For those who couldn’t attend last Wednesday’s Government Performance and Finance Committee meeting, you didn’t miss much. Some time between printing the official agenda and starting the meeting Councilmember Burgess pushed back the Ship Canal Crossing Study and University District to SLU Study to the May 15th meeting. In an earlier post we mentioned some reasons why these studies are important:
The Ship Canal Crossing study is key to putting solid numbers to the results of the City/Sound Transit Downtown to Ballard HCT study. Besides that, a new crossing is a needed project in its own right (see Bruce’s great outside the box proposal). The Council has previously stated its desire to start the Eastlake study this year, but recently some members have started pulling back.
Both of these projects are needed. We have the money, the Council just needs to follow through on its prior commitments and allow the Mayor to fund them. The more shovel ready projects we have, the better able we are to compete when federal dollars come available.
Unfortunately, yesterday Councilmember Burgess’ staff let us know that the initial discussion of these items will be pushed back even further, to the June 5th Government Performance and Finance Committee meeting. Apparently, they need more time “to sort through technical and policy questions related to [the] transportation items.”
Quite frankly, that is a cop out. These are studies that have been in the works for at least a year. Not only did the council unanimously vote to adopt the Transit Master Plan, but the Council has previously stated its desire to start the UW-SLU study this year. A new Ship Canal Crossing is not only called for in the Transit Master Plan, but also the Pedestrian Master Plan and the Bicycle Master Plan. The Bicycle Master Plan was completed in 2007.
There is a sense of urgency because the Bridging the Gap road levy will come up for a renewal in 2015. If the Ship Canal Crossing study finds that a new car bridge (and reconfiguration of the Fremont bridge for bike/ped/transit priority) is the best option for Fremont, we need to know before BtG is put together. UW-SLU is important for two reasons. First, it is one of the high priority corridors identified by the Transit Master Plan. Secondly, one of the worries about a Ballard streetcar line is that it could make some people feel like Ballard is “covered”. By funding UW-SLU, we show that streetcars and Link are complementary, not interchangeable, and that our city is comprised of many corridors. We don’t want the Ballard study to get too far ahead of UW-SLU.
The funding needed to get started on these projects would make up less than 5% of the supplemental budget. This money comes from project savings and so doesn’t involve cuts to other projects or new taxes. The only plausible reason to push back against starting work that the Council has already endorsed in principle is to delay the Mayor’s pro-transit agenda and then claim that he can’t get things done.
Seattle’s transit infrastructure is at least 30 years behind and we’ll never catch up as long as mayoral candidates continue to play games with these much needed projects. While a month delay may not seem like much at first, keep in mind that the UW-SLU project has already been needlessly pushed back six months. In this most recent play, at first it was a two week delay. Now it is a month. Are we have no movement forward on transit issues until after the election?
Council meddling has cost us before, particularly when delays in starting the TMP meant that Prop 1 had no specific projects, which ultimately led to its failure at the ballot. Let’s not let that happen again. The city has the money, the city has the plan, the council just needs to stop playing politics and start doing what is best for Seattle.
Big thanks to STB readers Anton, Charles, Will, and Peyton for showing up on the 1st. If you want to help support high capacity transit, please join us on June 5th, for the third try. The meeting will be in the Council Chambers (City Hall, up the stairs), Wednesday June 5th, at 9:30am. Come at least half an hour early to ensure you get a chance to testify!