Where is going the stock market ????? by pfala
Where is going the stock market ????? by pfala

Erica Barnett over at Publicola has a lengthy and somewhat scattershot article with information that she uncovered due to the Seattle Citizens Against the Tunnel public-disclosure request. The group, which is also suing the state for SEPA violations, has hundreds and hundreds of pages of internal WSDOT e-mails, memos, and notes on their website.

Has the state “strategically misrepresented” the viaduct? Erica sure thinks so. I have not had time to read through the documents, so I won’t weight in on that but at the very least this revelation shows how important the SEPA process is for creating open and accountable decision making.

Go here to read her article.

28 Replies to “The Tunnel: Strategically Misrepresented?”

  1. WSDOT uses vehicle capacity as one of their metrics?

    They don’t circulate internal drafts of documents to the public?

    Their ‘No Build’ for the upcoming Draft EIS doesn’t call for building any new capacity?

    Amazing. What’s really amazing is that Erica thinks these are part of a ‘smoking gun’. Makes me suspect the rest of her points are non-issues too.

    1. I think the point she is making is that the deep bore tunnel is not a result of a rigorous engineering process. Rather, it is the result of behind the scene dealing that knew what result it wanted and forced reality to conform to that result.

      I don’t think that in public works projects you find “smoking guns”. These decisions have to be rationalized in some way. The best you will find a consistent underestimation of cost and risk and consistent overestimation of benefits.

    2. Not including the surface/transit/I-5 improvements option in the DEIS is rather more problematic than you make it out to be. It’s very much distinct from the no-build option, and it’s supposed to be studied before selection of a preferred option.

      In fact, considering that the final EIS hasn’t been completed, it’s bizarre that the state is going ahead with the deep-bore tunnel. The whole process stinks.

      1. The complete disregard of Federal and state laws requiring a full EIS process by WSDOT is rather troubling. These are not supposed to be done “after the fact”. As much of a gadfly as Elisabeth Campbell is, she does have a point that WSDOT is doing what it wants and damn the law and the citizens.

  2. I read Erica’s story and the selected postings she links to. I didn’t learn anything new. If Erica was trying to make the point Adam decribes, she has more work to do.

    I also know that if you look at the recent track record at ST and the state DOT, you might find consistent overestimation of cost and risk. After ST’s high bids out of the gate both vowed: never again.

    I think the record will reflect that benefits are often misunderstood yet frequently undertstated.

    1. The major reason for st’s low bids is that the engineers estimates where high because the market at the time was hot and labor costs were high. Now that is not the case. It was not due to overestimation of risk just labor costs.

    2. I find it hard to believe there is any realistic cost estimate with only 1% of the engineering complete. Since there were political reasons to lowball the costs I only expect them to rise and blow past any padding in the budget as engineering proceeds.

  3. A replacement to the viaduct is being built why? So some yuppie can get from the Starbucks HQ to Canlis in under 15 minutes? Huh?

    Is a 50mph SR99 through downtown really so necessary? How much less would a 40mph SR99 cost, using surface streets and snyc’d traffic lights?

    1. And it would be so cool and retro- like driving through Everett at 28 mph in the good old days. Can we have the smell too?

      Although, come to think of it, Seattle today doesn’t resemble in any way Everett in 1958.

    2. What’s Canlis? Anyway, most people who use 99 either live on the west side, are driving industrial trucks, or are going to the airport and don’t want to risk missing their flight in a tie-up on I-5. Or they’re admiring the view.

      I’m sure the tunnel speed limit will be higher. The only reason it’s 50 now is the 90-degree exits, swerves, and lack of shoulders.

      1. What’s Canlis?

        A well known local icon in the restaurant business. Sort of like Dick’s but a little more upscale ;-)

      2. The new tunnel will expedite that WS – Canlis connection, but with no exits or entrances for central downtown, nor Belltown, Interbay, or Ballard, it will have limited utility.

        This thing was not thought through. It’s a solution for half of corridor users, not all of them.

      3. Less than half. With the tolls necessary to support $400m in recovery, some 40% of through users will opt for another corridor as well.

      1. It helps the debate more than deciding the tunnel is a good idea based on no comparison to other options.

      2. I am comparing my support for the tunnel to the shadow of the previous long eight years of discussing this thing – a shadow darker than the hideous existing viaduct itself.

      3. So . . . after 8 years of waiting, you are satisfied with a 1%-engineered solution? You need to raise your bar a little higher for what you consider a “solution”. If building the tunnel is like an airline ticket, ejecting at this point is like canceling the airplane ticket as opposed to skydiving out of the plane. Not a big deal.

      4. I am satisfied that a decision has been made which is more than most of you writing here appear to be. 1% engineering plus 100% momentum means that the aircraft will fly whether you are on or not, and with that same momentum will hopefully reach its destination on time.

      5. Tim… 1% engineering means that nobody knows yet if the aircraft can get off the ground.

  4. Considering that the deep-bore tunnel wouldn’t have exits downtown, it is utterly ludicrous for Seattle to be on the hook for cost overruns.

    1. Because Seattle gets a waterfront back and it doesn’t have all the noise and sight pollution of the existing viaduct. It is a fair trade off – I wouldn’t have any objection to chipping in if I lived in Seattle.

      1. Well, I do live in Seattle, and I see absolutely no reason to build a tunnel. Just give the waterfront back. Building a tunnel just boils us in the long run.

      2. “Boils us” – what does that mean, exactly? I see no reasonable reason not to build a tunnel – it seems like the best option for duplicating the function of the existing viaduct without all the noise and sight pollution of the current structure.

        There has to be a place for roads in our plans for Seattle transit – we cannot move freight by light rail. If we have the surface option, we will be replacing the function of the existing viaduct with something very different and possibly tie up freight in traffic snafus for miles in downtown Seattle.

        I am all for Light Rail between West Seattle and Ballard through downtown, but this is a separate issue and not germane to the replacement of the viaduct despite what Mike McGinn might has to say on the subject.

        Again, Ben, do you want to reopen this debate after eight years of haggling?

      3. I’d much rather reopen the debate than spend all of my productive years paying increased taxes for a poorly thought-out Big Dig, Seattle-style.

  5. Once again, if the City, State and County can come up with the funds for this project, let them go ahead with it, otherwise we’ll review but let’s no assume the worst before we know the worst. I believe strongly in civic projects with an attachment of civic pride, and getting the waterfront back for the City would be an excellent trade off – plus we have done this thing to its dying breath and time to move on.

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