Monorail sets deadline
The Monorail Project Board has set a deadline of April 6 for Executive Director Joel Horn to have a date for the completion of talks over details of a contract to design, build, operate and maintain the monorail.
Discussions have been going on for close to six months between the Seattle Monorail Project and Cascadia Monorail Co.
"Negotiations are taking so long because I'm trying to get everything," Horn said in an interview Thursday. "We don't want to give on station design. We don't want to give on anything. That's what the public wants from me."
Issues that could be resolved have been. But Horn is now softening his longtime promise to begin construction of the monorail in 2005.
"I can't answer," he says now.
"You start (negotiations) with the easiest stuff. Now we're at the hard stuff, the really hard stuff.
"The last item takes the longest time and we're not at the last item yet."
Besides ongoing negotiations with Cascadia Monorail Co., the monorail has been bargaining with private property owners to acquire land for the guideway and stations.
The Seattle Monorail Project aims to acquire 37 parcels of property along the entire Green Line. All but about four have been purchased, Horn said.
As a publicly owned governmental entity, the Seattle Monorail Project has the power of eminent domain so it can take private property for public use, but is required to pay the owner fair market value for the property.
The Monorail Project filed condemnation proceedings to acquire 19 pieces of real estate. One is still in progress in West Seattle, the vacant lot at the southeast corner of 35th Avenue and Southwest Avalon Way.
There are also discussions with other property owners for permission to temporarily store building materials on their land during construction. All construction projects require staging areas and it's been easier to find them in West Seattle than downtown, Horn said.
Among the property issues currently being negotiated are "air rights," Horn said. Air rights refer to the air space directly above a property, to the same height as zoning regulations would allow a building to be built at that location. Air rights have value, so the Monorail Project must compensate property owners for the space.
Meanwhile contract negotiations continue between the Monorail Project and Cascadia Monorail Co. over a "big matrix" of subjects, Horn said. Many issues are being negotiated simultaneously. Negotiating teams change according to what aspect is under discussion.
"We have guideway people, we have station people," he said. Some teams attend to the quality of the monorail ride while others study ride time. Different teams discuss acceleration and braking rates. Some analyze "dwell time," the period during which trains will be stopped at stations.
There are also 30 separate private companies involved in the consortium that forms the Cascadia Monorail Co.
System wide ripple effects can be caused by small changes in the Green Line design, Horn said. It might make sense to negotiate for raising the guideway a couple feet at a certain place, but that can cause changes up and down the Green Line. Each change alters the rate of wear and tear on equipment. It also affects monorail speeds at different places, which influences efficiency, and that affects ridership.
There's a negotiating team focusing just on the segment of the monorail that will ride West Seattle Bridge. Different people are negotiating the proposed new bridge across the Washington Ship Canal to Ballard.
Yet other negotiators work out details on liability and insurance.
"Sometimes we bring 20 of us (Seattle Monorail Project) into the room and 20 of them (Cascadia Monorail Co.)," Horn said. "It's all tightly integrated," he added.
If Monorail Project negotiators fail to agree with Cascadia Monorail Co. on a contract, the Monorail Project board of directors would have to determine whether to send negotiators back to the table for another try. The board also could decide to scrub the current contract effort and start the bidding process over again.
Another important issue concerning the monorail is parking near monorail stations.
Residential parking zones, like the one currently being discussed at Alki, could be set up around each monorail station to help preserve street parking for residents living within a quarter-mile of each station. The Seattle Monorail Project will pay for studies to help establish residential parking zones around the stations, Horn said. A majority of residents must sign a petition agreeing to set up a residential parking zone in their neighborhood. The Monorail Project won't pay the biannual $35 per car for the parking permit however.
Tim St. Clair can be contacted at 932-0300 or email@example.com.