Publicola reports that an amendment to the House Transportation Bill, sponsored by Rep. Jamie Pedersen and supported by Seattle’s delegation of legislative leaders, would require full funding for the Seattle portion of the S.R. 520 Replacement and HOV Program before construction can begin.
In a reverse of the infamous “stick it to Seattle” clause in the state legislation authorizing the waterfront tunnel, the state house passed its $8.4 billion transportation budget this morning with an amendment sponsored by Rep. Jamie Pederson [sic] (D-43, Capitol Hill) that prevents construction of the western portion of the 520 bridge unless the budget includes money to fully fund the west side of the new bridge in Seattle.
Pedersen’s Seattle amendment says, in part, that:
the Washington state department of transportation shall not engage in or contract for any construction on any portion of state route number 520 between Interstate 5 and the western landing of the floating bridge until the legislature has authorized the imposition of tolls on the Interstate 90 floating bridge and/or otherfunding sufficient to complete construction of the state route number 520 bridge replacement and HOV program..
This is good news for Seattle, but it also provides a political nudge to the senate to sign off on tolling I-90, a controversial, but likely key, source of funding for the project.
“Good news for Seattle” is major news for Montlake and Madison Park. “The purpose of the amendment is to delay any construction west of Madison Park (including WABN) until the earlier of July 1, 2015 or approval by the legislature of a plan for full funding of the entire west section of the 520 project,” said Rep. Pedersen this afternoon. Should the amendment survive this legislative session, the currently planned West Approach Bridge North phase of construction would not begin as planned in June 2014.
The amendment calls for the “least amount of construction” to connect the new floating bridge now under construction to the existing West Approach:
.. the “western landing of the floating bridge” means the least amount of new construction necessary to connect the new floating bridge to the existing state route number 520 and anchor the west end of the new floating bridge.
Going forward, WSDOT could scale back the 6-lane WABN plan to merge into 4-lanes at the “western landing” rather than at the Montlake mainland. The disruptive construction through Union Bay, Foster Island and the Arboretum would be put off until the full corridor was designed, funded and shovel ready.
The amendment also gives WSDOT chance to pause and recover from the costly design errors that have plagued the floating bridge section. With an expert review of the project due later this year and a new Transportation Secretary getting established, halting the aggressive construction schedule makes good fiscal sense — especially as Mercer Island, Eastside and freight interests gather support against tolling Interstate 90.