Seattle Mayor's Race 2013

Mayoral Candidate Burgess Rolls Out "Fix It First" Transportation Plan

In an attempt to differentiate himself from current Mayor Mike McGinn, challenger Tim Burgess says he'll fix potholes and sidewalks before focusing on flashier transportation priorities.

By Erica C. Barnett March 12, 2013


Standing on a street corner near his campaign office on Capitol Hill this morning, city council member and mayoral candidate Tim Burgess outlined a plan for city transportation planning that focused on fixing Seattle's potholes and sidewalks and dealing with the city's road-maintenance backlog.

Pointing to a pothole on Boylston, he said, "Right behind me here is an example of the street conditions throughout our city." When McGinn was elected in 2009, he said, there was a road-maintenance backlog of around $600 million; now, he said, the city would need to spend nearly $2 billion to address all its street-maintenance needs. 

"Under my administration, we will change our approach. We'll fix what we have and switch our street maintenance [policy]" from focusing on the most obvious crises (like the deepest potholes) to fixing streets in a systemic way.

Burgess blamed the McGinn administration for failing to fix sidewalks (saying that at the current rate of spending on sidewalk repair, it would take the city 500 years to fix half its sidewalks); failing to synchronize traffic lights regularly ("Bellevue does it. Why can't we?"); and failing to address that quadrinniel campaign favorite, potholes. Burgess said he'd support expanding the Bridging the Gap transportation levy in 2015, and chalked the failure of a proposed $60 vehicle license fee in 2011 to a lack of public confidence in the city's ability to get things done. 

McGinn, unlike many other mayoral candidates, proposed an ambitious transportation program in 2009—not just fixing potholes but building light rail from Ballard to West Seattle and improving bike lanes and street conditions around the city. Burgess is staying away from that kind of pronouncement.

I asked Burgess about a McGinn-backed proposal to build rail or streetcar from downtown to Ballard—a proposal that would require the construction of a new Ship Canal bridge. Burgess said, "We are studying downtown to Fremont to Ballard routes right now," but wouldn't say whether he supported light rail over cheaper technology like buses. 

And unlike his unequivocal promise to sack SPD chief John Diaz, Burgess wouldn't express an opinion about SDOT director Peter Hahn. Literally: "I don't have an opinion about Peter," he said, adding that he has not considered whether he would ask Hahn to stay or go if he's elected. 


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