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New Seattle Arena Would Mean New Route For Car Commuters

File photo of the Sodo area of Seattle.
Flickr Photo/camknows (CC-BY-NC-ND)/
The new proposed arena would sit south of Safeco Field, on Occidental Avenue between Holgate and Massachusetts Streets.

A proposed sports arena in Seattle was once again the topic of debate in city hall. This time, the focus was traffic impacts.

The City Council's transportation committee is preparing to vote on whether to shut down part of Occidental Avenue in SODO to allow for a proposed NBA arena.


In a briefing Tuesday, officials with Seattle's transportation department said the street change wouldn't impact traffic much. Mark Bandy spoke for SDOT and said people could reroute to 1st Avenue South.

Bandy: "That volume that would go over to 1st we don’t think represents a significant degree of increased congestion. We also don’t see that Occidental is used as a major thoroughfare. There’s a lot of business access that occurs there obviously."

An SDOT study shows there would be some impacts of eventually adding a third large arena to SODO. For example, a lot more heavy traffic days. Under existing conditions, there are 85 days per year when 20,000 people or more flock to the arena area. With a new arena, that would jump to 105 days a year.

SDOT says mitigation efforts could ease the extra traffic, but the Port of Seattle disagrees.

Consultant Marni Heffron is working on the Port's side and gave her findings to the council committee. She says the traffic impacts would be significant even in times when there is not a sports event, like the morning commute.

Heffron: "We have 500 vehicles per hour on Occidental per day, and while that doesn't sound like a lot of traffic, 3rd Avenue through Belltown has 500 vehicles during morning peak hour, and if somebody were to come to you and say 'I'd like to vacate 3rd Avenue', they wouldn't even get a hearing."

Five hundred cars travel hourly through Occidental Ave and Massachusetts Street during morning commute hours. 

Others opposed to the arena expansion would like to see Key Arena explored more thoroughly as an option.

Meanwhile, the NBA hasn't shown interest in expanding to Seattle any time soon.

The Occidental Ave proposal could be voted out of committee April 19, and if approved would head to the full council.