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May 6, 2010 at 4:53 PM

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Seattle urged to boost ped-bike-transit projects by $30m/year

Posted by Mike Lindblom

Update: Seattle transportation director Peter Hahn said Friday he doesn't know what Mayor Mike McGinn will say Tuesday about detailed projects or funding for Walk Bike Ride projects. The speech might be more of a general statement of support, Hahn said.

Boosters are asking the city to raise $30 million a year. "$30 million would certainly be welcome," Hahn said.

But he went on to paint a dismal picture of the broader transportation budget the next few years. If Seattle adds green projects but doesn't keep up with basic maintenance, the facilities "no longer function," he told Streets for All supporters at a noon forum Friday.

Meanwhile, Streets for All organizer Craig Benajmin called this year's proposal "the first step in a long campaign" to transform how people get around in Seattle.

Original story from Thursday:

A coalition called Streets for All is asking the city government to raise an additional $30 million a year to improve bicycling, walking and transit quality.

Boosters say they've been meeting with Mayor Mike McGinn and certain City Council members.

McGinn is expected to announce Tuesday his "Walk Bike Ride" program, according to a Facebook posting from the coalition.

But McGinn spokesman Mark Matassa disputed a mid-day report on Publicola (later updated) that McGinn was ready to spring a $30 million plan. (An early version of the Facebook invitation had included the city's Chief Sealth logo, and wording that could be misinterpreted) "There's no $30 million amount planned," Matassa tells The Seattle Times.

The event is at 2 p.m. Tuesday, next to the Beacon Hill light-rail station. McGinn's spokesman wouldn't disclose what the mayor might say. Peter Hahn, city transportation director, is scheduled to speak Friday at a lunchtime forum promoting Streets for All, said Shefali Ranganathan, outreach director for Transportation Choices Coalition. And the City Council just created a new bicycle caucus.

Any tax proposal from McGinn would cause some backlash, after he has already suggested ballot measures for a seawall and for a westside light-rail route, in a time of recession. The voter-approved $365 million, nine-year "Bridging the Gap" property tax levy of 2006 already earmarks at least $142 million for walking, cycling and transit.

But what if Seattle did add $30 million a year, split three ways? The city could maintain or grow the popular electric trolleybus network, said David Hiller, advocacy director for the Cascade Bicycle Club. Thirty more blocks of sidewalk a year could be included. The south Delridge area is especially in need of safer ped-bike routes, Hiller said. Former Mayor Greg Nickels published a massive bicycle master plan that was underfunded.

Seattle currently spends about $12 million a year on bike projects, said Hiller -- and with $10 million more, lot of projects that were "unlikely-impossible" become possible, he said. For instance, a bike lane could be grafted onto the Ballard Bridge, for about $4 million.

There's no specific plan yet, but a $20 car-tab fee is one of many options, said coalition member Craig Benjamin of the Sierra Club.

Seattle currently rates as a "Gold" bicycling city compared with Portland's "Platinum" rating by the League of American Bicyclists. Meanwhile, Vancouver, B.C. staff are proposing a $25 million infusion to expand bike trails and lanes. McGinn commutes on a bicycle and pledged in his 2009 campaign to reduce reliance on globe-warming fossil fuels.

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Jim Brunner
Covers politics.

Keith Ervin
Covers the Eastside.

Andrew Garber
Covers politics and state government from Olympia.

Emily Heffter
Covers local government.

Mike Lindblom
Covers transportation.

Kyung Song
Covers politics and regional issues from Washington, D.C.

Lynn Thompson
Covers Seattle City Hall.

Bob Young
Covers King County and urban affairs.