Dominic Holden, news editor of The Stranger, has two long-form articles this week. One goes through the history of the viaduct/deep bore tunnel project, but the main one is a well-researched and thorough exploration of all the things that could go wrong with the deep-bore tunnel, and explains just how shoddy the contingency planning for these possibilities are. It’s almost enough to make one support a viaduct rebuild if the surface/transit option can’t happen — especially since the city is likely to mess up the new waterfront anyway.
Let’s spare a thought for the other big transportation tunnel project just getting started — the light rail tunnel from Pine Street to Roosevelt. Potential problems with ST’s project are both fewer and milder, and post-2001 their reserves have been generous. Furthermore, if ST has overruns the impact is a reduction in scope and delay in completion, rather than a raid on someone’s general fund. Nevertheless, tunneling risk is one of the best reasons to be a pessimist about ST coming through on time and on budget.
All this doesn’t mean tunnel projects are never worthwhile, but it does mean that contingency planning and risk management are very important. It’s especially important when the impact of overruns is likely to be a raid on funds allocated to better things, whether at the city level or the state level. Holden’s reporting — possibly the local story of the year so far — shows how the deep-bore plan we’re being asked to commit is lacking.
Also, check out the 13-lane-width monstrosity at right.