Mar 10, 2010

The Sliver by the River

As a part of Community Development at Sustainable Seattle, a large part of my job consists of attending Neighborhood Association meetings, District Council Meetings, Community Council Meetings, etc. Last night I had
the pleasure of attending the South Park Neighborhood Association meeting at the South Park Neighborhood Center, where the much talked about item of the South Park Bridge Replacement / Demolition was the main piece of discussion. I had only previously attended one of the meetings before, which around 10-15 residents of South Park attended; last night totaled over 100.

The room was packed full of business owners, workers, neighborhood advocates, surrounding Seattle residents, City of Seattle Council member aides, King County Department of Transportation, and other Seattle neighborhood representatives. The main event for the night was the much debated issue of the rapidly aging South Park Bridge. On hand to present, or rather update the caring residents was Linda Dougherty, Director of the King County Road Services Division. Dougherty was accompanied by a group of seven other KCDOT (King County Department of Transportation) workers, with Dougherty bravely answering the bulk of the concerns and questions of the residents. The session started at 7:20 pm, and was still going strong when I left at 8:45 PM (I am assuming it went over). The discussion was very informative on this pressing issue. Some highlights:
  • South Park Bridge is 78 years old
  • Estimated 20,000 vehicles travel on it per day
  • Bridge received a 4 out of 100 points for safety from Federal Highway Administration.
  • Amount Estimated to replace and demolish is around $120 million.
  • King County did not receive the much needed $99 million in TIGER stimulus funds (Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery)
  • King County will apply for a second - much smaller - edition of the TIGER funds.
  • Bridge will close on June 30th
Most importantly though was the reception of the crowd, which varied from business owners concerned over the imminent threat to their daily traffic, to residents who are mystified and shocked by the disregard the bridge, and invariably the neighborhood, has received on this matter. Among the several who voiced their opinions, an older gentleman who has owned a business in South Park since 1952 and has been a resident since the early 1940's, was very candid in his view for saving the bridge, predicting that as soon as the bridge closes in June the businesses along 14th ave S. will follow suit. His extremely passionate and motivating speech lasted around 5 minutes, serving almost as rally cry for the concerned population. Voices from other meeting attendees were also heard but no one's resonated as loudly as this man's.

(14th Ave S, Seattle Wa, looking south)

Everyone in that room cared about the bridge but it may be too little too late. Unfortunately the State of Washington received no TIGER funds during this issuance (link to see the awardees), with the majority going to rail related projects. There will hopefully be a second TIGER stimulus issued, however it is poised to be a much smaller pot of money. With the desired amount of money highly unlikely to come from the TIGER funds, Dougherty urged the citizens to project their voices so the the South Park "story" can be heard in the Washington State Government. This situation presents a chance for the neighborhood to come together and make a huge influence at the state and federal levels. The South Park Bridge "Story" is truly an interesting one and can only get richer and more passionate from here on out.


  1. Correction:

    I believe the Mercer Street project received $30 million in funds from the recent round of federal stimulus grant money.

  2. Thank you. I must have a bad source for the awarded grants.