08.01.2018 0

Clueless in Seattle – Smug city throws money after streetcar and bike fiasco that’s totally off the rails

By Printus LeBlanc

Once again, the oh-so progressive, oh-so enlightened Seattle City Council is showing the rest of the country what not to do. The idealistic leftists who control the Council are wasting millions of hard-earned taxpayer dollars in failed attempts to solve problems Council members created – and spending yet more money when things go wrong.

All this is turning Seattle into the poster city for the failure of Big Government. The city best known for fish markets, coffee stores, rain, and flannel-wearing musicians is now becoming legendary for its incompetent leadership and its financial boondoggles.

The latest example of Seattle senselessness is the Council’s costly and deeply flawed efforts to get more people riding public transportation and bicycles. Other than spending lots of money, this effort isn’t accomplishing anything.

Seattle was one of the first cities to get electric streetcars in the U.S., with the first electric car entering service in 1889. With over a century of experience, you would think the city would know how to handle public transit. Not so. Taxpayers are paying a big price for the incompetence of city officials.

The public transportation system in Seattle is a mess. Construction costs for new and upgraded streetcar and light rail lines are skyrocketing well above estimated costs.

One of the more unbelievable mistakes made was the purchase of 10 new streetcars last fall. Apparently, when the Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT) ordered the cars, no one thought to check the measurements.

The order was placed for street cars that are likely too big for the tracks and the maintenance barn. The project is already $50 million over budget, not including the $52 million it cost for the 10 cars that may be useless. How has no one been fired for this?

Not only is Seattle having problems with its streetcar projects, but its bike lane experiment has also been an unmitigated financial disaster. In 2015, Seattle voters approved a $930 million transportation tax to fund something called “Move Seattle.”

The nearly $1 billion initiative made bold promises, while increasing the average property taxes by $275. One of the bold promises was 50 miles of bike lanes.

Many voiced concerns about the price tag of the ambitious project. After looking at the most recent costs of the bike lanes, their concerns were clearly warranted.

The city’s initial budget estimated $854,000 per mile for construction of the bike lanes and greenways. Incredibly, so far stretches of the bike lanes are costing over 1,000 percent more than expected.

The bike lane on Seventh Avenue clocks in at $13 million per mile, while the Second Avenue lane is $12 million per mile. At this rate, the bike lanes alone will cost more than the entire Move Seattle project.

Of course, no one has been held accountable for the cost overrun, as this is Seattle where mistakes get people promoted.

Knowing all this, the Seattle City Council still voted to push more bike lane policies. On Monday, a resolution passed calling for SDOT to make sure bike lanes are connected, meaning yet more construction.

I’m not sure what is more infuriating – the fact that a bike lane project that did not connect all the lanes was approved in the first place, or that after monumental cost overruns the City Council’s answer was to spend yet more money.

What is truly amazing is that Seattle is trying to increase the number of bicyclists on the street at the same time it wants to increase the streetcar and light rail lines. As any cyclist can attest, rail lines and bicycle tires are a dangerous mix. Expanding both is sure to lead to more accidents.

Seattle and Sound Transit are already being sued for the tragic death of Desiree McCloud. The young woman was in a bike lane when her tire got caught in the train track, causing a horrific crash. McCloud was hospitalized and later died of her injuries.

With its spendthrift and clueless way, the Seattle City Council is showing all Americans the importance of voting in local elections. Too many us of neglect to do this, focusing on elections for president, national and statewide offices.

Local government is closest to the people and in many ways can have the most direct impact on our lives. In Seattle, big-spending liberals trying to fulfill their dreams are creating nightmares for the people of the city.

As originally published on Fox News.

Printus LeBlanc is legislative director at Americans for Limited Government.

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