I suspect many readers are aware of yesterday’s announcement of a deal between new arena backer Chris Hansen and the Seattle City Council, which includes a $40 million fund for transportation mitigation in SODO. Judging by the news coverage (Publicola, Times), it sounds like the focus of this fund is on mitigating the Port of Seattle’s concerns about freight mobility in the face of increased game-night car traffic congestion.
The city is vague on what specifically might be funded, deferring to a “stakeholder process”, and I have absolutely no inside information, but with $40 million in hand, and a focus on SODO freight mobility, there’s one project which stands out, namely the South Lander Street Grade Separation Project, a proposal from SDOT to build an overcrossing of the BNSF mainline at Lander St, which was shelved in 2008 for lack of funds.
Judging from the project website, it appears that SDOT had done the preliminary engineering and design work, and placed the cost at about $75 million*. It might, perhaps, be worth $35 million to the Port or the City or BNSF (or some combination of the three) to take the project off the shelf and get it done; and while the Lander overcrossing is certainly not what I’d build if I were given $40-$75 million to improve non-car modes in the area, it would have peripheral benefits for transit. Buses which must navigate the current Lander grade crossing suffer horrible unreliability due to train traffic; at the very least, the overcrossing would make Route 21 and the new Route 50 much more reliable.
That crossing’s unreliability (and the congestion on Edgar Martinez Dr) was one of the reasons why Metro eliminated any 4th Ave S pathway from consideration for RapidRide C, but between the new Spokane Street Viaduct and a possible Lander overcrossing, that pathway might become viable. Interestingly, as reader Matt L pointed out to me, Seattle’s Transit Master Plan (page 4-3) calls for “strong consideration” of a 4th Ave pathway rather than a 99 pathway, due to the better connection this provides for riders heading south or east on Link or crosstown services, as well as better access to SODO, Pioneer Square and the International District through a path which wouldn’t raise NIMBY objections from Pioneer Square.
Again, this is complete speculation on my part. We’ll have to see who’s on the future stakeholder group before we can get a better sense of what might be built.
* Postscript: Adam pointed me to this MIC Bulletin which puts the cost at $180-200 million, although it doesn’t provide a source for that number. If that number is accurate, then $40 million doesn’t appear to put the overcrossing within reach, except maybe as a part of a local match for a federal grant.