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Originally published September 6, 2006 at 12:00 AM | Page modified September 6, 2006 at 9:31 PM

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Seattle Monorail Project makes final debt payment

This week's payment marks a milestone in the failed effort to build a 14-mile line from Ballard to West Seattle.

Seattle Times staff reporter

The Seattle Monorail Project is debt-free at last, after making the last payment on $110 million the agency borrowed to plan and promote its unbuilt Green Line.

This week's payment marks a milestone in the effort to close down the agency after it failed to build a proposed 14-mile line from Ballard to West Seattle. Voters halted the project last November after an $11.4 billion finance plan was dropped, Mayor Greg Nickels withdrew his personal support, and a shortened, less expensive line was proposed.

The selloff of land the agency bought for use as stations brought in about $72 million this year — $10 million more than SMP paid. Staff and office space have been cut. There are just three part-time staffers now.

Chief Operating Officer Jonathan Buchter said the agency's efficient work helped end the monorail's citywide car-tab tax at the end of June, sooner than expected.

Once the books close this winter, the SMP board intends to give a rebate to people who just paid for their June tabs. Those motorists were billed for a fourth year of monorail tax, while others paid only three times, since the tax began in June 2003.

Other taxpayers will not get a refund, because while the agency was active, it spent more than it collected. The net loss to taxpayers — dollars that went to monorail staff, lawyers, engineers, bankers, architects, property experts, city departments, and others — is about $120 million.

Mike Lindblom: 206-515-5631 or mlindblom@seattletimes.com

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