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Outgoing Port of Seattle Commissioner Bill Bryant: "We can make SoDo work in a multiple-use way."

The arena could work in SoDo if freight mobility issues were addressed, according to Port of Seattle Commissioner Bill Bryant.

Bill Bryant, Port of Seattle
Bill Bryant, Port of Seattle
Traci Record, West Seattle Blog

"We can make SoDo work in a multiple-use way," said outgoing Port of Seattle Commissioner, and 2016 Republican gubernatorial candidate, Bill Bryant to the Rotary Club in West Seattle.

On December 22nd, Bryant, as his last official act as a Port of Seattle Commissioner, spoke to the West Seattle Rotary. Bryant reciting his major accomplishments while during his eight years n office, then took questions from the audience.

A later question asked about the truck backups that happen in the area on occasion. Bryant mentioned the Lander Street Overpass that was to be built, but wasn't, and some broken promises along the way, noting that "promises" made relating to Safeco Field hadn’t been kept, spawning skepticism over the next possible arena’s effect on transportation. SODO "can work" in a multi-use way, he said, but "we’ve got to have some major transportation investments," including road repairs.

West Seattle Blog

Twenty-six minutes into the video, Bryant's comments about SoDo begin. The commissioner described the situation in SoDo, giving a very brief history of who failed to do what when Safeco Field was built. He also gave an off-the-cuff rough estimate of $200 to $400 million in infrastructure improvements that he thinks are needed in that area. He did not directly attribute his estimate to the new arena, but more toward a larger historical obligation the city has to freight mobility with the introduction of stadiums, Safeco in particular, in the area. Bryant also mentioned in the video that the Port and the city were in negotiations to develop a heavy haul corridor from the Port to Interstate 90. Currently, there are weight restrictions that prevent many trucks from traveling directly from the port to the freeway.

After listening to the video a few things are obvious. The opposition the Port has to the arena in SoDo comes down to a question of how much money they can squeeze out of the City of Seattle for a new heavy haul corridor. Bryant freely admits that the arena could work there. His heartburn, and that of the Port, is the Lander Street overpass. Perhaps Safeco Field should have been built in Bellevue. Maybe next time.

Bryant mentioned that the city took the funds intended for the Lander Street project for the Mercer Street project. What he conveniently omitted in his speech to the Rotary Club was that the original cost of the project was $24 million, but eventually ballooned to $185 million.

The subject of freight mobility through the SoDo neighborhood was the subject of a summit last year.

The view south from Safeco is more challenging. South of Safeco, you can often see seagulls circling in the air above the giant garbage recycling yard located in central SODO. What you don’t see is the long-planned Lander Street Overpass. This City of Seattle Department of Transportation project remains unbuilt after spending nearly 20 years on the drawing board.

Estimated costs for the Lander Street overpass started out around $24 million. By 2003, cost estimates climbed to $38 million.

By 2007, cost estimates nearly doubled to $71 million, in part to meet requirements of the city’s "Complete Streets" policy to incorporate improvements for pedestrians and cyclists.

By 2008, that estimate more than doubled to $185 million, apparently because of unexpected costs for utility relocations and soil stabilization.

At that price tag, the project will probably never be built. It’s too lavish by regional standards for freight investments and way too expensive to be built as a city project.

In 2012, former Mayor Mike McGinn told an industrial group he couldn’t support spending $185 million for the Lander Street project. Even if he had the money, McGinn said, it would be better used to address other unmet transportation needs in the city benefiting more people. And, from that perspective, Mayor McGinn was probably right.

Unfortunately, the failure to build Lander Street adds to growing conflicts in SODO between heavy gauge and light rail train traffic and vehicles. That’s a regional issue for freight mobility.

Ironically in terms of Complete Streets, it is also a local issue for safety. People can, and do, get killed in SODO’s multi-modal traffic mix and Lander Street can be hazardous for pedestrians and cyclists who are required to cross mainline heavy gauge and light rail tracks for passengers and freight.

A bi-partisan welcome will be provided by Clare Petrich, president of the Tacoma Port Commission, and Bill Bryant of the Seattle Port Commission. Seattle Port Commissioner Stephanie Bowman will also speak.

Summit at Safeco, November 22, 2014

You would think Bill Bryant would remember these things from the Summit at Safeco that specifically described the situation noted above because he was there.

The Lander Street overpass project received $7 million in funds from the State of Washington to perform initial engineering for the project. The citizens of Seattle (hey, that's me) voted for  $930 million for transportation improvements, that included $20 million in seed money for the Lander Street project. Chris Hansen (remember him?) has committed $40 million toward increasing mobility in SoDo (how much of that, if any, would be used is not known). A combination of state, local, and private funds to increase mobility in the area could be leveraged to get more money from the federal government. That's how large projects that benefit more than one jurisdiction get done around here. This city street project benefits the Port, that benefits the county and state. The federal government, too, has an interest in the efficient movement of goods through our ports.

The City of Seattle passed legislation last October establishing a heavy haul network of city streets that will benefit the port.