A group of deep-bore tunnel opponents have launched a new site — tunnelfacts.com — that brings a lot of anti-tunnel arguments in one place. (Disclosure: STB associate editor Ben Scheindelman has contributed material to the site).
Among STB staff, I’m probably the softest on the tunnel, yet even I think it’s a dumb idea. I’m “soft” in the sense that the state is going to blow its gas tax money on a dumb project somewhere, and this isn’t any dumber than most other options. What I can’t tolerate is the city’s contribution, plus its commitment to cover the overruns (which the Mayor’s office claims is unenforceable).
So I agree with what tunnelfacts.com is trying to accomplish. That said, I’m kind of uncomfortable with some of the stuff there, in particular this page and this little graphic (go here for the interactive version, sorry for the small pic):
Two things about this make me queasy:
- The general “$4 billion is sooo much money!” tone of this reminds me too much of anti-light rail campaigns. When you take any large project and divvy up the cost to lots of worthy little programs, you deliver the impression that you could solve all the city’s problems instead. It’s the kind of argument that can be applied to any single large infrastructure project. As someone in favor of certain large infrastructure projects, I feel uncomfortable that some of my allies in those campaigns are using this kind of tactic. This kind of argument is even more applicable to ST2, and equally facetious, since light rail is the most cost-effective way to provide an alternative to congestion and take us off an unsustainable development path. The issue is that the benefits of the tunnel are low or negative, not that the cost is a really large number.
- The chart isn’t really truthful. The state’s contribution, in the form of gas tax revenue and tolls, isn’t transferrable to all the worthy causes the chart lists. So “what to do with the money” is a $1 billion + overruns question, not a $4.2 billion question, unless you’re going to go find about 3 billion in highway projects to fund instead.
Everybody has a pet project, but if you wanted to find a way to spend $1 billion in nonexistent city taxes productively, you could do worse than a Second Avenue, rail-convertible bus tunnel. It would improve transit mobility downtown, benefiting the same neighborhoods as the deep-bore tunnel. Moreover, it means we’d get much more rail for the buck when we finally proceed with ST3. The 3rd Avenue DSTT cost about $800m-900m in today’s dollars*, so we’re at the same order of magnitude in terms of costs to the city.
* Disclaimers: A 2nd Avenue tunnel would probably terminate in Uptown somewhere, and therefore be longer (and cost more) than the 3rd Avenue tunnel. Also, since the 1980s construction inflation != consumer price inflation.