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    Olympia's tunnel of love?

    There are signs Frank Chopp might be ready to live with the deep bore tunnel, particularly as Seattle-area legislators rally around the new plan. Here's an early head-count.
    Speaker Frank Chopp leads House Democrats.

    Speaker Frank Chopp leads House Democrats. Washington State House Democrats

    So, what does Frank think? Always a key question, and almost always very tough to know.

    House Speaker Frank Chopp has been rather silent since Governor Christine Gregoire announced her plan for replacing the Alaskan Way Viaduct with a deep bored tunnel: A few quotes here and there, but no definitive statement about just what kind of opposition, if any, he will mount.

    For months Chopp has been shopping a very different design — a new elevated, enclosed roadway with two floors of retail below and an expansive park above.

    I was hoping to get some time with Chopp when I was down in Olympia this past Tuesday, doing TV interviews with several members of the state Legislature from Seattle. After repeated attempts, I wasn't able to get even five minutes with the Speaker, who was in and around the Capitol all day.

    I did, though, talk with his colleague from the 43rd District, Rep. Jamie Pedersen, who is quickly becoming one of the most respected members of the House. Does he think Chopp is going to pull rank and use his power to try to stop the governor's proposal? "I don't suspect that he will insist that it be his way or the highway in this case," said the tunnel supporter, somewhat revealingly. "He has some legitimate questions," noted Pedersen. "If those can be answered to his reasonable satisfaction, then I don't think he is going to stand in the way of the agreement that the governor, the mayor, and the [King County] county executive made." Note the "if," but that a colleague close to Chopp is predicting little, if any, drama suggests to me that we can expect the Speaker to drop his opposition at some point in the near future.

    If he didn't, he would be in for a big fight. While the state is another question, most legislators from Seattle and nearby are falling into line with the bored tunnel. Of the eight legislators I interviewed, six were fully on board the governor's plan (Pederson, Joe McDermott, Eric Pettigrew, Ken Jacobsen, Jeanne Kohl-Welles, and Adam Kline). Only one was outright opposed, Sharon Tomiko-Santos. "As far as I can see the tunnel does not enhance the economic vitality of the state of Washington," said the legislator from Southeast Seattle. She wants an elevated new viaduct.

    Up in the northwest part of Seattle, Phyllis Gutierrez-Kenney is also holding out. "Right now I don't know where I'm at, to be very honest," said the 12-year veteran, who up to now has been a surface-and-transit supporter — meaning no tunnel, no new viaduct but expanded transit and more lanes on I-5 and downtown. She's troubled by how the tunnel made an 11th hour comeback. "There is a group of people, and I think it's smaller than the large group who wanted surface or the elevated, that has come out and made more noise," she contended, "and some of our elected officials are buying it."

    Just because most of the Seattle delegation is behind the tunnel doesn't mean, of course, that state legislators from other regions will support the idea. "Let me give you an old phrase around here," said Sen. Adam Kline of southeast Seattle. "Democrats against Republicans. House against Senate. Everybody against Seattle." He continued: "If this tunnel were being built in Othello or Ritzville, it would have been done by now."

    C.R. Douglas is a veteran Seattle reporter and host of City Inside/Out Fridays at 7 p.m. on The Seattle Channel, cable 21.

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    Posted Fri, Jan 30, 8:42 a.m. Inappropriate

    Don't hold your breath!

    First of all, you can't predict Chopp's position. No one can. He's the most independant, civicly motivated, look-out-for-the-litle-guy legislator down there.
    Add to the 2 slaps in his face, downtown interests not supporting his Viaduct concept and second, proposing a Tunnel that DOES NOT SERVICE HIS constituants in NW Seattle, and you have two strikes that really have been embarrassing and ignorant of his priorities. So, sit back and look for the mushroom cloud from Olympia.
    I for one welcome his opinion. It is usually well thought through and comprehensive. He is not intimidated by Downtown interests or developers who put lot's of money in Legislator's campaign war chests.

    And, in light of the recent impeachment of Illinois's Governor, legislators should be on their tippy-toes when "selling" their vote to the Downtown interests.

    Don't be surprised if Frank comes out with a totally new idea that maintains his constituants interests for access from Elliott/Western, maintains traffic volumes and speeds equal to the current Viaduct, causes minimal disruption during construction, a shorter construction period, costs less and starts sooner.

    I can't wait!


    Posted Sat, Jan 31, 3:16 p.m. Inappropriate

    No matter how long the movers, shakers, speculators, urban hobbyists and contract spinners continue their dance of the sand crabs, the facts about the viaduct are still the same. Any solution that doesn’t have at least the same capacity as the present structure to move rubber tired vehicles is a waste of tax dollars and a bad idea. Voters have always stated their preference for a rebuild, a fact that’s now openly admitted by the spinners themselves. But the features and benefits of a retrofit or rebuild of the Viaduct have been consistently shouted down by the usual suspects, mostly developers who want to enhance real estate, sell it and leave town. So again for the record, the viaduct should be rebuilt utilizing the existing configuration with whatever provisions are possible for added efficiency, aesthetics, noise abatement, pedestrians and bikes. Like Ol’ Wilford Brimley says about oatmeal, “It’s the right thing to do.”


    Posted Sat, Jan 31, 5:43 p.m. Inappropriate

    Replacing the viaduct would be a disgrace. The Deep-Bore would handle only the Aurora-bound traffic, about 63,000 vehicles a day. The Ballard-bound traffic would have to go through the stoplight arrangement of some surface boulevard redesign.

    I figure the Western/Alaskan Way Couplet is a particularly bad design: It removes all road access that separates thru-traffic from motorists looking to park. Traffic on the Waterfront will increase by at least 20,000 vehicles a day. People looking to park should not have to fight this traffic. It's dangerous. Too little little curbside parking is created with the Couplet. The wide plaza too, is not a good idea because it separates business-related delivery by too much distance. Seattle Waterfront really is a working waterfront, not a playground. I suggest a 2-way Alaskan Way, leave Western Ave as it is, and put in a frontage road perhaps 1-way northbound on the east side. The island between this frontage road and Alaskan Way could reinstall the streetlcar line, a bike/pedestrian corridor and some diagonal parking.


    Posted Sat, Jan 31, 11:20 p.m. Inappropriate

    The language to carefully watch is who will pay for the inevitable cost
    overruns for digging the tunnel. Yes, the state will be on the hook for
    $2.4 B of it, but who will pay for overruns. Do not go looking at the
    stimulus plan b/c at most, it will be about $530M for the entire state.

    Seattle and King county will be on the hook for it. One thing to consider
    is that the tunnel will not be considered State Highway 99, but rather a
    city/county facility. So, $1B from Seattle, $300M from the port, ~$400M
    from King county AND overruns for all. Think of MVET x 2, tolls from hell, LIFT/LID, first born, etc.

    You need to speak with the WSDOT folks. Their 1% guesstimate cost
    of the project is snigglicious.

    Lastly, I would not count Speaker Chopp out. If you know the man,
    he is not a person who gives up or allows BS to squirt on by.


    Posted Sun, Feb 1, 1:11 p.m. Inappropriate

    Chopp does not have to stop this, just point the tax revenue structure to the voters and let the people say no.

    Mr Baker

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