At his monthly brown-bag meeting with the press this afternoon, Mayor Mike McGinn reaffirmed his commitment to putting a light rail measure on a citywide ballot within two years, despite a recent report by city council staff showing that a $1.5 to $2 billion West Seattle/Ballard rail bond measure would wipe out the city's capacity to take on any additional debt.
"We are going to try to minimize the amount of expensive infrastructure" associated with rail construction, McGinn said, mostly by building rail on the surface on existing city streets. That, obviously, would mean taking out lanes of traffic—a move that caused major political problems for the now-defunct monorail, whose concrete pylons would have taken out traffic lanes in West Seattle, Ballard, and downtown.
McGinn said he isn't worried about the political implications of removing traffic lanes. And he declined to commit to a specific light-rail route, saying, "We're not starting with lines on a map." He noted, however, that 15th Avenue NW—where the monorail was supposed to run—would be "an obvious corridor" to get to Ballard.
McGinn also addressed his proposed $243 million ballot measure to replace the waterfront seawall, which has gotten a cool reception from the city council. Asked whether he would seek money from the federal Army Corps of Engineers to help fund seawall replacement—as council member Nick Licata has suggested—McGinn said he didn't think the feds were likely to help Seattle fund the seawall without substantial city funding up front.
"When I went back to Washington, D.C. in January … I received no encouragement that there was any likelihood of getting Corps money," McGinn said. "I think we're going to have to put up some of our own money first. ... I don't think it's realistic to think that the Corps is going to show up with $250 million to take care of our seawall."