Friday, August 27, 2010

Seattle Displacement Coalition: "“South Park Bridge was sacrificed for Paul Allen’s Mercer Plan"

Seattle Displacement Coalition (email):
"Sen. Murray shares responsibility along with our past and current Mayor and most of our City Council”---They still need $100 million for Mercer West Phase II – what other critical needs in our city will be sacrificed to cover that cost?
Patty Murray, Mayor McGinn, and other local elected officials will be on hand tomorrow 10:30AM at the site for the official groundbreaking of the Mercer Corridor Project in South Lake Union. They will be there to pat themselves on the back for finding the funds needed to complete the $199 million first phase of that project now estimated in total to cost over $300 million for both phases.
What these elected officials won’t be telling you and hoping you will conveniently forget is that in order secure federal stimulus funds needed to complete phase I of Mercer, these same elected leaders had to turn their back on the residents of South Park and allow closure of the South Park Bridge. The roughly 40 million dollars in federal stimulus funding dedicated in 2009 for Mercer (including 10 million funneled through the regional council), came at the direct expense of the necessary federal funding needed to repair and keep the South Park Bridge open.
In the fall of 2009, when the City submitted its application for stimulus funding, the County also submitted an application for the South Park Bridge. Patty Murray, the King County Council, the Mayor (Nickels and then McGinn) and Seattle City Council all knew that only one stimulus grant application from this region was likely to get funded. While Patty Murray was moving mountains for the Mercer Project, and members of the City Council were all cheerleading for Mercer especially Jan Drago (now ironically representing residents of S. Park), and two Mayor’s and even some county councilmembers there was dead silence from all these officials (other than a pro forma letter from some of them) on behalf of the S. Park application.)
After the 2009 State Legislature killed use of federal stimulus funds for Mercer, Mayor Nickels, Jan Drago, other city officials came right back in Sept of 2009 and reapplied for $60 million of these dollars for Mercer in a second round funding – 10 million of which was applied for thru the Puget Sound Regional Council. With only about $1.5 billion available nationally in that second round – enough to cover only a tiny fraction of the hundreds of applications it received nation-wide - it was a forgone conclusion that at most one local project would be approved for use of these precious funds.
Patty Murray, Mayor Nickels, Jan Drago and the rest of the Seattle City Council knew then that when they pushed for use of these limited federal dollars for Mercer it would result directly in denial of funding needed to repair and keep the South Park Bridge open. (McGinn during the election was also a big fan of Mercer and once elected backed the application for stimulus dollars for Mercer).
Neither Patty Murray or any of these electeds have ever acknowledged their responsibility in this regard. Without Murray’s towing the line for the Mercer project, without a doubt it would not have been considered. Had she and the bulk of the area’s local and county electeds backed instead stimulus funding in the Fall of 2009 for the South Park Bridge, it would not be closed today. The residents would still have their bridge and a route into their own city. There would have been no need for costly demolition and replacement at nearly 100 million dollars above repair cost estimates.
We obviously are glad to see that these same officials now are seeking funding for a new South Park bridge. But we cannot help but cringe seeing all them back out at Mercer while at the same time now, after the fact, working so hard to curry favor with S. Park and make headlines demonstrating their support for that project – all after the fact And it is interesting how fast they have found most of the needed funds, now that Mercer is out of the way. But it begs the larger question – how many millions in limited transportation dollars are being wasted first on Mercer and then secondly on building a new South Park Bridge (when repairs could have saved the old one).
Murray and these other electeds should acknowledge this and be held accountable by voters. At least three studies by the City have all said the Mercer Corridor project when completed will do nothing to relieve traffic congestion through South Lake Union and in some parts of the neighborhood actually make traffic worse. Project costs in 2004 were estimated at 75 million for both phases. They’ve climbed to over 300 million. The 199 million pricetag for phase I required a redirection not only of stimulus dollars needed for the South Park Bridge, it drained another 70 million in limited city “Bridging the Gap” funding that was supposed to go out to our neighborhoods to address a half billion dollar backlog of ailing city-wide transportation needs. All these resources are being sacrificed for what is essentially a beautification project and an effort designed to move traffic off Valley street which fronts Paul Allen’s properties facing the lake (properties acquired through a slick deal with the City back in 2000 arranged by a former city official who now works for Paul Allen)
City officials are also pushing ahead with the second phase of mercer now estimated at about 100 million dollars. No funding has yet been found for that phase but some of the costs they are seeking to conceal/bury in the 3 billion downtown tunnel budget……. More of our city’s limited transportation dollars will be wasted in this phase and this is before likely costly overruns drive the budget still higher. All for a project that when finished will do nothing to relieve congestion in that area.
For more information contact 206-632-0668.
Howie P.S.: I am posting the email in its entirety because this statement is not online. BTW, I will vote for Patty Murray this November, for obvious reasons. My friend and South Park resident Bill Pease comments on this issue:
The Mayor's office did do some pretty underhanded stuff to beat us out for the TIGER I grant. What's not correct is that the bridge could have been repaired for much less money. All our efforts for the past 7 years have been on finding funding for the replacement.

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