Chris Hansen to pay for SoDo transportation study



SEATTLE - Investor Chris Hansen will pay for a transportation study to see what affects a proposed NBA-NHL arena will have on Seattle's SoDo neighborhood, he and local leaders announced Thursday.

Hansen, King County Executive Dow Constantine and Mayor Mike McGinn said the study is expected to take six to eight weeks and will focus on how people access the area (what types of transportation they use), parking, and ways to potentially enhance access to the area.

"Traffic was one of the key benefits of this area," Hansen said. "We looked at a lot of sites. We thought this one was the best."

Traffic has emerged as the latest major hurdle in getting a new arena built.

A 3-acre property, which is owned by Hansen and sits just south of Safeco Field, is the proposed site for the new arena.

That location apparently doesn’t sit well with Safeco Field’s main tenants, the Seattle Mariners. The team sent a letter to McGinn on Tuesday saying the arena proposal “simply does not work” and would cause “traffic gridlock (that) would put all of the area’s teams at risk.” The team suggested looking to build in a neighborhood other than SoDo.

In early February, officials at Safeco Field and CenturyLink Field, where the Seahawks and Sounders play, filed a Transportation Management Program study, which stated that both venues would need to have the end time of one event and the start time of another to be four hours apart to allow traffic to clear. 

On Wednesday, Mariners President Chuck Armstrong clarified that while the Mariners don’t object to bringing NBA and NHL teams to Seattle, other events that would have to be held in the arena to help pay for it would inevitably conflict with baseball games.

The city’s Arena Review Panel met Wednesday night and voted to adopt a final report calling the arena proposal promising and favorable.

On Thursday, McGinn called the panel's decision "a big step toward bringing the Sonics back to their rightful home in Seattle."

The panel warned, however, that many issued remain to be resolved to be sure taxpayers are protected. Panel members acknowledged that taxpayers will likely have to pay for traffic and other mitigation on top of the $200 million for the arena.

When word of the proposal that Hansen and area leaders had been working on leaked in February, city officials put its cost somewhere between $400 million and $500 million. The public’s investment would be capped at $200 million.