[UPDATE 2: Dominic Holden strongly objects to my assertion that he is “implicitly comparing” the cost to other projects. I take him at his word and apologize for the error. In any case, my issue is with the frame of the PSN campaign, not Dominic.]
[UPDATE: This post is being taken as a broader attack than it is. A shaky financing plan, which might be the subject of a coverup, is a big story and an important issue. I have a very narrow objection, to the rhetoric that adding in interest cost reveals the project’s true cost, and then implicitly comparing that to other projects that don’t include the same interest payments.]
In the midst of a bunch of really damning facts about the DBT’s financing plan, Dominic Holden cites a new, inflated cost estimate for the tunnel: it’s $6.1 billion!
This is another one of those things that all project-oriented no campaigns do, and it sucks. The common way to price these projects is with year-of-expenditure or (my preference) current dollars — excluding interest. True, in some sense we’re paying the entire amount. But all of these numbers are so large that they mean anything only in the context of other projects — projects that are not priced to include interest.
I’m generally wary of household similes, but it’s like a house. No one includes the total cost of the mortgage when saying how much they paid for it, even though there are good mortgages and there are shaky ones. A shaky financing plan that leads to high interest costs is a problem, but we can only see they’re high if it’s compared to other projects.
The subtext here is that proponents have been hiding the true costs up until now. It was done to the monorail*, it was done to Sound Transit 2, and now it’s being done to the DBT. One of these projects is worse than the others, but the rhetoric is just as bad. The reject campaign is dealing with remarkably dishonest opponents, and this anti-tunnel point is not a lie per se, but it is misleading, and a misleading point used against good projects as well as bad.
* and that was a terrible financing plan, number games aside.