(The Center Square) – Seattle Mayor Bruce Harrell’s decision to refuse to approve a bond sale of up to $100 million for bridge safety has sparked protests from city council members.
Harrell’s decision to decline the bond financing came on March 31. The $100 million budget change for bridge safety passed the Seattle City Council last November and is awaiting Harrell’s approval.
Seattle City Councilman Alex Pederson issued a statement in response to the mayor’s surprise disapproval.
“The bottom line is that residents, businesses and workers expect and deserve their bridges to be open and safe — and if needed repairs and upgrades are not accelerated this year, Seattle’s bridges could be at risk,” Pederson said.
Mayor Harrell responded that he hadn’t said “no” to bridging bonds, but “not yet.”His administration says it supports tying up bridge projects when the timing makes fiscal sense.
“This political disagreement arises from timing, not design,” the mayor’s office said.
Pederson countered that delaying issuance of the bonds could cost more if interest rates rise.
“Bonding is committing a large sum of money upfront to get more of what we need for our city’s infrastructure, when we need it — now,” Pederson said.
Seattle is currently spending $166.9 million on bridge equity investments. Harrell’s administration says the city must complete important and necessary design work that is still required before additional retrofit seismic projects are ready to accept more links.
Kristen Simpson, the interim director of the Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT), wrote Pederson a letter saying that the upgrade in road structures business practice already in place will update the inventory of bridge needs and develop a long-term plan for the comprehensive rehabilitation of bridges in Seattle.
SDOT agrees with the Harrell administration on delaying bond issuance, speculating that it could cost local taxpayers less because from federal funds.
“By retaining the option to issue bonds later, we are enabling the inclusion of new funding opportunities for federal infrastructure as part of a strategic plan to address priorities identified through our current work,” Simpson said in a memo addressed to Pederson.
Pederson joined other city council members in protesting the delay in bond funding. Councilor Andrew Lewis said this is affecting construction in his District 7.
“I appreciate Councilor Pederson’s leadership and working with me and several colleagues, along with SDOT, on a plan to present a composite proposal with well-defined points, including some significant maintenance actions for the Magnolia Bridge in District 7,” Lewis said.
Pederson also sent a letter to the Biden administration urging U.S. transportation officials to increase federal oversight to advance bridge safety measures in Seattle.