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.

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Viaduct Proposal – Deep Bored Tunnel

Governor Gregoire announced a proposed solution to the viaduct problem today, and I think she’s got the best of a bad bunch. Click here for her press release. She proposes building a “deep-bored” tunnel under Seattle. I’ve tried to stay out of Seattle’s design decisions because that keeps their members from messing around in Eastside design decisions. The viaduct decision affects us in a number of ways:

1. Consumption of money. There is only so much money available, and if more of it is consumed building a tunnel under Seattle then less is available for the SR-520 project or I-405. I am not fond of this approach unless it is funded with tolls in the tunnel, and most likely tolls on the viaduct during construction. I will vote to toll this project.

2. Diversion of traffic. I believe this proposal provides enough throughput that we won’t see significant diversion to I-5 and I-405. The street-level proposal is terrible – it would shift a lot of vehicles to the Eastside. This position is not held by everyone; some believe that the cars and trucks that travel north-south would largely vanish. I don’t believe this to be true in a large sense.

3. Screwing up Seattle. Many of the projects cause significant disruption in downtown Seattle. The business community there is concerned that large-scale construction on the waterfront would effectively shut down large portions of downtown Seattle for 4-5 years. They are probably right.

On balance, I like this proposal, as long as it’s tolled, and as long as we are guaranteed that the tunnel will be built, and we don’t just stop after doing the street level work. The plan, as I understand it today, is to leave the Viaduct up until the tunnel is done, which should work for us on the Eastside.

Seattle Times Article

Seattle PI Article