those improvements. But, I spend much of my time in the north end down to the Seattle Center area and many of the main arterials are horrible.

      2. My point is that they have to start somewhere. So far, from my perspective of driving all over the city, they are fixing the worst streets first and progress is being made. Obviously a lot more is needed – If you look at BTG’s site, as the post suggests, there is a lot of info up there on what has been done, how much has been spent, and what SDOT will be working on next.

      3. Yep, that work has finally started (on 15th NE) and it’s great to see it happening.

        Those of us in the CD will be waiting another 2 years for the long-needed 23rd Avenue rebuild (assuming it doesn’t get bumped by something else). It’s not just the North End that’s suffering.

    3. DRAINAGE COMES FIRST. This is a basic principle of civil engineering. If the drainage is bad, everything else WILL crumble. What do you think causes potholes? Water. What do you think prevents potholes? Good drainage.

      Does that make you feel better about all the money spend on drainage? :-)

    4. If you think Northgate Way is really that bad… you should try driving 23rd through the CD. Also on the list of slated repaves, and a year AFTER Northgate Way.

      My understanding, as I recall from a CD News article I read way back when, is that the jobs were sorted based on the size and price. All the small, quick, cheap jobs got done first, and the bigger, more complex, more expensive jobs were saved for last.

      Northgate Way and 23rd Ave are last on the list of paving jobs because they are the largest. Northgate is the ONLY paving job for 2014, and 23rd the only job for 2015. This is because they will each require the entire year’s paving budget for the entire city.

      Except for a couple blocks here and there, all of the other B.t.G. paving projects are basic resurfacing. Northgate and 23rd, on the other hand, are lost causes. The foundation under the outer lanes of both roads is gone; they can’t be simply resurfaced. SDOT is going to dig out the entire roadbed under the outer lanes and rebuild it. As a nice plus, it’ll be rebuilt as concrete, not asphalt, so it should hold up much better in the future.

      1. I thought 15th ave NE was going to be rebuilt with concrete between Pacific and NE 50th? It certainly needs it. The buses and trucks will tear up any asphalt repaving job in short order.

      2. Lack,

        That’s true…23rd Avenue was horrible 25 years ago when I went to Garfield High School(being bused from Wallingford). I sure hope there’s something SDOT can do for the next few years to make Northgate Way and 23rd Avenue less crappy to drive on. I hate paying my taxes for these roads AND having to pay for new tires as well.

      3. Yup, it is going to be concrete. Asphalt and concrete roadways require different types of foundations, so the conversion to concrete isn’t a simple matter. But SDOT tends to convert to concrete anytime they’re digging up the roadbed.

        I didn’t count 15th because it’s a pretty short stretch of road, comparatively, 3/4 of a mile. The Northgate & 23rd rebuilds are both around a mile and a half.

        85th also has a short stretch of rebuild scheduled for 2012, and James for 2013. Both going to concrete.

  2. Connelly has a good point. We voted yes to transportation projects a few years ago and now they want to do it again. You want my yes vote? Show me what you’ve done. Publish your list of completed projects, and how much they cost. Prove to me that you are responsible and keep your promises and I’ll gladly vote yes. Ask for more money without accountability? I get enough of that at home.

      1. Why read when you can just sound off? After all, it’s much more fun to play the angry victim than be a responsible citizen.

      2. I love the cut-and-paste, form-letter quality to the comment. “More money! Accountability!”

  3. Joel Connelly, like most vestiges of the late P-I, typifies the “old” Seattle: heart in the right place, head where the sun doesn’t shine.

  4. I can relate to the state of mind of the writer in question. At a certain time of Nature herself starts to remind you she has other things to do besides keeping you alive. But even worse is the dreadful realization that since the majority of the population wasn’t even born when all those things happened you warned about (like building freeways without transit or buying the Breda buses), nobody cares what you think about anything now. It’s awful. Don’t ever get older than thirty.

    Mark Dublin

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