Seattle's Prop. 1 is a $290 million question for voters

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by ALLEN SCHAUFFLER / KING 5 News

KING5.com

Posted on November 1, 2012 at 6:44 PM

Seattle voters are being asked to approve a $290 million bond issue to repair the city's aging seawall.

Supporters point to the fact that the newest portions of the seawall are 80 years old, with the oldest sections nearly a century old. Weather, aging and decay caused by marine creatures have left the seawall vulnerable should a natural disaster occur.

The Washington State Department of Transportation warns that an earthquake only slightly worse than the 2002 Nisqually quake would cause the seawall and Alaskan Viaduct to collapse into Elliott Bay. 

Proposition 1 on Seattle voters' ballots would raise most of the $300 million needed to fix the seawall via a 30-year bond that would cost property owners about $59 a year (based on the median home value of $360,000). Because Prop. 1 would raise taxes, it requires a 60 percent majority vote.

Opponents don't disagree that the seawall needs fixing. They believe businesses based along the waterfront should cover more of the costs, not property owners throughout the city.

"I think it's an unfair and unjust burden on a lot of property owners whose benefits are essentially zero," said Christopher Brown, a retired engineer who's helping lead opposition to Prop. 1.

Phase one of the seawall project -- covering S. Washington St. to Virginia St. -- involves injecting a special grout into the ground behind the seawall to shore it up. Phase two would cover the section of the seawall between Virginia St. and Broad St. ... and would cost another $300 million (though the city is hoping the federal government will pay for much of that).

Seattle isn't waiting on how voters will come down on Prop. 1.  Project manager Jennifer Wieland said the design process is about 60 percent complete and the city plans to hire a contractor and obtain permits so construction can begin next summer.

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