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Poll: Seattle Residents Want City to Maintain Streets, Not Build New Projects

By Erica C. Barnett April 28, 2011

A poll commissioned by the city to determine what residents' top transportation priorities are concludes that people are most concerned about routine maintenance like fixing broken pavement and potholes, and least interested in building new projects like bike lanes and streetcar extensions. That could be bad news for Mayor Mike McGinn, who has made big new projects like expanded light rail to Ballard and West Seattle a cornerstone of his administration. (In better news for McGinn, replacing the Alaskan Way Viaduct ranked last among the "biggest issues in [residents'] neighborhoods.")

Asked whether building new projects or maintaining existing infrastructure was a bigger priority, just 15 percent of respondents said building new projects was more important. Thirty percent said maintenance was more important, and 54 percent said both were important.

Ranked in order of priority, Seattle residents' top transportation investments were: Paving streets/ repairing potholes (69 percent); repairing or replacing aging bridges (68 percent rated this "important" or "very important"); improving the most heavily used roads (62 percent); and modifying existing roads to work safely for all users (59 percent). Rail to connect neighborhoods to downtown was ranked important or very important by 47 percent of respondents. The lowest priority? Extending the streetcar network, ranked important or very important by just 27 percent.

Respondents didn't seem to base their opinions on a lot of information, though. Asked whether they were aware of Bridging the Gap, the 2006 ballot measure, just 27 percent had heard of it. However, fully 33 percent said they were dissatisfied with Bridging the Gap's progress, and another 35 percent thought Bridging the Gap was accomplishing what it set out to accomplish. Overall, 63 percent said they would support renewing the levy.

A plurality of respondents (39 percent) said they'd support passing a vehicle license fee to pay for transportation projects, and 34 percent said they'd support tolling or another user fee.
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