We’ve known this day has been coming for months (years, actually), but that doesn’t make it any easier. At 7:00 pm tonight, the South Park Bridge will glide upward into the open position one final time and will remain locked, permanently closing after seventy-eight years of service.
Part of me is still in shock about this situation, partly because I spent years working on the 2007 Roads and Transit package that included 100% funding for this critical link. The measure was defeated that fall and now we are feeling the impacts. There’s also sadness, frustration, and a sense of loss, as it’s difficult to believe things devolved to this point.
I don’t need to talk about the importance of this bridge since we’ve heard it all before. Yes, it is a critical corridor for our freight. Yes, our infrastructure has been neglected for too long. We know these things, but what we forget, or what is often overshadowed, is that this bridge is a connection between our neighborhoods. It’s a lifeline and many are fearful that when the bridge goes up this evening, the plug will be pulled.
I hope that’s not the case and there are many reasons why I’m hopeful – about 80 million of them, actually, as that’s the dollar amount committed for the future replacement of the South Park Bridge. The County passed legislation that provides the County Executive with the funding authority needed to assist in the construction of a new bridge. This ordinance authorizes the Executive to issue up to $31 million in Limited Tax General Obligation bonds to finance the County’s share of the construction costs.
The Seattle City Council has also expressed our support and commitment to replacing the South Park Bridge by pledging $15 million toward the effort. Just last week, Governor Gregoire pledged her support at a press conference and committed $20M from the state. Port Commissioner Gael Tarleton also announced the Port’s commitment of $5M.
All of these pledges, plus the recent news that the County will receive $10M from a grant from the Washington State Transportation Improvement Board, brings us to a total of $80M committed to a new South Park Bridge. Next month we’ll take another huge step by submitting our initial TIGER II application. The project scored well in the first round and our fingers are crossed for a win in the second stage.
I still remain hopeful. When I’m in South Park this evening, participating in the wake, I’ll be raising my glass to remember the bridge that served our region well, and I will wish for a new bridge to continue that tradition. The event tonight will be a community gathering, and I’ll hope you’ll join us.