There’s a story in today’s Seattle Times about a list of “Ready To Go” infrastructure projects that was put together by the U.S. Conference of Mayors. The good news is that the Madison Valley flooding project made the list with a request for $40 million.
And although the article was a bit unfair by focusing only on one small solar panel project in Seattle, I read through the whole list (warning: 4MB file) and was struck by how much it lacked. For example, after all the talk of an unfunded $800 million network of streetcars in the city, Seattle has nothing listed under the transit section of the report. In the public safety category, there’s a measly request for funding for 11 new police officers, in a city that has over a thousand cops. Possibly most infuriating, we’re talking about closing a neighborhood elementary school due to the poor condition of its building, but there’s no request for money to rehab the city’s schools.
There’s going to be a big federal stimulus package, and it’s time for our local leaders to think similarly big about all of the things that we should have been building for years but haven’t due to the lack of funds.
Here’s some examples of what I think should be priorities:
- $500 million for a citywide, municipally-operated broadband network with affordable, high-speed fiber-optic connections at each home
- $500 million to construct and repair sidewalks throughout the city
- $250 million to take ugly, outage-prone overhead utility wires and bury them underground
- $250 million for a 4-mile streetcar connecting us to the new light rail stations at McClellan, I-90, and Capitol Hill, generally running along 23rd Ave
- $120 million for a 2-mile streetcar along 12th Ave, assuming First Hill wins their effort to put one further west.
- $100 million to improve the sewer system to eliminate overflows into Lake Washington during periods of heavy rainfall
- $100 million for pedestrian safety and traffic calming improvements throughout the city, such as new round-abouts, traffic signals, cross-walks, curb-bulbs, etc.
- $50 million for a new or significantly upgraded building for TT Minor
- $35 million to replace the old Soviet-inspired Medgar Evers Pool
- $30 million for a new police headquarters building in the East Precinct
- $20 million to build a new community center for Madison Valley
- $9 million to repave 23rd Ave from I-90 to 520
- $6 million to build a new Fire Station in the CD
- $5 million to purchase and renovate Washington Hall for use by neighborhood arts groups
It’s easy to come up with a list of as much as $2 billion with the projects like those listed above. And yes, that’s a huge amount of money. But if Obama comes out with a $1 trillion infrastructure package, a city like Seattle should be able to get at least $4 billion of that if we play our cards right.
The trick is to think big and get beyond the pet projects downtown like the Mercer St. mess that city leaders have wanted to do for years. We need to get some real projects done out in the neighborhoods of the city. Things that will last for generations and make it a much better place to live and work.
All it requires is some vision, some determination, and a willingness to involve real people in the neighborhoods in the process.