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Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Port Commissioner Seeks to Divert Millions From From Tunnel to Transit

Posted by on Wed, May 4, 2011 at 3:41 PM

Port of Seattle commissioner Rob Holland wrote a letter to his colleagues this week advocating that the port's $300 million commitment to the proposed deep-bore tunnel be used partly for transit, not solely roadwork as previously defined by the state. During the commission's summer budget deliberations, he says by phone, "I will be working with my colleagues to see if there are moneys we can set aside—I will need two other votes on this—to allocate toward transit options for the entire system."

For example, Holland explains, $155 million could extend a streetcar line from South Lake Union to Ballard, according to a city streetcar expansion study in 2008. By Holland's argument, that sort of rail investment—or funding for buses— could increase mobility on the waterfront by relieving congestion along the port's most vital arterials.

However, siphoning money from roadwork could leave a hole in the state's $4.2 billion overall budget for replacing the Alaskan Way Viaduct (which includes $2.4 billion from the state, $930 million from Seattle, $400 million in tolls, and $300 million from the port). For instance, lacking port money for tearing down the old viaduct, rebuilding Alaskan Way, or other final-stage work, it's unclear where funding would come from.

Pro-tunnel forces have taken aim at Holland's ambition. The group Let's Move Forward sent an "URGENT ALERT!" yesterday, saying that Holland wanted "to reconsider Port's contribution to tunnel project and instead funnel that money to transit." The group asked its members to attend port meetings where the commissioners would discuss the proposal and "show support for our cause."

Yet it's unclear that Holland can find two more votes.

Commissioner Bill Bryant says that the port's $300 million will pay for "the tunnel and reconfiguration of Highway 99, and I have never heard of doing anything else. We have a project and contract and I am moving forward with that."

In his letter to commissioners, Holland wrote. "I'm on record for supporting the tunnel concept. As a compromise, however, I will be advocating for a portion of the remaining $273 million contribution to be used for a transit option that reduces the number of single-occupancy trips from Ballard/North Seattle and West Seattle."

The resolution approved last year by the Port and state commits the money to the state's "program elements"—which don't include transit funding—but the resolution doesn't mention specific roadwork. Rather it commits the money the more vague freight mobility and access. The resolution doesn't commit the port to any funding mechanism, and contains the caveat that the port could back out completely for a variety of reasons.

Part of Holland's grievance, he says, is that the state has never articulated what components of the tunnel project the $300 million would actually fund (only that most of it must be paid between 2016 and 2018). I've asked the Washington State Department of Transportation how that money would be used or what would happen if it was diverted to transit but haven't heard an answer yet.


Comments (11) RSS

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Baconcat 1
Tunnel supporters fighting transit funding? Stunning.
Posted by Baconcat on May 4, 2011 at 3:48 PM · Report this
michaelp 2
This would be an excellent way for the Port to contribute to the overall project. If that number for a streetcar extension is a non-road-sharing streetcar, looks like a good alternative to the cost-prohibitive light rail in that corridor. A reliable alternative to regular buses would be awesome, and not just a great congestion reducing investment, but great investment overall in our community.

We can only hope that Creighton and Tarleton will take this seriously, and work with Holland on it, as opposed to working against him (as it is clear Bryant is aiming to do).
Posted by michaelp on May 4, 2011 at 3:50 PM · Report this
Will in Seattle 3
An even better way would be to kill the insane tunnel in the first place and use the port funding totally for transit during both the construction and phase in.

We can only hope that Council will come to their senses about this Boondoggle soon.
Posted by Will in Seattle on May 4, 2011 at 3:54 PM · Report this
I look forward to someone- *hint hint* writing a comprehensive article on Holland's conduct as a Port Commissioner. I can't help but wonder if the media is afraid to touch him because he was the "diverse" golden boy when elected. He has since proven himself to be fully incompetent. The other Commissioners can't stand him. Apparently Holland is thinking of leaving the Port and running for mayor. Of Seattle.
Posted by DaisyMay on May 4, 2011 at 4:17 PM · Report this
the idiot formerly known as kk 5
@2 A "non-road sharing" streetcar to Ballard? Huh? What will it do, float across the Ship Canal, then meander through back yards? It's a street car.

Maybe with its newly found mission to fund transit the Port should buy pedicabs to shuttle customers from the cruise ship terminals. Then at least the family-wage blue collar workers displaced when all our industry moves out of the area will have other job opportunities.
Posted by the idiot formerly known as kk on May 4, 2011 at 5:02 PM · Report this
cressona 6
michaelp @2: If that number for a streetcar extension is a non-road-sharing streetcar, looks like a good alternative to the cost-prohibitive light rail in that corridor.

Cost-prohibitive to whom? Are you suggesting that Sound Transit take that corridor out of consideration for ST3 planning?
Posted by cressona on May 4, 2011 at 5:24 PM · Report this

Who would ride a $155 million boondoggle streetcar from South Lake Union to Ballard. We have, at present, few people mounting the SLUT.
Posted by Edmund Burke on May 4, 2011 at 6:20 PM · Report this
michaelp 9
@5/6 - I mean take out a lane of traffic, and let the streetcar have exclusive access. If that can be done at a significantly lower cost than light rail, why not? If, however, light rail would only be a couple million more, then save this link for that time.

The most important part, of course, is that it is either grade-separated, or has exclusive rights to use its lane.
Posted by michaelp on May 4, 2011 at 6:34 PM · Report this
raku 10
#8: 2,000 people a day ride the SLUT, which is pretty good for a stubby line that doesn't go anywhere. Portland's streetcar does go somewhere, and it has 12,000 riders a day.

That's pretty good since it's 1/3 the riders that the deep bore tunnel will carry, at about 1/25 the cost.

The Capitol Hill Streetcar is expected to carry 1/2 the riders of the deep bore tunnel once it's built out, also at a fraction of the cost.
Posted by raku on May 4, 2011 at 6:36 PM · Report this
tunanator 11
Moving Beyond the Automobile:…

In particular: Highway Removal -…

"Now several cities are pursuing highway removals more intentionally, as a way to reclaim city space for housing, parks, and economic development.... you'll hear about the benefits of tearing down the Alaskan Way Viaduct in Seattle..."
Posted by tunanator on May 5, 2011 at 1:45 AM · Report this
Holland's question to his colleagues about the resolution committing money to the more vague "freight mobility and access" isn't being answered. If "freight mobility and access" can ONLY be achieved with transit upgrades, transit funding is lawfully considered in the resolution.

It's sad, IMO, that so many Seattle authorities have ZERO misgivings about the engineering and environmental impact RISKS more than any even remotely risky dollar sign problem.
Seattle, you have a good mayor and a PACK of clueless councilpersons and other executives misled by a Rotten OLD DOT crew.

The Waterfront Redesign may have hit a snag.
Have a look at Pre-AWV & Post-Seawall ERA photographs for historical narrative.
Then consider that era road arrangement and 2-track streetcar track alignment.
The Waterfront Planning dept doesn't appear to be doing its job very well. Get their work straightened out, now. For the open house next week, bring personal drawings of Alaskan Way "roadway plus crosswalks" metrics, lane number plus left turn lanes, queue to Coleman Dock, ped/bicycle lanes or separate pathway, etc, along with seawall plaza and waterscape ideas on paper.
Personally, I predict the next open house will NOT present designs that inspire a "consensus" of support because, as I predict, the road/ped/bike/crosswalk safety & amenities elements will be absent.
Look at the pretty water and the pretty pretty pretty pretteeey.. critters.. that live in the watah. Aaah, pretty! Yea for us! We dun had our meetin on that waterfrunt thingy.

Posted by Wells on May 7, 2011 at 11:07 AM · Report this

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