Time is wasting on Viaduct plan
Seattle needs to choose a replacement for the Alaskan Way Viaduct, fund it, and get building. Mayor Greg Nickels and most of the Seattle...
Seattle needs to choose a replacement for the Alaskan Way Viaduct, fund it, and get building.
Mayor Greg Nickels and most of the Seattle City Council want a tunnel. The new, reduced total for the tunnel project is $3.6 billion. This does not include lowering Aurora Avenue or rebuilding the northern part of the sea wall, which would come later.
Toward this reduced figure, the city has $2.5 million in state and federal gas-tax and grant money, an indication of $200 million from the Port, and a plan to charge city utility funds $300 million to $400 million for moving wires and pipes.
Probably, that would not require a City Light rate increase, Deputy Mayor Tim Ceis said, but perhaps a modest increase in water rates. So the people of Seattle may be paying for a tunnel in their water bills.
Add all this up, and the city is still $500 million short. Into this gap may go some U.S. Army Corps of Engineers money, down-the-road grant money, new regional taxes (if voters approve them in November) and possibly road tolls. Many of these are iffy and cannot be nailed down now — and the time is wasting.
"Give us three to four months," says Ceis, who is trying to persuade the governor that the city is close enough to get moving. "It's a good project. It's the best one for the city."
The state, whose highway it is, is willing to build a tunnel if Seattle pays. Gov. Christine Gregoire said Dec. 20 that the state's obligation, however, ends with the cost of an elevated road, for which the money is in hand now. The governor wants to get the project moving before the existing viaduct falls down.
The governor's desire to act, and for the state to limit its financial risk, may kill the tunnel. It is her decision. If it comes out that way, Seattle should accept it.
This page has always thought the tunnel was the nicest option but it is not, strictly speaking, necessary. Enthusiasm for it shrinks rapidly beyond the city limits.
At some point, Seattle has to commit, and that point is nearly here.
Seattle Times transportation reporter Mike Lindblom describes some of the factors that may have led to the collapse of the I-5 bridge over the Skagit River in Mount Vernon on Thursday, May 23.