Four newish tunnel items:
- Scott Gutierrez breaks down the City’s new full funding plan for its share of the deal. The City Council voted unanimously to approve the agreement.
- “Advokat” at Publicola makes a strong case that the City will not end up paying for overruns. The comment thread has several intelligent rebuttals.
- Eric de Place of Sightline says local tunnel projects almost always have serious overruns. As before, I’m leery of these anti-everything fear, uncertainty, and doubt (FUD) tactics, as there are tunneling projects which I very much favor.* Full report here.
- And, of course, Mike McGinn reluctantly accepts that the tunnel is going forward.
Some waffling on this issue below the jump.
In a world without political/constitutional constraints, anyone who at all shares the values of this blog should agree that we should spend $1.9 billion on transit**, not a highway under downtown.
If you’re concerned about freight traffic, be warned that there are two ways to solve congestion: steep tolls (or tolled lanes) and punitive gas taxes. New highway capacity, in itself, won’t achieve that. It’s unclear that the tunnel’s planned toll is large enough to deter drivers, nor is it clear that you couldn’t achieve the same by tolling a lane of I-5.
Moving back to the real world of constraints, there are a couple of compelling pro-tunnel arguments:
- The state is fundamentally malign and will do something even worse if we manage to stop the tunnel.
- Any attempt to stop the tunnel will fail, just making it more expensive while not changing the end result.
Although these arguments identify risks rather than hard facts, die-hard tunnel opponents really have to grapple with them more. McGinn’s recent statement expressing resigned acceptance of the tunnel indicates that he is.
On the other hand, the tunnel “deal” isn’t what Gregoire, Nickels, and Sims originally agreed to. The Governor agreed to a substantial increase in transit funding that didn’t materialize. There’s also the infamous overrun provision. Electing a candidate that hasn’t already given the legislation — unilateral State changes and all — a big endorsement might help fix the problems.
Similarly, as with most large projects there’s a significant chance of a near-death experience. Having someone at the table who hasn’t signed on to the tunnel as a great idea means one less key figure trying to save it at all costs, someone more willing to look again at better options.
* Facts are facts, and if tunnels = overruns, it’s fair to get that information to the public. That’s useful for information for fence-sitters who aren’t sure about a project. It’s not my place to say so, but I’m not sure if highlighting that argument fits in with Sightline’s broader goals.
** Two things that would likely cost less than $1.9 billion each: Ballard to West Seattle at Portland MAX standards, or a 2nd Avenue rail-convertible bus tunnel, massively improving bus service to Ballard and West Seattle and serving as a down payment on ST3 high-quality rail to those neighborhoods. Yes, both ideas are 0% engineered, but that’s only 1% behind the tunnel we’re committed to build.
As we’ve explained before, a second rail tunnel is needed for ST3 because the existing DSTT will be filled to capacity with trains when ST2 is complete.
[An earlier version of this post stated that Eric de Place was in favor of underground light rail. He has made no statement on this issue one way or the other. I regret the error.]