I couldn’t make the press conference, but McGinn made it clear this morning: we’ll get another vote, soon, for light rail to serve the western half of the city. McGinn specifically mentioned Ballard, Belltown, Fremont, Queen Anne, and West Seattle as candidates for possible rail expansion.

He says “within two years”, but I’d expect this means 2012, as the next presidential election is probably the best time for a strong vote.

In order to make this happen, he’ll have to accelerate the Sound Transit planning studies for the western corridor. Currently, Sound Transit has those studies funded in 2015 to be prepared for a 2016 vote.

Also notable — McGinn says he’d like to do this with existing city taxing authority. I doubt that’s possible, but it’s a good start.

87 Replies to “McGinn: City Vote For Light Rail In Two Years”

    1. Unfortunately, this smacks of the candidate for class president promising to make the soda machine free.

      I don’t have confidence that McGinn has thought this through any more than he thought through the similar promise to not rebuild the viaduct. In both instances he doesn’t seem to even understand the Mayor’s role, or the realities of each situation.

      Yes, these promises sound awesome, but they’re bogus. He doesn’t know what he’s doing. That won’t stop people from believing it all, of course.

      I wish I could vote for Mallahan, but he’s worse. I’ve never abstained from voting for an office this high before, but this year I kind of have to. Neither of these guys can run a city, that’s pretty clear.

      1. What promises? McGinn has said he’ll do whatever he can to stop the tunnel. He can easily refuse permits.

      2. Interesting thought, does the state need local permits for the construction of a State thoroughfare? Can the State claim eminent domain over a smaller gov’t entity?

        I am curious what the implications are on this.

      3. Tried that before, the City refusing permits or whatever to an approved state project. That was the content of an initiative petition years ago against the Seattle portion of I-90. Court threw it out, even before the vote, on jurisdictional grounds — a city just doesn’t have that authority over a state project. State trumps city, in other words.

        The state can push this through contra a Mayor McGinn, but they can’t mint money or solve engineering problems by waving a magic wand — thus my conclusions that the deep-bore tunnel will fail of its own shortcomings, and Mayor McGinn can just watch; he won’t have to pull the plug himself.

      4. There are other things a Mayor can do including lawsuits over the legislation passing the cost overruns on to the city. Lawsuits on various NEPA, SEPA, and Shoreline Management act grounds. There’s also political theater which can make it very uncomfortable to keep pushing forward over the city’s objections.

        Besides Sen. Haugen and Rep. Clibborn are more than willing to take the state’s portion of the tunnel project and spend it elsewhere.

      5. NEPA/SEPA appeals almost never result in a project being stopped. The point of NEPA/SEPA is just to identify alternatives and their impacts and mitigation. The analysis is supposed to provide the basis for a decision, although decisions, albeit somewhat unofficial, are usually made long before doing an EIS. Shoreline Management Act permits won’t be necessary since the project is beyond the shoreline jurisdiction (200′ of a state designated shoreline). The appeals route is not going to stop this project. As an attorney, McGinn (hopefully) realizes this and I suspect this is why he is calling for a public vote on the deep bore tunnel (he said this at last week’s debate). A no vote by Seattle voters would provide some leverage in what could be McGinn’s only hope for nixing the project: political diplomacy. Not sure what he does if (1) Seattle voters approve a deep bore tunnel, or (2) the state pushes forward with the tunnel. The first scenario is a no-confidence vote for a new mayor. The second scenario is a difficult one for McGinn having painted himself into the no-tunnel corner (instead of the “let Seattle voters decide” position). Does he move forward with seawall, utility, and other city parts of the project?

      6. Pete,

        Per McGinn’s populist values, I think if the people of Seattle vote to support the tunnel, he would respect the will of the people. I actually don’t think this would damage him that much. I know a fair number of people who love McGinn except for his tunnel stance. If the voters back the tunnel and McGinn accepts the vote as the will of the people I think he can easily pivot to other priorities.

        If, however, the people vote to oppose it, especially if they do so strongly as they did before, it would give him a fair amount of leverage.

        I think the state’s support for the tunnel (at least in the legislature) is more tentative than you imagine, but if I’m wrong and the state does force the issue, then the tunnel will get built, but at least we’ll know who to blame.

      7. Ultimately I doubt McGinn could stop the tunnel just by refusing permits. Yes, he could certainly make things messy and potentially use the courts to drag things out and drive costs up, but this is not the little “SMP vs the City” squabble we had when Mayor Nickels was going to deny permits to the monorail.

        This would be a big fight, Seattle vs. the State of Washington, over an agreement the city has already signed onto, and with potential Federal involvement at some level.

        I doubt McGinn could pull it off, and I’m not really sure he should even try.

      8. Said agreement may very well be unconstitutional (at least the portion holding Seattle taxpayers responsible for all cost overruns), so while IANAL it would seem there is at least a fair chance it is a fight the city could win.

        Then of course there is NEPA, SEPA, and the Shorline Management Act. Lots of grounds for lawsuits there and a fair chance the City will be on solid footing both on the facts and the law.

      9. Chris Stefan,

        The agreement does not contain the infamous cost overrun language – that was in the legislation authorizing state funding for the project. Not sure the City could challenge the law unless the State tried to somehow collect taxes from city property owners for cost overruns – the City wouldn’t have standing until such time.

      10. Interesting. So are you saying that what the Mayor actually signed didn’t have the cost overrun language in it? If so, then kudos to Mayor Nickels — I wondered why he would sign such language, but if he didn’t….

        In any case, I believe the language in the state approved legislation is meaningless. I doubt it could ever be enforced.

      11. Michael,

        You are underestimating the power of the Bully Pulpit. Greg Nickels was the chair of the Sound Transit Board and was probably more instramental in getting light rail built than any other politician ever. Clearly, he found a way to use the position of Mayor to push a light rail vision.

        Second point, the city of Seattle has the authority to tax itself with voter approval to a point. McGinn, as mayor can bring a proposal forward to the citizens and they can vote on it. We already did it once with the monorail before we changed our mind. The same taxing authority is there and the same supportive populous is there (assuming that the new plan isn’t a train wreck like the last one).

        Third point, the mayor of Seattle has the ability to lobby the state to support the city’s agenda. Now, Olympia has never been a fan of Seattle, but if I were a legislator and the richest city in the state came asking the poor farmers of the yakima valley to subsidize its infrastructure projects, I’d laugh them out of the room, but if that same city came down and asked for my permission to tax themselves, I’d have a very different response.

        McGinn’s point is clear: he wants to give the voters of seattle the opportunity to vote to tax themselves. If the people want it, they should have a mayor who is willing to put a plan before them. This is absolutely within the purview of the Mayor.

      12. Actually, the city might have the authority to institute certain taxes on its own, however it most certainly does not have the authority to tax itself to build and operate a mass transit system on its own.

        That authority can only come from the State Legislature, and currently we do not have it.

        The SMP managed to get it, but they didn’t get it until several years into the process — and after at least the first two monorail votes (I-41 and I-53??) passed. But neither of those initiatives was to actually tax in order to build a system, and we only got that authority after the first two studies were complete and before the third vote which authorized a go-ahead.

        That said, the State Legislature is likely to be very cold to a Seattle request to self-tax:

        1) The first attempt at doing that didn’t work our very well (SMP) and now they view us as transportation clowns.

        2) We just passed ST2 and they will certainly be suspicious of the need for yet another tax so soon.

        3) Any tax that Seattle is willing to impose on itself takes away from our willingness to tax ourselves for other projects. As the theory goes, even the average Seattleite has a limit to how much tax he/she is willing to vote for, so if you let them vote for additional Seattle only taxes, then they will be less likely to vote for other regional taxes later.

        The reasoning behind #3 is exactly what led to the R+T vote. The State Legislature was afraid that letting Seattle go it alone with T because then we would (supposedly) be less likely to vote for R later.

      13. We certainly didn’t have to go ask the legislature for permission to build the SLUT. What makes you think their permission would even be necessary other than possibly needing some additional tax authority.

        The taxing authority that SMP was going to use is still sitting there dormant. The Legislature never repealed it. There are also Transportation Benefit Districts, LIDs, and property tax levies the city could use.

      14. Looks like the legislature has already given the city all the taxing authority it needs. From the Seattle Times;

        “One way to fund a rail line could be to form a “transportation benefit district” as authorized by the Legislature, McGinn said.

        With voter approval, state law allows a city district to enact a yearly car-tab fee of up to $100; sales taxes of two-tenths of 1 percent; or charge tolls on city arterials. Such a district could charge developer fees, or neighborhood-approved property taxes near the projects.

        The city is eligible to form a district, and the law allows Seattle to transfer a new rail project to Sound Transit, a legislative staffer in Olympia said Wednesday.

        A city light-rail project would be eligible to apply for Federal Transit Administration grants, an FTA spokesman said.”

      15. McGinn is not proposing that we start another transit agency to build and operate transit. He specifically states that he will not do this. The plan is simply to, with the consent of the people, raise more tax revenue in order to contract with Sound Transit. ST has all of the expertise, organizational structure and legal authority that it needs and a Ballard to West Seattle Light Rail is already in their long range plan. McGinns plan would just be an acceleration of plans already on the books and completely consistent with long term regional goals.

        You are correct that that the state may be hesitant to grant Seattle additional taxing authority for this project because they want to tap seattle money to fund roads. It will take some political skill to make a case, but I think it’s a much easier case to make than asking the state to build it for us.

      16. Tony, please don’t compare Greg Nickels, who knew how the system worked and how to use it, and McGinn, who, well, doesn’t.

        He will never, ever, get the State to both turn over a state highway to the City and then give money to the City to do what he wants. This was a fantasy when he proposed it (the federal money goes away too), but gullible hordes ate it up.

        He can have all the authority in the world to let us vote to heavily tax ourselves for our “go our own way” light rail line, but I would guess that by then we’d be heavily tapped out from either voting to heavily tax ourselves for his “no-rebuild” viaduct answer, or from having to pick up the pieces after nothing is done and the thing collapses.

  1. I love that he wants to do this, still, I think ben’s right: the odds of it happening within two years aren’t that high.

    Mainly, it’s just that there are five very expensive projects to connect Ballard and West Seattle:
    1) a West Seattle section with a similar cost to the Rainier Valley segment of central link.

    2) an elevated section over Harbour island and the Duwammish, with a cost like the Tukwila-Rainier Valley section of the Central Link line.

    3) a preferably underground section under Downtown/Belltown, cost of this would be more than U-Link

    4) the line from lower queen anne to ballard, which would be again similar to the Rainier Valley Segment.

    In all, that’s a lot of engineering and alignment studies and a lot of money, probably on the order of $8 billion.

    1. How do you get $8 billion from all that?

      All he would have to do is advance the studies required and then form a ballot question that falls within the guidelines of the RCWs. The City of Seattle has the taxing authority and the clout in Olympia to get this done, and it might even be a great sell for ST and Metro in that it reduces the overall cost and timeline for ST3.

      Piece of cake, relatively speaking.

      1. The $8 billion is a completely unscientific ballpark for a line as described above. I’m basing it on what the costs for Central Link were and what U-Link is expected to cost.

        The rainier valley segment was about $700 million, and this would need three of those (west seattle, interlake-ballard and ballard-wallingford), plus a small segment in SODO, so that’s about $2.4 billion.

        The U-Link tunnel is $1.4 billion and another with $500 million for the two stations. This figures to ~$500 million per mile of tunnel (consistent with Beacon Hill as well). Depending on the alignment you could spend $1 billion on tunneling downtown, plus another $1 billion on stations. That gets you four stations from Pioneer Square to Belltown if you want to get from Pioneer Square to uptown underground, you need $2 billion for 8 stations, plus about $1.5 billion for tunnels.

        Then Tukwila-Rainier Beach segment was $600 million. This would be more expensive than the Tukwila in fact, since a lot that is man-made land with liquefaction troubles, and the route would be a little bit longer. So I guess $1 million.

        $2.4 billion + $3.5 billion + $1 billion. Add in purchasing a maintanence base, and purchasing cars, you wind up with something like $7~$8 billion.

        If it is all or nearly all at grade, obviously your costs are much less.

      2. If it is all or nearly all at grade, then the utility goes way down too.

        Point being, if we do another N-S line we should do it to Central Link standards and not try to “cheap out” just so we can claim we are making progress. Ultimately we need to make the “right” progress with an eye to the long term future.

        I think your numbers are probabaly somewhere in the ballpark.

      3. I’m of two minds about this. On the one hand I do like that Link as built/planned by Sound Transit is a ‘100 year solution’ which avoids much of the nonsense seen elsewhere when rail transit has been done on the cheap.

        On the other hand the way Sound Transit is building Link takes forever and is expensive. U Link doesn’t open until 2016 and no ST2 segments open until at least 2020. We’ve been doing planning for most of these routes for at least the past 20 years (more if you count the prior Forward Thrust work). Other cities have seen rail lines go from vague idea to opening day in less time than U-link will take to go from groundbreaking to opening.

        Don’t get me wrong, I really don’t see a faster and cheaper way to serve the same areas with rail that wouldn’t have been seen as rather bad ideas in hindsight.

        All of that said, I can really see the attraction of getting rail transit to the rest of the city as quickly and cheaply as possible by using largely at-grade alignments built in existing ROW. Even having to run at-grade downtown or having to do mixed traffic operations in some areas due to constrained ROW, light rail built to this standard will still be a better solution than RapidRide or some of the streetcar alignments. It also means we can take advantage of some low-hanging TOD fruit like Interbay, Aurora, etc. sooner rather than later.

      4. Chris,

        Part of what has taken ST so long to build Central Link is that they have been on a political knife edge since their conception. They also took a while to get their sea legs and work out a lot of internal management challenges. All that is behind us now. ST is an experienced, highly reputable, well managed organization with solid political support (post ST2). McGinn’s plan taps into that strength by contracting with ST. Without ST already in place, McGinn’s plan would never be able to fly.

      5. Tony,
        I’m aware of the challenges Sound Transit has faced on the political front. The agency almost died a premature death. If not for the hard work of Joni Earl, Greg Nickels and a number of other people the plug may very well have been pulled and we’d still be talking about starting planning for commuter and light rail lines.

        In fact I often hold up Sound Transit as an example of an agency that successfully turned itself around and that has been rebuilding trust. I use Joni Earl as an example of the sort of leadership required to do that.

        I agree, McGinn was wise to call for ST to handle the details, best to let experts do their thing rather than trying to create something new from scratch and have it make a bunch of rookie mistakes.

        My point wasn’t so much a political one as a technical one. Tunnels are expensive and take forever to build. Underground stations are expensive and take forever to build. Elevated ROW and stations are cheaper and faster than underground but still not cheap or quick. Even the at-grade alignment along MLK while nice is perhaps a tad overbuilt, especially when it comes to stations.

        I’m thinking there is a place for some form of rail transit for some corridors in this city somewhere between what we have with the SLUT and what ST is currently building as a regional spine in Link.

    2. ECB said ‘a stripped-down proposal using “existing right-of-way” (i.e., streets)’ so I’m guessing no underground. Maybe all elevated. I’m wondering about the Queen Anne part… maybe he means Lower Queen Anne and Ballard via Interbay. Or maybe he doesn’t have a specific plan.

      1. “Or maybe he doesn’t have a specific plan.”

        Methinks that’s the case. Gotta show the populi who the transit candidate is…

      2. He shouldn’t have a specific plan yet. He should say “let’s build something” and then let the planners come up with some options for us to look at. And that’s what he’s doing.

      3. Ya, and a poll had just come out showing him going from 1 point up on Mallahan in the primary to 4 points down in the poll.

        Me thinks this proposal is little more than “time to make something up and try to pull a rabbit out of a hat.”

      4. Ya, that will REALLY help McGinn gain support. What was the final vote when the city rejected the monorail? Something like 68% against? I don’t really think McGinn would want to tie his neck to that millstone!

      5. Too bad we sold all the right of way back. Getting the right of way purchased is like half the battle for any project!

      6. McGinn is making some headway with fiscally conservative voters with his anti-tunnel stance. I’m sure he does not want to ruffle those feathers by proposing a subway. However, I hope (and believe) he will realize if he is elected that cutting corners on this corridor is short-sighted. It’s going to be expensive, but it will be worth it. This is the most important transit priority for this region right now (now that Central Link is secure). The people of Seattle will support this measure even if it costs a lot if they are given the chance.

    3. I think it is way too early to start throwing around numbers. Tunnels and bridges are very expensive to running in street ROW so it basically comes down to how much running at grade is possible. Sound Transit has built a very heavy light rail system, which I think was the correct move for the corridor but a west Seattle corridor should be much lighter and more tram like. I think that is what he is thinking as well and PDX is a perfect example of that. Yes it doesn’t have the same speed when it doesn’t have tunnels but I think that the discussion has to start with what can we do for cheap, and then look at adding tunnels as optional upgrades.

      1. PDX is less than half the density of Seattle comparing cities proper. On top of that, our unique geography focuses nearly all trips down a tiny set of bottlenecks ultimately converging on the ultimate bottleneck: downtown Seattle. This focuses all our trips down essentially 3 north-south corridors. The trip density from Ballard to West Seattle is far higher than the population density would normally produce because of this convergence. Add that on top of the fact that we are already twice as dense as portland and building heavy rail starts to make a lot more sense. I am disappointed that ST did not use 3rd rail technology and opt for a full on metro, as these systems have higher capacity, faster acceleration, and can be completely automated enabling tighter headways. PDX should not be our inspiration, Vancouver, BC should be.

      2. It’s all just semantics. There is no hard definition of “light rail.” Just using a 3rd rail or full grade separation doesn’t guarantee any of the attributes you mention. There are plenty of examples of “heavy rail” systems that have a lower capacity than Link light rail. Copenhagen’s Metro and Vancouver’s SkyTrain are both grade-separated, and fully automated, yet have lower capacity than Link. Link is built to similar specifications of the stadtbahn systems in Germany, which serve cities much denser than Seattle. Choosing the flexibility of light rail technology allows ST to tailor the system to its surrounding and reduce costs compared to a full-on metro system. 4-car trains every 2 minutes will serve our needs for a long time to come.

      3. Zed,

        When I say heavy rail, I don’t just mean any 3rd rail system; I mean that we should be using whatever technology has the fastest acceleration, highest top speed and potential for full automation. In general those things only come with heavy rail. I am very impressed that we have pushed “light” rail well beyond the quality that is usually associated with light rail technology, but at the end of the day, Skytrain is faster and runs tighter headways than Link. I’ve ridden them both, and Skytrain takes the cake, no contest.

    4. Based on my completely unscientific analysis based on per-mile costs of ST2 projects, an entire almost completely traffic-separated and mostly grade-separated Downtown Ballard to West Seattle Junction line could cost about $3.5 billion. Here’s my math:
      A tunnel from King Street under Second Ave to the Seattle Center to Uptown popping out at Kinnear Park would be 2.72 miles. At the same cost per mile as U-Link it would be less, but because it would have 6 or 7 stations instead of two it would probably end up costing a little bit more than U-Link, so about $2 billion. Through Interbay it could be at-grade, which, at say $75 million per mile, would $150 million. From the northern edge of Interbay to downtown Ballard is about one mile. A tunnel for that segment would add another $600 million. South of Downtown it could share ROW with Central Link because East Link will have gone off by then so there will be room for the “West Link.” If it continued south along there to the West Seattle Bridge then went along the middle of the West Seattle bridge until that turns into Fauntleroy, that would be $375 million. A mile of elevated along Fauntleroy then a short tunnel to the middle of the Junction would add another $300 million.

      1. It was not a certainty that we could run a monorail across the existing West Seattle bridge. Light rail definitely cannot run there. A Link connection to West Seattle will require a new bridge crossing of some kind.

      2. oh and that Willamette River Bridge has vertical clearance of about 78 feet. The West Seattle Bridge has a clearance of 140 feet. My hunch is to double the height, the cost would about triple… so it would be around $400-$500 million for the bridge. Dunno what the tunnel would be.

      3. why would it be a bridge? How deep is the duwamish river at that point? It can’t be that deep–just go under the duwamish and pop back up to the surface and do what you need to do. The only reason the monorail had to have a bridge was because, well, it was a monorail!

      4. The problem is once you pop out on the other side you have an extremely steep hill up to Fauntleroy.

      5. Not really, Avalon Way is relatively tame and used to have streetcars running on it. I don’t think any of it is any steeper than the grades we already have on Central Link (or have planned on U-Link).

    5. According to McGinn your segment 3 would also be like Link in Rainier Valley. I think segment 2 is going to be more than even you estimate (and way more than I suspect McGinn thinks it will be) since a new high-level bridge for transit will need to be built. Similarly crossing to Ballard is likely to be expensive, though the Fremont bridge might be able to be used with minimal changes (though this would create a choke point much like the Steel Bridge on Portland MAX).

      That said I’m willing to take “on the cheap” light rail if it means we’ll see faster expansion in the city.

      1. If you go “on the cheap” you may get faster expansion, but then you’ll end up spending wayyy more money in the long-run to replace it with a grade-separated route. Spend the extra money now, it will pay off in the long term.

      2. If you want a cheap temporary solution, go with BRT. That way, you don’t sink nearly as much capital into the system while you are waiting to build up the ridership / density / political support to finally do it right with grade separated rail. Once you lay the rails down, we’re not going to move them.

    1. Or are we seeing a grand compromise coming with transit usage being put into the deep-bore tunnel plan?

      Or is McGinn promising a chicken in every pot?

      1. That’s why I’ve been for the tunnel. It’s a future transit subway. Possibly in fewer years than you might think.

      2. It can’t be.

        I’m not sure how to best explain this, because it keeps coming up even after I try.

        If you’re building a transit tunnel, the most important place to have close-together stops is in the downtown core. It would not be feasible to put stops in this tunnel – it’s far too deep. It would be more expensive to add stops to it later than to just bore a new tunnel for transit – it doesn’t save us money in the future.

      3. Ben, Seattle’s downtown isn’t that much longer than the distance between two stops on the express BMT in Manhattan. A streetcar shuttle on the surface between the two tunnel-mouth stops would pretty much solve that problem.

      4. Lydia’s right, Ben… After all, there have to be emergency egress points and ventilation shafts along the length of the tunnel.

        I have absolutely no idea what the cost would be to make stops, or if those points/shafts would be in places we want stops to be, but I don’t think it’s impossible.

      5. Just because it’s not impossible doesn’t mean that it’s practical or probable and it’s a pretty silly reason to support the tunnel.

      6. I didn’t say support the tunnel because it could have transit… but if we’re going to have a tunnel shoved down our throats for billions of dollars, we could plan for some future uses.

      7. I’m sorry guys, Lydia’s totally wrong. There will be no emergency entry/egress points in the deep bore tunnel. I wasn’t aware there would be ventilation shafts either, but those wouldn’t change the game for transit stops.

        If you guys keep believing this, you’re just shooting yourselves in the foot.

      8. In places it’s 160-200 feet down. I suppose you could conceivably build a station that deep, but not in downtown where you have buildings everywhere. you need a lot of room to build an extremely deep station. And plus the cost would be insane; it may be cheaper to build a new cut-and-cover tunnel.

      9. Plus it’s not wide enough for platforms and stops. You can’t just cut into the tube structure and widen it. And even if you could make something work the tunnel would be shut down for years while under destruction which would never fly.

        Rebuild the seawall in conjunction with the cut and cover was probably the best long term solution. Total cost might have been higher than a separate seawall and deep bore (I doubt it once the oh $hit$ start rolling in like the tide) but it would have had 50% more capacity and much more flexibility in the future.

  2. Right. All City power comes from the State, so if everyone goes nuclear the legislature can do whatever they want within the State and Federal Constitutions.

    1. They wouldn’t have the political support – you’d see them voted out of office. And if they tried, and *were* voted out of office, the legislature would end up more progressive (most likely) and it would be a good thing.

      1. That may be, but working against Seattle’s interests has never hurt our delegation before.

      2. What’s the process to secede? The state of Washington would be a pretty sad state without the Puget Sound region (aka the future state named Seattle).

      3. Ben,

        Maybe I don’t understand your comment, so I could be getting this wrong, but I think you are way off base here.

        The old adage in State politics has always been “Eastern Washington against Western Washington, and everyone against Seattle.” Seattle does not come even close to controlling the Legislature, and in most of the state incumbent politicians and candidates alike can always count on getting a big boast from taking anti-Seattle positions.

        Having Seattle pick a big fight with the Legislature is sure to work against us. It would reduce the amount of support we receive from the few pro-Seattle progressive legislators that already exist, and it would benefit anti-Seattle, anti-progress candidates across the state.

        We’d end up with a more solidly anti-Seattle and less progressive State Legislature.

      4. What makes you think that anti-Seattle legislators from eastern washington want to spend state tax money on a seattle highway? Surface transit is the cheapest option, and thus the most popular east of the mountains. All mcGinn has to do is show that seattle is deeply divided on the issue and it opens the door for eastern washington legislators to help nuke the project.

        Progressive seattle legislators are indifferent, eastern washington legislators hate it. The only people in the legislature that are really pushing this tunnel are from suburban puget sound. One simply has to frame the tunnel as a huge boondoggle to make Seattle’s waterfront look pretty that even Seattle doesn’t want and it could sink in the legislature pretty easily.

        You are correct though, and Ben is wrong: Olympia hates Seattle. Our best strategy is simply to lobby them to leave us alone and let us solve our own problems with our own money rather than micro-managing us.

      5. “solve our own problems with our own money rather than micro-managing us.”

        Umm, the city should pick up total costs on remedying the issue with a STATE highway? Are you looking to bankrupt the city?

      6. Reply to Tony the Economist:

        “What makes you think that anti-Seattle legislators from eastern washington want to spend state tax money on a seattle highway?”

        Because they have already agreed to do that as part of the deep bore tunnel project which has already passed the State Legislature. They’ve already agreed to it.

        Blow that plan up and we are likely to get nothing, and those gas tax dollars can’t be used for transit anyhow.

      7. Those gas tax dollars don’t have to be used for the transit portion of a Surface option. They could be used for building the waterfront boulevard, adding fixes to Downtown streets, making changes to I-5 to increase capacity, building the south-end interchange, etc. And I don’t know if some creative budgeting could roll parts of the seawall or bus lane striping into it as part of roadwork.

      8. Lazarus is probably right. Getting a new agreement will be next to impossible if Seattle pulls out of this one. There’s not much stomach for another round of this and revenues are tight.

      9. Mickymse,

        The State is not going to take their tunnel gas tax dollars and instead spend it on fixing downtown Seattle streets and makeing a nice pretty boulevard for us.

        If they don’t spend those dollars on the tunnel, then the money will be diverted to other “state-wide” uses, like more suburban freeways or road improvements in E.Wa. I.e. very anti-green, anti-progressive uses.

      10. Re: lazarus

        “They’ve already agreed to it.”

        Yes, the legislature already agreed to the deep bore tunnel, but that doesn’t mean they like it. Their support is lukewarm at best. We actually agree: if Seattle tries to kill the tunnel, eastern washington legislators would be more than happy to help us pull the plug on it.

        “Gas tax dollars can’t be used for transit anyhow”

        Unlike other people on this blog, building transit is not my top priority, ending taxpayer subsidy of automobiles is. I would rather take the money and dump it in the ocean than spend it on this tunnel project. Transit does not save the planet, ending the use of cars does. Transit does not prevent the killing of bicyclists and pedestrians by drunk or inattentive drivers, ending the use of cars does. Transit does not save this country trillions of dollars per year, ending the use of cars does. Reduce auto use and public support for transit skyrockets. The only way the public is going to start saying “yes” to transit is if we continue to say “no” to highways. I say continue because the citizens of seattle have consistently voted against highways and for transit. It is only the power brokers than have forced a highway solution on us from afar for the last 50 years.

        “If they don’t spend those dollars on the tunnel, then the money will be diverted to other ‘state-wide’ uses”

        I would much rather see that money going toward improving safety on our rural highways that kill hundreds of our fellow washingtonians every year than see it go toward supporting car culture in the only city in the state that actually has the density necessary to make a major shift to mass transit. You are revealing yourself as an arbiter of exactly the kind of self-centered Seattlite that the rest of the state hates so much.

        Re: octopus

        “Umm, the city should pick up total costs on remedying the issue with a STATE highway? Are you looking to bankrupt the city?”

        If the state were to turn over all the gas tax money raised within the city limit, I’d be more than happy to take on maintenance for both I-5 and SR 99. That’s what I mean by solving our own problems with our own money. So long as seattle is paying into the state coffers however, we do deserve to receive some of the benefits. Of course total taxing autonomy is unlikely. I was actually referring to a general strategy in our lobbying efforts with Olympia that I believe will be more successful than our current get-as-much-as-we-can-from-the-state strategy.

  3. McGinn to win! existing fiscal tools could be used to raise funds in Seattle and buy much better transit from ST or Metro or both. Seattle does have significant rights of way.

  4. wow, it’s amazing that seattle has to choose between a johnny one note and a dumbass. neither one is qualified to be a dogcatcher much less mayor. and yet they’ll still both be better than the corrupt nickels.

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