Seattle refuses a bridge that's already funded

A long line of cars (and buses), that never seems to end, crosses the Montlake Bridge just south of Husky Stadium. (KOMO News Photo)

COMMENTARY from KVI Producer, Phil Vandervort:

If someone offered you a free bridge, you'd probably take it, right?

Not in Seattle.

It seems to show how deeply some Seattle leaders really hate cars (and their drivers).

Seattle City Councilman, Mike O'Brien, just blocked a chance to build a second bridge across the Montlake Cut between Highway 520 and Husky Stadium. Click on the photo above to hear the KOMO News story about the city council committee vote.

O'Brien and the Seattle City Council have been belligerently opposed to anything that benefits car or road traffic. Even the inducement of Washington State Dept. of Transportation (WSDOT) already funding the payment of the bridge across the Montlake Cut wasn't enough for O'Brien to approve the extra road capacity around the choke point next to the new Sound Transit station at Husky Stadium.

Anyone who ventures into this choke point in the morning or evening commute knows how painstakingly slow traffic moves over the existing Montlake Bridge and through the Highway 520 interchange.

And speaking of painstaking, O'Brien objects to this bridge while cars and buses idle in traffic wasting fuel, adding carbon dioxide emissions to the atmosphere, costing drivers and bus riders time and money. The Montlake choke point is an equal opportunity offender for car drivers and bus riders. O'Brien likes to fashion himself as an environmental protector and crusader but his resistance to a second bridge is only damaging the ecosystem that he claims to defend.

O'Brien wants to preserve the status quo which means more traffic congestion in Seattle. The extra bridge won't cost Seattle taxpayers more of their money, it will come from funds already set aside from the state. That, too, is ironic considering that the Seattle City Council has asked for and received permission from the state to raise sales tax rates in the city over the years. The city of Seattle would normally fall all over itself to obtain more money for infrastructure spending but this time they're objecting.

Ostensibly O'Brien will base his rejection for the 2nd bridge on the requirement that some houses on that sliver of land between the Montlake Cut and Highway 520 will have to be torn down as part of the right of way. Those houses inhabit a unique neighborhood between the stadium and their neighbor to the west, The Seattle Yacht Club. It would be a shame to tear down eight houses in the Montlake neighborhood but to say that the traffic congestion relief wouldn't be worth it is myopic. And isn't having vision what leadership is supposed to be about?

In the final part of the KOMO story above, its noted that the approval of a 2nd bridge over the Montlake Cut could be re-visted next year if more supportive city council candidates are elected in the November 5th election. Is it possible that O'Brien's 'no' vote (to block the bridge) will become an election issue for incumbent Kshama Sawant? Her 3rd district encompasses the south side of the Montlake Cut and certainly lots of her constituents must navigate that oft-congested stretch of Montlake Boulevard E. as it converts to 24th Avenue. Will they weigh the potential time they lose in that traffic congestion with their desire for an ideologically pure 'progressive activist' on election day?

It doesn't matter how much mass transit you create, that choke point will always result in wasted time in traffic for bus riders as well as drivers. Road infrastructure expansion on that corridor over the Montlake Cut was needed a long time ago, not just today. A second bridge would also benefit bike riders that the Seattle City Council says they prefer. But Mike O'Brien wants the status quo. With the November election, hopefully we're coming to the end of the time period where Seattle City Council members would cut off their nose to spite their face when it comes to transportation infrastructure.

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