$1.4B Portage Bay Bridge and Roanoke Lid Project moving forward with order to identify ‘cost reduction opportunities’


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Design concept for a new bridge over Portage Bay

An early rendering of the Roanoke Lid concept

Washington is moving forward with the 520 Portage Bay Bridge and Roanoke Lid Project even as it is still scrambling for the best way to pay for it.

WSDOT announced it awarded a contract for the job to Skanska on March 11th.

CHS reported in November on the $1.375 billion price proposal from Skanska for the contract — a bid 70% higher than the state’s estimate. An agreement with Skanska extended the window to accept the bid, giving Washington legislators “more time to address the funding gap” during its just-wrapped budget process, WSDOT says.

The new plan? Move forward with the $1.375 billion bid but find a way to cut costs and close the gap. WSDOT says legislators have ordered it to seek “cost reduction opportunities.” That could mean new, scaled back designs for the planned lid and new bridge. Continue reading

‘Strippers’s Bill of Rights’ includes rollback of state’s lewd conduct liquor rules used to target Capitol Hill gay bars

You will be even more free to enjoy your happy hour mozzarella sticks at The Cuff however you want to. Washington state legislators have responded to outcry from Capitol Hill queer nightlife venues, including changes to liquor board “lewd conduct” rules as they passed a so-called “Strippers’ Bill of Rights.”

The Stranger has details of the bill including labor protections for dancers that includes a major change for Washington that “effectively allows strip clubs to sell alcohol.” The legislation also repeals the lewd conduct code that critics said was being used to target gay bars.

The bill still must pass through the senate. Governor Jay Inslee, who has said he supported the decision to suspend the liquor board rules until changes could be made, must then sign the legislation. Continue reading

43rd District Town Hall: affordable housing, strengthening public healthcare, and pushback on the liquor board


The group of legislators representing Capitol Hill in Olympia say their work in 2024 is focused on increasing the supply of affordable housing, strengthening public healthcare, and taking on an issue of civil rights that has caused outcry in the city’s queer-friendly queer communities.

Sen. Jamie Pedersen, Rep. Nicole Macri, and Rep. Frank Chopp gathered Saturday for the 2024 43rd District Town Hall at First Baptist Church to answer community questions and discuss the most important legislative issues they’re pursuing.

The current legislative session has reached the halfway point as the state’s lawmakers meet for only a 60-day period in even years under Washington’s two-year budget system.

Chopp has long-held a focus on addressing housing concerns and cited the Home and Hope Program, which acquired 30 major sites in King County that created 7,000 homes as an example of progress.

The Housing Trust Fund supports the financing of thousands of low-income housing units across the state. The Apple Health and Homes Program allows individuals who are experiencing chronic homelessness who also live with a medical condition to have housing as part of their medical treatment.

“70% percent of the chronically homeless have a serious medical condition, a mental illness, substance use disorder, a major physical disability,” Chopp said. Continue reading

State ‘pausing’ planned closure of Capitol Hill Community Services Office

The Washington State Department of Social and Health Services says it will reevaluate the decision to close an E Cherry neighborhood center providing access and information to social programs including food, cash, and medical benefits.

A DSHS spokesperson said DSHS head Jilma Meneses has ordered a pause following community outcry and a CHS report detailing the state’s plans to close the Capitol Hill Community Services Office, the DSHS facility across from Swedish Cherry Hill. Continue reading

Pedersen, Chopp, and Macri to appear at 43rd District Town Hall

Mark your calendar for Saturday, February 17th for this year’s 43rd District Town Hall with Sen. Jamie Pedersen, Rep. Frank Chopp, and Rep. Nicole Macri. The annual gathering of the state legislators representing Capitol Hill and the nearby in Olympia again takes place at First Hill’s First Baptist Church.

The current legislative session has reached the halfway point as the state’s lawmakers meet for only a 60-day period in even years under Washington’s two-year budget system. Continue reading

‘Message received’ — Liquor board suspends lewd conduct enforcement after protest from Capitol Hill queer bars

The state liquor board says it is suspending “lewd conduct” inspections and will pause its participation with the City of Seattle’s Joint Enforcement Team after a wave of criticism sparked by so-called enforcement visits at Capitol Hill gay bars and clubs.

“At Wednesday’s Board meeting and in many private conversations, we heard strong objections to our actions,” Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board director Will Lukela said in a statement.

“The community also stressed the value of these clubs as a safe place for people who often face discrimination, threats, and violence. Message received.” Continue reading

Seattle’s 2024 priorities in Olympia: affordable housing, police accountability reform, graffiti abatement, and Narcan

“In December, Mayor Harrell hosted members of Seattle’s state legislative delegation to discuss shared priorities in advance of the 2024 session” (Image: City of Seattle)

Seattle Mayor Bruce Harrell is calling for more funding for diversion programs, more spending on state graffiti abatement, and reforms to police accountability as Olympia legislators begin their 2024 session.

The administration announced its legislative priorities, “calling for bold action on critical public safety, behavioral health, and other priority issues that impact Seattle and cities and across the state, reflecting his commitment to collaborate with partners at all levels of government to build safe, resilient, and thriving communities.”

The priorities include support for legislation that would reform the state’s police accountability arbitration system to “require substantial deference” to discipline like suspensions or firings.

The Harrell administration is also asking state legislators to increase funding for fentanyl overdose response, including equipping firefighters and law enforcement with Naloxone to treat narcotic overdoses. Continue reading

WSDOT scrambling over $1.4B bid for 520 Portage Bay Bridge/Roanoke Lid project — 70% higher than expected

(Image: CHS)

There is a new $1.4 billion price tag — and likely a new timeline — for the work on the westermost section of the 520 replacement project including a new Portage Bay Bridge and a lid connecting the Roanoke neighborhood over the highway.

State officials say the winning best bid from contractor Skanska is about 70% higher than what Washington State Department of Transportation planners were budgeting for and are now asking to extend expiration of the bid to give the legislature to somehow come up with extra hundreds of millions of dollars to pay for the project.

“With the support of the Governor’s office and transportation legislative leadership, we have begun negotiations with Skanska to extend their proposal validity through the end of the 2024 legislative session on March 7 (it was previously set to expire on Nov. 20, 2023),” WSDOT said in a statement on the bid. “We will continue to keep you updated once we have finalized a path forward.” Continue reading

Seattle Public Schools: No closures next year but 2025/2026 cuts still on the table

Seattle Public Schools is putting off any decision on campus closures that might be needed due to predicted budget shortfalls, the district announced in a statement in advance of Superintendent Brent Jones’s appearance in front of the Seattle School Board Wednesday night to present his budget plan for the coming school year.

“Superintendent Jones will not be recommending any school closures or consolidations for the 2024-25 school year,” the statement reads. “SPS is working to right-size the number of schools to accommodate lower student enrollment. This may include school closures or consolidations as an option for 2025-26.”

“We know it takes time to plan and implement large-scale changes and will include our community to provide feedback as we move through the process,” the statement concludes. Continue reading

‘Save Stevens Elementary’: Confusion around Seattle Public Schools as district meetings on ‘well-resourced’ campuses continue despite expected funding crisis — UPDATE: Rescheduled

With reporting by Kali Herbst Minino

The meetings — ostensibly — are  about “well-resourced schools,” and what vital educational elements students and families say they want in their public campuses. But some Capitol Hill-area families are seeing the writing on the wall.

“Save Stevens Elementary” flyers have been posted to utility poles on the streets surrounding the Northern Capitol Hill school’s 19th at Galer campus.

“Seattle Public Schools plans to close schools beginning in Fall 2024,” it reads. “Stevens Elementary is on the chopping block. We need your help to save our school!”

The rallying cry is encouraging people to attend the district’s final “Well-resourced Schools” meeting Tuesday night — a final online-only session following a series of community meetings earlier this month.

UPDATE 9:30 PM: Tuesday’s meeting has been rescheduled. In a Monday afternoon announcement, SPS said it moving the meeting back “due to overwhelming community interest.”

Moving this online engagement to Tuesday, Sept. 26, after the school year has begun will allow for wider community participation. It will also help us prepare an exceptional experience for a larger number of people.

Seattle Public Schools says it isn’t closing any of its schools — yet.

CHS reported here on the “Well-resourced Schools” effort with SPS beginning its process to gather feedback from “students, families, staff, and community partners” as it starts a painful budget process it says could result in campus closures. A looming budget deficit has SPS promising no closures until 2024 but predicting serious belt-tightening as it expects a decade of lower enrollment. Changes in state funding and a forecast for a continued near-term drop in enrollment had the district scrambling to cover a $131 million budget deficit for the coming school year with continued financial shortfalls on the way.

SPS says the meetings about what every student in the system needs to thrive and grow are necessary before any talk of big cuts begins. The meetings, the district says, will inform recommendations Superintendent Brent Jones is making to the Seattle School Board in November.

At one of the community meetings held earlier this month at Garfield High School, community members sat down at large tables with pens and papers. The meeting covered three questions attendees were asked to write about and discuss with the help of a facilitator: What are your favorite things about your child’s school building? How can we make resources and services at each school stronger? What kinds of programs do you and your student value the most and why? Scribes sat around the tables taking down notes, and at the end of the exercise, the sticky notes would be posted on larger white pieces of paper. Continue reading