The good news is that Graham’s design and proposal will likely cut a year off the project. Further really good news is that it appears WSDOT is conceding it can avoid use of the Montlake Market and Gas Station properties. Graham’s designs eliminate many of the impacts WSDOT sited in their condemnation and demolition plans for the market property. The bad news, however, is that despite proving their ability to avoid the market and shifting construction impacts away from the property, WSDOT is still pursuing a full condemnation in order to use the rest of the property as a staging and storage yard for the next 10-years, throughout the Portage Bay phase. One of their representatives also claimed they needed the properties for the project’s “associated risks,” although he did not elaborate.
Read more about the meeting in this story by KOMO News.
In terms of saving the market, WSDOT estimated that keeping the market operational throughout construction will add an additional 45 days to the project and $20 million to the cost. This may seem like a lot at face value, but it appears to be intentionally misleading. WSDOT presented this figure without any discussion of the cost to acquire the property and avoided mention of other associated costs, such as lost tax revenue from the market, gas station and cell towers, which runs nearly $1 million per year. All told, WSDOT’s costs to acquire the properties could be as high as $33 million, with WSDOT paying an estimated $20 million on top of that to keep the market operational should the agency proceed with a full condemnation. Moreover, they are ignoring the social and other costs they’ll impose on the communities we live in, loss of “walkability/bikeability” to and from the Market, drive time, cost and frustration to get to alternative market and gas locations, reduced property values of our homes from proximity to 10 years of loud, noisy construction, and the elimination of one of our few community gathering spots. And, even using WSDOT’s inflated cost estimate, keep in mind the number is a fraction of the project’s $4.51 billion budget.
These figures amount to what can only be considered as an absurdly steep price to pay, especially in light of WSDOT presenting the new designs last week showing how they can avoid the properties. WSDOT’s only remaining reason for acquiring the Market site appears to boil down to construction staging and storage. The notion of spending $50 million in taxpayer money to turn the heart of Montlake into a construction and equipment staging yard for the next 10 years is unacceptable to the Montlake Community Club. Our neighbors deserve better.
The Montlake Community Club is continuing to engage with our legislators as well as WSDOT to keep staging off of the property and to make sure all options to save the market are pursued. You can help by reaching out to WSDOT Secretary Roger Millar, Speaker Chopp, Rep. Nicole Macri and Sen. Jamie Pedersen at the emails below and carrying this message:
Roger Millar: firstname.lastname@example.org
Speaker Chopp: email@example.com
Rep. Nicole Macri: firstname.lastname@example.org
Sen. Jamie Pedersen: email@example.com
We also encourage everyone to take the survey about the market, which can be found here by February 14th at 5 pm.