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Sadly, that’s essentially the rationale that many tunnel supporters are now falling back on.  You see, if the State can’t have it’s way and get a tunnel, then it’s gonna take its $2.2 billion and go home.  How pathetically embarrassing to all involved that the political relationship between the City and State has devolved to such a disfunctional level.  Especially when the stakes are so high.  (I’m still waiting to hear how spending billions on an underground freeway bypass for cars can possibly comply with the State law mandating a 50 percent reduction in vehicle miles traveled by 2050.)

The buzz on the tunnel has been buzzing loudly in recent days, and that can only be good news for the McGinn campaign.  Here, McGinn responds to the charge that Seattle’s tax burden would be the same whether we got a the tunnel or the surface/transit option.  Tunnel facts.com has an excellent summary.

Meanwhile, if the deep-bore tunnel happens, Joe Mallahan wants you to know that he’s got you covered:

“The next mayor of Seattle is someone who’s going to be responsible for making sure the project comes in on time and on budget.  And I think a person with business experience is the type of person to get that accomplished. “

Got that?  Because Mallahan possesses the superpowers granted only to wealthy business executives, as Mayor he would take charge and micro-manage the Washington Department of Transportation to make damn sure there were no cost overruns.  You’d think given the legacy of first “MBA President,” that asking people to put their faith in a guy to efficiently run government just because he made a lot of money in the private sector might be a dubious campaign strategy.   Alas, the myth of the market still holds a tight grip on popular consciousness even in the most liberal of American cities.

17 Responses to “Exclusive Offer: 2-Mile Deep-Bore Tunnel Absolutely Free! Limited Time Offer! Order Now!”

  1. Max

    Your analysis of Mallahan is spot on:
    “Because Mallahan possesses the superpowers granted only to wealthy business executives, as Mayor he would take charge and micro-manage the Washington Department of Transportation to make damn sure there were no cost overruns.”

    This is about the funniest thing I’ve read in weeks!

  2. tom sparks

    Thanks for continuing to pound on this issue, I once supported the tunnel, but with more analysis on my part I see the error in my first judgement.

    I love the current viaduct, I was born in Seattle in 1950, lived in West Seattle as a child and Fremont as an adult, it has been the route of choice for my family for decades. I will be sad when it is gone.

    I am ready for alternative that does not but all our chips on cars and gasoline.

  3. David L.

    Working in the field of transportation is a wonderful thing. Almost anywhere one looks, one discovers swollen budgets, imperatives of decay, and cavities of irrationality.

    On the one hand, people who do not want to have to think very hard find well-paying jobs and endless work. On the other hand, pioneering reformers can find fertile ground where it is possible to make a substantial civic contribution–by focusing one’s energy nearly anywhere. For those wanting to root out the irrationality, however, it is helpful to have the dentists’ ability to hold one’s breath.

  4. Joe G

    Dan, it is sad that this is the relationship of our two governments. I think in large part we can thank Mayor Nickels for this. The irony that the very same legislature that sets the “goals” is the same legislature that endorses this project. Its just another example of how our city, our region and our state is just a giant PR clip, full of words and devoid of action. How are we supposed to lead by example with these sorts of useless politicians. Isn’t it Philladelphia that is leading the country in green building? And San Francisco with their progressive tactics to combat Americas gross, over polluting lifestyles? Is Seattle going to continue down the path of talk, or are we going to walk the walk?

  5. Keo

    What is the state supposed to spend that $1.9 billion dollars on that will replace the functionality of the viaduct? Do you really want all those cars and trucks clogging up the waterfront? Turn I-5 into a parking lot of idling cars for most of the day instead of just some of it?

    So we spend $2.4 billion as per McGinn’s wildest dreams, and reduce mobility of goods and services, or pay $4.2 (which includes money that by law can only be used for state highways) and at least get some relief in the state’s most important economic region…

    We should be focusing on constructive answers to global warming and peak oil, like building walkable, transit-oriented communities, building better mass transit, renewable energy, electric cars, etc. Slowing down the region’s most important economic center won’t get people out of their cars, it will slow down economic activity, making us weaker to deal with the problems of the future.

    What do we gain by sacrificing our mobility in this case? In my opinion, nothing. There are million different ways to fight global warming and peak oil; this has to be one of the least effective and short-sighted ways to do it.

  6. Joshua Daniel Franklin

    Keo, I suspect you’re not really all that interested, but here you go just in case:
    http://www.tunnelfacts.com/life-after-the-viaduct/
    (Hint: discouraging SOV trips should improve mobility…)

  7. Keo

    I’m not really sure why you assume I wouldn’t be interested just because I hold an opinion that is at odds with this blog’s…

    I have read that link and all of TunnelFacts.com before I really made up my mind about this project.

    It would be grand if we could spend this money on a light rail system from Ballard to West Seattle. However, that’s extremely misleading; state law won’t allow us to take gas tax money and spend it on mass transit. If there were significant momentum towards changing that, the viaduct replacement would be a different story. However, that has to be a citizen led effort and would take convincing a majority of the state to amend its laws. I’m not optimistic that would
    happen before this pile of money would become worthless due to increasing construction costs and dissipate into the ether of other state road projects begging for money.

    I can see why it’s upsetting that we are building more automobile mega-infrastructure at this time. But what is the cost of doing nothing? It seems to me not everyone who uses the viaduct is someone in Shoreline who would be slightly inconvinienced by a longer trip to Alki. If you can convince me that is the case for the vast majority of people using the viaduct, then you’ve changed my mind.

  8. Joshua Daniel Franklin

    Sure. I’ll just mention that state’s traffic models that show that most trips that currently use the viaduct would “disappear” with the tunnel due to toll disincentives and the lack of downtown exits.

    I don’t think there’s any change of doing nothing with the money. There are plenty of other state highway projects even within Seattle (HOV lanes for example).

  9. Keo

    I’d be interested to see those figures from the state. I do hope McGinn goes on to the general election. I hope this debate continues and we see if he truly has a comprehensive vision to do something about the way mobility in this city works.

    It worries me when he talks about ditching the streetcar as part of this effort saying that streetcar and light rail expansion in the city are undesirable until “we improve transportation financing regionally and statewide.” How is he going to accomplish this as mayor? Why not build the streetcar now if we can? Streetcars have been shown to have a transformative effect on the way people move about cities: more people ride them than do equivalent bus routes, and they are cheaper to operate in the long term.

  10. Joshua Daniel Franklin

    Well, there’s an overwhelming amount of information at
    http://www.wsdot.wa.gov/Projects/Viaduct/solution.htm
    This has been studied for many many years.

    In the “Travel model results presentation”, page 18: “Currently 63% of traffic on SR 99 is through traffic.” (i.e., 37% uses downtown and so would not be served by the tunnel).

    On tolls, the WSDOT Tolling Analysis website is full of graphs of different effects of pricing and so on (the 2002 SR-99 report’s “Demand Effects” starts on page 37–note that at that time they were talking about maybe $90m from tolling, not $400m!) The estimate is about 20% traffic reduction, which combined as I said makes most trips that currently use the viaduct “disappear.” No $1.9b tunnel needed. :)

    I also have misgivings about McGinn’s commitment to transit, but honestly at this point I’m more willing to give him a chance than Nickels.

  11. Bill LaBorde

    Keo and JDF:

    Sadly, it is not just a simple majority of the people that would be required to allow gas tax to be spent on a light rail on the corridor. The restriction that says that gas tax can be spent for “highway purposes” only is imbedded in the 18th Amendment to the state constitution. That amendment was passed by the legislature and people during WWII as part of a public revolt against expenditure of gas tax for general government uses. At the time, virtually all public investment in transportation was on the highway side, so the amendment was also limited to highways. Public funding of transit was just not part of public consciousness at that time, so the exclusion was incidental.

    Because the highway purposes restriction is a constitutional amendment, it can only be changed with a 2/3 vote in each chamber of the legislature and then passed by the voters with a simple majority vote. I don’t see any problem getting a majority of voters to approve such an amendment. But the 2/3 vote at this point would be virtually impossible. The state legislature and WSDOT are only interested in building highways and think it’s fine to leave transit as a local responsibility (just as Dino Rossi said it should be).

    Dan’s right. It’s stupid that there’s a good chance the legislature would likely take its money and go home if the city used its powers to kill the tunnel deal. But the legislature hates Seattle. Hell, even many of Seattle’s own reps hate Seattle. And, in the climate context, I’m not sure this tunnel is as bad as some of the other projects the legislature would love to spend the money on. Remember, this tunnel is 4-lanes, replacing six on the viaduct now. It will likely be tolled. And there is no widening of I-5.

    Don’t get me wrong, I think the tunnel is a waste of money, but I think the seemingly inevitable cost overruns are more likely to kill the project in a way that allows Seattle (and the climate) to come out a winner than Seattle telling an already hostile state legislature to go fuck itself.

  12. Ross

    We should do what the Stakeholder Advisory Committee recommended: Throughput investments to I-5 combined with transit investments and surface street improvements, or a rebuild of an elevated structure without the downtown exits. (http://obrienforseattle.com/2009/05/public-voice-ignored-in-viaduct-decision/).

    The take-or-leave-it approach is what got us two stadiums along with the loss of the Sonics. If you assigned a committee to the project (or anyone with any common sense) they would conclude that what would have made the most sense is a Stadium for both baseball and football (and soccer) along with improvements to Key Arena (where the Sonics would still be paying). Instead, we paid way more money and still lost a team.

    I would like it if someone would ask Mallahan if he would be willing to reject the committee’s recommendation. Mallahan (unlike Nickels) implies he is a consensus builder and listens to the experts on his team. Is that really the case? Would he, like Nickels, be willing to reject a committee’s recommendations in favor of his own idea? People are addressing this issue as if no one has studied it, or worse, that the results of the study was to recommend a tunnel. It is exactly the opposite.

  13. William of Ockham

    Has anyone seen my Razor? I know I left it around here somewhere.

  14. Wells

    Seattle’s hilly and narrow topography is a critical concern affecting its transportation system design. For example, east/west uphill/downhill traffic should not be encouraged with questionably-located access ramps to SR-99 and I-5. It was not a good idea to build the Seneca and Columbia ramps to SR-99. Access ramps from I-5 dump traffic in congested heaps onto Seattle streets and for traffic leaving downtown, traffic similarly forms reckless hoards of motor vehicles.

    Seattle’s hills suggest transit should be oriented as much east/west as north/south. A ‘grid’ transit pattern that requires transfers between N/S and E/W bus lines would simplify E/W routes and allow them to run more frequently between the waterfront (or 1st Ave) and First Hill, Capitol Hill and South Lake Union.

    Such a grid transit system would encourage walking as well as discourage E/W vehicle traffic. Who enjoys a trudge up those damn hills?

    McGinn seems to understand this aspect of transportation planning best. The Deep-bore tunnel isn’t the best option. That honor goes to WsDOT’s Scenario ‘G’, the “4-lane” Cut-n-Cover because it maintains the Elliott/Western access ramps, costs hundreds of million less, and has less disruption to the Waterfront District and normal SR-99 traffic than the “6-lane” version rejected by voters in March 2007. The 4-lane version allows the AWV to remain in place for most of the tunnel construction.

    I’ll bet McGinn will put the 4-lane Cut-n-Cover tunnel option back on the table if he’s elected. One more thing a tunnel does better than a gridlocked Alaskan Way surface boulevard: there’s less runoff water polluted with vehicle emissions ending up in Puget Sound. Vote for McGinn – He’s the non-establishment candidate.

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    [...] best hope is that enough people will be so afraid of the prospect of a world without a deep-bore tunnel that they will overlook his embarrassing lack of civic experience.  Conversely,  McGinn’s [...]

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