By Marc Stiles, August 7, 2013, Puget Sound Business Journal
It took more than three years, but Port of Seattle commissioners on Tuesday approved a plan to pony up nearly $268 million for the $3.1 billion state Route 99 Alaskan Way Viaduct Replacement program.
The port’s contribution will come from the taxes it collects from King County property owners. The current rate is just over 23 cents for every $1,000 of assessed valuation, so the owner of a $350,000 house pays nearly $82 a year to the port.
The state Route 99 corridor is a vital freight route that parallels Seattle’s seaport, so in February 2010 the Port Commission adopted a “memorandum of agreement” with the state to provide up to $300 million for replacing the viaduct.
The project includes a $2 billion highway tunnel. Tunneling is under way, and the tunnel is scheduled to open to traffic in late 2015.
Port Commission President Tom Albro said that Route 99 tunnel “goes to the core of the economy of the region and not just the seaport,” so it’s fair that everyone help pay for it. “Public investment pays for public highways. That’s just the reality of the world.”
In addition to the $267.7 million that port commissioners appropriated Tuesday, the port is being credited for other work related to the viaduct replacement program, which is made up of more than 20 projects.
The port is getting $19 million worth of credits for contributions to the East Marginal Way overpass, Spokane Street viaduct and state Route 519 projects. Another $6 million was credited to the port because the agency will pay some money to the state a year early.
Another $1.3 million is being credited to the port for staff contributions on the viaduct replacement program. The port will, at its discretion, pay an additional $6 million for transportation projects in the Route 99 corridor.
Albro said the length of time it took to finalize the port’s contribution was not inordinate. Officials at the highest levels of the port and state, including the governor’s office, were involved in hammering out the details. As this was occurring, the project was being designed, a key member of the state’s tunnel team left, and a new governor was elected.
It was never the goal to finalize the deal “on the heels of the memorandum of agreement,” Albro said.
Other funding for the viaduct replacement project comes from $1.8 billion in state gas tax revenues; $37 million in additional state funding; $787 million in federal funds; $23 million in local funds; and $200 million in tolls.