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Mercer Money Mess

Jamala Henderson
05/12/2008

The Seattle City Council today (Monday) will vote on whether to approve 26 million dollars to start work on two major transportation projects. South Spokane Street and the Mercer corridor. But Councilmember Nick Licata wants to put the breaks on funding the mercer mess. He says the costs are growing out of control. KUOW's Jamala Henderson has more.

TRANSCRIPT

THE MERCER CORRIDOR AND SPOKANE STREET PROJECTS WOULD HAVE MOSTLY BEEN FUNDED BY A MULTI– BILLION DOLLAR ROADS AND TRANSIT PACKAGE. BUT THE FAILURE OF PROPOSITION 1 LAST FALL LEFT THE CITY SCRAMBLING TO FIND OTHER ALTERNATIVES.

THE CITY COUNCIL TRANSPORTATION COMMITTEE CAME UP WITH A PROPOSAL TO PARTIALLY FUND THE PROJECTS LAST WEEK. NICK LICATA WAS THE SOLE COUNCIL MEMBER TO VOTE AGAINST IT.

ON FRIDAY LICATA SAYS HE OBTAINED NEW INFORMATION THE COUNCIL SHOULD REVIEW THOUROUGLY, BEFORE THROWING ANY MORE MONEY AT THE MERCER MESS.

LICATA: "It's about a hundred page report with lots of graphs, lots of data. Um, what S–DOT did was extract a couple pages that supported their position. But we don't know what the bulk of the report says. I suspect that if it was overly positive on the Mercer Project that they would have released it earlier and they would have been touting it as proof that the mercer project is a worthy project to proceed on."

LICATA SAYS THE COST OF THE MERCER IMPROVEMENTS HAVE GOTTEN OUT OF CONTROL, WITH THE TOTAL BALLONING TO 193 MILLION DOLLARS. HE SAYS IT'S A WASTE OF MONEY THAT WON'T FIX CONGESTION IN THE CORRIDOR.

LICATA: "The mercer street project is not a transportation solution. It's an investment in development in South Lake Union. In that sense there is some benefit to that neighborhood. But there are greater benefits throughout the whole city that need to be achieved from our limited revenue sources."

COUNCILMEMBER JAN DRAGO IS HEAD OF THE TRANSPORTATION COMMITTEE. SHE DISAGREES.

DRAGO: "Well I'm very confident that it'll make it safer. And in some cases, it'll certainly improve accessibility and mobility. But in some cases it will decrease congestion by promoting more of a flow of traffic onto I–5. But we're not claiming that its going to make huge reductions in driving time."

DRAGO SAYS THERE WOULD STILL BE FUNDING GAPS FOR BOTH PROJECTS. AND THE MERCER PROJECT HAS THE BIGGER HOLE. BUT DRAGO SAYS MERCER ONLY HAS WHAT SHE CALLS, A YELLOW LIGHT. MEANING NO CONSTRUCTION WOULD START UNTIL THEY'RE CONFIDENT ABOUT RECEIVING FUNDS.

BOTH LICATA AND DRAGO AGREE THE SOUTH SPOKANE STREET IMPROVEMENTS SHOULD GET UNDER WAY. THE GOAL IS TO HAVE THAT COMPLETED BEFORE THE ALASKAN WAY VIADUCT COMES DOWN IN 2012.

JAMALA HENDERSON, KUOW NEWS.

© Copyright 2008, KUOW

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