Wednesday, March 10, 2010

South Park Bridge

I joined about 200 people at the South Park monthly community meeting last night to hear about the fate of the South Park Bridge. South Park is a fascinating little neighborhood on the southern edge of Seattle, mostly built from the 1920's through 1950's to provide homes for the Boeing workers whose factory was in full bloom at the time. Since then the fortunes of Boeing and all of the industries that surrounded it have waxed and waned, and South Park has come through many rough patches. Statistics from the 1970's and 80's suggest that it was Seattle's most dangerous zip code for quite a while, but in recent years the neighborhood has undergone a rennaisance, finally getting a long sought library and community center, and becoming the most ethnically diverse neighborhood in Seattle.

The big problem South Park faces these days is the closure of the bridge that connects the neighborhood with the rest of the city. The bridge across the Duwamish River moves some 20,000 cars and trucks and more than 5,000 bicyclists and pedestrians each day. A 2006 assessment of the bridge showed that one of its piers isn't anchored in stable soil, both piers were built with substandard concrete, and either side could collapse during an earthquake. The Federal Highway Administration has given the bridge the worst safety rating in the state.

King County estimates that it would cost $123 million to replace the bridge, and last month the federal government rejected a grant request for $99 million, leaving the project without a penny. The bridge is scheduled to be closed on June 30th, diverting all traffic to the nearby freeway and cutting off all walking and biking routes to and from the neighborhood. An urban neighborhood on the verge of genuine renewal will be left utterly isolated.

The facts one could gather from the community meeting were nothing but depressing. Despite years of warnings, there is simply NO plan to repair or replace the bridge. Representatives were on hand from the Office of the King County Executive, from the City of the Seattle and from the Port of Seattle, but there was only one message: South Park does not have the money or the clout to force a solution. The locals were up in arms with anger and frustration, but the offical reaction was to express sympathy and shoot down all hope.

Read more about the situation here, and more about yesterday's community meeting here. And if you're in Washington, by all means call your local and State reps and demand that they help this vibrant community maintain its lifeline.

1 comment:

Heather said...

Great entry! Thanks for writing it.