Voters facing the confusion of Referendum 1 have to pick the plan with the greatest potential for solving a regionwide transportation conundrum. Voters should approve Referendum 1 to move commuters, freight and an endless community dialogue forward.
THE Alaskan Way Viaduct is a highly useful, but now dangerous roadway. Most Seattleites realize it is vulnerable in an earthquake. Beyond that, our city has been divided about what comes next. One thing is certain: The battle between a tunnel and surface-transit-gridlock has raged too long.
Voters facing the confusion of Referendum 1 have to pick the plan with the greatest potential for solving a regionwide transportation conundrum. Voters should say yes — that is, approve — Referendum 1 to move commuters, freight and a nettlesome community dialogue forward.
Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn came into office promising not to stand in the way of a decision that preceded his arrival at City Hall, to build the deep-bore tunnel. The project has the support of eight City Council members, Gov. Chris Gregoire, King County Executive Dow Constantine and numerous other regionally minded leaders.
But McGinn, for lack of a more politically correct term, lied. He has done everything imaginable to stop the tunnel. He lent staff, his wife gave money and he provided mayoral cachet to the effort to secure the Aug. 16 public vote, the latest method of stalling.
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But what about the rest of us average Joes who just want to get from, say, West Seattle to Magnolia or from South Seattle to the North End?
The state spent years working with stakeholders and concluded the deep-bore tunnel was the best solution. The Legislature authorized $2.4 billion in state gas-tax and federal funds to pay for it.
That money, no matter what anti-tunnel people hope, is not available for a substitute transit project, because gas-tax money is constitutionally restricted to road and ferry projects. If Seattle turns it down, numerous other highway projects around the state would grab the cash.
A recent environmental-impact statement shined light on a significant problem with the tunnel: High tolls would divert too many cars to other streets. Tolling is expected to generate $400 million. Clearly, tolling has to be adjusted or dumped to make the project a success. That will leave a gap in funding and lawmakers have to fill it.
Along comes the anti-tunnel crowd, which has seized on the tolling problem. They believe, oddly and inexplicably, that state leaders cannot figure out how to solve the tolling problem, but will, somehow, find a way to divert money dedicated to the tunnel to a surface-transit project. This is fantasy.
The Times editorial board met with anti-tunnelites and pressed them repeatedly for a workable alternative solution. They didn’t want to discuss their favorite option, so-called Interstate 5-surface transit, because: a) it amounts to gridlock and b) that alleged solution is polling in the 20 percent favorable range.
For many months, the anti-tunnel crowd fixated on potential cost overruns, which supposedly are assigned to Seattle by a disastrous piece of legislation orchestrated by House Speaker Frank Chopp.
A clause in the legislation says cost overruns will be borne by Seattle area property owners who benefit from the project. Both Gregoire and Attorney General Rob McKenna, of different political parties, and speaking in a way disadvantageous to the institution they represent, said the language was unenforceable. The state will have to pay for overruns on a state project. Duh.
Seattle is an hourglass-shaped city. For many decades, the city has needed additional north-south capacity to move people around.
Do not listen to those with Sierra Club beanies and numbers that suggest otherwise. There is no way Seattle could be better off without four lanes of the tunnel. That makes no sense in a city so narrow in the middle.
Seattleites should vote to approve the oddly constructed Referendum 1. Do it to move forward with commuter and freight mobility, for safety on a dangerous roadway and to cap an endless debate.