South Park Bridge Replacement Fund At 75 Percent

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by Jack Mayne

Seattle City Council President Richard Conlin says financing for a new South Park Bridge is 75 percent complete thanks to money promised from the Seattle City Council and other public resources.

“In mid-June all nine members of the (Seattle) City Council have signed a letter to King County Executive Dow Constantine pledging $15 million towards replacing the South Park Bridge,” Conlin wrote in his newsletter. “This was the first concrete pledge towards meeting . . . Constantine’s goal of funding the replacement. The King County Council quickly added $30 million in county funds, and the State, Port, and Puget Sound Regional Council have added another $52 million in pledges.

“Together, these pledges make up almost 75 percent of the $130.8 million estimated cost of the project,” he said. “Given the favorable contracting environment, it is quite possible that the county will be able to go out to bid if the federal government can be persuaded to add $20 to $30 million.”

The bridge was closed on June 30 because the 80-year old bridge was damaged beyond repair during the 2001 Nisqually earthquake. Because the bridge spans a navigable waterway, it must be left open until it is removed so that shipping from upstream on the Duwamish River can move to and from Elliott Bay. Drivers from Burien and White Center and beyond must either use First Avenue South or another route into Seattle.

Attempts to get money from federal financial stimulus programs have so far failed.

Conlin says he is proud the Seattle City Council was the first to make a “concrete commitment” for money to replace the bridge. In addition, the councilmember says Seattle has “sponsored action” by the Puget Sound Regional Council for an additional $9 million “from out share of a possible future federal jobs bill, and the City has spent nearly $1 million in support of King County’s environmental review and design of the replacement bridge.”

He said the Council is “also promising to not submit or support any competing applications” future federal stimulus grants.

The Seattle City Council President says the City does not have an identifiable source for the $15 million it has pledged, and he suggests it could come from a voter approved bond issue known as Bridging The Gap, a fund used for special project including filling Seattle’s plethora of potholes, a fund already used by a mayor and Council grasping for money to fill a huge budget gap.

“There will always be competing priorities, but we are making this commitment because the South Park community needs our help and support,” Conlin says. “The South Park Bridge also plays a critical role in freight mobility and economic vitality for the city and region. The Council believes that Seattle must not only ensure the economic health of Seattle and our neighborhoods, but play a positive role in ensuring regional prosperity.”

The bridge is on a County island and is County property. The City has indicated an interest in annexing the unincorporated area, but only after the County replaces the bridge.

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