SEATTLE -– Arena backers are again pointing to internal emails that they say show Port of Seattle leaders discussed how to influence the arena debate to advance the Port's transportation agenda.
In an email dated March 21, Michael Burke, Director of Seaport Leasing at the Port, suggests a quid pro quo: the Port would support the arena in exchange for the city agreeing to special transit corridors from the port facilities through SODO.
Burke's note -- written to five colleagues, including including Linda Styrk, the Managing Director of the Seaport Division, and Mike Merritt, the Port’s Director of Governmental Relations -- was on the subject of overweight citations for trucks hauling freight to and from Port terminals.
“Not sure where Steve [Queen, the Port Container Operations Manager] is on corridor at moment but I do not see this issue getting resolved with City at staff level. Suggest we have a meeting of this group to seriously go over issue and status. What is City’s position on corridor? What we would want is an annual permit for certain roads from terminals to railyards at minimum; with a low annual cost. This is typical of California programs. Will City accept that or will they want Port to take maintenance responsibility for roads. Are we willing to do that? Do we have any idea what that would cost? This issue has been discussed for decades and never goes anywhere.
"One opening right now is basketball stadium proposal. What if we said we could support idea if we got corridors. Then we could say to our partners we got a significant benefit for trucking.”
Styrk responded to Burke's note 10 minutes later:
"Merritt & I have discussed the idea of the heavy haul corridor along with other important items for freight that would need to be addressed especially with respect to the arena developments Perhaps a convening of relevant Port staff as soon as Steve has enough details re heavy haul corridor needs."
Port spokesman Peter McGraw, who was part of the email chain, responded to a KING 5 query via a written statement:
“Our concerns regarding the proposed site have been consistent since the arena proposal was made public. The email you reference was an early discussion amongst port staff on how best to maintain and improve the movement of freight through SODO. The proposed arena has drawn further focus on the need for additional transportation improvements in that area.
"A heavy haul corridor has been discussed with the City well before the arena proposal as one part of an overall freight improvement strategy. It remains a subject of on-going discussion with the city, along with other transportation projects. As we’ve communicated before, it is essential that our customers be able to get containers off of ships and onto trucks and rail as quickly and safely as possible.”
Investor Chris Hansen wants to build a $490 million NBA/NHL Arena south of Safeco Field, and is in final negotiations with the City Council about amendments to the plan. The Port and other businesses and groups with interest in SODO argue that a third arena in the stadium district would compound an already bad traffic situation, threatening thousands of jobs.