SEATTLE - After releasing its own study of the traffic impact of a proposed sports arena in the SODO neighborhood, Port of Seattle commissioners voted unanimously Tuesday to delay the approval of the proposal.
Investor Chris Hansen wants to build a $490 million NBA/NHL arena just south of Safeco Field and east of the Port of Seattle.
While details of the report are forthcoming, it stated the "new arena in the SODO neighborhood will adversely affect operations of the Port of Seattle’s marine cargo terminals, some of which are located directly west of the site identified for the new arena." The report listed nine key points of concern on how traffic from the arena would impact port operations:
1. Additional events at a new arena will make it harder to reach the port and increase costs.
2. New incompatible land uses will affect the port’s ability to operate.
3. The large number of new events would reduce the port’s effective operating hours.
4. Port traffic in the evenings will conflict with new arena event traffic.
5. Proposed street closures will increase congestion along the port’s main freeway access route.
6. Additional pedestrian and vehicle activity at nearby railroad crossings increases the risk for train-related collisions and rail and road system delays.
7. Concurrent events at two or more venues greatly increases congestion to, from, and within SODO.
8. Alternative sites have not been considered.
9. The proposed arena has not detailed its mitigation needs or identified funding for mitigation.
Port of Seattle commissioners took public testimony and reviewed the report at a commission meeting Tuesday afternoon. Afterward, port commissioners unanimously passed a motion opposing the Seattle arena proposal and urged the Seattle City Council to hold off their vote until a full Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) is completed.
Seattle City Councilmember Tim Burgess, when reached for comment on the port's findings, called them "nothing really much new". However, he said he's working on crafting an amendment to the arena Memorandum of Understanding, which may ease Port concerns.
Burgess said there will be "strong provisions" calling for the council to have the ability to vote again on the project after the Environmental Impact Statement is completed. That could take a year.
He characterized talks with Hansen, over an MOU compromise, as "going well, but very technical". Burgess doubted the Council would vote by August 13, the last full Council meeting before its scheduled summer break.
Meanwhile, Seattle Councilmember Richard Conlin made a new strong stand against the arena.
"I am not convinced that the proposed arena will make a significant contribution to economic development," Conlin said in a blog post published Tuesday. "It will bring some new money into Seattle and will divert some other money that people might have spent on other activities. The economists who have studied this proposal agree (as do studies of every other such project) that the net effect is very small."
"If arena proponents want public funding, they could go to the legislature and propose specific taxes," Conlin added.
Port of Seattle Commissioner John Creighton, after reviewing the study, acknowledged Monday the report was "unsatisfying," since it identified traffic issues, rather than solutions. He said the long awaited study, commissioned by the Port of Seattle, identified bottlenecks and areas which need to be addressed in the neighborhood.
"I think key points are (that) the report aggregates data from prior studies to identify freight hot spots and issues that need to be addressed," said Creighton. "We are looking to the freight master plan update and/or the arena EIS to provide better clarity on specific projects that are needed."
Creighton, who has served on the Port Commission since 2006, also said he hopes to work with the city of Seattle to craft a strategy going forward and fully develop a freight master plan by 2013.
Read the reports commissioned by the Port of Seattle :