The Port of Seattle finally is getting in Sodo what it has sought for a quarter-century — freight mobility relief in the form of the Lander Street Bridge, which will carry trucks and cars over the railroad tracks that make for a daily traffic nightmare.
But will it be enough to end the port’s opposition to the nearby sports arena proposed by Chris Hansen? Doubtful. Because then the port likely would have to admit it made up stuff about the alleged choke-point of Occidental Avenue if it were lost to the arena site.
Sen. Maria Cantwell was in town Wednesday to announce completion of the funding package for the bridge, which will take two years to complete. She was primarily responsible for securing $45 million from a national transportation grant program that filled a major portion of the funding.
The Seattle Department of Transportation, with feedback from the public, looked at its original design and managed to cut the project cost from $140 million to $123 million. The port, which had already committed $5 million, added another $10 million from King County property taxes that closed the final gap.
SDOT made plans to build the bridge 15 years ago, but transportation funds were shifted away from Lander to help re-make the Mercer Street corridor. That left the port with Edgar Martinez Way, next to Safeco Field, as the only way out of the port entrance capable of avoiding repeated stops for freight trains along the BNSF rail route, as well as passenger trains.
Cantwell said the intersection — the bridge will run from First Avenue South to Fourth Avenue South, like Martinez Way — was among the nation’s most dangerous rail crossings. The crossing was cited by critics of the arena location because some arena patrons would exit the building south to their cars at night in the rain and have to cross the tracks.
Meanwhile, Mayor Ed Murray has turned his attention away from Sodo to negotiating a remodel of KeyArena suitable for NBA and NHL, but first as a a top-shelf music venue. A Los Angeles arena developer, Oak View Group, won a bid for $564 million in private money to revamp the former home of the Sonics and is in negotiations with the city to complete a memorandum of understanding to submit to the city council by Sept. 12.
Hansen’s revised bid, which is also privately funded, is still alive and seeks a new vote this fall from the council on vacating Occidental to green-light his project, which is conditional on first acquiring an NBA or NHL team.
City officials are clearly eager to upgrade a city asset with private funds, and have cold-shouldered Hansen’s effort. But the Key is in a rapidly growing urban village, where congestion is already significant. Hansen’s project is in a commercial-industrial zone with virtually no residences.
The street vacation would require Hansen to pay market value for the property, estimated to be between $18 million to $20 million. The Hansen camp saw a direct link of the sale proceeds to help close the Lander funding gap. But the port’s access to property tax money foreclosed on Hansen’s shot at a hero role for the Lander project.