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Originally published Wednesday, April 10, 2013 at 5:47 PM

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McGinn urges speedier studies of new Ship Canal transit crossings

Mayor Mike McGinn is trying again to push the City Council to fund studies this year for two new transit crossings, one to the University District and another between Fremont and Ballard.

Seattle Times staff reporter

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Mayor Mike McGinn is trying again to push the Seattle City Council to fund studies this year for two new transit crossings, one to the University District and one to Fremont.

McGinn said in a Wednesday news conference he has proposed a 2013 supplemental budget request to fund the two studies.

The council turned down a similar request from the mayor last fall, saying the projects may be worthy but the city had other pressing priorities, such as sidewalks and backlogged maintenance.

“Déjà vu,” said council President Sally Clark. “It seems like we just discussed this. There are a lot of competing priorities and I don’t know that the landscape has changed that much from four months ago.”

Flanked by industry, transit, bicycle and University District business representatives, McGinn said studies are urgent so the city does not risk losing federal transit funds to other metropolitan areas.

“There’s fierce competition for federal funds and I want to put Seattle first,” McGinn said.

The council had decided to fund the U District study in 2014 — when McGinn, who faces eight challengers in this year’s mayoral election, might not occupy City Hall’s top floor.

McGinn admitted he hasn’t been “terribly persuasive” with the council — which includes election rivals Tim Burgess and Bruce Harrell. But he said he hoped the council would listen to the wishes of citizens about making crossings easier and alleviating two traffic pinch points.

The council has been listening, Clark said, and trying to balance the mayor’s pitch with the need for projects in Lake City, southeast Seattle and other neighborhoods such as Wedgwood, where two pedestrians were recently killed by a driver who has been charged with vehicular homicide and reckless driving.

That accident and others are reminders that safety improvements on some roads would “make a difference in people’s lives right now,” Clark said.

Specifically, McGinn proposed Wednesday that the council, which had budgeted $1 million in 2014 for the U District crossing, spend $300,000 this year getting started. He also wants the council to spend $500,000 this year on the Ship Canal crossing near Fremont. He’s put money for both in a supplemental 2013 budget proposal.

The U District crossing could be a tunnel or bridge and could carry a high-capacity extension of the South Lake Union streetcar across the Montlake Cut.

Sound Transit is already building a light-rail line through the U District. But it would come from Capitol Hill and have just two stops in the university area. A streetcar would be more of a neighborhood connector, McGinn said, with more stops. “Mature cities tend to have regional and local (rail) systems,” he said.

The Ship Canal crossing could be between Fremont and Ballard on the canal’s north side. It could carry light rail or streetcars.

Studies would help determine cost and feasibility for different modes of transit, and different means of crossing the water, the mayor said.

As for McGinn’s renewed push this year, Clark wouldn’t speculate on its relevance to the mayor’s re-election campaign. “I am not even going to go there. There may be candidates who want to go there, but I’m going to leave that to them.”

Bob Young: 206-464-2174 or byoung@seattletimes.com

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