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Mike O’Brien wants to hold SDOT accountable for bike lane network

(AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)

Mike O’Brien wants to hold the Seattle Department of Transportation to a deadline when it comes to completing a bike lane network.

The councilmember says his latest resolution is about establishing an implementation schedule for several bike lanes and connections. Seattle has an “obligation” to provide safe modes of transportation for all residents and workers.

If approved by the city council, SDOT would be expected to complete at least portions of the Center City Bike Network in downtown by 2019.

“What today is about is solidifying the timeline and specifics, block by block, of what we’re building over the next one-and-a-half years,” he said.

The resolution comes as Seattle prepares for what is being called the “period of maximum constraint.” A combination of mega-projects, including but not limited to the water front redesign and Convention Center expansion, will make traffic congestion worse than it has ever been. Additionally, an unknown number of vehicles will deter around the Seattle tunnel — for multiple reasons — once it opens.

Expensive bike lane network

Funding for bike lane network projects is already there through SDOT’s current budget and the Levy to Move Seattle, according to O’Brien.

“We’re doing the resolution to say, look, we need to get you on a schedule to build things we’ve already budgeted for,” he said.

An assessment of the city’s $930 million transportation levy found that money won’t be enough to complete all the projects promised to the voters, who approved the levy in 2015. Projects facing a funding shortfall include constructing miles of protected bike lanes, among other promises. Costs to construct one mile of bike lane through Seattle have ballooned to $2 million, The Seattle Times reports.

O’Brien says the city will look at improving safety without overspending. However, he didn’t say something similar to what happened on Second Avenue wouldn’t happen again. The city estimated that the Second Avenue bike lane work would cost $860,000 — it ended up costing $12 million.

O’Brien said different areas of the city require varying amounts of work and spending.

“We cannot trade off safety to save a few bucks,” he said. Like Second Avenue, “when we’re retrofitting a street designed for cars to the detriment of people, sometimes it can be expensive.”

The council could vote on the resolution by the end of the month.

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