It’s probably a bit early to draw broad conclusions about this election, but please indulge me.
If McGinn holds his lead and wins, this election will be a significant setback for WSDOT’s three largest projects. Together totaling over $13 billion dollars, the deep-bore tunnel, SR-520 bridge and the I-5 Columbian River Crossing (CRC) will all face significantly altered local political landscapes. One that is not entrenched in the establishment like the former mayoral incumbents of Seattle and Vancouver, as well as one that is hostile towards key aspects of WSDOT’s projects. The establishment knew this, and that is why they lined up behind Mallahan. Not because they liked him, but because they knew he was malleable or pragmatic, depending on your point of view. Not so with McGinn.
While Seattle’s mayoral election was epic, there are other cities in Washington. In Vancouver, transportation also pushed its way to the forefront, dominating a contentious, $400,000 dollar mayoral contest.
More after the jump.
Vancouver citizens voted out their 14-year mayor for City Councilor Tim Leavitt, who supports a new 12-lane bridge but doesn’t support tolls over the new span. The Columbian reports:
The Leavitt campaign and the Portland news media portrayed the race as largely a referendum on tolling, though the mayor of Vancouver ultimately will have little or no influence on whether Clark County commuters pay tolls to use a new Interstate 5 bridge.
Nevertheless, the perception that anti-tolling sentiment on the north side of the river could derail the Columbia River Crossing drew attention to the race from Portland business and political leaders — and an endorsement for Pollard from the Portland Business Alliance. Pollard has said for years that tolling on a new bridge is inevitable, but he hopes to keep tolls to $1 or $2. Leavitt has vowed to oppose tolls on the bridge, though he has said he would not let the project die over the toll issue.
He said Tuesday night that he would continue to “fight on behalf of the commuters of Clark County” to protect them from tolls.
In Clark County, a particularly tax hostile county (shop in Portland + work in Vancouver = no sales tax, no income tax), the anti-toll message seems to have resonated with residents. It is also important to note that Sam Adams (Portland’s Mayor) has also recently come out against the current alternative, stating that tolls and light-rail non-negotiable and a 6-10 lane bridge is more reasonable.
In more tax friendly Seattle, which supports tolling both SR-520 and I-90, the anti-toll message with respect to the deep-bore tunnel hardly measured as a blip on the radar screen. This aspect of tunnel funding, which I will venture to guess few Seattleites know about, was not used against the tunnel. Rather, McGinn tried to redefine the tunnel debate as a competition between different objectives. Freeways vs. sidewalks, freeways vs. schools, freeways vs. public safety. To cap it off, he tried to redefine the tunnel debate as freeways vs. light-rail. I think that point got a bit lost in the ether, but it may resonate with Seattle voters, especially in the West of the city.
So while the results of this election are still uncertain, and all of us nervously await updates, I’m sure WSDOT’s higher ups, politicians down in Olympia as well as in Seattle, and large construction firms are even more nervous. These two Mayoral candidates have dared to rock the boat. We might just see if they can sink it.