Mayor to council: Take a stronger stand on tunnel costs

Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn today urged the city council to make a strong enough statement against accepting cost overruns on a waterfront tunnel that he and the council can together lobby the legislature for changes in state law.

While again taking issue with the Seattle City Council on a waterfront tunnel, Mayor Mike McGinn also is trying to find some common ground.

In a press briefing today (July 27), McGinn said the council, as well as the state, has now recognized his point that delay in reaching final agreements on construction of a deep-bored tunnel will not be catastrophic. The council plans to pass a resolution as early as next week expressing an intent to sign final agreements with the state on tunnel construction, but the council will then hold off on final signing of the agreements with the state until perhaps February.

McGinn said he hopes the council will use the next week before approving the resolution on the tunnel agreements to strengthen its position against any possibility that the state will try to make Seattle area property owners responsible for any tunnel cost overruns. "There is still an opportunity for the city to stand together and say to the state that we don't want to proceed until the state takes full responsibility" for cost overruns, McGinn said.

He told reporters that, with the council waiting until February for final action, there would be time to work on the legislature, which reconvenes in January. Some on the council doubt the wisdom of pushing the legislature, because lawmakers could take steps to give their overrun language, which is now only an intent statement, some mechanism for enforcement.

McGinn elaborated on his criticism Monday of the council as using a delay to subvert any public opportunity to vote on the tunnel and cost overruns. But he deflected a question about Councilmember Tom Rasmussen's accusation that the mayor has tried to use the cost overruns to inject a poison pill into contract agreements, saying it's sometimes hard to avoid "heated" language.

McGinn also said he had "kind of made a mistake" with a statement he made some weeks ago that he would veto a council ordinance on going ahead with the tunnel. In fact, McGinn noted, legislation can always change while it is being worked on, and he said he hopes the council listens more to public concerns before finalizing its resolution.

Joe Copeland is political editor for Crosscut. You can reach him at Joe.Copeland@crosscut.com.


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