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Tuesday, August 17, 2004 - Page updated at 12:00 A.M.

Seattle finally has a monorail plan

By Mike Lindblom
Seattle Times staff reporter

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Times' Monorail section
After three political campaigns and two more years of public hearings, Seattle finally has a monorail plan.

Just before noon yesterday, three vans delivered proposal documents from the Cascadia Monorail Co., the sole bidder to build and operate the 14-mile Green Line linking Ballard, Seattle Center, downtown and West Seattle.

"Seattle will be a showcase," promises Jeff Fielder, a team executive.

The system could take out a lane of Second Avenue downtown to allow space between high-rise buildings and the trains, according to drawings by the Seattle Monorail Project (SMP). Cascadia also would give its boxy-looking Japanese trains a nose job, to offer a sleeker, more tapered profile in Seattle.

However, the actual details will be kept secret for a few more weeks, after the SMP staff weighs aspects of the proposal including financing, design, labor relations and public outreach — behind closed doors. On Sept. 8, staff members will give the board their opinion about whether to launch negotiations with Cascadia.

This fall, a final proposal would be unveiled and a public hearing held before any final board vote.

Several citizens, for and against the monorail, have urged the agency to release the details right away.

The contract could be worth roughly $1.3 billion out of a total project cost of $1.75 billion. Cascadia's main partners are Washington Group International and Fluor, along with train supplier Hitachi, which has supplied Japanese monorails since the 1960s.

If the talks with Cascadia break off, rival train supplier Bombardier of Canada and its partners in "Team Monorail" — who were unable to bid by the deadline — would be available to make an offer, team organizer Tom Stone said last week.

Seattle voters approved monorail planning initiatives in 1997 and 2000, followed by a car-tab tax to build the Green Line in 2002.

A fourth campaign could occur if Initiative 83, known as Monorail Recall, makes the fall ballot. But Friday, a King County Superior Court judge barred I-83 from the ballot on grounds that it conflicts with state and city land-use laws.
 
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Opponents of the monorail are seeking a hearing before the state Court of Appeals in September. Seattle City Council had planned to forward I-83 to King County yesterday to put it on the Nov. 2 ballot, but decided to postpone action until at least Sept. 7 because of Friday's court ruling.

But Councilman Richard Conlin, who opposes the line, chided the SMP because it sued to stop the initiative, at taxpayer expense. "What started out as a grass-roots initiative, that had people's support, has become a monolithic institution that doesn't want the public to have a say anymore," he said.

Councilwoman Jean Godden, part of the council's pro-monorail majority, said she worried about voter confusion and didn't want to take the risk of putting an initiative on the ballot and then having it struck down by the courts.

Mike Lindblom: 206-515-5631

Copyright © 2004 The Seattle Times Company

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