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PARK LAND AND SR 520: FIRST STEP TAKEN

ArboretumMapOn Monday, March 11, the Council unanimously approved an ordinance approving a Memorandum of Agreement between the Washington State Department of Transportation, the University of Washington and the City of Seattle that is the first step towards providing full mitigation of the impacts of the SR 520 project on parks and open space. The agreement sets up a process for committing property known as the “Bryant Building Site”, on Boat Street to open space uses.

The Bryant site will be funded by the SR 520 project to compensate for park land that will be taken or used for the project where that land was all or partially funded by the federal government. A specific settlement for that kind of property is required under Section 6(f) of the Land and Water Conservation Fund Act, and this agreement is known as meeting the Section 6(f) requirement.

The University of Washington (“UW”) and the City of Seattle (“City”) each own portions of the Arboretum Waterfront Trail and the Ship Canal Waterside Trail, which were developed with grant funding that makes these Trails, along with portions of the associated parks, subject to the requirements of Section 6(f) of the Federal Land and Water Conservation Fund Act (“LWCF”). This property will be converted from open space and park uses to transportation uses. The law requires that land developed with LWCF grant funds and converted from their approved use be replaced by lands of equal value and utility and which are available for the same recreational uses.

The Bryant site meets that criteria, since it is waterfront property near the impact area which can meet the same objective of water related recreational activities. The site is owned by the UW, and will be developed for park purposes, which includes demolition of the entire Bryant Building structure, part of which extends outside the Bryant Site boundary. WSDOT will pay a settlement amount to the UW, which will cover the costs of converting it to park purposes.

Some parts of the land will only be used for construction, and not become part of the transportation project. These lands will be restored to park use after completion of the project, and the agreement includes compensation for temporary use for these areas. WSDOT will pay $13.6 million for the Bryant site, in addition to relocation assistance, site improvements, and any remedial cleanup expenses. The City will ultimately become the owner of the Bryant site as public park land.

There are a series of other agreements that will come through the Council as the project proceeds, as WSDOT will be transferring property such as the WSDOT peninsula to the City, demolishing the ‘ramps to nowhere’, and funding improvements to the Arboretum such as a new bicycle path connecting SR 520 through the Arboretum to Madison Street. These are all complicated transactions, but the end result will be an even better parks and open space system than currently exists, as we have the opportunity to plan carefully and thoroughly for the entire area and take advantage of this project to create long-lasting improvements.

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