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Seattle leaders propose millions in spending for COVID recovery, aging bridges

University Bridge and I-5. (Photo courtesy of SDOT Flickr)

Seattle city leaders unveiled a pair of proposals this week to direct millions of dollars towards COVID-19 recovery efforts, aging infrastructure, and more.

Audit: Seattle doesn’t spend enough money on bridge maintenance

The first proposal — from Councilmembers Alex Pedersen, Lisa Herbold, Andrew Lewis, and Teresa Mosqueda — would put $100 million in money raised by an additional $20 vehicle license fee toward fixing the city’s aging bridges and infrastructure.

Upwards of $88 million would be put toward bridge maintenance annually. That was a decision driven by a 2020 audit that concluded that the city was spending “tens of millions of dollars less than what is needed” to adequately preserve its 77 separate spans, and that many were already in poor condition due to neglect.

“In a city carved by waterways and ravines, we rely on bridges to support all modes of transportation that connect us and keep our economy moving,” councilmembers detailed in a joint statement. “We have a duty to stop kicking the can down the road, and now we have an opportunity to go bigger and bolder.”

Millions more would go toward seismic retrofits for 16 bridges, including ones leading in and out of Ballard, Fremont, and the University District. Funding would also cover replacing the 90-year-old Magnolia Bridge, while another $8 million would go toward maintaining and fixing Seattle’s older draw, bascule, and swing bridges.

A separate proposal unveiled on Wednesday by Mayor Jenny Durkan and Councilmembers Lorena Gonzalez and Teresa Mosqueda would put $18 million in COVID-19 aid toward “health, food, and families.”

WA close to ‘turning the corner’ on COVID, but seeing start of fourth wave 

If passed, it would “increase appropriations for existing COVID-related city services through the end of 2021,” fund vaccine outreach to at-risk groups, provide additional food bank support to families and children, and establish grants for child care providers.

“Our focus is building back our city better, which means that we must center our equitable response and recovery on Seattle’s businesses, families, and communities,” Durkan said in a written release.

The money would be taken from unspent federal COVID-19 relief funds distributed to the city in 2020. An additional $119 million from the American Rescue Plan will be allocated by the mayor and city council sometime in May.

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