[Update 11:02 pm] Most of the debate was rehashing of topics that have long since been old news for most people following the debate.

What I find disturbing is how transit was hardly brought up. As a project that primarily serves downtown Seattle, I find it amazing that transit is essentially an after thought for tunnel supporters. This becomes even more ironic when you compare it to similar past and present projects. I-90, SR-520 and I-5 in Vancouver all did or will at least make some improvement in transit speed and service.

David Freiboth (King County Labor Council) and Cary Moon (People’s Waterfront Coalition) argued about what the stakeholder committee actually agreed to, David saying it was the tunnel and Cary saying it was the I-5/Surface/Transit. Councilmember Tom Rasmussen argued that the design-build contract and other city and state agreements protected the city from overruns, while Mayor McGinn disagreed. Cary talked a good deal about the the I-5/Surface/Transit alternative and how it would work. O’Brien’s most forceful points were about how the tunnel is costing billions when the city and state are cutting the social safety net. He said he didn’t want to be part of a system that allows that to happen.

The SDEIS, which infuses the debate with new information, was mostly glossed over by both sides.

Ed Murray, who chastised McGinn for creating disharmony in the progressive movement, mostly talked about the politics of the project on the state level and dismissed rail to West Seattle and Ballard when an audience member yelled it out. Most of the arguments from Freiboth, Rasmussen and Murray essentially boiled down to the assertion that the surface option doesn’t move all the cars so it isn’t a viable option.

[Original Post] Through the marvels of modern telecommunication I’ll be live blogging this event from home where I can enjoy a warm dinner and a nice glass of wine. I don’t know if this will work well or at all, but please join me in a group live blogging event. Please include a timestamp in your comment so readers can go back and match your comments with the video.

More after the jump.

  • 6:59 @mayormcginn I can hear you talking. The mic is on.
  • 7:01 Someone talking about man purses. Hmm. “How do I look, do I look okay?”
  • 7:06 Introducing the debate series and introductions all around. I didn’t realize there were this many people on the forum.
  • 7:09 Most people at debate are anti-tunnel pro surface option. Essex Porter taking it away. Going right to cost overruns.
  • 7:11 Lots of people live tweeting as well. Hashtag is #tunneldebate.
  • 7:10 Murray wants to get rid of the cost overrun provision. The Senate has the votes to do that.
  • 7:14 Tom says design-bid protects us from overruns, insurance will protect the city, mayor not holding up his election promise.
  • 7:17 McGinn jabs at Tom saying when will you stand up for the City of Seattle like you do for Olympia.
  • 7:21 Murray talking about the gas tax increase. The 14 cent gas tax is the largest single investment of the state government in a project.
  • 7:23 Murray says that a democratic mayor shouldn’t slap a democratic governor in the face. He says you can’t make friend in Olympia doing that.
  • 7:27 #tunneldebate is not trending on twitter in Seattle.
  • 7:31 David Freiboth says that tunnel opponent are cherry picking. Concerned about the cost of the tunnel but not that the city doesn’t have the money for the seawall. Cary Moon rebuts saying that the stakeholder group signed a document that says I-5/Transit/Surface.
  • 7:35 David Freiboth really going off. Arguing with Cary Moon about the intent of the stakeholder letter. Mike O’Brien wants to talk about the EIS.

Okay no one else is jumping in. I’m going over to twitter. Follow #tunneldebate.

24 Replies to “Viaduct Debate”

  1. That was low of Tom Rasmussen to turn this into an emotional public safety issue by asking the mayor if he is okay with the viaduct collapsing while he is ‘dithering’. If the viaduct is unsafe, tear it down NOW. Traffic capacity should never trump public safety. After last night’s talk at the STB meetup, I had respect for Tom.

    1. If Tom had read any of the blogs, he would have known how tired that lame argument was, and what the response would be. I guess I should give him credit for ignoring the flogs.

      The fact that he trotted it out suggests that the public may still believe that line, and that he has read some booster-supplied polling to that effect.

      If Tom were to publicly apologize for that line of questioning, my respect for him would rise immensely. At the same time, he has no leg to stand on until he joins in calling for the immediate closure of the viaduct.

  2. I had to turn it off when Ed Murray started going off on I-5 improvements as a republican plot.

    1. It’s hard sometimes listening to Ed. I get what he’s done in Olympia, I do – but what Jim Horn proposed vs. what the stakeholders group proposed are completely different things. Ed’s smart enough to know that, but it doesn’t suit his argument to admit it.

  3. Seeing what Rasmussen had to say about transportation in the STB meeting, and then in the tunnel forum, shows just how doublespeak works.

  4. Before you get all judgmental on Tom, I would just caution that in a live debate in front of a big divided crowd you are likely to say things you might regret or with too strident a tone. I agree that that is somewhat unfair for Tom to say that.

    He disagrees with you on the tunnel, but does that mean he wasn’t speaking truth at the meetup about his support for transit? No. There are many people working for better transit options in this town who also support building the tunnel.

    1. There may be plenty of people who in theory at least support transit, but if they support the tunnel (who’s EIS says it will have catastrophic effects to transit) they aren’t working for transit.

    2. I agree with you about things being said in a live debate, but Tom has used that argument before. It is such a completely irrational argument that I can only conclude he is using it for emotional effect (the lowest form of politics) and it doesn’t belong in this debate.

      I view him as an ally as far as transit and other issues go, but I strongly disagree with his position on this tunnel. Given the financial magnitude of the project (I don’t care where the money comes from), and that it only serves automobiles (not transit, not bikes, not pedestrians), and that it doesn’t even make sense as a viaduct replacement, I can’t help but lose a level of respect for the councilman. This is a pretty big deal.

      1. Agreed on the merits of Tom’s argument. But it is no worse than O’Brien connecting health care and the tunnel. That totally ignores the 18th Amendment restrictions on gas tax dollars.

      2. Good point. Tom doesn’t have a monopoly on emotional politics, and I should have called others out on their behavior.

      3. [rbc] The two aren’t equal. It would be difficult to change the constitutional amendment requiring fuel taxes to go to roads, but it’s certainly possible. Arguing for such a change can even be seen as politically heroic. But Tom’s argument is dishonest at its face.

  5. After all of the highminded talk about this debate bringing out “the facts” and minimizing soundbites there was no attempt to get both sides to agree to a common set of facts such as what the stakeholders group agreed to and what the expected effects of tunnel traffic are. What is needed is less back and forth between the two sides and more of a Socratic exchange in which the moderator teases out meaning.

  6. I wasn’t at the debate, but I’ll make a transit point as a full-time pedestrian, occasional transit user, occasional bicylist, and non-car-owner. I support the tunnel mainly to get the “pass-through” cars and trucks out of the way, so that Downtown can be more hospitable to walking, transit, etc.

    I love transit, to the point of obsession. But it’s a different issue. The tunnel helps because it clears the way.

    I wish driving would drop with peak oil, but it’s unlikely. Any drop is oil supply/use seems likely to be offset mostly by fuel efficiency and the Seattle area’s population growth.

    1. I’m on the same page as you Matt!

      It’s nice to see the voice of reason in the comments. I happen to be one of those pro transit, pro tunnel folks but I’m disappointed by this you are either with us or against us rhetoric.

    2. Matt, if that were true, I’d support it too. But the EIS says otherwise – 2/3 to 3/4 of the cars are still going to be there. Spending that kind of money to move that few cars seems crazy, regardless of how the money might be spent otherwise.

      1. If you only include the “pass throughs” the percentage using the tunnel is much larger. It’s a huge volume avoided. It’s also traffic that doesn’t want to be in Downtown.

        Your numbers appear to include the cars heading Downtown. Currently many are counted as viaduct users. With the tunnel they’ll simply exit sooner.

      2. @matt. Of course if you selectively remove vehicles you can get the result you want.

        That said the viaduct really does serve two markets as you say. Right now my largest problem with the tunnel is tolling. If the tunnel really is that important the state shouldn’t toll it at a rate the causes almost half of the traffic to divert around it. That is totally counter productive. If you really want to leverage the tunnel WSDOT should toll I-5 too, which I’d totally be down.

    3. After the latest EIS, it’s not at all clear that the bored tunnel produces any significant benefits to surface-level traffic compared to the surface/transit/I-5 option. At least the latter does something to improve how we deal with surface traffic and doesn’t leave two huge portals that will become unlivable voids unfriendly to transit, biking, and pedestrians. And costs less. And uses more predictable construction methods.

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