South Park Bridge Agreement Approved

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On Monday, February 28, the City Council approved an Interlocal Agreement with King County that sets the timeline for the City to fulfill its $15 million commitment of funds for the replacement of the South Park Bridge.  The Council was the first entity to pledge funds for this project, and we applaud the progress that has been made towards completing the new Bridge by 2013.

The City and County have been working for the replacement of the South Park Bridge for many years – the deteriorating condition of the old bridge was well known.  In a safety survey of Seattle-area bridges that was done almost a decade ago, the South Park Bridge received a rating of 4 out of 100, the lowest on the list (the Alaskan Way Viaduct was second lowest with an 8).  Funding was included in the 2007 Roads and Transit Package, but the voters turned that down.  Because of the County’s financial difficulties and the complicated legal status of the Bridge (owned by King County and Tukwila, lands in Seattle on the east side), the project was stalled until a safety closure was mandated last spring.

The cost to replace the bridge is $150 million and it was necessary for King County to enter into a partnership, with many entities bringing funds to the table, to make it happen. The Seattle City Council was the first partner to pledge money.  On June 9, 2010, all nine Councilmembers signed a letter pledging to support a $15 million appropriation.  With this first commitment in hand, on June 22 the County Council agreed to a $20 Vehicle License Fee that would be used to provide the next $31 million, and the City and County together persuaded the Puget Sound Regional Council to allocate another $15 million.  Major funding from the State and the federal governments, along with commitments from the Port and Boeing, completed the package by October 15 of last year.

Under the agreement, the City will provide $10 million by May 1, 2013, and the additional $5 million upon completion of the project.  If the project comes in under budget, the City’s final payment will be reduced through a formula that allocates the savings to the City and Port in proportion to the size of their contributions.  The Port has committed $5 million, so the City will receive 75% of the savings, after the first $5 million in savings is returned to the State’s Freight Mobility Board.  Many construction contracts have come in significantly under budget in recent years.

The County is scheduled to open the bids for the Bridge replacement project on March 8 and sign a contract in April.  Groundbreaking has been set for May 5, 2011 (Cinco de Mayo!).

I held a community meeting with King County Councilmember Joe McDermott on Wednesday, February 23, to review the agreement with South Park residents and businesses.  Residents and businesses have been hard hit by the bridge’s closure but South Park is a wonderfully resilient neighborhood and people are excited about the replacement project getting underway.  They are already planning celebrations and thinking about measures such as an observation platform and webcam so people can watch construction as it proceeds, to emphasize and complement their “Watch South Park Grow” slogan.

The City and County have long had an informal agreement that the City will take on ownership of the Bridge when it is replaced, and I will push for the parties to make that transfer in a timely fashion.  In the Interlocal Agreement, the County and City agreed on design provisions that fit the City’s maintenance and operations protocols, so I am hopeful that we can complete the legal arrangements and bring this chapter of South Park’s history to a successful conclusion.