Port of Seattle wants to put brakes on Sodo arena

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SoDo arena rendering

SEATTLE — If the Port of Seattle Commission has its way, no basketball area would be built in Seattle’s Sodo district.

The commission sent a letter to Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn saying a recently completed draft environmental impact statement lacks specifics on how traffic would be impacted. Commissioners also say an arena could result in the loss of middle-class jobs.

At a recent commission hearing, the Manufacturing Industrial Council, union railroad, long shore workers and others voiced concerns about traffic congestion, safety issues and other impacts associated with a new arena in the city’s industrial zone.

“These industrial jobs matter,” said John Lockwood of Vigor Industrial, a Seattle shipbuilder. “They represent an irreplaceable slice of our shrinking middle class. They put people to work producing real, tangible, valuable goods.”

According to port officials, the manufacturing and industrial sector accounts for 36 percent of the city’s sales tax receipts and 38 percent of the city’s total B&O tax revenue.  The port’s container terminals support 30,000 jobs. They also say $10 billion in Washington state exports depend on maintaining the Port of Seattle’s international gateway.

The Commission says the environmental impact statement does not include a funding proposal or specific transportation improvement projects.  Critics estimate improvements, such as east-west overpasses, new highway access and signal timing could cost hundreds of millions of dollars.

Mariners’ games already increase westbound I-90 traffic 20-30 percent.  Arena opponents say basketball and hockey would nearly double the number of weeknight games in the area.

“We do not see the need to rush forward with a decision on an arena,” wrote port commissioners. “The NBA has said they are not contemplating expansion and the developer has no firm prospect of luring an existing team from another city. We urge the city to begin the process anew.”

Last April, a King County judge dismissed a lawsuit aimed a stopping construction of the new arena.

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