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Originally published Thursday, January 2, 2014 at 3:54 PM

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Editorial: Disturbing seawall news — a $30 million inflation

Mayor Ed Murray’s appointment of a waterfront czar is a good move, but voters deserve to know if more troubles are ahead with seawall project.

Seattle Times Editorial

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The waterfront seawall replacement budget estimate, like all major public works... MORE's like nobody saw that coming. MORE
Smith did similar work for former Mayor Norm Rice during early Sound Transit planning... MORE


SEATTLE’s two waterfront megaprojects are on a high wire. Work on the Highway 99 tunnel has been stopped for a month due to a mysterious blockage. The recriminations can be shelved for now, until the cause and the costs of Bertha’s indigestion are known.

More immediate is the disturbing news about cost overruns on the rebuilding of Seattle’s Elliott Bay seawall. A Seattle Times story on Wednesday detailed a $30 million inflation in the project. City transportation staff suggested that more troubles might be ahead because of the project’s complexity.

Just as disturbing is the fact that those costs were known during the early summer — just before the heated primary in the mayoral race — but not shared with the public or the Seattle City Council.

Former Mayor Mike McGinn’s staff disputed the contention it buried the news. But it strains credulity to believe that bad news about McGinn’s cornerstone capital project wasn’t shelved in the election season.

The City Council will be briefed on the project Jan. 13. Seattle Councilmember Tim Burgess, “frustrated” that the facts weren’t shared earlier, said, “This isn’t how City Hall should be run.”

He’s right. Mayor Ed Murray, just days into the job, has taken a different approach to the vital waterfront project. He appointed an experienced transportation hand, Jared Smith, to a job best described as a waterfront czar, shepherding the $350 million megaproject across four different city departments.

Smith did similar work for former Mayor Norm Rice during early Sound Transit planning, and was most recently principal-in-charge for Parsons Brinckerhoff’s work on the Seattle viaduct replacement. He appears the right man for the job.

Murray’s promise of competent City Hall leadership should start with getting the project back on time and on budget. Seattle voters in 2012 agreed to a $290 million bond issue to help with the project. If more bad news is ahead, they deserve to know.

Editorial board members are editorial page editor Kate Riley, Frank A. Blethen, Ryan Blethen, Sharon Pian Chan, Lance Dickie, Jonathan Martin, Thanh Tan, Lynne K. Varner, William K. Blethen (emeritus) and Robert C. Blethen (emeritus).

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