Viaduct Replacement Tunnel Angst

I spent an hour with The Stranger in an endorsement review last week and was astounded at the amount of time they spent on the McGinn-led hysteria about the tunnel project. I’ve talked to a couple of Seattle people since and they are all atwitter about it.

The big question to me was “who pays for overruns?” The answer is pretty clear – it’s a state project, run by WSDOT. Who do you think? The state will pay for overruns, so we should manage this carefully so there aren’t any. I agreed with them that property owners who will benefit hugely when they viaduct comes down should create a “Local Improvement District” and help pay for the project, particularly the city part creating the waterfront park.

The angst over the design baffles me though. I understand McGinn doesn’t want cars anywhere near Seattle, but we have 100,000+ cars a day on that road. If they don’t go there, they’ll come to I5 and I405. I’m not interested in turning 405 into a worse parking lot than it already is.

I see three options:

  1. The city can cooperate with the state and build the bored tunnel. They can work out the details of how it will fit into the city and negotiate over issues they care about.
  2. We can just replace the existing viaduct with a new one. This would be cheaper, but would shut down the Seattle business district for 5 years, eliminate a world-class park on the waterfront, and forever close off Seattle from Elliot Bay.
  3. The Legislature could take away Seattle’s ability to issue permits for what is, essentially a state project. It’s a life-safety issue and needs to get done.

There are 39 mayors in King County. This project has been under design for years. We are not going to stop every project every time there is a new mayor elected in one of the cities. It’s clear to me that option 1 is the best solution and I hope we don’t continue to be mired in the famous “Seattle process.”

About the Author

Ross
I am the Director of the Department of Early Learning for Washington State. I formerly represented the 48th Legislative District in the State House of Representatives, chairing the Appropriations committee and spent many a year at Microsoft.