On Monday, at the full City Council meeting, all the cards were laid out on the table, and the Ship Canal Crossing Study didn’t quite have a flush.
The study will, if funded, build on the work being done in the Ballard to Downtown Rail Study to make sure any new infrastructure serves everyone. It will start with the options for transit crossings, figure out how they’ll work with the existing bridges, where bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure should be, and where cars should go.
In order for this study to give answers that the city needs in time for Bridging the Gap and Sound Transit 3, it needs to start at the beginning of 2014. It takes three to four months after the council approves funding for a project for the scope to be written, bid on, and the contract awarded, so the funding has to come well before the beginning of 2014 – really, now.
So on Monday, council member O’Brien ran an amendment to the first quarter supplemental budget to fund the study starting now, instead of in 2015, where it’s currently scheduled.
After a long debate, three other council members stepped up: Conlin, who’s been a good friend to transit for some time; Bagshaw, who supports bicycling infrastructure (and this would be a biggie); and Harrell, who put mayoral politics aside to support this critical study. Thank you to all three of them, and of course to O’Brien for running the amendment.
The other five, though, had other ideas. I can’t speak to Burgess’ or Godden’s motivations. On Facebook last night, Clark indicated she hadn’t gotten a briefing on the crossing – this is understandable if it’s the case, as this was previously just before the Government Performance and Finance Committee, but she’s a member of that committee, so I’m surprised. I’m following up to find out who’s been briefed.
The two who are especially frustrating are Licata and Rasmussen.
Licata, the same day as the amendment, ran an insert in the Seattle Times with one of the worst false premises I’ve ever seen in Seattle politics. On Metro, it says: “We must not reduce its service in order to build major new rail projects.” This is unreal – in no universe is Metro’s funding shortfall related to rail. The worst part about a campaign message like this is that it makes people less able to understand what’s going on with transit funding – and because they’ll waste their time on a fake battle, it makes getting Metro revenue harder. It’s completely irresponsible on Licata’s part.
According to one source, Rasmussen has been briefed more than once on the ship canal crossing and the importance of the timeline. Unfortunately, he decided that it was worth risking rail to Ballard to add a little bit more funding to the Fauntleroy Green Boulevard project – a street reconfiguration that doesn’t even include bike lanes.
This may have been the last chance to have the ship canal crossing study done early enough that it could influence BtG or ST3. I plan to get more details from SDOT about the shortest possible timeline for the work, and whether it could still provide guidance before being entirely complete. I’ll report back on a path forward in the next few weeks.
Update: Sally Clark was briefed by SDOT and the Mayor’s staff on this project on May 2nd.