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Public transit during viaduct replacement likely to fall short

Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT)
The south end of the Alaskan Way viaduct could become a driving challenge after funds to mitigate traffic with public transit run out. State officials expect that to happen halfway through the project.

A plan to use public transit to offset traffic congestion while the new Highway 99 tunnel is built in Seattle is expected to run out of money – long before the project is completed.

Ron Paananen, manager of the project for the Washington State Department of Transportation, says the state’s $30 million contribution is only a portion of what King County Metro needs. 

“We recognize right now there’s a gap,” he told the city council at an Alaskan Way Viaduct committee meeting on Tuesday. “It’s somewhere between $20 and $30 million depending on how you look at it.”

He says county officials thought they’d have more tax revenue to pay for added service in heavily affected areas, such as southwest of downtown, when they signed the agreement to pursue the tunnel in 2009. 

Drivers around the viaduct’s southern end are expected to face challenges over the next four years, as traffic is re-routed to accommodate construction, KPLU's Bellamy Pailthorp recently reported. The temporary state funding for public transit could run dry in about half that time.

“We understand what it will take to continue this service beyond 2013, but we don’t have the answer on that yet,” Paananen said.

Charla joined us in January, 2010 and is excited to be back in Seattle after several years in Washington, DC, where she was a director and producer for NPR. Charla has reported from three continents and several outlets including Marketplace, San Francisco Chronicle and NPR. She has a master of journalism from University of California, Berkeley and a bachelor's degree in architecture from University of Washington.
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