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June 23, 2010 at 11:48 AM

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Gregoire pledges $20 million toward a new South Park Bridge

Posted by Keith Ervin

Gov. Chris Gregoire, calling the soon-to-close South Park Bridge "a vital connection for the community and an important link for freight," pledged $20 million in state funds Wednesday to replace the decaying span over the Duwamish River.

Standing beside the 78-year-old bridge, Gregoire told journalists and a cheering crowd of residents, workers and merchants that strong local and state support for the project will translate into federal dollars to complete the $131 million funding package.

Recalling that the existing bridge was completed in 1931, during the Great Depression, she said, "With all due respect to our ancestors, if they could get 'er done in 1931, we can get 'er done again in 2010."

The state pledge, coming one day after the Seattle Port Commission committed $5 mllion to the replacement bridge, brings available funds to $70 million. King County, which owns the bridge, made a $31 million commitment Monday and the Seattle City Council promised last week to contribute $15 million.

County officials are seeking additional grants from the state, the Puget Sound Regional Council and a federal economic stimulus program.

The money won't come soon enough to maintain access across the Duwamish River to the South Park neighborhood. The old bridge will be closed for safety reasons next Wednesday. The new span won't open until 2013 or 2014, County Executive Dow Constantine said.

"The magic of this," Constantine said at the campaign-like news conference in South Park, "is not just having all the numbers add up to this, but having these parties stand shoulder to shoulder and say this is a priority for this region."

The afternoon event was held near the end of a brick road that once led to a wooden bridge and where the new bridge will be built.

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