"Forward Washington" plan would include funding for West Seattle Bridge and Ballard-Interbay Regional Transportation Corridor
In the recently unveiled WA House and Senate Transportation package known as “Forward Washington," there are funds allocated to several westside projects that would, if passed, have a major impact on local transportation.
In the plan the legislature proposes to authorize $25 million for the West Seattle High-Bridge Repair and $54 million for the Ballard-Interbay Regional Transportation (BIRT) Corridor. Additionally the long sought funding for the Highland Park Way SW /Holden Street roundabout would be funded as well. The description of the project may however be outdated and actually in reference to the signal project, since the last estimate for the roundabout was far higher.
In the 2019-2021 legislative session, former Senator Gael Tarleton got a $750,000 budget proviso into the State Transportation Budget to have SDOT lead a multi-agency study of future transportation plans for the BIRT Corridor.
15th Avenue and the Ballard Bridge are the designated alternate corridor for SR99. Both the Ballard Bridge and Magnolia Bridge are supposed to be replaced by 2035. During this same period, Sound Transit is supposed to build the Ballard Sound Transit line from downtown Seattle across the Ballard Bridge. Additionally, there are plans underway for the National Guard to vacate its Armory in Interbay and the Port of Seattle has just announced a new Maritime Innovation Hub at Fishermen’s Terminal.
These diverse projects inevitably will benefit from local, state and federal funding and involve project design, development, and operations across multiple jurisdictions. And through the corridor runs the BNSF rail lines.
These investments are all potential candidates to secure federal infrastructure matching funds if President Biden’s proposed American Jobs Plan should actually pass Congress.
The City of Seattle has not planned ahead in its capital budgets for this scale of transportation investment along this corridor, which precipitated the state weighing in.
The 36th District delegation, together with King County Councilmember for District 4 and Seattle City Councilmembers for Districts 6 and 7, worked hard to fund BIRT corridor analysis in the state’s 2019 Transportation budget and BIRT design and development in the 2021 Transportation budget.
Tarleton said, "We now have a chance to seize the opportunity for coherent, strategic coordination among city, county, state, and regional authorities for critical transportation investments in this long-neglected BIRT Corridor.
Timing is almost everything. It is time to plan for a BIRT Corridor with seismically safe bridges, cargo and passenger rail, safe pedestrian and bike lanes, and a thriving maritime innovation cluster between Piers 91 and Fishermen’s Terminal to transform transportation solutions on land and at sea. If we do this right, federal funding will flow to Seattle, King County, Sound Transit, Port of Seattle, and Washington State."
SDOT said, "Seattle’s transportation infrastructure is vital to statewide public health and safety, as well as the health of our economy. One of the most critical challenges we face is that considerable funding is necessary for infrastructure maintenance, and cities like Seattle have limited options on what kinds of taxes can be used to fund transportation investments. We appreciate that state leaders are considering sustainable funding solutions to bridge the gap and help fund the investments necessary to maintain vital infrastructure and public safety projects."