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                  Point of View

March 2011 - Issue No. 35
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In this issue:
ALASKAN WAY VIADUCT REPLACEMENT PROJECT

Why I support the Deep Bore Tunnel

Viaduct Southbound ramp

This week the Council took an important step in the long history to replace the Alaskan Way Viaduct by overriding the Mayor's veto of agreements between the state and several city departments.  February 28th was the tenth anniversary of the Nisqually earthquake. At the same time we have all seen the news highlighting the devastating impact of the earthquake in New Zealand. The question is not "if" Seattle will have a major earthquake, but "when".    

The most significant reason why I support moving forward with the Project now is the viaduct is deteriorating and will not withstand a major earthquake. This is a matter of public safety and the time to debate the solutions has long passed. 

Making decisions when the community is divided is the kind of leadership citizens should expect from their elected officials. Too often Seattle is paralyzed by endless debates on critical issues resulting in no progress.

Now, some elected officials who have lost the debate are trying the slow down the process with a call for a public vote.  Can you imagine the gridlock that would result if the Viaduct, which carries 110,000 vehicles a day, was closed due to its deteriorating condition and because we could not reach agreement with the State? 

We have spent years debating the right solution for replacing the viaduct and I am proud of the course we are on to replace the Viaduct with a tunnel.

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How was Tunnel Adopted as the Solution?

On Monday, February 28th, the City Council voted 8-1 to override the Mayor’s veto of legislation authorizing agreements between the Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) and Seattle City Light, Seattle Public Utilities and Seattle Department of Transportation. The agreements set out how the City and the state will work together on the replacement of the Alaskan Way Viaduct.

During the past year the City Council has held 25 public meetings on the Project. The meetings spanned more than 50 hours of review of reports from the state and City departments on everything from construction financing to tunnel engineering.

The Council hired independent, objective experts who informed us in these meetings that while the Project has unique risks, WSDOT and the state are using best practices and have established a project management team and system focused on completing the project on time and within budget.

The agreements provide important protections for Seattle taxpayers. For example, the state will defend the City from any third party claims relating to the Project; mitigate any damage to our utilities and will build roads and other structures to City standards. Under the agreements, the state will pay for all costs of the state’s portion of the project which includes the tunnel itself. 

I spend a great deal of time in community meetings.  When questions about the project are raised I describe our need to protect Seattle’s interests but take action to avoid delay.  I cite the South Park Bridge as an example of what can happen if the City continues to debate and argue about how to replace the Viaduct.

The South Park Bridge is owned by King County and is important to Seattle. It has seriously deteriorated over the last ten years while solutions for funding its replacement were debated between Seattle, the County, the State and Tukwila. Finally, last June, the bridge was determined to be so structurally unsound, it was closed. The closure has harmed South Park’s businesses, cut off convenient access to Boeing and added significant costs to businesses in the region’s industrial core. 

I am committed to protecting the residents of Seattle and keeping the project moving by carefully monitoring the work to assure the state is meeting all the commitments made to Seattle. 

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PARKING RATES

Rational Parking Rates

When Mayor McGinn presented his 2011-2012 budget last fall, he proposed raising the maximum metered parking rate from $2.50 to $5.00 per hour. This increase, he said, was justified because parking rates downtown and a few other neighborhoods were much cheaper than the rates for private parking lots. 

Unfortunately, the Mayor provided little data to back up his recommendations and the Council opposed raising rates without understanding the impact this would have on residents and businesses in every neighborhood in the city.  We adopted a policy that the City would set rates to encourage turnover of on-street parking in order to ensure a better opportunity to find a place to park on the street and we instructed the Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT)  to develop data on parking turn-over and occupancy of parking spaces. Turnover helps businesses because customers can park nearby for a short time or a few hours while shopping or dining.

The Council does not set the hourly rates but does establish the maximum that is allowed.  Instead of allowing an increase to $5 per hour, we set the limit at $4 an hour. We limited the increase in rates to areas where demand for on-street parking was outstripping supply and we also asked SDOT to survey every neighborhood with paid parking to gauge demand and set rates likely to leave one or two spots open on each block.

SDOT completed their survey in January and has now recommended rates that are very different than those originally proposed. Now with the new rate-setting policy established by the Council on-street parking rates will go down in 11 neighborhoods, up in four and will remain the same as today in seven neighborhoods (See chart below). SDOT has also announced that in the next few months, they will start charging for on-street parking between 6:00 p.m. - 8:00 p.m. in seven neighborhoods, such as Belltown and Capitol Hill, where an active nightlife causes demand to outstrip supply into the early evening hours.

In surveying parking practices on Capitol Hill, SDOT learned that drivers were parking at 4:00 p.m. paying for two-hours and occupying the space until morning. Very little on-street parking for people who wanted to shop or dine in the evening was available. With the paid parking in effect until 8:00 p.m., there should be more turnover in the early evening which will help restaurant and business customers find on-street parking.   

Finally, the Council has directed SDOT to move toward implementing variable rates by time of day (e.g. morning, afternoon, evening, night) so that pricing better reflects the real demand at different times of day in each neighborhood. We should start to see this move toward differently timed rates in some neighborhoods by next year. 

These are big changes and they are not without risk. We’re especially concerned with the way Viaduct replacement construction will impact Pioneer Square. SDOT will do their next parking demand survey this summer and report on the results to the Council. I will watch to see how the new policy is working and, in particular, the impacts on Pioneer Square and restaurants and retailers in all neighborhoods. 

Here is a chart of the new rates:

Neighborhood

2010 Hourly Rate

2011 Hourly Rate

Change

Commercial Core

$2.50

$4.00

up

First Hill

$2.00

$4.00

up

Pioneer Square

$2.50

$3.50

up

Capitol Hill

$2.00

$3.00

up

Denny Triangle South

$2.50

$2.50

same

Chinatown/ International District

$2.50

$2.50

same

Pike/Pine

$2.00

$2.00

same

12th Ave

$1.50

$1.50

same

Cherry Hill

$1.50

$1.50

same

Fremont

$1.50

$1.50

same

South Lake Union (long-term)

$1.25

$1.25

same

Belltown North

$2.50

$2.00

down

Belltown South

$2.50

$2.00

down

Denny Triangle North

$2.50

$2.00

down

Ballard

$2.00

$1.50

down

South Lake Union (short-term)

$2.00

$1.50

down

U-District

$2.00

$1.50

down

Uptown

$2.00

$1.50

down

Green Lake

$1.50

$1.00

down

Roosevelt

$1.50

$1.00

down

Westlake

$1.50

$1.00

down

Uptown Triangle

$2.00

$1.00

down

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Parking Advisory Council

I have heard from many business owners who are concerned about the effect of parking rates on their businesses. They felt left out of the process the Mayor used in making his recommendations. To solve this I am also looking at how other cities engage business owners and residents. I am considering creating a parking advisory group that would make recommendations to the City on rate-setting and other parking policies before they are adopted to ensure that we produce a greater benefit for neighborhood residents and merchants. 

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IN THE COMMUNITY – NEIGHBORHOOD CHATS

I have scheduled several upcoming Saturdays in the community. I'm looking forward to speaking with residents about their concerns and help answer their questions. I'd like to hear your thoughts regarding transportation issues, as well as any other topics.

Tom Rasmussen with constituent

March 5, 2 p.m. – 3:30 p.m.
University Branch Library, 5009 Roosevelt Way NE, Seattle, WA 98105

March 19, 11:30 a.m. – 1 p.m.
New Holly Branch Library, 7058- 32nd Ave. S, Seattle, WA 98118

April 16, 1 p.m. – 2:30 p.m.
Montlake Branch Library, 2401 24th Ave. E, Seattle, WA 98112

April 30, 11 a.m. – 12:30 p.m.
Capitol Hill Branch, 425 Harvard Ave. E, Seattle, WA 98102

I hope to see you at one of these events. If you would like me to attend an event or visit your neighborhood, just contact my office at (206) 684-8808 or email me at tom.rasmussen@seattle.gov

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