County Council Pushes Back on Arena Agreement

By Erica C. Barnett October 2, 2012

King County Council member Julia Patterson said today that she plans to introduce an amendment to the proposed arena agreement that would stipulate that requests for state and federal funding for transportation projects to improve freight mobility around the arena not take money away from other transportation projects that have been waiting for funding for years, even decades.

The city's latest proposed agreement includes a $40 million fund for transportation projects around the arena. (It also removes a requirement that those transportation projects improve pedestrian connections to the arena, specifying instead that they should focus on making it easier for freight to get around). The assumption, city council members said when they announced the latest version of the agreement last month, was that the state and federal governments, as well as the Port of Seattle, would kick in their own dollars to supplement the city's $40 million.

The Port, as we reported shortly after the arena announcement, has made it clear that they have "no uncommitted dollars for transportation." Now, it seems, the county may pile on, making sure that county council members' pet projects (Patterson specifically mentioned improvements to SR-509 in her district, which have gone unfunded for decades) don't end up on the chopping block.

"There is a long, multi-million-dollar,, maybe multi-billion-dollar, list of projects that are awaiting federal and state funding," Patterson said. "Some of them have been waiting for decades. I want my amendment to make it very clear that we are not going to be asking that the projects around this potential arena are going to jump the line over the other desperately needed projects in the area. ... I want to vote for this arena. [But] I also want to make sure that whatever we vote on doesn't immediately put those transportation projects associated with the new arena at the top of the list."

Patterson's Republican colleagues Kathy Lambert and Pete von Reichbauer also suggested they might offer an amendment requiring that the city and county consider at least one site outside Seattle, such as Bellevue, when conducting their environmental review of the project under the State Environmental Policy Act. (Currently, the agreement would only require the review to include Hansen's land in SoDo and KeyArena).

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