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Rantz: Seattle council members have literally no clue what bike lanes cost

Bike lanes on Second Avenue. (SDOT)

As the mayor’s office and some council members push forward with plans to spend millions on bike infrastructure — even though bike commuting just hit a 10 year low — the Seattle Department of Transportation won’t explain to the Seattle City Council how much bike lanes costs, according to one city council member.

“I still don’t have a real answer how much a bike lane costs,” Councilmember Debora Juarez recently complained. “I don’t know if it’s just cones and paint or if it’s digging up sewers and pipes … I don’t know. SDOT has never provided us with that.”

This remarkable revelation was made at a recent Select Budget Committee meeting where they discussed budgeting for certain transportation-related projects.

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Juarez is struggling to understand why SDOT is moving forward with bike lanes that her constituents don’t want, when there are unacceptably large portions of her district without sidewalks.

“And if you’re just putting them in to slow down traffic, then tell us you’re just putting in something to slow down traffic, so putting in bike lanes,” Juarez said, suggesting SDOT is solely interest in slowing down cars, not providing a service people are asking for.

That implies an irresponsibly wild misuse of tax dollars on something they haven’t put a clear price tag on

No clue on cost

The conversation between Councilmembers Juarez and Sally Bagshaw, an advocate for bike lanes, was nearly comical as they tried to decipher its cost, in front of SDOT representatives.

Juarez: We have two bike lanes in (District 5) that aren’t even used. So I’m going to ask you to be accountable to us, to tell me, how you’re justifying those bike lanes and their maintenance, particularly when I heard numbers … how much are we spending per mile on a bike lane? On the last number we heard … was it $10 million dollars or something like that?

Bagshaw: I think that is one of those debatable points that we’ll need to actually get some facts because sometimes we talk about moving utilities, and moving lights, moving water mains and that gets rolled into a per mile construction. But it may be more appropriate to look at the whole street as we’re building. That’s a fight I would prefer wage with some facts.

Juarez: I’m not suggesting it’s a fight, but what I’m suggesting is we don’t have a complete picture of exactly what that means when we meet with constituents…

What’s particularly frightening is that Bagshaw – and other council members – are pushing for bike lanes when she is clueless as to the cost. And then we wonder why we’re running low on tax dollars for projects people actually want. The council gets mad when we stop them from grabbing tax dollars for homeless projects, for example. Maybe if they were better stewards of our tax dollars, voters wouldn’t be so reticent to cough up more funds?

Listen to the Jason Rantz Show weekday mornings from 6-9 a.m. on KTTH 770 AM (or HD Radio 97.3 FM HD-Channel 3). Subscribe to the podcast here.

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