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Jason Rantz

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Rantz: Why does a fence cost $1.1 million in Seattle?

I’m not going to criticize, too much, a recent decision to fence off a couple miles of land, preventing the homeless from camping in dangerous spots.

The move was long overdue from the Washington State Department of Transportation and the Seattle Department of Transportation. But I do question the absolutely insane price tag of $1.1 million dollars.

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According to Mike Lindblom of  The Seattle Times, this “one-off project” extends fencing under the Spokane Street Viaduct in Seattle’s SoDo neighborhood, after the area saw two deaths and two serious RV fires in just under a year. In total, the fencing encompasses about 2 miles.

Somehow, the price tag is an astonishing $1.1 million dollars. No, the fence isn’t gold plated. This “extra-strength fence stands 10-foot-4, with small mesh that’s hard for climbers to grab” with tiny blades “discreetly cinched along the top, resembling common bird spikes that repel crows and gulls.”

How in the world is the price tag so high? Part of me doesn’t want to criticize this too much because this is the right move to protect the homeless from dangerous scenarios. And I fear the criticism might stop WSDOT or SDOT from future necessary work, for fear they’ll hear complaints from everyone. I’ve visited this spot with Seattle’s Union Gospel Mission. It’s dirty, dark, and unsafe.

But, seriously, $1.1 million dollars? Their explanation here (on page 8) doesn’t quite make much sense and I think it would better serve WSDOT and SDOT to more clearly explain the costs which, they should understand, sounds incredibly high to the layperson.

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