Today's loser: Mayor Mike McGinn.
The chairmen of the city council's budget and transportation committees, City Council members Tim Burgess and Tim Rasmussen, said today that they would not fund Mayor Mike McGinn's request for $500,000 in 2013 (to come out of savings on the Spokane Street Viaduct and debt service) to study a new bridge across the Ship Canal for light rail linking downtown and Ballard. The ship canal bridge has long been a feature of McGinn's reelection stump speech.
The council's proposed transportation package doesn't include funding for the Ship Canal Crossing because, according to today's announcement, Sound Transit and the Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT) are already studying high-capacity transit for the downtown to Ballard corridor.
“We must fix what we have, finish what we’ve started and plan wisely for the future for all transportation modes," budget chair Tim Burgess (echoing one of the major themes of his abandoned campaign for mayor) said in a statement. "Our proposal will help balance these needs, which are crucial to keeping people safe and our economy moving in the right direction,”
The council members also said that they preferred to focus on buses on Eastlake in the short term.
“The City’s primary focus should be on making safety and maintenance repairs now and on improving transit service in critical bus corridors such as Eastlake Avenue,” council transportation chair Tom Rasmussen said in a statement.
McGinn has been adamant that rail is the best option for Eastlake; critics (this paper included) argued that given the city's extremely limited transit resources (streetcars are much more expensive than buses and take years to build), improving bus service on Eastlake would be a better short-term investment.
"While I am disappointed that Council chose not to leverage our partnership with Sound Transit now to expedite the planning work for a new multi-modal Ship Canal crossing, I will continue to work with councilmembers to include funding for this important project in our 2014-15 budget."
The council may place a proviso (essentially, a temporary hold) on the $300,000 McGinn has requested for Eastlake until SDOT comes up with a work plan for the corridor.
The council's proposal would also include funding for new school zone speed cameras, with the stipulation that all revenue from speed cameras be used exclusively for pedestrian and road safety improvements around schools, instead of going to other purposes.
In a statement, McGinn said, "I thank the City Council for re-affirming their support for Eastlake as a priority transit corridor in Seattle and agreeing to accelerate the high-capacity transit study for Eastlake so that we can start working this year. ... I appreciate the opportunity to work with Council and the community to expand the scope of the transportation planning to include more near-term improvements for Eastlake buses, evaluate parking demand in Eastlake and other neighborhood transportation improvements.
"While I am disappointed that Council chose not to leverage our partnership with Sound Transit now to expedite the planning work for a new multi-modal Ship Canal crossing, I will continue to work with councilmembers to include funding for this important project in our 2014-15 budget so that we do not miss out on possible capital funding sources like Sound Transit III.”
We have calls out to Burgess and Rasmussen.
The budget committee will take up the proposal this Wednesday.
A somewhat unrelated issue is that the city's transit master plan and bike master plan conflict over (or, at the very least, raise questions about) what should be built on Eastlake. The bike plan calls for dedicated cycletracks; the transit plan calls for streetcar. Building both would take up a lot of space currently occupied by traffic lanes (which also serve buses) and parking.