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Access and Transportation Issues Biggest Obstacle for Seattle Arena EIS

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Transportation: Could it impact the arena?

By now, we are all well aware of the constant delays and pushbacks in the Environmental Impact Study (EIS) process as it pertains to Seattle Arena. It turns out the reason for the stalling may be access to the arena. There is an ongoing issue of how to move pedestrians across the rail tracks, as well as potentially growing transportation issues.

According to our own Brian Robinson, who is also President of ArenaSolution.org, "Transit related issues remain the primary obstacle to completion for Chris Hansen's arena EIS. In addition to legitimate concerns, such as how to get fans safely across the active rail tracks, they still face considerable opposition from the Port of Seattle and Maritime Interests. While the Seattle Mariners have changed their tune to become productive participants in the EIS process, the Port of Seattle continues to oppose the project." Brian also has a related article on The Urbanist on this subject.

The biggest, or at least loudest, complaint about having another arena in Sodo has been traffic. The biggest, and most vocal, proponent of which has been the Port of Seattle. During the arena vetting process, the POS maintained that their volume is constantly increasing and the arena would interfere. According to a recent report by KING 5's Chris Daniels, the opposite is true. The report, conducted by Kirkland-based Mercator International, says that the Port's capacity utilization is at 38% and that they need improved on-deck rail, especially near Terminal 46, which is... you guessed it, right in the area of Seattle Arena.

According to an independent study performed in Spring 2012 (available here), Sonics Arena would not impact the Port's traffic, as most operations between terminals 30 and 46 conclude by 4:30pm. Weekday basketball games usually start around 6:30pm or later, a full two hours after operations would have ceased. Still, the Port continues its opposition. Some of their biggest concerns are access to the BNSF SIG Yard, a lack of east to west access routes, and impacts from arena traffic on high-use freight corridors such as East Marginal Way and Alaskan Way.

The capacity for the arena would be somewhere in the 20,000 range, which would still be less than half the capacity of Safeco Field. On rare occasions where the two overlap, it would still result in less traffic than a large event at CenturyLink Field. It has been promised that arena events would not overlap with any events with over 45,000 in attendance at CenturyLink.

One of the major reasons Chris Hansen picked the Sodo location was because of its access to public transportation. The site is accessible by King County Metro, Sound Transit and Community Transit buses, as well as the Link Light Rail and Sounder commuter train. "Anyone who's joined the crowds for a big game knows how much easier it is to take the bus to the stadium," said King County Executive Dow Constantine.

That's why "Sonics savior in waiting Chris Hansen has contributed $20,000 to Move King County Now, making his group, Sonics Arena/Horton Street, one of the top five contributors to the pro-bus measure," according to Publicola. Proposition 1 is a ballot measure that would impose a 0.1% tax increase on vehicle registration in order to avoid a 16% budget cut in the King County Metro system. It would also provide funding for road safety and maintenance and other transportation improvements in King County cities and the unincorporated area. If it fails, 72 bus routes could be cut and another 82 could be reduced or revised, according to movekingcountynow.org. This could be potentially damaging to the EIS of Seattle Arena, since so much of its appeal is based on its access to public transit.

"An important part of a successful fan experience for any sporting event is a strong transportation plan that takes into consideration large crowds and eco-friendly options. From cars to transit to bikes to pedestrians, it is important that our world-class stadiums are accessible. Without effective local transit, including buses and light rail, it would have a significant negative impact on spectators getting to the game, as well as other traffic throughout the region," said Ralph Morton, Executive Director of the Seattle Sports Commission.

Uber Seattle General Manger Brooke Stegar added, "Reliable transportation options are key to the best game day experience - they reduce hassle, congestion and take drunk drivers off the road."

Constantine concluded, "We need to save Metro to keep the 12th Man - and every fan - moving."