Set early deadline for tunnel decision
Seattle Mayor Greg Nickels ought to agree to a deadline for demonstrating he can pay for a replacement of the Alaskan Way Viaduct. His proposed $4 billion...
Seattle Mayor Greg Nickels ought to agree to a deadline for demonstrating he can pay for a replacement of the Alaskan Way Viaduct. His proposed $4 billion tunnel — the most expensive option — could impede transportation progress.
The most practical solution is a rebuild of the imperiled roadway. If the mayor can assemble funds for a tunnel, he should do so by February or March. Otherwise, our political leaders ought to move forward with a cheaper, more-achievable rebuild. Washington voters took a chance and turned down Initiative 912, which would have rolled back the 9.5-cent increase in the gas tax. Their prudent decision means the state has money to move definitively to improve transportation. The worst thing that could happen is a protracted fight over a marquee project such as the viaduct.
Mandatory environmental review means the project cannot begin until 2009, with work relocating utilities able to start perhaps by late 2007.
The state gas-tax package includes $2 billion for the viaduct — a rebuild would cost $2.7 billion to $3.1 billion. U.S. Sen. Patty Murray is skeptical that the federal government will invest much more than $220 million already pledged. The Port of Seattle has agreed to provide $200 million for a tunnel — all of which leaves a tunnel in need of big capital investment.
It is not OK to dream up a list of possible contributions from various sources that are likely — or unlikely — to deliver.
Nickels' tunnel, which is part transportation, part urban redevelopment, would be grand. It is his job to have a vision and pursue the best possible design. A tunnel would correct an architectural mistake that separates the city from the central waterfront.
But the project does not exist in a vacuum. The way the viaduct replacement is handled will impact voters in places such as Clark, Pierce and Snohomish counties, who suspended anti-government sentiments and made an admirable decision to retain the gas-tax increase. Such trust is delicate.
Hurricane Katrina taught leaders everywhere they dither at their own peril on projects that must be done. The fragile viaduct is in this category.
The state gas-tax increase was expected to be accompanied by a regional package for additional transportation spending in Puget Sound counties. Estimates for the viaduct from this funding range from $500 million to $1 billion.
It will take one or two years to create a new regional package. Neighboring communities may be reluctant to invest so heavily in Seattle's viaduct, which got a big chunk of gas-tax money.
Two years to get nowhere while frittering away public trust is not a good formula for success. Set a deadline and honor it.
When vice president of Sub Pop Records Megan Jasper isn't running things at the office, she's working in her garden at her West Seattle home where she and her husband Brian spend time relaxing.