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Seattle looks at insurance on Downtown Transit Tunnel traffic in Convention Center expansion deal

The future of Boren at Olive

The $83 million “community package” of public benefits including cash for affordable housing, bike infrastructure improvements, and Freeway Park enhancement will go in front of the Seattle City Council Monday afternoon for final approval in a move that should clear the way for the vacation of city right of way needed to construct the $1.6 billion Washington State Convention Center expansion in downtown Seattle at the foot of Capitol Hill.

There is, however, one small point to consider on the vote necessary to allow the project to begin construction of the expansion later this year with a goal of opening the new 1.2 million-square-foot structure in 2020. The City Council will consider an insurance plan of sorts on the the traffic impact from moving buses out of the downtown transit tunnel. “If the WSCC sends a request to King County to close the Downtown Seattle Transit Tunnel (DSTT) to buses in March 2019, the WSCC shall provide $50,000 to SDOT when the closure request is sent to King County,” the proposed substitute version of the bill up for vote Monday reads. “SDOT shall use the funds to analyze the impacts of closing the DSTT on transit service on 2rd, 3rd, and 4th Avenues between Jackson and Stewart Streets.”

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The proposal would also call on the WSCC to provide up to $1 million to SDOT “to mitigate transit impacts” if certain thresholds are exceeded after the tunnel closure:

A community coalition of nonprofits and organizations including Capitol Hill Housing and the First Hill Improvement Association worked with the convention center developers to agree on a package of benefits to compensate Seattle citizens for the city space that will be lost to the convention center expansion. “The Coalition advocated for approximately $61 million of improvements and experienced success beyond that with a total of over $82 million, which includes other projects independently proposed by Pine Street Group,” the Community Package Coalition said about the deal. “A $5 million affordable housing payment required by King County and a $4.3 incentive zoning payment to the City of Seattle are above and beyond the $82 million total.”

The package includes updates and investments to the cityscape from downtown to Capitol Hill including $29 million toward affordable housing and $1.5 million for research of a lid on the I-5 freeway near downtown.

The WSCC expansion will add five stories above ground and two stories below ground totaling a little more than 1.2 million square feet of space, in addition to a 200,000 square foot loading dock and 500-800 parking spaces. Bringing thousands of truck trips to the area, most of the construction will rise above the land that has been home to King County Metro Convention Place Station, roughly bounded by Pine and Howell streets and 9th and Boren.

UPDATE 3:06 PM: The vacation package has passed — but the insurance on downtown traffic? No dice. Seattle won’t be asking developers for $1 million if traffic ends up even crappier after the transit tunnel closes.

UPDATE 5/9/18: The community package advocates are thanking Teresa Mosqueda for her work to amend the legislation with a fast-tracking provision. “Shout out to @CMTMosqueda whose amendment last week brought the housing contributions in the Package to a clean $30M and also delivers the funding sooner. $14M that could have come as late as 2028 will now be delivered the same time as the first WSCCA structural building permit,” the group said. Advocates say the funding for Pike/Pine and 8th Ave protected bike lanes will come sooner, too, as a result of the amendment.

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