Agreement includes funding for housing, schedule for buses to leave tunnel
StoryThe Metropolitan King County Council today approved the sale of the County-owned Convention Place Transit Station to the Washington State Convention Center, a step toward the expansion of the convention center. The $275 million sale also set the schedule on when Metro buses will leave the tunnel to allow construction of both Sound Transit’s East Link as well as expansion of the Convention Center at the location.
“People come from across the country and the world to attend conferences at the Convention Center, bringing a tremendous economic boon to our region,” said Councilmember Jeanne Kohl-Welles, the prime sponsor of the ordinance. “This well-crafted agreement will ensure the increased economic benefit is shared by the entire community through new jobs, extending the length of time before buses exit the tunnel, and increased funding for affordable housing.”
“Promoting a growing, innovative and robust economy in our county and region must remain a top priority for county leaders, and that is what we’ve delivered today,’ said Council Chair Joe McDermott. “Not only will the convention center expansion be an economic boon with good new jobs for years to come, this property sale will also bring funding for more bus service and much needed money for affordable housing. We must now work to ensure that upgrades and bus service additions are made to smoothly transition buses out of the tunnel and keep traffic moving downtown when construction begins in 2019.”
The $275 million purchase price includes an initial $25 million cash payment with the balance (principal and interest) paid through 2048. The purchase price was arrived through an appraisal conducted by a firm jointly procured by the County and the Convention Center. The Convention Center agreed to contribute an additional $5 million above the appraised price for construction of affordable housing.
Convention Place Station is the northern entrance and exit of the Downtown Seattle Transit Tunnel, used as a boarding area for buses entering and leaving the tunnel as well as a bus layover location. In preparation for Sound Transit’s construction of the East Link light rail line along with the potential expansion of the Convention Center, buses were already projected to leave the Transit Tunnel as early as next year, but no later than 2020.
As amended by the County Council, the sales agreement confirms a 2019 schedule for buses leaving the tunnel. Depending on when the needed permits are in place, the closure would occur in March 2019 or September 2019, dates that are later than the timetable proposed by the Executive. The agreement provides for temporary bus layover space and interim transit stops near the old Convention Place location until buses leave the Tunnel.
“The Downtown Seattle Transit Tunnel provides uniquely valuable dedicated right of way for trains and buses in the most congested urban area in our County,” said Councilmember Claudia Balducci. “I thank the Council for supporting my amendment so that the purchase and sale agreement will now allow buses to remain in the tunnel as long as possible, understanding that they will ultimately be replaced or displaced by the expansion of light rail in 2019.”
The approved agreement also commits the Convention Center to contribute funds for the construction of affordable housing on site or to provide those funds to King County to be used for affordable housing in the county.