The main focus of the Mercer project discussion was the removal of budget restrictions that limit the Seattle Department of Transportation and Seattle City Light’s level of spending on the project.
"The current Mercer Project cost is $200.4 million," said Mike Fong, Council central staff, and "there is a funding gap of $95.4 million."
City funds contribute $78.5 million to the budget, and government grants and utility funding contribute $500,000 and $26 million, respectively. Private contributions have been able to make up between $58.6 million, but that still leaves a gap of anywhere between $20 million and $36.8 million. The Mercer Corridor Project plan is counting on another $50 million from the Federal Recovery from via the Economic Stimulus.
Another way to make up some of the costs is in the sale of surplus property after the project is finished, but "this particular parcel may not be available for surplus until several years down the road," said Fong.
Council central staff and Seattle Department of Transportation members also reviewed details of the project and dates for completion.
It's expected, that the Mercer project will create 575 new construction jobs and should both alleviate traffic congestion, as well as promote pedestrian traffic in the area.
"S.D.O.T. has decided to design a six-lane configuration instead of a seven-lane configuration," said Dan Eder, Council central staff. This will allow three lanes in each direction, and create a more pedestrian-friendly environment, he said.
The seven-lane design, according to Eder, would have allowed for another lane of traffic, but the downsides outweighed the advantages. He said the six-lane design lends itself to more attractive urban design and better pedestrian access.
The current design would allow for an additional eastbound lane in the future, if needed, said Grace Crunican, Seattle Department of Transportation Director.
Jan Drago, Seattle City Council Transportation Committee Chair, said the discussion needs to continue to weigh the pros and cons of a six-lane configuration rather than a seven-lane configuration, because, "an option could be that you have seven lanes … and parking in off-peak hours."
Other upcoming plans include expanding Mercer into a two-way section West of Dexter Avenue, which is part of the greater Alaskan Way Viaduct Project Replacement Project plan.
As far as timing goes, Crunican said, "Should the funding fall in place … I assume we can get Mercer all the way across by 2013."
More information about the Mercer Corridor project can be found here.