Seattle City Council member and mayoral challenger Tim Burgess's new transportation proposal has Mayor Mike McGinn feeling nostalgic. "Really, it's a great transportation plan," insists McGinn, "for 1975."
"There's no rail transit in it," McGinn complains about a "Plan for the Future" that apparently sees little future in rail. The topic of rail did come up at Burgess's March 12 press conference—specifically the question of extending rapid transit to Ballard—but Burgess claimed to be mode-agnostic. "Rubber or rail," said Burgess, whatever the studies recommend.
Promising to "fix what we have and finish what we started," Burgess unveiled his proposal while standing in front of a Boylston Avenue pothole. But McGinn describes Burgess's focus on pothole repair as both sudden and unworkable.
"The first time Tim Burgess showed any interest in potholes was when he found one outside his campaign office," quips McGinn.
Burgess proposes abandoning the city's current complaint-based pothole-repair system for a grid-based system modeled on Seattle City Light's successful program of fixing streetlamps one neighborhood at a time. But McGinn worries that this could leave the worst potholes unfilled while crews are busy patching less severely damaged streets. "It's a public-safety issue," emphasizes McGinn.
Burgess also points to the City of Olympia's "Least-Cost Strategy to Pavement Management" as a model, but McGinn counters that these strategies are already in place in practice, if not in name. It was on McGinn's watch that the city reinstituted "crack seal" and "chip seal" programs in an effort to prevent potholes before they appear. "We've invested $28 million over the past two years in spot repairs," claims McGinn.
As for the only transit proposal in Burgess's plan—a call to negotiate with Metro to assure that savings from city-financed transit improvements flow back to Seattle residents in the form of better service—McGinn is equally dismissive. "His plan is to ask for $6 million more from Metro at a time they're headed over a fiscal cliff," scoffs McGinn.
Who you think won this first policy skirmish of the mayoral campaign probably depends on where your loyalties lie. But if they can muster such feistiness over mere potholes, it promises to be one helluva fun race.