Transportation could become one of the most explosive issues of the session. Lawmakers will wrestle with the costly proposed replacements of the...

High costs, viaduct dispute cloud transportation plans

Transportation could become one of the most explosive issues of the session. Lawmakers will wrestle with the costly proposed replacements of the Alaskan Way Viaduct and the Highway 520 bridge. They also must come up with a lot more cash to pay for the escalating costs of projects already in the pipeline.

Biggest proposed projects



• Replace Highway 520 bridge: $4.38 billion

• Replace Alaskan Way Viaduct: $2.82 billion (elevated roadway)

or $4.6 billion (tunnel)

• Add lanes to Interstate 405:

$2.04 billion

• Widen Highway 167:

$1.56 billion

• Expand Sound Transit light rail: $19 billion

Of all the transportation projects, the decrepit viaduct likely will be the trickiest for lawmakers.

Gov. Christine Gregoire last month called for Seattle voters to decide whether to replace the viaduct with an affordable elevated structure or a tunnel that she considers to be financially shaky. She wants a vote before the legislative session ends in April.

The state estimates it will cost $2.8 billion to replace the viaduct with another elevated roadway, and $4.6 billion to build a tunnel.

The viaduct, built in 1953, was damaged in the 2001 Nisqually earthquake.

A majority of House Democrats oppose the tunnel, while Seattle Mayor Greg Nickels and a majority of Seattle City Council members oppose building a new viaduct.

Gregoire said she’d abide by whatever decision voters make and hopes the Legislature would do so, too.

However, it’s not clear when, or if, the Seattle vote will take place. Some City Council members have questioned the idea of putting the issue before voters.

The Legislature also is expected to tweak ballot measures that would go before voters in King, Pierce and Snohomish counties later this year.

The three counties are putting together a multibillion-dollar tax package to improve local roads and highways. And Sound Transit wants money to extend light rail to the Eastside, Snohomish County and the Port of Tacoma.

State lawmakers last session required both the highway and Sound Transit measures to pass together, or they both fail. Supporters of the packages want permission from the Legislature to combine them into one ballot measure, arguing in part that the move would avoid voter confusion and increase the odds of approval.

Key legislators on transportation

Sen. Mary Margaret Haugen, D-Camano Island: Chairwoman, Senate Transportation Committee. 360-786-7618 or haugen.marymargaret@leg.wa.gov

Rep. Judy Clibborn, D-Mercer Island: Chairwoman, House Transportation Committee. 360-786-7926 or clibborn.judy@leg.wa.gov