Opinion

Arena effect | Editorial

Why worry about a new basketball arena for Seattle's SODO neighborhood? We have a lot to think about right here on the Island. What about the huge amount of vacant commercial space languishing in the Town Center? Island Crest Way is in the midst of a major transition, and the School Board is contemplating where and how to update our schools. The list is not long, but it is certainly complex.

With all that, should we care about what happens with the SODO arena deal? Since Islanders (in theory) will only be asked to pay for the new facilities when they attend a game or an event, what does it matter?

A smart homeowner living next to an unpredictable neighbor like Seattle would wisely make a few inquiries.

We are all for the Sonics returning to the Land of Oz — a little less enthusiastic for hockey, perhaps, but we can't help but wonder what all the 'costs' will be to us, the neighbors.

As the Island hugs the rail along I-90, whatever happens in South Seattle will certainly affect us. The construction of a multimillion dollar sports complex just five miles west of here and the advent of up to dozens of major sporting or entertainment events — some of which will happen simultaneously — will result in more traffic and congestion on I-90. Recent media coverage quoted traffic analysts as saying that game day traffic from the new arena would only increase commute times between five and 10 minutes. But does that really account for bad weather or a wreck in the tunnel? Every commuter knows that it only takes a tiny miscalculation by one driver to cause traffic to come to an abrupt halt for a lot more than five or 10 minutes.

What this does is add to the uncertainty of when and how we travel. Weekend travel is already tightening. Commuting will become even more arduous. The Mercer Island Park and Ride, already heavily used by off-Islanders, will be in greater demand, leaving even fewer spots for Islanders.

Yes, we are spoiled here. But there are real questions — the least of which is the faint but real possibility of tolling I-90 as well as SR-520. Let's weigh in.

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