For all the things have happened on the Deep Bore Tunnel project, my opinion on it hasn’t changed. Of the seriously considered options, the DBT has the least money for transit, spends the most on environmentally destructive freeways, and is the infrastructure least useful for buses. For my values, that made it the worst option by far. Unfortunately, through some combination of elite consensus, car dependence, and exhaustion, most voters disagreed with me.

I think most people would agree that the program’s current troubles — long delays and escalating costs, that will probably end up in litigation between contractor, city, and state — should make the project less popular. And a fair amount of rhetoric has aimed at capitalizing on that, as tunnel supporters made lots of nonsense assertions about risk during the campaign. But I haven’t seen much evidence of people changing their minds on the tunnel, and that’s consistent with what I’ve observed about how people decide how to vote on projects.

I argue that within an order of magnitude, voters don’t care how much a project costs. They decide whether or not the project is valuable to them and people they care about, and if it is, they vote for it. I submit to you that whether a project is quoted at $2 billion or $3 billion is a difference of approximately zero votes.

Think back to the dark days of Sound Transit, when it became clear that Sound Transit 1 was going to take much longer and cost more than predicted during the election. Those of us who thought that high-quality rail was the most important thing for the long-term sustainability of the city were disappointed, but the best path to making progress was to get as much built as possible. People who thought Link was a waste at the original price definitely thought so at the final one, but it was only the general air of mismanagement at the time that dented ST’s popularity. If the actual scope and schedule had been on the ballot, I doubt the outcome of the vote would have been much different.

Now obviously one can take this argument too far. If the cost seems wildly out of proportion to the norm that can hurt a project’s reputation. As I said above, the air of incompetence can damage the public trust in an agency. However, scaling back a tax package as the Seattle Council did with the 2011 license fee – actually costs votes by appeasing no one and reducing the bag of goodies for which people are purportedly voting.

Given all the above, it’s Sightline’s data on decreasing viaduct traffic that is the most potentially damaging. If enough people accept that no tunnel does not mean gridlock, the project is doomed.

What I find somewhat disconcerting is that the fate of the really important stuff might be tied to the completion of an unnecessary tunnel. The most important transportation project on the region’s drawing board is a light rail tunnel to Ballard, and possibly other places. Of course, there are a number of technical reasons to distinguish a light rail tunnel from the DBT: ST’s project management record, project size and scope, and the difference in soil conditions. The relative environmental impact of the projects themselves determines whether they’re worth the inherent risk of tunneling.

If the DBT opens in 2016, or even 2018 or 2020, in the long run no one will care about the current setbacks. But if the DBT project collapses in a fiasco, the misleading attack ads on the region’s next tunneling enterprise practically write themselves, even the though the technical risk of ST3 tunneling is in no way affected by either outcome.

So has anyone out there actually changed their mind on this project given the new information?

61 Replies to “Has the Tunnel Fiasco Changed Any Minds?”

  1. Yep, two billion, three trillion, four quadrillion – these numbers have no meaning for me. If you want to change votes, make it more personal. “This is how much you paid this month. This is, by the way, payment 1 of x.” Big, poorly justified costs are hidden all the time, by our government, the companies we work for, even our own family budgets, by making them big and obscure, and making sure that something else fills their spot on the budget.

    That is, I needed to, ironically, replace a car recently. That was a new $400/month expense since the old one was paid off. At some point in the future, the car is paid off. That doesn’t mean our budget goes down $400/month, we just find somewhere else for that $400 to go. This is a fundamental flaw in the way we budget and the way we pass laws and fund initiatives. Get it approved and it’s there forever.

    We’ll finish this tunnel come hell or high water (it’ll be great for commuter submarines) because we also suffer pride that won’t allow sunk (ha) costs to be written off.

    1. This. What’s the current amount of each city, county, state, and Federal money spent on the Deep Bore Tunnel?

    2. The thing is, we need to build the rapid transit infrastructure we should have built fifty years ago. Otherwise we’re locking in an unlevel playing field where cars dominate because we’ve spent so much more on their infrastructure and then shut the door behind it.

  2. It seems like the project was mainly pushed by construction unions and real estate developers.

    Far too much of the community, and voters, got confused about two things:
    (1) They thought that the tunnel was necessary to get rid of the viaduct and open up the water views. Somehow the proponents convinced the leadership and the voters that unless the tunnel was built, the viaduct wouldn’t come down and/or the viaduct would be rebuilt – so people were voting to take down the viaduct, not to build a tunnel; and
    (2) Somehow people got convinced that without the viaduct or tunnel, I-5 and downtown would become gridlocked. The argument got really confused because people didn’t really look at what the tunnel would do. People got confused that traffic from West Seattle would have no good ways to reach downtown. I don’t think anyone explained to them that their routes downtown are the same with or without the tunnel, and that the tunnel will do almost no good whatsoever for traffic headed downtown since there are no exits. And somehow there was an argument about freight mobility – but are there really any significant amount of trucks that are headed for either South Lake Union or Aurora Avenue? Do we really expect Ballard or Interurban truck traffic to cross Seattle Center and Lower Queen Anne? They are just going to use Alaskan Way to Elliot. The tunnel doesn’t do much for them.

    This project is a ridiculous use of infrastructure dollars and the public was misled.

    And it still has huge completion risks and cost risks.

    If there were to be a downtown relief tunnel, it ought to have been dug for I-5 through-traffic, not a tunnel to nowhere.

    And there has been no analysis of induced demand, except the analysis showed that with even a $1 toll about 50% of potential tunnel traffic would divert. Doesn’t that tell us all we need to know about the usefulness of the tunnel?

    Why can the community not have an honest revisit of the issues?

    1. Also if the viaduct was unsafe (even though it has withstood at least 3 major earthquakes already…but let’s not even mention that) why didn’t they tear it down immediately?

      And now that the tunnel is stalled doesn’t that mean that the “leaders” of Washington State are choosing to allow families and children to ride on this unsafe roadway for an additional year, maybe more?

      Since it is unsafe, and we don’t know what to do about the tunnel, how about just taking the cheap way out, tearing down the viaduct, going with a surface street and letting the chips fall where they may.

      At least we’ll get some open space in the city, a brand new shopping area, and it might turn out that since the Viaduct traffic has been naturally dwindling anyway, we may not even need the DBT.

      We can lick our wounds and take some of the unspent money and add more miles to LINK or buy new Sounder trips.

      1. Tearing down the viaduct may get rid of the viaduct, but what it does not get rid of is roadways. That area that had the viaduct will instead of having a viaduct will have six lane wide high speed surface streets which will be suitable solely for cars and maybe buses and trucks. I’m sure it will not be suitable for a bicycle. It’s still and always has been all about making stuff for motorized vehicles.

      2. If it’s got a 25 mph speed limit and traffic lights at many cross streets, and wide sidewalks and bike lanes – it can be remade as an attractive boulevard. There is a great deal of space since Alaskan Way is 4 lanes off to the side of the existing viaduct.

      3. Also if the viaduct was unsafe (even though it has withstood at least 3 major earthquakes already…but let’s not even mention that) why didn’t they tear it down immediately?

        And now that the tunnel is stalled doesn’t that mean that the “leaders” of Washington State are choosing to allow families and children to ride on this unsafe roadway for an additional year, maybe more?

        I’ve never wholeheartedly endorsed a Bailo post before, and I probably never will again, but today, I can and will do just that. The stupid DBT was always the option that was going to keep the unsafe viaduct up the longest. That it’s still up, and will be for the foreseeable future, it a huge indictment of our political process and political elites.

  3. I find the repetitive comments about viaduct traffic misleading. No one has been questioning why the viaduct traffic has been decreasing. The peak hour experience on the viaduct segment of SR99 is deplorable. It’s a crawl, slog of newly created lane reductions, and now has a wacky destour called the WOSCA.

    Since lanes have been closed on the viaduct, traffic congestion between Mercer and W Seattle Bridge has increased….volumes have not. Traffic then spilled over onto I-5, transit routes which see a modest benefit with the bus lane (i.e. RR-C, 120). I wish people would look at lane occupancy, which is a percentage, rather than volumes. Volume, also known as ADT, just counts vehicles regarless of congestion.

    My suggestion: call Bertha done, make the remainder of the roadway a cut-and-cover tunnel. …just like it was originally proposed.

    1. Unfortunately, the problem with that idea is that a “deep bore tunnel” is much deeper than a cut-and-cover tunnel; so you can’t just connect one to the other without a lot of work and planning. :-(

      Should have gone with the cut-and-cover tunnel in the first place.

  4. Down go the historic buildings to make way for the recovery pit. Afterward, much taller buildings will get built, holding not only more office space, but also more living space. The historic character of Pioneer Square will shift from one where the majority of the population are sleeping on the streets to one where people are living in actual housing.

    At least, that is my prediction. Every cloud has a silver lining.

      1. They don’t. They will be replaced by Amazonians. The homeless will have to find another place to camp out if that came to pass.

    1. You are dreaming if you think this will somehow solve the problem of homelessness in the Pioneer Square neighbourhood.

  5. An order of magnitude? That would be the difference between $2 billion and $20 billion, I’m sure that would change some people’s minds.

    1. That’s probably why Martin wrote “within an order of magnitude”, as in (substantially) less than an order of magnitude. Few minds would likely have changed a year ago if it had been projected to cost, say, a billion more.

  6. No one will buy the attack ads: ST has successfully bored not 1, not 2, but 3! tunnels. And it’ll bore another 2 hopefully without fail. I think people get that the Bertha is 6 times larger and astronomically more room for failure. Also, anecdotally, I don’t know *anyone* who supports to the 99 Tunnel anymore. At the very least, they are incredibly skeptical about it, most want it dead. Before the massive failures by WSDOT, a lot were beginning to realise that the project had no Downtown exits and therefore realised that it had zero mobility benefits. Since December, it’s just become the nail in coffin.

  7. After whatever happens to Bertha, the project and whatever is/is not built eventually, the tax payers will be the ultimate signers of the checks to all the parties with their hands outstretched.
    This will be a litigation circus for many years to come, including exhaustion of the performance bond in place. Nobody goes home empty handed in these deals except the schmucks watching their paychecks getting a bit smaller each year.
    It’s death by 1,000 cuts, but the outcome is the same.

  8. The voters of Washington have consistently voted for one thing, and one thing only when it comes to transportation. Traffic congestion relief.

    The people have been offered plan after plan that purports to reduce the traffic bottlenecks that give us travel times that are among the worst in the nation, interchanges that regularly make the top ten most poorly designed lists and travel times that are incredible for the relatively small population size.

    It still amazes me that Kent is only 20 miles from Seattle, yet during the day time when highways are bottled up, it feels more like 100 miles away!

    The “solutions” that have been offered were fast regional rail — light and mono. However, that plan ended up being bait and switch as the original goal of being able to get quickly from the suburbs to the city by job commuters was usurped by the Downtown Syndicate into funding “urban density” and other ideological nonsense designed to boost the value of a few landowners properties at the expensive of almost everyone else.

    Did the leaders change their ways? No, they continued to wear tinears by presenting possibly the least needed solution to traffic, a narrow, expensive, short run tunnel, located — wait for it — in Downtown Seattle.

    Then, after this project turned into yet another fiasco they had the termerity to terrorize the populace with even higher sales taxes to fund…no, not fast regional transit, or traffic relief (since no new highways were proposed)…only local bus service!

    1. The Kent commuters did get a quality ride on Sounder. Too bad there hasn’t been a second station built near the tunnel portal, but they do get a free transfer to the light rail and bus tunnel

      1. I wish Sounder had all day bi-directional service. Mid-day could be self-propelled railcars or use the shorter Everett sets.

      2. I was fantasizing about that when I was waiting at Kent Station for the Mariner’s Sounder last Sunday.

        Someone on SBT (maybe you) mentioned the use of DMU’s.

        I was thinking how cool it would be for a one or two car tram — similar to a LINK — to pull up to the station.

      3. Until the parallel UP is double-tracked or the BNSF is tripled between the UP junction under the freeway in Tacoma and Green River Junction there will be no all-day service.

    2. Ballard is now part of Seattle (it has been for many years) but you can’t get to it or from it during rush hour. The same can be said for much of the city. Try getting from Capitol Hill to South Lake Union, a distance of less than a mile. It will take close to a half hour during rush hour (if you are lucky). You are better off walking, except you can’t walk directly from these highly populated, high employment neighborhoods because there is a freeway blocking the way. Nothing is being done about that. Meanwhile, we build more and more miles of rail to the suburbs, along with express buses from every suburb to every major destination. It isn’t the city that has usurped your suburban utopian plans, it is a suburban mindset that has squandered our chances for a top class transit system in the city. Billions and billions for light rail to Tukwila (Tukwila!) while people in Ballard and workers in South Lake Union and students in Seattle U wait and wait and wait…

      1. Thanks for setting me straight, Ross. I always thought all those cars turning Ballard into a net of narrow crowded parking lots every weekend came in under their own power. Somehow never noticed the railcars full of them rolling through Westlake Station- must be special auto-carrier cars like in the Channel Tunnel, huh?


      2. Sorry Mark, I forget that there are folks on here who don’t understand American slang. Basically, I was saying that traffic in Ballard is really bad. It is very difficult for buses as well as cars to get from there to other spots in the city. This was in response to John, who was complaining that it was difficult for folks in Kent to do the same.

      3. I live in a COOP at Bellevue and Republican which looks out over I5 and the South Lake Union area — it takes 30 minutes to walk (over to Denny and around OR to the flyover on Eastlake) – to go to a restaurant or other destination). Forget the Bus — the 47 is being killed so I now get to walk to Denny OR up to Broadway — whole trip would be 30 to 45 minutes. At this point a gondola, a zip line, or a bridge across I5 would make a whole lot of sense. BTW – great view of all of the traffic jams on I5.

      4. Today I went to the West Seattle Jane’s Walk. I left downtown at 9:30am, thinking there couldn’t be any delays that early on Saturday. The C was 11 minutes late, then 19 minutes. I ended up taking the 21 instead even though I wasn’t 100% sure how to get to my destination from it, because the C was still 11 minutes away — and the following 21 was also 11 minutes away! So I took the 21 to 35th & Avalon, and tried walking north to Charleston and west to 39th (the Admiral water tower). That worked, although I found a cliff just east of 39th and had to walk up a switchback road.

        I wondered whether the C’s lateness was all due to the d.p. memorial traffic light. But that was unanswerable.

  9. But if the DBT project collapses in a fiasco, the misleading attack ads on the region’s next tunneling enterprise practically write themselves, even the though the technical risk of ST3 tunneling is in no way affected by either outcome.

    This is a terrible way to think about the future political success. For one, the response ads write themselves–“ST has shown they’re the only agency that here that knows how to tunnel.” But much more importantly, the best research on voting behavior suggests messaging–specifically, the content of attack ads–plays very little role in outcomes. The outcomes will turn on turnout and the voters pre-existing preferences and voting habits, almost entirely. You should always assume the opposition will probably be able to make moderately effective attack ads, as far as such things go. Imagining you can control events such that you can prevent circumstances from allowing a moderately effective attack ad from being made is a recipe for never getting out of bed in the morning. You should apply the same wise and empirically grounded attitude you apply to the effect of cost-benefit calculations on voting behavior to your worry about the opposition’s potential ad campaign.

  10. Prop 1 proponents taught me the trick of breaking down the total cost of something into a pennies per day figure as a way of making big numbers more palatable. So let’s just do that with this tunnel. It’s only a few pennies per day for each person, so no reason to worry about the cost, right?

    1. Also a way of putting expenses in perspective, Sam. But since double-entry book-keeping is an excellent accounting tool for any amount, you have to read both columns. And at another level, for every amount you don’t spend, you have to account for the costs of not spending the money.

      Too bad there isn’t an olifactory column. That way, you could appreciate the complete cost of a few pennies a day not spent on sewer repairs.


      1. The best way to insure we don’t underfund future infrastructure repairs and maintenance is not to build needless infrastructure.

        And tomorrow, May the 4th be with you.

  11. Sound transit’s mismanagement in the 90s only affected the reputation of sound transit. We’re now in a situation where mismanagement at WSDOT could affect the reputation of Sound Transit even though ST has completed a whole series of tunnels ahead of schedule and under budget.

  12. To answer you question, Martin, I’ll stand by my original observation before the vote that given Seattle’s location and topography, any city in the world would have dug that tunnel. And repeat that I’ve personally visited two European cities with underground or covered highways- with excellent street rail on top of them.

    Just as in the final days of the Monorail effort, I stayed close to the project to see if we could at least get a decade or two of passenger relief while the Waterfront got rebuilt. And as I’m always ready to defend joint operations in the DSTT with excessive force.

    In other words, I’m willing to be the last living supporter of a troubled project- as if in civil engineering on this scale there’s any other kind- on one condition: that I see any chance that the thing can be improved to where it either provides good public transit, or gets traffic out of the way of it.

    Even better if even years into the future, there’s any chance of conversion to transit use. A light rail driver in Sacramento once pointed out that the structure under our train was part of a canceled freeway. Am I right that what can carry cars and trucks can someday carry trains instead?

    As I said a few days ago, whatever the merits of the DBT itself, every political force in Seattle should have told Governor Gregoire that any further discussion awaited the repeal of her veto of the car tabs the Legislature just passed. And told the legislature, and everybody supporting the DBT including the Labor Council, that any cooperation depended on adding the words “With good transit on top of it”.

    For the record, I haven’t been a voter in either Seattle or King County since January. Hence every effort to make “regional” mean I can stay in Seattle after 6 and still get home. Because whatever ia left of my working life depends on an exponential improvement of local public transit in the exact parts of Seattle where it’s presently the slowest. Yeah, a prize hard to award. While transit in Seattle is something of mine by history and habit, with the Deep Bore Tunnel, my name’s in the State’s accounts receivable.

    So my opinion has definitely changed from “Oslo and Gothenburg have tunnels” to “Let’s get some transit on top of this one.” Whether the tunnel gets finished with a portal at each end or a buried machine at one of them.

    Mark Dublin

    1. Mark, you’re not the last living supporter of the DBT. I can’t imagine Seattle without the two high-speed lanes of 99. All we need is a jack-knifed truck under Yesler, and 99 is the only way through town.

      I really like Seattle Transit Blog — it’s very informative and very current, and I especially appreciated the thoughtful coverage of the community meeting on North Rainier Valley. But Seattle Transit Blog does suffer from anti-auto chauvinism and anti-freight-mobility blindness; this string of comments is proof. The tepid voter support for the Monorail, the clear voter support for the DBT, and the voter rejection of increased taxes for Metro are not from a pile of dumb-ass car drivers manipulated by special interests. (I voted for all three.)

      Yes, the tunnel is delayed, and yes, it will cost more, and no, it is nothing like Boston’s far more complicated Big Dig. It’s an ambitious project, and it’s custom machinery failed. It will get fixed, the roadways will be completed, the viaduct will come down, and the tolls won’t cover the full cost. Dream on if you think there will be another outcome.

      1. . But Seattle Transit Blog does suffer from anti-auto chauvinism and anti-freight-mobility blindness;

        I don’t see how supporting Surface/Transit/I-5 — which spends $1.4 billion on roads and highways — is “anti-auto chauvinism,” unless you think that any effort to shift some resources from cars to transit is chauvinism.

        I support freight mobility. I also understand induced demand, meaning that general-purpose lanes aren’t going to do much for freight mobility. However, I would fully support changing general-purpose traffic lanes or parking to freight lanes in appropriate corridors.

  13. To answer your question: Probably not. People (including myself) are reluctant to change their minds.

    However, I think you are wrong when you state that “most voters disagreed with me.”. The facts suggest otherwise.

    There was a non-binding election, in which both the tunnel and a new viaduct failed badly ( But the tunnel failed worse. So, to suggest that voters “want the tunnel” is really a stretch. If anything, voters said they “want something else”. No tunnel, no new viaduct; something else. Now, it is possible that those voters were split, with many wanting the “third option” as outlined by many (improvements to I-5, other roads and transit) while many others wanted a repaired viaduct and maybe a handful that wanted nothing (just tear it down). All of those options would have been cheaper. In general, just about anything would have been cheaper. Given the results of the voting, you could easily conclude the exact opposite of your premise: people didn’t want to spend the money. The cheapest option(s) won the day while the most expensive option (the tunnel) lost by the biggest margin.

    Then you have the Sound Transit votes. The first one failed. The second one passed. The first proposal would have covered a much bigger area, while the second proposal was a lot more scaled down.

    I think in general, there is more concern about cost when it ties directly to a tax. A lot of people are concerned about the cost of the tunnel, but it isn’t tied to a specific tax (e. g. 5 cent gas tax). My guess is that there would be more opposition to it (initially and later) if it was.

    Then you have our representatives and their actions. The main driver on this was Nickels, and it started when he looked at the high cost of a replacement viaduct. He thought a tunnel would only cost a bit more, and would be much better for the city (I don’t have a citation for this, but I remember him saying something to this effect). So, in that regard, cost played a part. Once they started looking at the details, they realized it was going to cost more than they thought. As a result, the tunnel was scaled down. Instead of six lanes, it will be four. There will be no exit at Western. So, in my book, both the voters and the representatives are concerned about cost. It is just that the voters recommended the cheapest option(s) while the representatives, for whatever reason, did not. The representative who spearheaded the project, meanwhile, lost his job (in the primary no less).

    Now, as to whether voters or politicians are concerned about risk, that is a different story.

  14. I haven’t changed my mind. The DBT is still the only option that makes sense for replacing the viaduct, and they will eventually get it done. I didn’t give up on ST when they had their initial problems, why should I give up on the DBT? If we all gave up that easily we wouldn’t get anything done in this city.

    10 years after the tunnel is open the only thing people will be whining about is the toll.

    But the DBT is a WSDOT roads only project that this blog continuously points out does nothing for transit – and I agree with that. So why does this blog spend so much time discussing a roads only project? Seems a bit OT to me.

    1. “The DBT is still the only option that makes sense for replacing the viaduct”

      Why? Why not a shallower tunnel that’s attached to the seawall and keeps the connection with Elliot?

      1. Call the geology department at UW, William. With a lot of other factors in mind, in general tunneling has a lot in common with flying,except for the altitude: the farther you are from the ground, the safer you are.

        From what I’ve read, an earthquake generally makes the ground roll like an ocean wave to about twenty feet down. In former Soviet Central Asia, there’s at least once city where the subways are on shock absorbers and run through ‘quakes all the time. Alma Ata, I think. But these aren’t cut and cover.

        I personally worry about flooding through South Portal- south of Jackson, ground is still mainly water with a little dirt in it. But only advantage cut-and-cover would offer is to give your body less distance to float to the surface.

        Might want to look up soil conditions at different levels along the Waterfront. Prettu sure you’ll find your answers.


      2. The reason cut and cover was nixed was because of the length of disturbance to the waterfront. Costs were about the same; except now we know the cost overruns are horrendous for the DBT. The big advantage for Seattle was that it included a rebuilt seawall which has to be done anyway. Thank Gregoire and Nickels and their obsession with leaving a legacy; and likely being beholden to the construction lobby.

      3. A couple hundred million is hardly horrendous on a multi-billion dollar project. In fact, normally such a thing wouldn’t even blow the contingency – which is part of the overall budget BTW. And remember, we still don’t know who is going to pay the overrun. If it is the contractor, then why would any taxpayer give a flying whatever?

        And costs would not be the same now. Most of the north and south DBT connections are well underway, 80% of the tunnel lining segments are already built and in storage, and the TBM is built and in place. We are pretty much committed, and it would cost us a heck of a lot more and a lot of embarrassment to change our minds now.

      4. The seawall still has to be replaced at a cost of hundreds of millions.

        Could still build a shallow tunnel while doing that. The cost of the shallow tunnel was massively reduced due to the waterfront having to be all dug up *anyway*.

    2. 10 years after the tunnel is open the only thing people will be whining about is the toll.

      Of course, in addition to whining about the toll, they’ll be avoiding it, leading to whoever loses the coming lawsuit-apolooza about cost overruns will be on the hook for the bond–money they’ll be paying for a previous generation’s folly, rather than useful, environmentally sound transportation projects….

    3. It’s funny because the committee that looked at the problem came up with two other solutions: a new viaduct or a combination of improvements to I-5 (and other roads) and improved public transportation. They ruled out the tunnel because it would be too expensive and not provide the current functionality (Western and downtown access). Of course, when they started the tunnel project, they sold it as being similar to the current viaduct, yet it has been scaled down immensely (two lanes each direction, and no Western access). So, no offense, but I think the committee was right, and you are wrong. We should have flipped a coin and went with one of the alternatives (I would have gone with the surface option, but a rebuilt viaduct would have been better than this).

      1. Right. Every possible option has some merit and some shortcomings, but was worthy of serious consideration. Except the worst, most irredeemable one, which ignores the most important function of the viaduct at the greatest cost. By any sort of rational analysis, we choose the worst option, with the greatest cost, the greatest amount of time the death trap of a viaduct would have to be up, and the lowest possibility of completion. And we did it without working out who was actually going to pay for its (real) costs. It’s difficult to imagine how our political elites could have done any worse.

      2. What djw said. My mind boggled when I watched the “process”. There were several options with arguments for them:
        – rebuild the viaduct as-is
        – surface & transit
        – shallow tunnel combined with the seawall work which has to be done anyway.

        The Deep Bore Tunnel option was rejected by the planning / environment impact study as being far more expensive, with much greater construction risk, *and* far less useful than the shallow tunnel… which was the second-most expensive.

        Then a group of politicians met in a back room and decided to dig a deep bore tunnel.

        It’s as if they hadn’t even read the environmental impact studies.

      3. Cut and cover was expensive but it included the benefit of a replacement sea wall which has to be done anyway. If you subtract that from the price tag then it really showed the most bang for the buck. Downside, lengthy disturbances of surface traffic along the waterfront.

  15. After all the extra years and cost overruns, are there many people in Boston complaining about the Big Dig?

      1. Yeah, that is one of the key differences. This is essentially a bypass road for downtown, but it doesn’t connect to I-5. If you love cars and love driving you are going to be really disappointed when the viaduct goes down. All the people who drive Western and then go downtown will have to go a different route. Even those that go south (e. g. to West Seattle) won’t be able to. This will force a lot of traffic east. For example, I think 39th in Fremont is about to get really, really crowded. All of the people who used to head south via 15th NW (and Western) will now get onto Aurora.

      2. The Big Dig in Boston completely replaced I-93 through downtown and added a major connection from I-93 & I-90 not just to the airport but essentially a faster freeway to U.S. 1 serving the North Shore. And it was paid by mostly by the Feds. The equivalent here would be that it rebuilt I-5 through downtown Seattle and added a tunnel to Bellevue that connected to 405 & 520. It’s not even a close comparison to the lame tunnel that simply doesn’t do what the viaduct did. It’s not going to be useful for West Seattle traffic unless that traffic wants to go to South Lake Union or Aurora Ave. It’s not going to be useful for traffic that used to use the ramps at Western, neither those nor the Senaca/Marion ramps exist.

  16. We voted on and approved the DBT. Time to move on. Seattle is 20 years behind on its infrastructure. The DBT and SR520 should have been finished years ago. We should be well on our way to rebuilding and enlarging I-5 through Seattle. The 2nd ave. subway should have been already approved and under construction. SR99 should have already been elevated from Spokane st to the Duwamish bridge. SR509 should have been connected to I-5 south of Seatac years ago. Metro Seattle thinks too small and moves to slowly to keep up with it’s growth.

    Also, what is the status of the study for the 3rd ave bridge over the ship canal?


  17. Rrrck.

    So the state is quite sure that this is the responsibility of the tunnel contractors, and can prove it.

    The cost of repairing Bertha and finishing the tunnel is likely going to cause the tunnel contractors to lose money on the contract.

    The tunnel contractors have an obvious next move: declare bankruptcy. I believe they set up a company just for building the tunnel, so that the underlying companies can wash their hands of it and keep going.

    This will be interesting.

    1. Contactors virtually always set up special purpose companies for projects like this for just the reason you cite, to limit their liability.

      If there is litigation, nothing is certain. The politicians are just posturing. Odds are that there will be a settlement with shared pain.

  18. Sorry folks, but it’s too late. We got to finish the tunnel now, even though the cost may be very high. To be honest, I’ve shifted between wanting and wanting the tunnel too. Hopefully, the cost won’t be shifted to taxpayers, but y’all know how that wishful thinking goes.

  19. Regarding the Sightline study of traffic on the AWV, a key factor not noted is that WSDOT constrained the capacity. the southbound AWV was narrowed to two lanes from three north of Columbia Street; this helps southbound buses enter. the northbound SR-99 was narrowed to two lanes from three north of the WOSCA detour and transit provided a long queue bypass. the AWV capacity was reduced by 50 percent; it is no wonder that its traffic volume declined. it is good that the state is subsidizing transit in the AWV corridor. but the length of that subsidy is dependent on the Legislative adopted transportation budget.

    there is also traffic diversion; there is a substantial queue at the Elliott Avenue on ramp and 1st Avenue southbound traffic seems worse. there are cars everywhere.

    During the AWV scenrios work, Gregoire promised to take it down by 2012. It was with that in mind that Nickels allowed SAM to kill the George Benson streetcar line. the AWV still stands.

    one solution would be system wide variable tolling of the limited access highways with the primary objective being demand management and not revenue generation. tolls should be set to achieve 45 mph speeds. this would be good for all modes: freight, general purpose, and transit. traffic congestion is a cruel tax (time is money).

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