Tarleton
Tarleton

Washington 36th District Rep. Gael Tarleton has introduced a proviso into state transportation budget legislation dedicating $1 million from the Motor Vehicle Fund toward a plan and report for the Ballard-Interbay Regional Transportation System that would examine replacing the Ballard and Magnolia bridges.

Those bridges are part of the Ballard-Interbay-Northend Manufacuring/Industrial Center, Tarleton said, and are important to keeping freight moving in and out of Seattle. The BINMIC spans from Elliott Bay to Salmon Bay.

There are three north/south freight corridors of importance in Seattle for reaching Puget Sound waterfronts, Tarleton said: Interstate 5, State Route 99 and Holman Road to 15th Avenue.

“All of those corridors were built to be basically freight corridors to move freight in north or south, if there were ever any disruptions on any [one] of the corridors,” Tarleton said.

The proviso was introduced to address a lack of understanding about the importance of the bridge from the thousands of new residents, the state representative said, and to remind people that the Magnolia Bridge is not “a bridge to nowhere.”

“This has been almost a nine-month effort now,” Tarleton said of planning for the development of a Ballard-Interbay Regional Transportation System report.

The representative said she began talks with Seattle, Port of Seattle and WSDOT officials back in July.

The port is working toward expanding its light industrial footprint north of  the Magnolia Bridge, which was damaged in the 2001 Nisqually quake. A 1:1 replacement of the bridge is estimated to cost $340 million to $420 million. All three potential Ballard Link light rail route options would run through Interbay, and two would put a station along Elliott Avenue West.

“I didn’t want the decisions being made in isolation,” Tarleton said. “That’s why I moved toward that proviso.”

WSDOT would be in charge of generating the plan and report, and would have resources to provide to city, county and port planners, as well as various private consultants, Tarleton said, to help strategize how all of these projects would connect. This would all be done with the goal of ensuring the corridor continues to function reliably.

“It’s integrated planning and design,” she said, “and it’s a hard thing to do it.”

Once the Alaskan Way Viaduct comes down, the Seattle Waterfront will be redeveloped. All of the ferry terminals are down there, Tarleton said, so the state has an interest. The City of Seattle also has a memorandum of understanding with the state that when the State Route 99 Tunnel was completed that Western Avenue would be rebuilt as a two-way corridor with east and west entrances and exits.

If the government agencies within the Ballard-Interbay Regional Transportation System don’t carry out similar joint planning, Tarleton said, there could be greater congestion issues than were expected during the viaduct closure, but for an even longer period of time.

“Now it’s just going to shift north,” she said. “I really am focused on making sure we don’t come to gridlock during this period of continued construction, just on a different side of the city’s corridors.”

Because the proviso is attached to the budget, funding would not be implemented until October, when Tarleton believes there will be a clearer picture about light rail routing. Construction is still about five years away.

Outgoing District 7 Seattle City Councilmember Sally Bagshaw sponsored a 2019-2020 statement of legislative intent requiring SDOT to submit a report on Interbay corridor transportation, maintenance needs and funding.

“The report is intended to support the efforts of a workgroup of State, County, City, Sound Transit and Port of Seattle elected leaders and departmental staff that have convened to coordinate transportation projects and planning in Interbay, Magnolia, Ballard and connected communities,” according to the SLI. “The Interbay corridor is an important freight route and is the third most used North/South route in Seattle, after Interstate 5 and State Route 99.”

SDOT has just completed its response to the SLI, which can be read below.

Another long-term project along the corridor is the potential redevelopment of the 25-acre Interbay armory site, which the Washington Army National Guard has used for more than 40 years. The National Guard is seeking state funding to purchase property for a new readiness center in North Bend, which Tarleton supports.

“Honestly, we don’t want them sitting on a seismic fault line,” she said. “We want them rescuing people.”

Online travel giant Expedia is also planning to move more than 4,000 employees from Bellevue to its new Interbay campus this fall. Tarleton said she’s in discussions with Expedia about rebuilding Pier 86 to include electric passenger ferries.

“It’s one of the reasons we absolutely must have a group pulled together looking at all the pieces of the puzzle together and not just one corner of the puzzle,” Tarleton said.

A Ballard-Interbay Regional Transportation System report by WSDOT would also help make the state aware of what its role should be and where revenue could be sourced to support those interests, the representative said.

“I think the idea that we don’t need a Magnolia Bridge is absurd.”

The Magnolia Community Council has provided letters to transportation committee leaders in both the state House and Senate urging them to pass the proviso out of committee.

“It is important to the hundreds of businesses and 23,000-plus residents of Magnolia that a 1:1 replacement of the Magnolia Bridge and the Ballard Bridge be planned appropriately to maintain this interconnected system,” a portion of the letter states.

SLI Response by on Scribd