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Originally published Sunday, July 18, 2010 at 10:00 PM

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Seattle's parking fees aimed at turning over spaces

Q: Ever wonder how much money Seattle rakes in from parking meters and parking fines?

Seattle Times staff reporter

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E-mail bumper@seattletimes.com or call Charles E. Brown at 206-464-2206. Please include both your name and city if you agree to publication.

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Q: Ever wonder how much money Seattle rakes in from parking meters and parking fines?

"Does any of this money go to automobile-related uses [since] it is generated solely by automobile users?" asked Glen Kaner, of Seattle.

Is Kaner wrong to assume the reason for meters is to discourage parkers from parking long term near businesses, thereby curbing the flow of commerce? So then, he asks, why does he see paid parking required around parks and even large empty lots.

"It's all for the money, isn't it?"

A: According to Mike Estey, who manages the Seattle Transportation Department's parking-operations and traffic-permits unit, on-street meter parking brought in about $25 million last year, and citations resulted in about $18 million more in 2009 for city coffers.

Unit manager Estey says those revenues are earmarked for the city's general fund to help pay for a number of city services, including police, fire, parks, libraries, human services and transportation.

From the city's point of view, parking fees tend to increase compliance with posted time limits.

Estey said paid parking and time limits improve access to parking in areas where demand for on-street parking is high, including near a few popular parks.

"These tools help ensure regular turnover of parking spaces so customers and visitors are consistently able to find available parking," he said.

Q: It's been almost a year since Issaquah resident Thomas Westman first complained to Bumper that a massive Highway 900 widening project in the Issaquah area, from Newport Way to Southeast 82nd Street, south of Talus Drive, was still not finished — even though it had been a work in progress for more than a year.

Well, the project is still a work in progress, he says. Westman can't understand why it's taking so long. After all, the latest phase only covers about half a mile.

"While there are now four lanes much of the time, two of the lanes are closed as they drill into the nice, new and smooth paving to install manhole covers and make the road once again bumpy," he said.

At what cost has this project kept so many people employed?

A: The project is almost finished, says state Department of Transportation project engineer Dave Lindberg. Crews contracted for the project pushed hard last winter to complete all major work by this spring. The new Highway 900 lanes were opened to traffic in April, and final paving was finished in May.

So now, says Lindberg, crews are finishing utility work and permanent road striping — and both require lane closures.

Other work is being done off the roadway.

Lindberg says crews are raising manhole covers within the project area up to the level of the new pavement. To do that, the pavement must be saw-cut around the covers, and risers must be added to bring them flush with the pavement.

"We use this method on the majority of our repaving projects because it's the best way to build a quality roadway," he said.

Lindberg seems a bit defensive about the time it's taken for the project, pointing out that the area includes an especially high number of private and public utilities, all with openings that must be raised to the level of the pavement.

"Crews are working on more than 100 manhole covers for fiber-optic and cable lines, as well as vaults for drainage systems, electrical systems and waterlines," he said.

And, too, permanent striping work has been slowed by an industrywide shortage of road-striping paint.

But, says Lindberg: "We are on track to wrap up the utility work by mid-July."

We'll see.

The price tag for this section of work, according to the DOT, is $33.9 million.

If you'd like more information about the project, it's online at www.wsdot.wa.gov/projects/sr900/se78th_issaquah.

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