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Originally published Friday, June 25, 2010 at 7:38 PM

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South Park Bridge funding ramps up quickly with added $10 million grant

The state Transportation Improvement Board, acting just four days after it received a request to help build a new South Park Bridge, approved a $10 million grant Friday.

Seattle Times staff reporter

Applying for grants for road projects typically takes many months.

On Friday, the South Park Bridge replacement project received a $10 million state grant just four days after King County requested the money.

With the bridge scheduled to close for safety reasons Wednesday, the Transportation Improvement Board decided to join other local and state agencies that are sharing the cost of a new bridge across the Duwamish River.

"Getting a request on Monday and acting on a $10 million grant on Friday is not our normal process," said Stevan Gorcester, executive director of the 20-member Transportation Board. " ... When you have a facility in this condition, people just need to come together. We in the transportation business know how to come together when we need to."

The funding, approved as a project of "an emergent nature," will help to replace a 78-year-old drawbridge that carries 20,000 vehicles a day and connects a number of residential communities with the industrial heartland of South Seattle and North Tukwila.

The board's action brings to $80 million the money pledged by local and state agencies for the $131 million project within the past 10 days.

King County, which owns the bridge, has aggressively sought funding close to home before applying to the U.S. Department of Transportation for an economic stimulus grant.

The funding campaign made additional headway Thursday when Puget Sound Regional Council President Ray Stephanson scheduled a July 22 vote on the county's request for a $15 million grant.

King County Executive Dow Constantine said in a statement the Transportation Improvement Board funding "gives us an even stronger hand as we make the final push to secure all funding needed."

"This is very exciting," Metropolitan King County Councilmember Jan Drago said in a statement. "Support for the bridge from partners at every level just keeps rolling in!"

Gov. Chris Gregoire announced Tuesday she would provide $20 million in state funds — separate from the Transportation Improvement Board dollars — toward a new South Park Bridge.

The Metropolitan King County Council pledged $30 million Monday, the Seattle Port Commission promised $5 million Tuesday and the Seattle City Council made a $15 million commitment the previous week.

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All those commitments fall $51 million short of the goal, but represent huge progress in a short time toward solving a problem that languished for years because of a lack of money.

Construction, which could begin late this year, won't come soon enough to prevent permanent closure of the old bridge, whose decaying supports are twisting and turning in the Duwamish River sediments. If full funding is found, the new span won't open before 2013 or 2014.

Keith Ervin: 206-464-2105 or kervin@seattletimes.com

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