One of the stronger objections to my quasi-support for a rebuilt viaduct is that the City of Seattle would not realize the $700m in savings between that project and the Deep-Bore Tunnel.

In principle, I suppose WSDOT could demolish the current structure and walk away, leaving Seattle to clear the rubble and do something with the space. Although  that’s essentially surface-lite, I don’t think it’s a reasonable possibility. The State has consistently committed to funding the main roadway, and has demonstrated deep interest in preserving the flow of cars and freight through downtown.

Under the DBT plan, the roadway and construction mitigation amounts to $3.1 billion dollars. This is funded out of $1.8 billion in gas taxes, $600m in other state and federal funds, $300m from the Port of Seattle, and $400m from tolls.

The final iteration of the rebuild allocates $2.9 billion to similar projects, plus $103m for I-5 improvements. It would be absolutely unprecedented for WSDOT to not fund the state or interstate highway. Interestingly, the seawall is viewed as so integral to the viaduct that it’s included in the same line item in the report. But let’s assume that the State leaves that with Seattle to the tune of $244m*. Whether the $100-300m in savings is captured by the Port, toll payers, the highway fund, or even Seattle would of course be a matter of negotiation. In no case, though, would I presume that a dime of the State’s money would go to transit aside from the customary construction mitigation.

Seattle could be tasked with funding $234m in street improvements under the rebuild plan. The DBT price tag for the City is $811m*, leaving a savings of $333-577m seawall-depending. Now it’s certainly not the case that that money is automatically programmed into transit. However, transit advocates have a much better shot with the Seattle City Council than the Washington Legislature. We certainly have a strong claim on the $267m required to make the transit part of the viaduct plan work.

Then, of course, you have overruns and tunneling risk. But you’ve heard about those.

* Accounting for the flood district’s $30m contribution to the seawall.

11 Replies to “How Much Would Seattle Save?”

  1. Very rational.

    And very irrelevant.

    Don’t you realize now that Seattle is being played?

    That it is not about making it a good place — but how much money the Powers That Be can extract from it?

    Oly is calling the shots, via Conlin.

    They want the Fed dollars.

    You want a surface street? Figure out a way to employ 10,000 people and make it paved with bricks of limestone, hand carved from the Cascades Mountains. It must take 20 years to pave, and be funded by the Federal Gilded Paths Act of 2011.

  2. This makes a lot of sense. Cost overruns worry me because they are an unknown unknown. I have never seen anything really convincing about cost overruns than “There will be no cost overruns so we don’t need contingency” or “There are always cost overruns”.

    My gut feeling is that tunnels – which are complex and difficult – overrun more than elevated roadways which overrun more than surface streets – which get built all the time. Quantifying it beyond a gut feeling is something I haven’t been able to do asking Google.

  3. “In principle, I suppose WSDOT could demolish the current structure and walk away, leaving Seattle to clear the rubble and do something with the space.”

    I don’t think WSDOT could walk away from HWY 99 even if they wanted to. Its a state highway, and unless 99 was re-designated someplace else, they are responsible for the upkeep of the route.

  4. I almost don’t care about this stupid tunnel any more. I know that may not be terribly rational, and I know we could cover the whole of Seattle with trolleybuses and streetcars for the price, but I don’t see any politically feasible path forward that’s better than the DBT.I also think some of the anti-tunnel advocates are overstating the risk of overruns; I trust WSDOT more than bloggers in pajamas on that. And I say that in the most blogger- and pajama-positive way.

    1. I think the tunnel is very likely to be built, so it’s quite rational to stop worrying about it.

      1. Build the cut/cover as depicted in the SDEIS, the ‘stacked’ SIX-LANE, because all studies show it manages traffic best. It’s in the study but taboo in public discussion?

        Losing the Columbia & Seneca ramps reduces traffic on 1st Ave and on the dangerously steep sidestreets leading to those ramps, thus a good idea.

        Losing the Elliott & Western ramps is a foolish mistake because it further increases traffic and traffic hazards from King Street to Mercer.

  5. I sure hope people talk about all the options – on the table and “off” – at tonite’s Town Hall forum at 8th and Seneca at 7:30 pm. Because, at the end of the day, Seattle depends on the Viaduct and it’s replacement for both freight and vehicles (and transit).

  6. How much would Seattle save is a great question.
    It’s less than 2 miles from Seattle Center to Qwest Field. MnDOT estimates one lane mile of suburban arterial at 8 mil/mi and urban freeway at 39 mil/mi. So 4 lanes going 2 miles, or 8 lane miles cost about $320 mil in the rest of the world. But we’re Seattle, and we’re unique and special in so many ways that spending 10 times that about for a DBT is just dandy. How many billion for SR520, or I-405, or 3 miles of rail to Husky Stadium.
    Puget Sound politicians never met a project that couldn’t be ‘bigger’.

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