Mayor's 'dirty dozen' transpo problems

The 45th Street corridor was named July 12 as the top vote-getter in Mayor Greg Nickels' search for the "dirty dozen" worst transportation problems in Seattle.

Speaking at a press conference in Wallingford, the mayor promised to repave the street later this summer, and he took the opportunity to promote his $1.8-billion, 20-year plan to fix a decades-long backlog of deferred maintenance for the city's roads, bridges and sidewalks.

But the Seattle City Council Committee of the Whole discussed on Monday this week a funding package that is roughly 75 percent of the mayor's.

Also included in the dirty dozen list of jobs to be tackled separately from the transportation package was repaving West McGraw Place on Queen Anne Hill for $60,000, along with spending $30,000 to restripe Dexter Avenue North for bicycle safety.

However, there are already bicycle lanes on Dexter Avenue that are in good shape, and although West McGraw Place is cracked in some spots, the street is no worse than other neighborhood thoroughfares such as Third Avenue West.

Kara Ceriello didn't think 45th was as bad as some other streets in Wallingford, although she admitted it's "very lumpy bumpy." Ceriello is the co-president of the Wallingford Chamber of Commerce and one of the owners of the Not A Number store, which was formerly located on Upper Queen Anne Hill.

She's worried about the scope of the work. "We need to make sure that they're going to repave the road, not just pave over [the existing asphalt]."

Ceriello also questioned the timing of Nickels' push for funding. "It's interesting it comes right after new budget money was found," she said. "So why do we have to hit everybody up again?"

Ceriello added that she has no problem paying her fair share in taxes and fees, but there's a limit. "A lot of us are taxed out," she complained.

Taxpayer fatigue was an issue that came up at the city council committee meeting, too. "The ultimate goal is to craft a package that will pass in November," said committee chair Jan Drago.

The mayor's proposal includes a $25 head tax for each employee at Seattle businesses, a 10-percent tax on commercial parking in the city and an increase in property tax that would raise an estimated $45 million in just the first year.

The property tax under the council's proposal would work out to be an extra $135 a year for a home worth $400,000, and $195 a year for the same house under the mayor's proposal, according to city staff. The staff members also said the property tax would provide around two-thirds of the total funding.

Speaking before the committee meeting, Greater Seattle Chamber of Commerce president and CEO Steve Leahy agreed the city has to do something about the issue. "The problem is real; the need is huge," he said.

But Leahy worried that the funding would have an unfair impact on businesses, and he questioned whether all alternative forms of financing have been considered. "So our request would be to take a bit more time, with all of you as actors."

The committee didn't have much of a choice. Drago announced she was putting off a vote until next Monday because the committee members were still hashing through the complicated details of the competing proposals.

Staff reporter Russ Zabel can be reached at or 461-1309.

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