Economic Impact

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It is imperative that the success and growth of Washington’s flagship university is not stunted by lack of investment in transportation infrastructure. A well-balanced, multimodal transportation system is key to ensuring the UW’s success, and investment in the Burke-Gilman Multimodal Connector achieves this goal.”

— Mayor Mike McGinn and Seattle City Council

The Burke-Gilman Multimodal Connector (BGMC) is the lynchpin in a massive overhaul of the Puget Sound region’s transportation network, which will enable this highly productive area to continue contributing to the economic competitiveness of the nation. In its current failing state the trail impedes the movement of workers throughout the region, forcing many who would otherwise bike or take transit to join the throngs of vehicles clogging up our state and federal highways. Uniquely situated at the confluence of SR 520, I-5 and major Seattle arterials, the trail already sees more than 7,000 users each day. In preparation for the Puget Sound economy’s expansion to more than 3 million jobs by 2040 and in order to retain our status as an economic powerhouse for the nation, the University of Washington (UW) and its partners are seeking TIGER V funding for the BGMC.

Trail-adjacent projects

  • - SR 520 - $4.65 billion
  • - Sound Transit University Link - $1.9 billion
  • - Sound Transit North Link - $2.1 billion
  • - Montlake Triangle - $43 million
  • - Husky Stadium - $261 million
  • - University Housing - $851 million

An economic powerhouse at the crossroads

With a diverse economic base that includes aerospace, software, retail, music and online sales industries, innovation has long been Seattle’s hallmark. We are home to internationally recognized businesses like Boeing, Microsoft, Starbucks, Amazon, Nordstrom and REI, that fuel and stimulate national economic growth. In the last decade, Seattle has started to draw real comparisons to Silicon Valley for our start-up and incubator successes – largely the result of the UW. These Seattle businesses are foundational for the recovering economic productivity of the United States, placing our state in the top quarter nationally for GDP annually.

Founded in 1861, the UW opened its doors before Washington became a state. The university has remained central to the region’s prosperity over the last century, with regional leaders siting SR 520 – a critical connector for businesses east of Seattle – immediately adjacent to the UW campus. More recently, the region decided to locate two highly valued light rail stations adjacent to the campus. The federal government is also invested in this corridor network through a Full Funding Grant Agreement for Sound Transit, FHWA funding to the SR 520 Bridge Replacement and HOV Program, and various economic development grants impacting the University Community Urban Center (UCUC).

The BGMC will sustain and improve regional economic competitiveness by connecting these investments, fully leveraging their potential, sustaining and improving economic competitiveness and reducing the burden on the region’s transportation network. The existing trail takes cars off the road; the BGMC will leverage this trend even more effectively. The major road network beneficiaries will be I-5, SR 520, SR 513/Montlake Blvd and NE Pacific St (a regional arterial). These corridors are already heavily congested and are critical for regional, statewide and national freight movement. They are also relied upon as key commute corridors for businesses throughout the greater Seattle region. The BGMC will remove 628 car trips from these corridors daily, effectively eliminating the need to add roadway capacity while simultaneously improving travel time reliability.

The BGMC provides a double benefit by providing trail users with a reliable, efficient and cost-competitive means to access employment, while simultaneously increasing the efficiency of adjacent vehicular routes by shifting workers from driving to bicycling or walking commutes. The BGMC will remove a major bottleneck in the trail, enabling users during peak hours to ride unfettered along the more than 175 miles of connected bike trails in the region.

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With the planned introduction of light rail and the eventual replacement of the SR 520 floating bridge, which will provide a new bicycle and pedestrian lane, the rebuilding of the Burke-Gilman Trail and the congested Montlake Triangle intersection will be tremendous assets to our many employees who travel through this corridor daily getting to and from work, as well as to the entire region.”

— DeLee Shoemaker, Director of State and Government Affairs, Microsoft

UW economic impact

  • $9.1 billion total state economic impact
  • $618.1 million in revenue to state and local governments
  • $1.50 in tax revenue generated for every $1 allocated to the UW
  • $22.60 in the state economic impact for every $1 invested in the UW
  • Nearly 70,000 UW-supported jobs
  • Over 14,000 students graduate annually from the UW
  • UW receives more federal research funding than any other American public university

A wise investment

The UW is an economic engine for the state and region, with a total economic impact of $9.1 billion. The university is the largest employer in Seattle and third-largest in Washington. It supports nearly 70,000 jobs statewide in every sector of the economy, including construction, business and professional services, restaurants and hotels, information technology, security and temporary employment companies. The UW is also proud to have more than 16,000 of its employees represented by nine labor unions.

The world-renowned UW Medicine generates $284 million in direct and indirect revenue impact annually. UW Medicine is comprised of four major medical centers, nine neighborhood clinics, a nationally-ranked school and regional education program, a regional children’s care group and the Seattle Cancer Care Alliance. Each year, the core hospitals have 69,000 admissions and 1.4 million outpatient and emergency room visits to the hospitals and clinics. More than 21,000 employees contribute to the mission of UW Medicine, not including the 2,000 employed faculty members at the School of Medicine and 4,600 clinical faculty across the Washington, Wyoming, Alaska, Montana and Idaho (WWAMI) regional medical school program. With indirect employment as a result of UW Medicine and its affiliates taken into account, total direct and indirect employment is closer to 69,000 for UW Medicine alone. UW Medicine also has approximately 4,500 students and trainees across a broad range of undergraduate, professional and post-graduate programs.

Husky Stadium
A newly-renovated Husky Stadium will place an added burden on the Burke-Gilman Trail, particularly on game days or during other special events.

UW Medicine’s doctors, medical staff, researchers, students and patients all rely on a well-functioning transportation network to connect them to this world-class medical and scientific research institution.

Located at the apex of the project, UW’s Husky Stadium and athletic facilities serve as an important economic engine for the region. At least 20% of the state’s population follows Husky Football—with more than 1.3 million people watching on TV or listening on radio. In fact, UW Athletics attracts out-of-state fans in larger numbers than those attending professional football or baseball games in Seattle. Husky Stadium is not just the place where our football team plays home games. For close to a century, it has also served as a regional landmark and the host of more than 55 community events – such as the Dawg Dash and the American Cancer Society Relay for Life event – involving more than 88,000 people every year. The BGMC will enable more fans and community members to easily get to and from the stadium, while reducing the burden on the region’s transportation network.

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I am an employee at the university who often uses the trail to walk around campus and to/ from buses and other public transport for my commute. I would love to see the trail improved, especially better crossings and modifications that make it safer for both cyclists and pedestrians.”

— Ariel Altaras

UCUC demographics

  • Race/ethnicity: 37% non-white v. 31.9% citywide
  • Median income: $29,162 v. $67,370 citywide
  • % below poverty line: 30.7% v. 13.2% citywide
  • Household vehicle available:
  • No vehicles: 22.9% v. 15.6% citywide
  • One vehicle: 39.6% v. 43.1% citywide
  • Two vehicles: 26.2% v. 40.7% citywide
  • Three or more: 11.3% v. 10.6% citywide

Beyond UW: ensuring the economic vitality of the UCUC

Hundreds of businesses in the UCUC depend on the UW for their livelihood and for enabling successful partnerships. The area is home to more than 16,000 residents, hundreds of small and independent businesses and community services. The City of Seattle designated the UCUC as an “urban center village” and is currently undertaking a multi-year, multi-partner urban design project that will result in a new Revitalization Plan, an Urban Design Framework and new zoning with the goals to support a thriving commercial district, encourage new jobs and businesses, create public space, integrate transportation and sustain the environment.

The UCUC supports family-wage jobs by enhancing access to regional transportation facilities, including existing frequent bus service on NE Pacific St and 15th Ave NE, the SR 520 multi-use trail (2015), and the University of Washington Link (2016) and University District Link (2020) light rail stations. These projects

are called out in the Regional Economic Strategy ( cZX4h) as crucial to the sustainable growth and development of the economy. By improving these connections, this project will give employees convenient access to their family-wage jobs without the use of a private vehicle and the accompanying financial burdens.

The BGMC has additional benefits for those who live and operate businesses in the UCUC. Thirty-one percent of the area’s residents are below the poverty level (compared to 13% citywide) and only 77% of households have access to a private automobile (compared to 84% citywide). This means that UCUC residents are highly dependent on walking, biking and transit, and stand to benefit greatly from investments in these transportation options. It also means that customers of small businesses in the area disproportionately rely on walking, biking and transit as a means of travel to those businesses, so investments that support these modes greatly benefit the vitality of area small businesses. City of Seattle studies support this, suggesting that as many as 78% of resident trips and over half of non-resident trips to neighborhood business districts utilize walking, biking and transit.

The federal government is also a neighbor to the UW and the BGMC with the NOAA Northwest Fisheries Science Center at Montlake. This lab was established in 1931 as the first government

laboratory dedicated to the study of living marine resources on the west coast. The employees and researchers share research responsibilities with the UW and rely on the trail in their commute and daily interactions with the UW.

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[The Burke-Gilman Multimodal Connector] not only will ensure critical non-motorized connections to the soon-to-open light rail station are in place, but further the University District as a regional destination and economic center.”

— Joni Earl, Sound Transit Chief Executive Officer

Catalyzing our new economy

Catalyzing our new economy UW has had extraordinary results promoting new business growth through the success of its research initiatives. UW’s Center for Commercialization (C4C) is one of the top five university technology transfer offices in the nation.

UW C4C is committed to developing and commercializing innovations that emerge from UW’s diverse research endeavors: it manages a total patent portfolio of over 2,200 issued and pending patents, both in the U.S. and worldwide, and over 265 companies have been started by UW students and faculty with UW technology. As a result, the economic impact of spin-off businesses and commercialization of research in existing companies will be between $3.66 billion and $6.6 billion by 2020.

The founders of these businesses benefit from the safe and economical transportation options afforded them as members of the UW community. The BGMC will ensure that the future leaders of this new economy will have access to the same opportunities.

Veteran students and businesses

The UW has a long history of supporting and investing in the education of veterans, active duty military and military dependent students. With over 1,100 veterans currently enrolled, the UW is honored to continue with this valuable tradition, especially as a new generation serves our country and returns to higher education. In addition, there are over 5,000 veteran-owned businesses in Seattle, patronized by thousands of UW students, faculty and visitors. The UW is committed to ensuring the academic success of veterans and active duty military and recognizing their value to the campus community.

Economic productivity of land

Due to the UW’s success with efforts to manage and mitigate its transportation impacts as required by the City of Seattle, the campus has been able to obtain permissions to add new facilities, adding over 2 million usable square feet in the last 10 years, a 17% increase. In just the last five years, eight new buildings opened on campus, including new residence halls, new teaching and research facilities (for business and molecular engineering), and new medical facilities. The BGMC currently represents the single greatest unfunded opportunity to eliminate an impending constraint on UW’s future potential for growth. The implementation of the BGMC will maximize the effectiveness of the regional and federal investments in Link light rail and SR 520, and unlock the potential for increased pedestrian, bicycle and transit commuting to the UW and all businesses within the UCUC. Through its role in supporting transportation demand management efforts, the BGMC will directly contribute to UW’s continued ability to freely grow the economic productivity of the land on campus and in the surrounding area.

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Because of its ambitious TDM efforts, the UW has been able to construct buildings where parking was once located.

Near-term job creation

In addition to supporting thousands of existing and future jobs at UW and in the U-District, the BGMC will result in the creation of 478 job-years, including 294 direct/indirect job-years and 184 induced job-years, based on a near-term economic impacts analysis utilizing IMPLAN.

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Tenants value the connectivity of the trail for their employees to get to work and that their employees are more motivated to ride or walk to this location. This in turn improves the health of their employees, and reduces their parking requirements, effectively making their office space more affordable and their businesses more economically productive.”

— A.P. Hurd, Vice President of Development, Touchstone Corp.