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Council News Release


FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:   
5/9/2008  3:42:00 PM
FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT:
Councilmember Nick Licata (206) 679-5142 (cell)

Licata Proposes Holding Mercer Street Project
The $193 million project is too expensive and inadequately reviewed

SEATTLE — Councilmember Nick Licata announced today that he will propose holding the Mercer Street Project at Monday’s Full Council meeting. Councilmember Licata said, “The Council has not had adequate time to review this project. New information has just been released. In addition, the cost of the project has spiraled out of control to $193 million.”

Licata announced his effort after receiving a key one-hundred page report on the project from the Seattle Department of Transportation. “The Mercer Corridor Improvements Project Environmental Assessment, Transportation Discipline Report” was prepared in 2006 by CH2MHILL, a respected transportation consultant, for the Seattle Department of Transportation, but was only released to Councilmembers yesterday. Councilmember Licata said, “The Executive has had this information for over a year and they only released it after I requested it. How can the Council vote on one of the largest public works projects this city has ever seen without reading the most important supporting document analyzing it?”

The Mercer Corridor Project, that will build a two-way boulevard on Mercer Street and narrow Valley Street to one-lane in each direction in the South Lake Union neighborhood, is in the midst of an Environmental Assessment required by the Federal Government. The CH2MHILL document is a key part of that Environmental Assessment and that process has not yet been completed. Councilmember Licata said, “Since the Mercer Project did not undergo a public review, it is imperative that the Council, in representing the public’s interest, at least read this information before proceeding. The Council was given this new document two work days before the scheduled vote.”

In addition, Councilmember Licata expressed concern about the escalating cost of the project. In 2005, the Mercer Corridor Project was estimated at $100 million; in 2007, the cost grew to $115 million; in 2008 it has jumped to $193 million. Councilmember Licata said, “The costs on this project are clearly out of control. To make it even worse, after the City spends nearly $200 million, traffic flow won’t be any better through South Lake Union. Meanwhile numerous other transportation needs in the City continue to lack the funding necessary for completion.”

Councilmember Licata points out the financial risks of the project. The current secured level of funding for the project is only $8.4 million. Councilmember Licata said, “That is less than 4 percent of the project’s total cost. Proceeding with this project is not only premature; it is also exposes the City to unacceptable financial risk and does not follow the Auditor’s guidelines.”

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