Dow’s Painted Pledge to the South Park Bridge

Paying for it will be a lot stickier.

King County Executive candidate Dow Constantine's signature can be spotted in blue paint on the boarded-up County Line Tavern at the west end of the South Park Bridge. Above it, painted in red, are the following words: "I hereby pledge to do all within my capacity to secure funding for the replacement of the South Park Bridge." Seattle City Councilmember Richard Conlin and Port Commissioner John Creighton have also signed the pledge.The bridge, nearly 80 years old, is crumbling. In 2007, Constantine, who chairs the King County Council, was threatening to close it in 2010 if voters didn't pass the first version of the Regional Transportation Investment District proposal. Environmentalists, including mayoral hopeful Mike McGinn and city council candidate Mike O'Brien, campaigned against the ballot measure, saying it was too roads-heavy. It failed with a 55 percent "no" vote, and a version that didn't include the South Park Bridge, among other roads, passed last year.Now King County Executive Kurt Triplett is proposing to close the county-owned bridge in the middle of next year—and Constantine is scrambling to make good on his painted promise to South Park residents.Last week, Constantine met with State Senator Claudia Kauffman (D-Kent) and Tukwila City Councilmember De'Sean Quinn. Kauffman says she's been trying for years to get someone to cough up the estimated $153 million needed to pay for repairs. "I had met with Ron Sims about this, I've talked to King County Transportation, I've talked to the state about it," she says. "I've talked to just about everyone I know; I've tried to get this into a priority area, and I will continue to do that work."The problem is, no one wants to pay for the bridge. Much of the land around it has been or will be annexed by the surrounding cities. But no one wants to touch the "sliver by the river," as it's known—not with bridge repair looming. The county recently submitted an application for $99 million of the $1.5 billion in TIGER (Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery) grants available through the federal stimulus package. Kauffman is supporting the effort, and three Seattle City Council members— Conlin, Nick Licata, and Sally Clark—have also signed on in support. But competing projects are also vying for TIGER grants, specifically the 520 bridge and Mercer Street reinventions.Even if that money does come through, it's still $54 million short of the estimated total needed to repair the bridge. Constantine aide (and former SW political columnist) James Bush is hoping the state will consider covering the difference, if it won't fix the bridge outright. And Kauffman thinks it might be possible to convince the Puget Sound Regional Council to put some cash into the project if the federal money comes through. "There's a lot of businesses and residents, a lot of low-income residents, and we don't want to isolate them," she says.In addition to scrambling for money to fix the bridge, Kauffman says she, Constantine, and Quinn are trying to figure out what to do if no money comes through. She says they've discussed the possibility of leaving the bridge open while putting restrictions on what kinds of vehicles can pass over it."Just what does a decommission look like?" Kauffman asks, rhetorically. "All those things, we're still having discussions around."

 
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