McGinn again tries to make state pay for any tunnel overruns
Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn again asked the City Council on Monday to refuse any deal allowing a deep-bore tunnel to be built beneath downtown until the Legislature agrees the state would cover any cost overruns.
Seattle Times staff reporter
Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn again asked the City Council on Monday to refuse any deal allowing a deep-bore tunnel to be built beneath downtown until the Legislature agrees the state will cover any cost overruns.
The mayor characterized his approach as being about solidarity, although he didn't brief the City Council before announcing it at a news briefing. In a letter to the council, the mayor proposed new contract language as "a possible solution" to a long-standing impasse over cost overruns and a chance for the council and mayor to "stand together" and "get it right."
"If we stand together as a city and agree to this language ... that will then put the ball back in the court of the state Legislature," he said at a Monday news conference.
But McGinn's latest maneuver appears to leave him more alone than ever in his position on the Highway 99 tunnel planned to replace the Alaskan Way Viaduct. He still is at an impasse not only with the state Legislature, but with Gov. Chris Gregoire and most members of the City Council.
He said at his news conference that state Sen. Ed Murray believes he can get the state Senate to change contract language requiring the city to pay cost overruns. The mayor was referring to something Murray said on KUOW radio June 4. But in an interview Monday, Murray said he had never talked to the mayor about the cost overruns.
Murray said that even if he could get something through the Senate, House Speaker Frank Chopp had insisted on the cost-overrun provision and is unlikely to back down. Chopp did not respond to a request for comment.
"I never said I thought I could do it, and I've never talked to him about it," Murray said. "I think that we need to move forward with the project, and I think that we, in good faith, need to fix this issue."
McGinn may be running short on strategies. The council appears to have enough votes to override any veto.
"He clearly doesn't understand that he has to get support from the council," said Tom Rasmussen, the council Transportation Committee chairman.
Rasmussen said he will simply strike any language from McGinn's proposed contract that would delay or stop the project. That includes McGinn's proposed language that states, "this Agreement shall not take effect unless or until the State Legislature amends State law to clarify that the state is responsible for all project funding including cost overruns."
When he ran for mayor, McGinn campaigned against the tunnel. He has said he would go along with the project if the City Council wanted to proceed, but he doesn't think city property owners should have to pay for cost overruns.
McGinn supports a surface-transit option to replace the aging viaduct. In that plan, the state would replace it with a surface street, add more dedicated bus lanes, and widen Interstate 5 through downtown.
Council President Richard Conlin said the council is likely to approve the state contracts next month. Drilling on the 1.7-mile tunnel would begin about a year from now.
"We don't see anything new here," Conlin said of McGinn's announcement. "This is just another ploy."
McGinn said he is just trying to get an answer to a simple question:
"I guess I'm new to politics, OK? I've been in office for six months. ... All the powerful interests say they want the tunnel and all I'm asking is if there are cost overruns, who will pay? And somehow, it's a political ploy."
Emily Heffter: 206-464-8246 or email@example.com
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.