Nick Licata

Seattle Councilmember Nick Licata has a thoughtful and informative suck-it-up piece directed at surface/transit/I-5 advocates. Athough I wouldn’t agree with every statement in it, it’s notable for not insulting the intelligence of its audience:

This is where the state legislators come in. None that we talked to indicated a willingness to transfer that money to a surface road project which would run through downtown and be augmented by expanding I-5 and adding more bus service. As recently as last month, in a December 2010 forum,  State Senator Ed Murray, the sponsor of the bored tunnel legislation, spoke strongly against expanding I-5-a key element of a surface option.

Further, in a February 2007 Seattle Times article, State Senator Haugen, Chair of the Senate Transportation Committee, was quoted as saying the state might contribute only $1 billion for a surface replacement, and that the money left over from what was allocated for an AWV replacement could be used for 520 or other unfunded projects across the state. State House Transportation Committee Chair Judy Clibborn was quoted expressing similar sentiments…

The funding needs for a surface solution bring us back to the State Legislature. Given their need to vacuum up every available cent from capital projects, the probability of the State taking away a good portion of the current allocated $2 billion for a deep bore tunnel is fairly certain if the City opts for a street surface replacement for the AWV.  We could end up with an even greater financial hit to Seattle property owners than possible cost overruns on the deep bore tunnel.

I have a few thoughts on this, below the jump:

The comments from legislators are of course from those trying to get the tunnel through, so the statements can be viewed as a somewhat inflated threat consistent with bargaining. On the other hand, it might very well be sincere and realistic.

Let’s assume the latter. Where would that $1 billion for surface/transit from the state leave us?

WSDOT then created two options from the eight proposals, one of which was called the I-5/Surface/Transit Hybrid. It converted Alaskan Way and Western into 3-lane one-way streets, with 28 stoplights in a new SR99 corridor on the waterfront. The option included a budget of $929 million for a SR 99 surface street, $553 million to add a lane to I-5, $216 million for city streets, and $476 million for transit. The total cost estimate was $2.2 billion, not including $1.1 billion in work farther south on SR 99 (which has proven less expensive, see UP 303). The intent was that all the elements would be needed to provide a solution.

It’s important to note that the $929m includes a $230m seawall replacement, which now seems irrevocably delegated to the city. So for $1 billion you’d get about $700m for the surface street and about half the I-5 work. The port, presumably, would be interested enough in freight mobility to shift their $300m commitment to cover the rest of I-5.

That leaves Seattle with $216m for streets, $230m for the Seawall, and $476m for transit, or $922m total, compared to a current DBT commitment of $840m with no transit. From the point of view of minimizing the city’s exposure*, the DBT would appear to be the winner.**

However, my concern about the city’s exposure is driven by the fact that too much spending on the waterfront saps our ability to implement the new Transit Master Plan. If the objective is to maximize investment in transit, as it is for me, Surface/Transit/I-5 is still the winner even if the state takes $1 billion away.

* and setting aside the issue of overruns

** Licata makes a good point that because surface/transit is composed of many discreet projects instead of a single tunnel, “if some elements cost more than expected, and the budget is running out, most of the work would likely get done, and theoretically at least, [overall] cost overruns could be avoided.” In other words, the DBT has higher risk of either paying a lot more or ending up with nothing.

36 Replies to “Licata Dismisses Chances of Surface/Transit”

  1. So let me get this right. The difference in funding between DBT and surface is $82 million, but the surface option will have $476 million more for transit (and apparently $558 million less for surface improvements.) That seems like a better deal to me. The problem with the current surface plan is that it’s got too many lanes, so by simply scaling back the surface option to simply fund regular city streets the shortfall would be made up. I’d much rather have the bulk of the money going to transit, and half a billion in transit investments goes a long way.

    Or is the reality that WSDOT isn’t willing to give up its Frankenstein version of the surface option, and so that one billion won’t be available unless they get their way?

    I’d like to see 99 through the city limits transferred to city control. I’m not sure how or even if that’s possible. Would the city have to buy the right of way? Would that be cost-prohibitive, or not? I really don’t see the state’s interest beyond bureaucratic inertia. 99 is not a regional corridor in the same way as 520 or 90. It carries very little regional freight (most of that is by rail, or I-5, or I-90). This is an urban corridor that should be controlled entirely by the city. It would still be a huge struggle to get anything done as city voters are still split at least three ways, but at least one of the major institutional barriers to progress would be gone.

    1. Cascadian,

      I’ve worked hard to not “wishcast” a surface/transit option that I would design if I were dictator, and instead stick with one that made it a fair distance through the sausage machine.

      It’s really unfair to compare a real proposal to an idealized one.

      1. I agree with this. I’m not a surface supporter so I’m tainted a bit, but several points arise:

        1. Any surface plan would be a collaboration of many interests, including those interested in higher throughputs on Alaskan and Western, as well as other streets leading to Aurora, and even other misc. avenues due to overflow. The result would be several “highwayized” streets through our relatively walkable downtown. Surface proponents tend to ignore these tradeoffs.

        2. Virtually zero design has happened for expanding I-5, and design for a surface Western/Alaskan couplet is a tiny fraction of what would be needed. As a result, there’s very little clue about costs. That’s a far greater uncertainty than exists over a tunnel that now has a set base price, even though the eventual price could grow.

        3. Any new plan would be priced in 2013+ dollars. It wouldn’t benefit from the fire sale pricing we’re currently getting…rather, it would be priced during what is likely to be an economic upturn with much higher prices. Of course 2013 would be only for the surface portion…I-5 would presumably start in 2014 or later.

        4. Few of these discussions mention the cost of construction disruption with an aerial or shallow tunnel option, or the cost of a clogged downtown (with surface option) in terms of lost business, both within downtown and among businesses that rely on getting through. This is a big advantage for the tunnel, which keeps the viaduct open until it’s open with relatively brief exceptions. I’m shuddering at the thought of a three land Western highway between the Market and Steinbrueck Park for example. I cross the tunnel path on foot at least twice a day, and work within a block of it, and look forward to hardly noticing construction.

      2. Mr Hays,
        I think your intuition is incorrect on many of these points:

        The result would be several “highwayized” streets through our relatively walkable downtown.

        It’s relatively easy to keep road speeds low (come south on I-5, get off at Stewart street and drive straight to the westin if you have any doubts about the effectiveness of signals to slow traffic) on the streets you want to, and Alaskan and Western don’t have even a fraction of the pedestrian traffic as 1-5 aves do. I don’t think this is nearly the worry you make it out to be, especially in light pedestrian obstacles in the DBT plan.

        Virtually zero design has happened … there’s very little clue about costs. That’s a far greater uncertainty than exists over a tunnel that now has a set base price, even though the eventual price could grow.

        This is just hand-waving. Roads and freeways get built all the time, and have less overruns than large tunnel projects. Basically all published literature on this subject says:

        1) the larger the project, the larger the overruns as a percentage, which means much, much larger as an absolute

        2) the longer the project takes to build, the more likely it’s going to go over, and the large the overrun. This project won’t open until a minimum of 2015 (for years for tunnel construction), compared to just 18 months for the surface road.

        Your third point is very hand-wavey, and may in fact imply the opposite of what you intend it to: bids are low now, but costs are likely to rise as the economy improves. That means the contractors costs will also rise, and they’ll recover that money from the tax payer.

        All evidence suggests the tunnel will have very large cost overrun compared to simpler projects. This is especially apparent when consideration is given to recent tunnel projects (brightwater, beacon hill, etc.).

      3. I agree with Andrew on your 2nd point. A 100% designed tunnel (
        we’re still well below that today) might actually be riskier than yet-to-be-designed surface streets improvements that use predictable, proven engineering.

      4. I disagree with the majority of that Andrew.

        The point on “highwayization” is about the likelihood that we WON’T design for low speeds. Between State/County mandates, political tradeoffs, and pressure from much of Seattle itself (most of which drives to work), throughput will likely be much higher than roads designed by downtown/pedestrian/transit supporters.

        Regarding costs, you’re mostly incorrect. It’s true that a paving job is relatively easy to predict (speaking as a contractor, though roads aren’t our focus). But nothing of the surface or I-5 jobs would be like that. The surface option also requires an elevated roadway from around Pine to Battery, built on ground that hasn’t been studied (except for the surface road that would be built in the DBT plan). Western is a huge unknown, from locating utilities to the amount of regrading needed to load bearing capacities to whether or not pedestrians could cross at every block (when the option came out a couple years ago, the PI’s first response was to question whether crossings should be infrequent).

        The I-5 project is far more unknown than that. The challenges would be significant: Substantial upgrades to an existing, operational freeway on steep hillside, with subsurface conditions we have little idea about, with a concept that’s hardly been thought of let alone studied or broadly discussed…the variability inherent in this sort of work is massive.

        Regarding today’s pricing vs. 2013+: The tunnel price is based on current pricing plus assumptions about escalation. A project in two years would be based upon much higher 2013 starting pricing, with whatever escalation level the contractors proposed beyond that. Escalation is a major variable when you project that far out. The only part that’s generally agreed upon in the industry is that 2010/2011 prices are dirt cheap, and when the economy recovers prices will recover as well. All signs say “start now.” (Public agencies realize this, which is why, for example, the UW moved start dates for some of its dorm projects up a year…)

        Regarding the “literature” about projects — I’ve seen a couple studies by non-construction people, including one that was trumpeted locally. These represented their misunderstandings on many levels. The trumpeted one was full of apples-to-kumquats comparisons, comparing completely different scopes of work and their before/after costs. It was before much of today’s methodology was around, including the more conservative estimating assumptions that have led WSDOT, Sound Transit, etc., to routinely do better than budgeted on their jobs of all sizes. Basically, it was BS that we in related industries mostly laughed at.

        Tunneling is more variable than building in a greenfield. But so is the surface option — way more work in occupied areas, a surprising amount of elevated work requiring deep footings, and a litany of major unknowns regarding everything from big picture to small, all affecting cost.

      5. Did you look at the links I provided or any of the existing literature? I could find links for days on this stuff.

        You’re not disagreeing with me based on a single “trumpeted” study, you’re disagree with dozens of professional civil engineers and transportation economists in peer-reviewed journals using mode-agnostic data.

        These aren’t people saying “tunnels are expensive”, these are people saying “longer, more expensive projects tend to have more and larger overruns”.

        You may work in a “related industry” but that doesn’t make you an expert, certainly not compared to people who study the actual industry in question.

      6. The economy is not going to come “roaring back”, and prices are probably not going to rise steeply by 2013. All indications are that it’s going to slowly improve at more or less the current pace, assuming that it doesn’t stagnate again or have another “too big to fail” crisis. (The banks are still unreformed, half of the home foreclosures haven’t hit yet, nor the looming bombs in commercial real estate and credit-card debt, and then there’s that deficit thing.) Which company or industry is going to jump-start a sudden boom? The US has done almost nothing to build the industries of the 21st century: renewable energy, retrofitting houses for efficiency, high speed rail, etc. Instead China’s doing all that. This century may see us buying Chinese high-end goods as well as low-end goods, since we aren’t manufacturing them ourselves much.

      7. Mike Orr, if prices don’t rise at a good clip, then the DBT will have a much bigger cushion…the price incorporates significant escalation.

        Why was that escalation included? Because the contractor (presumbably both contestants) and the State all assume that signficant escalation will occur.

      8. Andrew (hoping this aligns at the bottom somewhere):

        I’ve spent the past 14+ years working for a large construction company (mostly buildings and renovations) where I’m the proposal writer and also keep on top of trends. I don’t estimate costs or manage projects, but I work closely with people who do, and I write about these topics on our behalf.

        Regarding your sources, it’s not that they aren’t peer reviewed, it’s that, based on the original links, you don’t appear to understand what’s relevant and not relevant. You might as well claim that every word you’ve used is based on the “authorative, peer reviewed” dictionary. Even your latest link is hopelessly out of date.

        We can disagree. Just realize why WSDOT and construction people won’t take your points very seriously.

    2. Andrew — all I see in your links is (a) ancient history that talks about projects all over a decade before this one, from (b) foreign countries that don’t operate the same way, by (c) academic engineers, not engineers who seem to be practicing at the time, and certainly not contractors.

      So no, as a contractor I don’t take them seriously.

      If you can link a similar story by a general contractor (construction firms are the experts in construction costs, along with ENR Magazine), that discusses projects in the past handful of years with reasonably current methodology, that’s from the US, then great.

      1. Matt,
        I know I’m not an expert in this field (that being the general cost over run likelihood of large-scale transportation infrastructure projects) so I don’t rely on my own intuition; rather, I look to the opinions of those who are actually experts and the findings that the data show.

        I’ve also learned over years to be weary of people who “work in related fields” (what field would that be?) who say their opinions are correct based on solely that authority. And I’ve learned to dismiss out of hand people who say that their “related-field” experience makes their opinions and intuition more likely to be correct than findings in articles published in academic journals written by and peer reviewed by people who study the issue in question as a profession.

        Anyway, one of those papers is comparing United States projects, here are others (published in the Journal of American Public Planning).

        You can google as well as I can (or lexus nexus if you are actually in a field related to the study of cost overruns). You seem hopelessly obstinate, and so I am not going to try to convince you any longer, I just hope I put some doubt into people who come to here and read your amateur opinions and mistake them for the truth.

      2. Matt,
        Sorry I can’t leave this alone. You say you’re a contractor? What does your firm build?

        Even if you did build large-scale transportation projects, I can only think of three or four projects of this scale in this area in my entire life: I-90 second span, Central Link Light Rail, the eastbound Narrows bridge and Bright water tunnel – which isn’t a transporation project. That’s not enough data for anyone to be an expert, which is why I trust people who have studied dozens of these projects.

        I work in software on advanced cryptographic technology. I don’t pretend to be an expert on building operating systems. You shouldn’t pretend to be an expert on building transporation mega-projects.

      3. Andrew (hoping this aligns better this time):

        Since you ask, I’ve spent the past 14+ years working for a large construction company (mostly buildings and renovations) where I’m the proposal writer and also keep on top of trends. I don’t estimate costs or manage projects, but I work closely with people who do, and I write about these topics on our behalf. I also consult occasionally with other firms, and write blog posts on transportation, etc., for the Daily Journal of Commerce.

        Regarding your sources, it’s not that they aren’t peer reviewed, it’s that, based on the original links, you don’t appear to understand what’s relevant and not relevant. You might as well claim that every word you’ve used is based on the “authorative, peer reviewed” dictionary. Even your latest link is hopelessly out of date.

        We can disagree. Just realize why WSDOT and construction people won’t take your points very seriously.

      4. So there we come to it, you’re expertise is that you work at a firm that constructs buildings (not transportation projects) and you sometimes blog (I started this blog, doesn’t make me an expert) and talk to contractors (I’ve spoken to people in WSDOT fairly extensively in written for this blog, doesn’t make me an expert).

        We certainly seem to have different opinions on what matters: you seem to think studies of cost over-runs in the 1990s don’t matter because that was years ago, and I think that it does because technology doesn’t change the way people make estimates. WSDOT and the construction industry don’t take take these things seriously, which partly why all four of those large projects I’ve mentioned went hopelessly over-budget. Their track-record on cost-overruns is lousy.

        Maybe you can explain to me why the studies of data from the 1990s isn’t valid today? Just saying “it’s old” and “I know, I’m an expert”, isn’t good enough. Especially since we’ve pretty well established that your expertise in this particular area (trends, causes and meta-data in cost overruns) is fairly minimal.

      5. Methods have changed quite a bit. Here are three big factors:

        1. Design-build. This isn’t new, but its use on the DBT is good news. With D-B, the designers work directly for the contractor. This means closer collaboration among the team, which results in faster and better design and better problem-solving during construction, all helping keep cost in line. Just as importantly, it removes one of the major elements of cost risk: design errors and omissions. Rather than the owner having to pay for anything omitted or unclear on the original design (typical on low-bid jobs), it’s the design-builder’s responsibility. Most importantly of all, design-build brings the contractor’s expertise into the design phase…the lack of this is a serious problem with the low-bid approach.

        2. Building Information Modeling (BIM). This is revolutionizing the design and estimating process. Everything is modeled digitally in what’s basically smart 4D with embedded data shared by all of the major participants. Design ideas and changes can be shown in a small fraction of the time, in any visual format people want, which allows the team to try ideas and identify/solve coordination issues way earlier, avoiding another major area of cost risk. The model also provides a much more accurate basis (dimensions, quantities) for cost estimating, and dramatically better coordination with the subcontractors who need to price the actual work in the end and complete the final intricate design for their elements (shop drawings). During construction, the field guys can see what they’re building in 3D rather than only 2D, again a leap forward.

        3. Estimating standards. Sound Transit and WSDOT are great examples of new methods paying off. BIM is fairly new, but around a decade ago a lot of agencies adopted more conservative, realistic ways of predicting costs. It’s why the south part of 99, early 520 phases, the recent portions of Link, and various public buildings have had pessimistic estimates, and bids have routinely (in the past couple years) been 20-25% low.

      6. These seem to indicate that cost overruns will be less, a trend we’ve seen in rail transport projects and possibly others.

        It still doesn’t seem to resolve the long-term issue that longer, more expensive projects have more and larger cost overruns.

      7. A large project means more moving parts, but it also means more room to solve things that go sideways. A relatively minor issue can throw a 10-week, $500,000 project way off if the team lets it, while the same issue might have zero net affect on a 14-month, $40,000,000 project.

        One thing WSDOT is doing right is putting what looks like a very healthy contingency into the contract. Along with the built-in escalation allowance and the design-build format, this will cover quite a bit of variables at no added cost. If escalation turns out less than expected, that’s all the more leeway. All of this is very different from older standard practices, or even how a lot of today’s construction clients prefer to operate.

  2. I’d think better of the I-5/Surface/Transit option if 1. I had a better picture of the transit intended, and 2. the Waterfront were any other piece of land, like, for instance, SODO.

    For transportation, I want to see some steel rail and catenary, including, integrating, and far surpassing the Waterfront Streetcar.

    And right now, my chief reason for inclining toward the DBT is the graphics I’ve seen showing the surface treatment without it. What I see is a waterfront a lot more empty, isolated, and inaccessible than the one we’ve got now. As well as spoiling the west side of Pike Place Market.

    Some parts of this city are valuable enough to merit extra expense. And despite the current widely-held belief that every public entity in this country is financially doomed, I don’t see any reason that after the DBT is built, we can’t also raise the money we need for surface transit as well.

    Mark Dublin

      1. Thanks, Martin. Should have downloaded it before. Good to know about Madison Park to Colman Dock- though curious as to how rapid you can make a trolleybus between those points, considering Madison between Broadway and I-5.

        Wouldn’t fight First Avenue Streetcar- though First seems “cramped”. But from what I saw overseas, it’s easier to get legal transit priority for streetcars than buses, and they create a nicer street atmosphere.

        But the Waterfront carline- or lines- is more than sentimentality. It speaks to a basic problem with exactly the question of what kind of an atmosphere we want for the Waterfront- not only feeling, but function.

        The rendering under “includes” shows me a huge amount of paved space, motor and pedestrian, that will be uninhabitable in either rain, wind, or summer sun. (It fails to show what the east side of Victor Steinbrueck park will look like.) And it shows pretty much the same tourist features as now.

        I’d hoped for the blocks presently under the Viaduct to become a neighborhood of cafes, low-rise apartments, art galeries, little parks, and even small manufacture, finally opening out on the waterfront. The kind of thing perfectly served and encouraged by street rail.

        Considering how valuable this particular place is, I think both Seattle and the State of Washington can do better than what we’ve been shown. With streetcars on both the Waterfront and First Avenue.

        Mark Dublin

  3. As a surface transit supporter, I often question the frequency with which I end up describing/defending the Surface/Transit option to people who know little to nothing about it and frequently are opposed to it never-the-less.

    A few issues here:

    1. The tunnel isn’t built yet, though that window is closing
    2. Given the degree to which public leaders have piled on in denigrating the surface/transit option or pretending it doesn’t exist it’s remarkable that even 21% of the public supports it.
    3. It’s unfortunate that McGinn reasoned (probably correctly) that running against the tunnel was more likely to win than running for the surface transit option. This contributes to the lack of public figures mentioned above.
    4. At this point I suppose I defend the surface transit option more out of general principle than out of hope for it’s political prospects. I’m really tired of smug tunnel supporters painting the tunnel as “the only option” and denouncing the surface option without really understanding it. There is a set of people for whom bypass highways are a kind of totemic object. Basing our transportation policy on these people’s primal urges and regressive thinking is a bad idea.

    1. The window has closed. I’m interested only in the tunnel debate insofar as it may give insight in to how to avoid something like it again.

      1. Until the boring machine finishes, the tunnel is not a done deal. WPSS wasn’t a done deal when they started construction of all those power plants. Brightwater sewer tunnel looks like it will be finished but it’s not done either.

        WA state is in a heap of financial trouble and it may get a lot worse before it gets better. Cutting an expensive tunnel project would be one easy way to help balance the budget.

      2. By the time the TBM gets anywhere near Seattle, you can bet your boots the contractors will either have the money in hand or they’ll have ironclad legal commitments from the state as to when they’ll get it. Those guys have a contract now, and unless they fail to perform, they WILL get their money.

      3. You can add the R.H. Thomson Express way and the years of I-90 ramps to nowhere to the done deal catagory too. More recently the Cross Base Highway. Let’s just hope it’s not another Galloping Gertie.

      4. Still worth fighting the tunnel, in that Seattle doesn’t need a Big Dig. That thing nearly bankrupted the entire state of Massachusetts.

  4. > it’s notable for not insulting the intelligence of its audience

    That statement sums up the case put forward by the deep bore tunnel advocates perfectly. Good work, Martin.

  5. Matt Hays,

    Well if the State and the contractors all agree that there will be “significant escalation” you can double darn betcha that there will be…….SIGNIFICANT escalation.

    How dumb do you think we are? Or, perhaps, how dumb are you to think that the state and its contractors won’t figure out a way to come in exactly .07% lower than the allowable contract maximum?

    1. You’re not getting it. A sizable escalation rate is already built into the DBT contract, along with specific parameters for what can be reimbursable beyond that.

    2. Let’s not confuse escalations. An inflation margin was built into this contract, as is done with all infrastructure contracts. If the actual costs go higher than that estimate, we’ll only have to pay the difference.

      The other escalation is about potential projects that haven’t been committed to yet. The argument is that costs will rise sharply by 2013. I expect 2-3% inflation (or less) for the next several years. That implies prices will be <6% higher in two years. That is obviously a higher expense but I don't consider it so "significant" that we have to rush and start projects now. Of course, we should consider advancing a few projects to take advantage of the current low-cost environment, but we don't have to get overly agitated out it.

      Of course, if you think inflation will be higher than that, you'll think it's more urgent to start projects now.

      And it's also true that the price of some materials — certain food commodities — are already tracking higher than the general inflation rate, and the same might happen with steel or other materials needed for these projects. I don't think labor costs are going to change much, so the main potential drivers of price increases are the materials.

      1. Surely you’re not talking about general inflation!?! That’s not connected to construction prices much at all.

        The current 25% off sale is due to several major reasons, some of which will go away as the economy returns to normal regardless of what milk prices do.

        Different cost experts seem to rank the following elements differently, but they’re all big elements:

        1. Choice of workers. With 20% construction unemployment (or much higher by sound methods), and even a lot of great people getting let go, every company and every supervisor get their choice of the best performers, and those people are all working hard to stay employed. This has significantly improved typical production rates and eliminated much of the rework and wasted effort that used to happen. (Side note: the luckiest people are the proposal writers like me…everyone is proposing on a much larger percentage of opportunities these days.)

        2. Committed subcontractors. In busy times it can be hard to get a sub to show up onsite with the right staff every day, or to get a supplier to meet delivery dates. This causes delays, which create costs for other trades. In downturns, everyone shows up, and your project is way more important to every supplier.

        3. Low margins / hungry companies. Margins are always low among contractors, but right now they’re much lower. The effect multiplies when a base material supplier charges a percent or two less to a manufacturer, who charges a percent or two less to a subcontractor, who marks things up a percent or two less to the general, who marks things up a percent or two less to the client. Design fees are also lower.

        4. Material prices. These prices vary on dramatic trajectories for specific items, often based on local trends. Even at national averages, some materials will rise by double-digit annual percentages while other materials fall in price. For example, ENR (the bible) reports average softwood lumber prices changing at annual rates of –9.9% (2006-07), –8.4, –9.5, 13.1, –0.4, and 10.8 (2011-12), even while other materials like aggregates varied much less, and project only 1.8% growth in 2012.

      2. General construction costs should remain fairly low or stable due to a massive overhang in the market.

        Tunnel-boring costs, on the other hand…. high demand, low supply. Expect them to be over predictions already.

      3. Of course, I’m running my assessment based on the assumption that the economy will *not* “return to normal” any time soon. I spend my days following economic analysis for investment purposes, so I’m quite sure of myself here.

      4. Some things are substantially overhung. But the overall development and construction market, locally, is projected to get busier in 2012 according to the various opinions shared at AGC, NAIOP, AIA, etc.

        The apartment boom that’s been kicking off this winter will be in full swing in 2012. Highway 520 and the Northgate Link extension will be underway (520 is already starting pontoons). Optimistic developers/brokers think the office market might recover enough that project starts make sense around 2013 or so. Condos might make sense around the same time. Retail buildings might make sense in a couple years on a moderate scale. Hotel occupancy has come much of the way back, though revenue per room is still down, and hotel developers are already thinking about starts again. Biotech developers are getting projects ready to go in anticipation of new leases which would trigger starts.

        Meanwhile, building contractors are enjoying a decent volume of moves and upgrades. Down markets cause their own types of flux, as tenants move or close and get replaced by other tenants, and buildings reposition for leasing, and those who have financing choose to take advantage of today’s cheap pricing, as the City and the UW have done by moving numerous projects ahead of their original schedules.

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