Governor Gregoire shows she doesn’t share our values by telling the New York Times:

“Social engineering works in some places, like banning cigarettes in some places,” said Gov. Christine Gregoire, a Democrat. “Telling people you no longer can ride in your car isn’t going to work because this city is going to grow.”

Tunnel opponents are often accused of demagoguery, and of taking extremist positions. I have to point out that the Surface/Transit/I-5 option that Mike McGinn and Mike O’Brien support costs a total of $3.3 billion, and $2.3 billion of that is dedicated to highways. That level of expenditure, where 70% of the spending is on highways and 14% is transit, is equivalent to “telling people [they] can no longer ride in [their] car.”

To not be a car-banning totalitarian, it’s apparently necessary to support the $4.0 billion deep-bore tunnel project, which spends $3.1 billion on highways and zero on transit. According to our governor, any attempt to increase transit share in the corridor is the path to socialism.

95 Replies to “Gregoire: $2.3 Billion for Highways = Banning Cars”

  1. Not only is the pro-tunnel campaign taking play card and rhetoric from the far right they are also use tactic of the left, calling the ballot measure “the most aggressive, Tim Eyman style signature effort Seattle has seen in recent memory.” That quote comes from a Friday press release title “TIM EYMAN WOULD BE PROUD”. Talk about inconsistencies. The pro tunnel campaign is just throwing crap at the wall and seeing what sticks.

    1. And comments like this are why I’m having a harder and harder time taking this blog seriously. You can’t call the tunnel campaign emblamatic of the political right’s worst elements while at the same time take the governor’s response to an extreme as your analysis.

      Before the tunnel came along, this site used to be a pretty pragmatic, useful tool to talk about tranist in the region. It’s since changed in an antitunnel movement outpost that, in my opinion, doesn’t well serve your audience or your cause.

      You can’t claim, as you did yesterday, that the region isn’t funding transit improvements when a certain percentage of sales tax on every purchase I make is extending light rail north and east. You also can’t claim the tunnel is an expressly anti-transit project when, as you’ve noted several times, state dollars can’t pay for transit.

      It seems to me that you are far better served at making an ally out of WSDOT and Gov. Gregoire rather than attacking them as extremists; especially if you’re hoping for future transit funding. This angry for the sake of angry approach, in my opinion, just marginalizes you guys.

      Again, it’s too bad because I used to really like this place before it became all us-against-them.

      1. Perhaps this is because the $16 Billion tunnel (if Big Dig is any guide) will put a crimp on future transportation spending in Washington State?

      2. Selma, “state dollars” can pay for transit. Only a particular subset of state dollars can’t pay for transit – gas taxes. A good portion of the budget for the deep-bore tunnel could be used to pay for transit instead.

        I don’t understand why we’re “us against them” when the state simply will not fund anything but highways. They have a choice.

      3. Selma first off we call BS on both sides, unlike some other news outlets. Just look at Andrews piece last week or Martin’s multiple fact checking pieces over the last few months.

        As a blog we certainly don’t like the tunnel that is obvious, but speaking personally I have been extremely annoyed and off put by the tactics used by *both* sides. And when I say both I mean both. I have refused to sign the anti-tunnel proposition and don’t plan on giving them any money or help either. With that said WSDOT and the Governor are certainly no better, especially with their attempt to stop the democratic referendum process. That is absolutely over the line.

        Gov. Gregoire is not a friend of ours. She is actively hostile toward transit and saying anything to the contrary is naive. As for being friends with WSDOT, I worked for WSDOT for two and a half years. I have many friends that work there or are working on the tunnel project through private firms that don’t necessarily like the project either.

        I’m sorry you get an impression that this is “us-against-them” but that really isn’t a complete understanding of this blog our the issues surrounding it.

      4. First off, I hate the tunnel and all it stands for.
        Second, I totally agree with Selma, regarding the level of discussion on this blog over the past year- which is probably why I seldom comment anymore (yeah, yeah, I know, ‘Good Riddance’).
        Our Guv and DOT have reason to be concerned about road funding. Transit in the Puget Sound used to get about 30% of the tax pie in the early 90’s. It’s now risen to over 50%. That’s progress, except that road funding is relatively flat, while VMT’s and population continue to grow.
        Here’s a graph from CETA that is reasonably accurate today, but not sure about the future.
        Like it or not, roads are expected to do the heavy lifting around here. Transit still only has about a 10% market share of all trips taken, while roads carry 80%.

      5. Ben,

        Give me a break. You know very well your statement that “the state simply will not fund anything but highways” is totally false – particularly when it comes to rail.

        For example, when I look at the 2009-11 biennium I see State operational expenditures of some $135M for Public Transpo and $37M for rail. For capital expenditures I see $735M for rail. Add this doesn’t include HOV’s.

        Yes, highways dominate at the State level, but have you driven around this state much? Of course highways are going to dominate! What are you going to do? Force transit on a place like Chesaw to balance the books?

        The challenge for transit supporters is to get transit added to the funding mix in cities where it makes sense – making enemies of everyone who holds the purse strings in this stated does nothing to advance that goal.

      6. Ummm…. Didn’t the Governor VETO the transit portion of Tunnel and Transit?

      7. Well said. I like, and vote for transit, ALWAYS. Since Forward Thrust. ALWAYS, EVERY YEAR. SINCE NIXON WAS PRESIDENT.

        This anti-tunnel crap is getting a bit much. OVERLY CRITICIZING the Governor is getting a tad bit ridiculous.

        Try flow charting your sometimes goofy criticism one of these days!

      8. I agree with Selma’s comments. another point that seems to be overlooked, is that the tunnel is being built with captial funds, you could certainly use those to fund transit improvements, but wheres the operating money coming from? All the transit agencies are already short on that to some extent, so adding x thousand hours of bus or more light rail service wont be a sustainable proposition for very long.

      9. Z, Have you read the suggestions for how to streamline transit movement through downtown? Wouldn’t those *reduce* operating costs?

        The same goes for light rail expansion. High capital costs. Lower operating costs.

      10. Whether or not the argument should take place on this blog, I’ll leave that for others to decide. I’m anti-tunnel, therefore seeing it take place here doesn’t bother me.

        My problem with the tunnel is that is is a poor replacement for the viaduct, and the most expensive possible replacement, leaving no funds for transit improvements that were part of the other options. If the goal of WSDOT (emphasis on the ‘T’) is to effectively provide transportation infrastructure on this corridor, the tunnel gets tax payers the least “bang for the buck”.

      11. @Sagebrush. I don’t understand how you can call a repost of what the Governor said in the New York Times (of all newspapers) or what I re-posted from a pro-tunnel press release crap. I mean really. If we didn’t post write a post about the article in the NYT we would be remiss. We are just passing along what pro-tunnel advocates are saying. I have said it before and I’ll say it again I’m on the fence when it comes to the tunnel, but when I see BS, especially BS that undermines transit, I call it out.

    2. I may hate Timmy and his ilk with a passion, but he does get stuff on the ballot and he does manipulate the spineless politicians very well. The anti-tunnel crowd should take that statement as a compliment.

  2. 1. Is there anyplace we can read the Governor’s whole statement? There’s a chance Ms. Gregoire’s words might sound less inflammatorily idiotic in their larger context.

    2. Would someone who really believes that public spending on transit is social engineering, while same or more spending on automobile travel is not please explain the argument to me?

    3. What does everybody think of a surface-and-transit plan including replacinng the Viaduct with electric rail on an elevated structure between First Avenue and the waterfront?

    Just curious.

    Mark Dublin

  3. Close the viaduct for a month or two and see what happens. Why would the pro-tunnel forces be afraid to try that? (Of course we know why, as it would demonstrate their folly).

    BTW, when was that picture of Gregoire taken? Because she has aged tremendously since then, and really looked exhausted (and angry) in the Seattle Channel video posted here last week.

    P.S. Would the tunnel be open to Hazardous Cargo?

    1. On your last question I believe that flammable cargo will not be allowed in the tunnel but I don’t remember where I read/heard that. I could be wrong.

      1. Correct. And it is not currently allowed in the Battery Street Tunnel.

    2. Besides, why would any freight take the tunnel? The new Alaskan Way will be faster and cheaper.

      1. Actually it depends. It will not be cheaper or faster for accessing Interbay, which is the only manufacturing center north of downtown Seattle.

      2. The tunnel won’t be fast for accessing Interbay unless they’re building some bypass of Lower Queen Anne that I’m unaware of…

      3. The new surface Alaskan Way will be the fastest way for freight to go to Interbay and Ballard.

      4. The surface couplet will be faster than the viaduct for accessing Interbay. Average rush-hour speed on the AWV now is 18 MPH; a signalized surface street can handle the expected level of congestion much more gracefully.

    3. Not to nit-pick, but the “anti-tunnel forces” HAVE been asking for a trial closure of the AWV, mayor McGinn chief among them.

      1. If the “typo” is what I think it is, it undermines the point by not really contradicting Eric’s. Though I’m pretty sure “pro-tunnel forces” have upfront reasons to oppose a viaduct closure…

    1. And if this city is really going to grow, it needs more transit. More people able to live and work without consuming more scarce space to drive and store more cars.

      1. Double the transit sales tax prehaps? Might save what we have now, how about triple or quadruple it for transit and that should help improve the service considerably.

      2. Don’t you think the sales tax is pretty well tapped out? Let’s ammend Ammendemnt 18 instead; gas tax to be appied to transportation funding.

  4. It’s sad that it seems we have a governor who thinks cars = growth & growth = cars. I know she’s smarter than that, and I suspect some major players (prominent financial supports) have been pulling her strings on this issue.

    She should have stuck to her first pledge: bringing the AWV down in 2012. Once she reneged on that promise I couldn’t care less about whatever plan she’s pushing, because it obviously isn’t in the interest of public safety. Which is what I wish this debate was centered around.

  5. Martin.

    I believe you are reading WAY too much into the Gov’s comments. I doubt very much that she thinks increasing transit share is “socialism,” although such inflammatory rhetoric will certainly make it far less likely that she will embrace more transit. Sometimes we should resist the urge to throw bombs.

    Besides, this should never be framed as a “cars or transit” argument because transit would surely lose. We need to make the case for more transit completely independently of what is going on in the road warrior camp – they have their own problems.

    That said, why exactly are we placing early tolls on SR520 but not on the viaduct? The situations are almost exactly identical, and early tolls on the viaduct would allow the city to access the diversion problem early, deal with it early, and deal with it in a very positive contracting environment.

    1. If this was an isolated statement from Gregoire, I’d be willing to give her the benefit of the doubt. But she has a history of being fine with huge road projects and dismissive of transit.

      I think the whole point of this post is that this isn’t cars vs. transit, but that highway supporters react to any proposal that even treats transit as a significant component rather than an afterthought as a war on cars. Having one project that spends just under one third of its budget on transit and 2/3 on highways, with an overall transit to highway ratio that is much smaller, does not constitute a war on cars. It’s a mix of options to serve the different needs of the public.

    2. This is absoluetly not an isolated statement, it’s a *perfect* example of what she thinks.

      And then there was Governor Gregoire, who wasn’t even originally supposed to be part of the press event. She stuck out like a black sheep, with rhetoric and talking points right out of the 1950′s. Freeway this freeway that, expansion here, tunnel there, braided ramps, I-90, I-405, etc. She made a token reference to transit in the last sentence of her speech, but it was far from the impassioned and sincere speech that LaHood made. Her press release wasn’t much better, either.

      A minor but important analogy for the whole event was when Ray LaHood listed off projects that the ARRA funded, the roads and bridges were last, and when Gregoire did the same thing, transit was last.

      UPDATE: Looks like I wasn’t the only one to notice the irony of Gregoire’s speech.

  6. Tell you what, guv: Figure out how many person-trips downtown are by transit. Take that percentage of downtown streets, and dedicate it to transit lanes/malls. I bet that’s all we’ll need. Then, trucks, cars, and bikes can have the rest, for all I care. Deal?

    1. That doesn’t make sense.

      Our current mode split is a result of decades of spending almost exclusively on cars. Trying to maintain that mode split would require decades more of spending almost exclusively on cars. The point here is that our mode split is utterly unsustainable, and we need to build to shift it.

      1. Ben, last I checked, roughly 50% of trips downtown were via transit. Taking half of the road lanes and turning them into transit lanes seems like it would solve a lot of problems.

        If transit increases to 80% of person-trips (like it is in the U-District), then we could go for most of the rest of the lanes.

        But for the number of buses that use downtown, I think they could all get through downtown using 50% of the existing lanes as transit-only lanes. Do you really disagree with that?

    2. On the subject of allocating space, here’s a great blog post on NYC bridges and the allocation of space on them over 125 years: The Efficient Past and Wasteful Present of the Brooklyn Bridge

      Key data point: In 1907, when the Brooklyn Bridge carried rail and few vehicles, the Brooklyn Bridge carried 426,000 people daily. Today, it carries 178,000. I wonder the equivalent figures are for the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge, which used to carry the Key System before BART.

      The latter figure, btw, includes 4,000 peds and 2,600 cyclists on an incredibly scenic upper deck. Last time I was in NYC I walked all the way across it. What an memorable, fantastic experience that is.

      1. That makes a certain sense. Four of the five city council incumbents up this year have Christian on their payroll. A double-defeat of the tunnel at the polls, followed by intransigence from the council, and a house-cleaning, would be a major blow to Christian’s resume.

  7. What gets me is that, even if it were only $2.3 billion … which it won’t be, the Deeply Borrowed Tunnel has 40,000 to 65,000 FEWER VEHICLES than the existing Viaduct.

    Both the Rebuilt Viaduct and the Surface Plus Transit options, in addition to costing LESS IN TAXES and in TOLLS, have up to 50 percent MORE CAR CAPACITY than the DBT boondoggle does.

    Surprisingly … the DBT also has more Pollution, both particulate and carbon, for operation and for construction.

    Now that’s INSANITY no matter how you slice it.

    1. The problem with that logic is it implicitly assumes that transportation investments should be judged based on how many vehicles they transport.

      Like most people here, my favorite plan is surface/transit. But I would personally much prefer the tunnel to a viaduct rebuild. The viaduct separates downtown from the waterfront; opening up that space, and developing it, could lead to a much more vibrant neighborhood. The fact that the tunnel would transport fewer vehicles than a rebuild is irrelevant; my interest is in having *fewer* vehicles and *fewer* highways on the surface.

      1. Aleks,

        That’s what I’ve been trying to say to my friends and co-workers but you said it much better. Fewer vehicles overall AND having the waterfront be an inviting place for people.

      2. I seriously doubt the waterfront will become more inviting. Alaskan Way is going to become the primary freight arterial when the viaduct closes.

      3. Yeah, I think few people seem to understand that after the tunnel is built, Alaska Way is going to turn into a blvd akin to Aurora to handle the surface traffic. A rebuild could be built much quieter and less invasive than the current viaduct.

      4. Irrelevant? It’s this sort of attitude that leads me to distrust surface/transit to a degree–the most passionate advocates have an anti-car/highway agenda. I’m not one of those, and while I’m very much in favor of high quality transit I have little interest in punishing drivers or removing highways.

        We can have both.

      5. Brent/barman: I do understand that, and I stand by my position. Elevated structures are claustrophobic. The space underneath becomes dead. I would much rather see freight on the surface than on a viaduct. Imagine if 15th Ave NW was elevated…

  8. What she won’t tell you is that instead of a stupid old tunnel, we could spend the money on (yes, you get all three):

    1. Expansion of I-5
    2. Expansion of I-405
    3. Surface Street and/or Viaduct Replacement

    That 3-fer instead of a DBT would do far, far more regionally and locally (for Seattle) in terms of getting traffic in/out/around the Cit-tay.

    1. If there were actually money left over, which is unlikely, it would probably be spent on our maintenance backlog, or on 520. But the fact that people are driving so much less is causing a lot less gas tax revenue to be collected anyway.

    2. Unless you plan on knocking down the WA state convention center, I can’t see how you can add capacity to the main trunk of I-5 through downtown.

      1. Actually you can add another lane to I-5 under the convention center. It’s one of the things WSDOT looked at and determined it could be done.

  9. Perhaps this is just a politician being a politician–it can be good politics for a Democrat to have a few center-right positions. She’s simply decided that transportation policy will be one of those.

  10. It’s all in the voting record, and I’ve voted for Gregoire both times. Not anymore. Lets face it, neither party on the whole wants to help the masses.

    1. The general election is not the proper forum to challenge Gregoire. What really needs to happen is to have a serious challenger and campaign against her in the primary, so we’re not stuck with the worst-case scenario if we lose.

    2. I think both parties are being overwhelmed by the people on the East side of the mountains. They shout louder than we do, so they are starting to get more attention. We in Seattle/King County need to start making our points clear and making sure that the governor understands AND listens to what we want.

    3. Why on Earth would Gregoire run for re-election when her negatives are through the roof?

    4. Typical. This is why Democratic majorities never last: pissy, impatient so-called “liberals” get their panties in a bunch over a single issue, then jump ship. Par example:

      “But Obama said he’d close Gitmo in one year – AND HE HASN’T! I’m not voting anymore. Instead I’m going to sit in the corner and cry and listen to my Vampire Weekend album”.

      Try looking at the big picture people.

  11. Personally I view stealing taking $16 Billion (just you wait and see!) to build a facility that can only be used by those who have and will have in the future the financial means to own and operate a motor vehicle (less and less as we pass peak oil) a true example of “Social Engineering”!

    Well, I suppose it might be convertible to a wine cellar or a mushroom production facility…

    1. Betting pool time! Will the tunnel collapse before or after humans exhaust the tar sands, natural gas, and coal like kids in a candy store? On the one hand, the tunnel will have a limited lifetime, and there are plenty of reserves to gnaw on. On the other hand, billions of humans, a healthy “growth is good” attitude, and the exponential function.

      1. The tunnel will most likely collapse when the Sun becomes a red giant and burns the earth to a mere cinder. Hopefully, Jeremy, you will be in heaven by then via Rapture. You sound like a Rapture Kind of Guy!

        Oh yeah, Rapture is coming when they yank the wires down for Seattle’s trolley buses.

    2. You know it takes very little in the way of financial means…buy a mechanically sound beater, and then don’t insure it. Your running cosst are reduced to gas and occasional maintenace and repairs. Taxes and depreciation on such a car are practically not worth calculating.

  12. I agree with Selma and some others’ sentiments that the extent of reporting on the tunnel is making this blog stale. It might generate a lot of discussion for people who will always be fired up about it, but for those like myself who want to get more scoop on transit planning, creating a post about an inflammatory sound bite without any new development or analysis on the subject is tiring.

    1. Or the Governor could stop making inflammatory sound bites the the best know newspaper in the US. Don’t blame the messenger.

    2. Any time state government makes it blatantly clear that they value automobiles over transit in urban areas and equate cars as the key to growth, it is relevant to this blog. Something as profound as what to do about the AWV, a major piece of transportation infrastructure in Seattle, is hugely relevant to transit in Seattle. I’m surprised more transit supporters aren’t fired up about the DBT and the slap in the face it represents to transit.

  13. Calling tunnel proponents far right is ludicrous. The debate about tunnel or not is between lots of liberal Democrats. And the rest of the state, which will help pay for the tunnel, is laughing, or sneering, at the latest attempts to stop a viaduct replacement.

    I appreciate many things and much information and analysis in the Seattle Transit Blog, but I am astonished at the political naivete of the editorials here and anti-tunnel proponents in general thinking they can stop the tunnel. It’s a state thoroughfare, and the state has begun building the tunnel. The state is paying for its replacement so the shaky viaduct doesn’t collapse in an earthquake, and so the waterfront will open up, and so the seawall can be replaced. Our mayor-who-would-rather-be-an-activist-than-govern still thinks he and 23% of Seattle’s citizens can stop the tunnel.

    Get real. Please continue to advocate for buses and rail and pedestrians and less sprawl. But quit wasting your time trying to stop the tunnel. You will have no success at this.

    1. Tom we didn’t call proponent of the tunnel far right, we said the Governors language comes from the far right. There is a difference and anyone that understand politics understands that.

    2. The waterfront can be opened up and the seawall can be replaced WITHOUT a tunnel. Period. And if the AWV is unsafe, tear it down NOW! Is car-carrying capacity more important than human life? Using those arguments to justify a tunnel is naive.

    3. “The state is paying for its replacement”

      … except for the cost overruns. Here’s an idea: why don’t tunnel fans offer to pay any overruns themselves (and fund the “transit” portion of surface/transit), and the rest of us will stop opposing the tunnel.

    4. I suspect King County gas tax payers contribute a sufficient share of the statewide gas tax revenue so that the remaining 38 counties are not subsidizing the deep bore.

  14. i guess the story is true. maybe not.

    is there a similar sized downtown to seattle anywhere that has more heavy roadways thru it??

    3 level interstate and tunnles?? if so did this create more problems than boosting transit instead of underground tunnel projects???

    what does additional roadway thru downtown seattle accomplish that more transit couldnt???

    it seems if more locals rode transit freight trucks possibly could travel the i5 faster. wouldnt routing ever more cars into downtown seattle just mean that more parking would also have to be built???

    is a tunnel truly being considered??

  15. “Telling people you no longer can ride in your car isn’t going to work because this city is going to grow.”

    has that ever happend anywhere?? except at road races, parades, repairs, etc??

    i see ‘no truck’ signs everywher in towns.

    toll raods, where they exist say you cant ride in your car unless…you pay at a gate.

    along with do not enter signs.

  16. Why is it the state’s responsibility to pay for Seattle transit?

    Also, if you don’t think this has anything to do with freight – follow the money. The Port of Seattle is chipping in $300 million. Oh yeah, they must’ve just seen this as a worthy cause for their pocket change. *eye roll* Get real. They chose the only option that will keep commerce moving. Let’s build & move forward.

    1. Because in Seattle, and especially downtown, transit is critical for keeping the roads and highways from coming to a standstill. During peak periods over half of downtown trips are on transit.

      On your second point the Port has not yet forked over the money, and hasn’t identified the funding source yet. Contrary to your point, Port Commissioners have said they will only give the money if the tunnel shows to benifit them. That is yet to be seen. I asked Commissioner Gael Tarleton what she would change about the tunnel and she said the northern segment. It doesn’t work for traffic going to Interbay.

    2. “Why is it the state’s responsibility to pay for Seattle transit?”

      For the same reason they pay for highways.

      1. Highways benefit everyone. I will drive on a highway through Seattle, but I will never take a bus there.

        Why is the state responsible for Seattle’s buses? The state is responsible for the highway. This project does not exclude Seattle from improving their bus system.

        Adam, I agree with your comment that transit is important – but the DBT project is not the “create a world class transit system in Seattle” proejct. Figure it out on your own, don’t make it the state’s problem. You should be harassing your mayor about this issue.

      2. This project does not exclude Seattle from improving their bus system.
        Figure it out on your own, don’t make it the state’s problem.

        Seattle and King County can only levy taxes on their own residents if the state legislature gives them authority to do so. This project was supposed to include an authorization for King County to levy a 1% MVET to pay for more transit service, but so far the governor and legislature have failed to deliver. Give us the authority to levy taxes on ourselves and we’ll be happy to solve our own problems.

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