Something political for you:
Yesterday, The Stranger published an in-depth piece about the things that could go wrong with the proposed
deep-bore tunnel downtown that would replace the Alaskan Way Viaduct. The Stranger’s reporting has gone downhill since Josh Feit left a few years ago, but this one is pretty good muck-raking yellow journalism. I urge you to read it if you live around here.
I’m not particularly invested with whether we replace the viaduct with a tunnel, another viaduct, or with a surface option. I don’t think having unshadowed access to the downtown waterfront is key to Seattle’s future. I wouldn’t mind it, but whatever. I do care about a couple of things though. First, the current viaduct is unsafe and should come down.
Second, I don’t think it should be Seattle’s responsibility to pay for the replacement. And that’s where things seems to have gone off the rails in the last year. As it stands right now, if anything big goes wrong with the tunnel construction (and if you read The Stranger article, much could), there’s no money to pay for fixing the problems. The state has said it will try to find a way to make Seattle residents pay for it, on the theory that we’re the ones who really want the tunnel. The Seattle City Council (or at least a couple of them, Tim Burgess and Richard Conlin) say we won’t have to pay, but all they offer is some
trust us, we’ll make sure we don’t have to pay statements. In the meantime, the City Council wants to move ahead and sign contracts without dealing with the issue of what to do with cost overruns up front.
So what? Stuff’s gotta be paid for right? I’m generally in favor of levies and taxes for needed things. However, Seattle already has a huge deficit, according to the 2010 Seattle adopted budget. We have revenue of $3.4 billion ($1.2 billion from property taxes) and expenses of $3.8 billion. We’re already trying to figure out how to make up that $400 million. A lot is coming from other resources. Cost overruns on the tunnel could easily double our deficit. In other words, if something goes wrong big time (and that often happens), we’re either going to see significant property tax increases, or we end up with an unfinished and useless tunnel, no viaduct, and the state has spent a buttload of money that we don’t get back. The third option is to spread the cost increases across the state, but that’s not the way the law reads right now.
If you live in Seattle, it behooves you to let the City Council know now that you’d prefer cost overruns be planned for now. Richard Conlin and Tim Burgess are probably the two council people who need opposing feedback the most. Or, if you’d prefer to cross your fingers, you can just not do anything.