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KeyArena group’s transportation fund not nearly ‘aggressive’ enough

(File, Associated Press)

On the surface, the Oak View Group’s proposed transportation fund that would help mitigate traffic around Seattle’s KeyArena is a blessing.

Related: KeyArena deal heads to Seattle City Council

The Memorandum of Understanding between the investment group and city proposes $40 million for the transportation fund. Additionally, another $30 million from the construction budget would be set aside for transportation, KING 5 reports, citing Oak View CEO Tim Leiweke.

Leiweke reportedly said the group will be “aggressive on every event,” referring to issues surrounding the arena.

But not so fast.

The Oak View Group wants to pony up that $40 million for mitigating the inevitable impact on traffic over a 39-year period that coincides with the facility’s lease, The Seattle Times reports. The memorandum also includes two, eight-year lease renewal options.

If approved as is, the city wouldn’t see the full benefit of the transportation fund for years — spread out over nearly four decades. According to the Times, City Budget Director Ben Noble also said public bonds of up to $20 million could be issued if the city really needed the money.

It’s clear Queen Anne needs some assistance in the traffic department. A study by Kirkland-based company INRIX that looked at traffic along Queen Anne Avenue, Denny, First and Fifth avenues, Mercer Street, and Roy Street on days during high-traffic events, found noticeable traffic impacts. Those events included two Pac-12 women’s tournament games and Justin Bieber and Adele concerts. The study was posted by KING 5 and can be found here. An analyst at INRIX told KING 5 traffic congestion on east Denny, for example, increased from 20 to as much as 75 percent during peak afternoon/evening commutes.

The head of Seattle’s economic development office told the Times the city “probably should be” ensuring good traffic flow “regardless of an arena.”

Oak View Group’s proposal beat out Seattle Partners in the bid for KeyArena. Earlier this year, Seattle Partners withdrew its proposal.

The Seattle City Council will hold a series of public meetings before a tentatively scheduled Dec. 4 vote.

The data in front of the city should be enough for decision makers to take a firm stance on — if not receiving the full $40 million outright — at least a large chunk of funding for traffic mitigation from the get-go. Because if a Pac-12 game can draw enough fans to add noticeable congestion, think about the amount of traffic an NBA or NHL game will cause.

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