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McGinn stirs the embers with his 'trust' insult to Gregoire

The other side declines to take the bait, and so the sides edge back from the brink. What does this say about politics in this region?

Mayor Mike McGinn

Mayor Mike McGinn Chuck Wolfe

Last Friday, Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn said, in a press conference he called to comment on the state's receipt of two bids to dig the deep-bore waterfront tunnel, which he opposes, that "I don't believe we can trust the governor to keep our promises to protect us." He later added, "I don't trust the legislature [in this regard] either." You can watch the full press conference here. The glacial till soon hit the fan.

Had the mayor stepped over the line of acceptable political insults? Gov. Gregoire had earlier in the day had her moment of triumph, celebrating the two bids and delivering a vow to veto any effort to stick Seattle with cost overruns, as state legislation recommends. Courtesy would suggest that the mayor tepidly welcome the governor's pledge, and then wait a few days before raining all over her parade with his litany of alarms about the project and a list of the governor's past failures to honor all pledges on the tunnel. But that's not the combative McGinn's style, so he called a press conference and unloaded on Gregoire and the legislature.

By Monday, the mayor was walking the comment back a bit, the governor's office was said to be "reaching out for further dialogue," and the City Council was deciding not to escalate — "better to not pay attention," in the somewhat condescending words of City Council President Richard Conlin. And so, another skirmish in the cold war over the Viaduct stepped back from the brink.

A lot of people, particularly tunnel supporters, thought the mayor's remarks were "way beyond the pale," as one city councilmember said, off the record. Rep. Reuven Carlyle (D-36) did go on the record, telling Seattlepi.com, "I am disappointed by the mayor's disrespectful language to our governor and legislature. This is a relationship business and the mayor is a more gracious person than to throw an angry punch that questions people's motives and integrity." Carlyle and others were worried that McGinn's words would make it still more impossible for the city to get what it needed from the next legislative session or the governor. Some thought the council should hire its own lobbyist to go to Olympia, as it did for part of the last session, or otherwise punish McGinn.

The episode tells one a lot about the state of simmering hostilities at City Hall, and the steps being taken not to escalate into a shooting war. It reminds me of the observation that the best news story these days is "celebrity in trouble." The celebrity sorta-violates a taboo, and then follows outrage, clarifications, semi-apologies, maybe even a highly publicized trip to the jail or a treatment center. Then it fades, only to be repeated again. McGinn seems to understand full well this aspect of modern media. It serves to keep his dominant issue — saving Seattle taxpayers from possible cost overruns from the tunnel — ever in the news, even as his allies on this issue shrink.

So far, the City Council has a strategy of not taking the bait. To do so, they argue, just reignites the war, disgusts the legislature, and gives the mayor more time in his bully pulpit. It also would drag council members down to the level of this essentially meretricious debate and musses up their chances to run for reelection or mayor some day. "Our job is to try to build good relationships," observed Councilmember Conlin, brushing the episode aside and meanwhile making calls to legislators and the governor to assure them that the council, at least, was the soul of cooperativeness.

Some might find this more evidence of the council's fear of confrontation, of drawing hard lines. The last time it tried this, when Conlin defied the mayor and signed an agreement with the state on the latest EIS document, McGinn had a field day, blasting the council for usurping power and violating numerous laws. So instead the council, which is still 8-1 in favor of the tunnel project, keeps moving things along, working with the governor (by now fiercely in favor of the project), and ignoring (or patronizing) the mayor, while still looking for areas of agreement with him. This being Seattle politics, the council is about 95 percent aligned with McGinn's green and liberal agenda.


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Comments:

Posted Tue, Nov 2, 3:55 a.m. Inappropriate

Good article, David, except for actually getting to the issue.

And I too cringed a bit to hear the Mayor so bluntly. I would rather have heard the Mayor say that the Governor is irrelevant on this issue. The Governor's promises are beyond her ability to follow through.:

1. She may well be gone after 2012. Should the tunnel actually happen, overruns will likely not appear until much later in the project when the book-keeping cannot be denied.Even before 2012, the Governor may be called to DC for some higher appointive office; or she may be called to some even higher place beyond reach of any act on earth.

2. The Governor may veto any act of the Legislature. But the Legislature can override the Governor. Check-mate.

The Governor, try as she might, simply does not have the power to "protect Seattle."

Apparently the Governor has not so far been willing to help resolve the cost overrun issue through the Legislative action. Perhaps she is sure that if the Legislature is actually asked, the answer to the Legislature might be "Hell yes! Seattle wanted a tunnel. So let 'em pay."]

Or perhaps she really thinks it's rough justice for Seattle to pay for the extra costs of a tunnel.

In any case, while the Governor may be acting in total good faith, she is trying to make a promise which, by the realities of time and tide, cannot protect Seattle from cost overruns.

As an aside, I am curious that tunnel supporters don't seem to care if the overrun issue gets resolved. Maybe it's Don't Ask, Don't Get the Wrong Answer. Supporters too know that the obvious legislative solution is to ask for clarification and maybe the obvious response, which everyone assumes, the answer will be a "Hell! yes" to Seattle property-owners. Consider the Tacoma News-Tribune's recent editorial; consider whether Spokane and Vancouver are going to say "No problem. We are happy to pay for cost overruns on a project at the behest of Seattle." Not likely.

Posted Tue, Nov 2, 6:38 a.m. Inappropriate

The simple truth is Gregoire can not be trusted on this issue. We know that because she's not telling the truth about how that 2009 statute is designed to operate.

The statutory financing scheme the legislature and governor enacted in 2009 is perfectly legal and enforceable as is. There is no need for anything else from the legislature. All of WSDOT’s expenses over the $2.8 billion cap relating to a slew of projects clustered around Seattle’s waterfront and South Lake Union are to be paid via annual assessments on an as-yet undefined set of Seattle property owners.

I'll repeat it, because Carlyle parroted Gregoire's misinformation about this in for seattlepi.com. Those costs WSDOT manages to rack up over the spending cap are to be covered by LID revenues. That’s what the statute says; benefited property owners in the Seattle area would be on the hook for all amounts over the $2.8 billion WSDOT cap.

The statute does not contain references to any taxes. The only words used refer to local improvement district (“LID”) spending, and LID assessments are not taxes.

Those cost-shifting provision terms can be found in this statute: RCW 47.01.402(6)(b) – ( http://apps.leg.wa.gov/rcw/default.aspx?cite=47.01.402 ).

Given that WSDOT’s costs are going to be incurred in connection with an ever-growing list of work (the tunnel, the work in SLU near Mercer St. and Aurora, the work in SODO around Alaskan Way, removal of the viaduct, etc.) there is a huge potential for contract overruns, mitigation costs, and damages to buildings and infrastructure. That’s much more true now than before, as now WSDOT is handing out expensive “sweeteners” that would reduce further the amount available under the spending cap available for the rest of the work.

The way this cost-shifting provision is intended to operate is that a local government with LID-forming authority could form a LID for the purposes of paying the amounts over $2.8 billion that WSDOT racks up. As one example, the Port of Seattle could use its existing statutory authority (RCW 53.08.050) to form a new LID and begin the assessments as soon as WSDOT says it’ll need additional money beyond the spending cap. Those assessments would go out with the property tax bills to thousands of property owners that Lloyd Hara deems have properties that have increased assessed values due to the AWV replacement projects.

Gregoire knows this, as does McGinn. They're lawyers. Why aren't they saying it? They're politicians.

crossrip

Posted Tue, Nov 2, 7:26 a.m. Inappropriate

Cross, yes, LID authority exists in state law, but LID stands for Local Improvement District; Local as in, well, local. Where is it written that the State has the authority to establish, to impose, an LID inside of a city for purposes of partially funding a State project? Where? Cite, please.

And the Port's LID authority is for purposes of supporting Port projects, which the tunnel ain't. That horse doesn't get you very far, and of course the City of Seattle would have no interest in imposing such an LID, so at the end of the process, you still need new legislation to give some authority, presumably the State, the power to establish the LID, describe its boundaries, the levels of assessment on the various parcels, the length of time assessments are collected, and so forth. You can't just create all that out of thin air.

The governor says she would veto such legislation and I believe her, but that lasts only as long as she is governor. The timeframe for all this would be in her third term.

Posted Tue, Nov 2, 7:56 a.m. Inappropriate

Why in the world would anyone not trust Christine Gregoire?

BlueLight

Posted Tue, Nov 2, 8:05 a.m. Inappropriate

There is the 'bully pulpit' and then there is the 'bully in the pulpit.' To my mind the Mayor is the second. Seattle is his sandbox and woe to anyone who defies him. There is payback. Before the election I didn't think McGinn would play well with other, and I am sorry to say, I was correct.

m-t-e

Posted Tue, Nov 2, 8:25 a.m. Inappropriate

Two items...

First, lose the apostrophe in Grays Harbor. It doesn't exist.

Second, @crossrip needs to look up LID rules. Perhaps he/she will discover people can only subject THEMSELVES to LIDs. They cannot be externally imposed.

ddmiller

Posted Tue, Nov 2, 9:04 a.m. Inappropriate

"rough justice"? I don't see anything rough about it. Seattle should pay for a huge slice of the cost of the tunnel. McGinn knows this and also knows that the tunnel would be even less popular if we Seattle dwellers knew we really had to pay for it. The Mayor is not playing by the standard political rules around here. I have to admire that. Sort of.

kieth

Posted Tue, Nov 2, 9:18 a.m. Inappropriate

"a good many green groups pushing for it"

Lets name some names here please. Because the tunnel is not green. It won't reduce the C02 footprint, the cost of construction will have to come out the state budget which is already short of funds to do actual green things like fix all the storm drain culverts under the roads to let Salmon pass. (As was ordered by the courts.) It doesn't provide alternatives to SOV travel.

My suspicion is that the only green in these groups is the money they've taken from the waterfront/Western Ave building owners.

GaryP

Posted Tue, Nov 2, 9:35 a.m. Inappropriate

The green backing seems to be related to the urban density, transit, biking, and pedestrian constituencies, since the tunnel would keep Downtown Seattle much more viable for those things, vs. letting cars take over as mcginn's plan would do, if unintentionally. That's why I'm in the tunnel camp, as a car-less urbanite who lives and works near the tunnel path.

mhays

Posted Tue, Nov 2, 9:47 a.m. Inappropriate

Just curious what the criteria is for getting an "editor's pick" star on your comment? Is the star for parroting an editorial line? Is it for crafting a good argument (irrespective of view)? Is it for grammar?

BlueLight

Posted Tue, Nov 2, 9:52 a.m. Inappropriate

R on Beacon Hill writes:

“Where is it written that the State has the authority to establish, to impose, an LID inside of a city for purposes of partially funding a State project? Where? Cite, please.”

Are you Roger Pence, Community Outreach Director for Sound Transit? You are full of it.

As you know, the state does not have that authority. The Port does though. The financing scheme does not involve the state setting up the LID, it involves a local government setting up the LID. The Port commissioners would do it in a heartbeat – ask ‘em, they’ll tell you. That is what is intended.

“And the Port's LID authority is for purposes of supporting Port projects, which the tunnel ain't.”

That’s not what the Port Commissioners believe. Look at the Memorandum of Agreement they adopted in a resolution as GCA 6444 earlier this year:

http://www.portseattle.org/downloads/community/AWV_State_Port_MOA_Signed20100412.pdf

It starts out this way:
-----

I. GENERAL PRINCIPLES:

A. The Port supports the proposed AWVSRP with the bored tunnel alternative and
related system improvements, as the design which affords essential transportation capacity, significant environmental benefits, and minimizes construction-related disruption on the waterfront.

B. The Port recognizes the economic importance of an efficient SR 99 roadway
network with complementary system improvements for the effective movement of freight
and goods locally, nationally and internationally.

C. The Port and State will continue to work collaboratively toward the successful
completion of the AWVSRP.

-----

That MOA then goes on about how this is a project to benefit the Port, so the Port will pay up to $300 million toward the $2.8 billion the state is on the hook for. The Port has demonstrated unequivocally it will pay that amount toward the WSDOT obligation. It also could use its LID-forming authority to cover the cost overruns (as the financing statute contemplates).

So Roger, now you’re spreading BS for WSDOT and the Port as well as for Sound Transit? Way to expand your job description, guy!

ddmiller writes: “@crossrip needs to look up LID rules. Perhaps he/she will discover people can only subject THEMSELVES to LIDs. They cannot be externally imposed.”

You are 100% wrong about that. The Port of Seattle could use its existing statutory authority (RCW 53.08.050) to form a new LID and begin the assessments as soon as WSDOT says it’ll need additional money beyond the spending cap. All the commissioners would need to do is hold a public hearing. They would not need to put it to a county-wide vote, a city-wide vote, or any other kind of vote. They would not need permission from a majority of those within the LID lines to do that. All you need to do is read how a LID pursuant to RCW 53.08.050 is to be formed to know I’m right about that.

crossrip

Posted Tue, Nov 2, 10:40 a.m. Inappropriate

The intellectual competence of deep bore tunnel supporters is already questionable. When McGinn challenges supporters, their natural recourse is certifiable denial. Gregoire's "Find another sponsor" jab was less than cooperative. When self-described "environmentalists" won't discuss the SEVERE environmental impact of the DBT, there's some serious mental imbalance tolerated generally and in high places. DBT RISK is too much.

Wells

Posted Tue, Nov 2, 11:13 a.m. Inappropriate

When self-described "environmentalists" are clearly more interested in installing a wedge against this project, rather than actual mitigation of a worthy civic works in an urban setting, why would supports engage in such a false discussion? So there can be a claim of advancement of a Utopian post-automobile fantasy? The right of way is needed and will be re-built, in the air, on the surface where all the bikes want to be, or underground. A political process has taken us far in advancing this needed project, although is interesting to see supposed lefties align themselves with the government-can't-do-anything-right crowd. I suppose 30 years of GOP propaganda has reaped rewards.

Posted Tue, Nov 2, 12:26 p.m. Inappropriate

Actually, there is no guarantee that auto traffic has a "right of way" through Seattle. It's currently granted as a lesser of several options, but it's not the only way to move people around the area.

The real question is post fossil fuel economy, what sort of infrastructure will make it possible to live in this city. I contend that 3Billion spent on a short tunnel designed to accommodate SOV traffic is a poor use of that money.

A better use of the money would be to add a Light Rail line to West Seattle, and a surface trolley to Ballard up Westlake through Freemont.

In twenty years we are going to look back and wonder what the heck were we thinking about this DDT.

When we did another tunnel, and we will need one, we will want it to accommodate another N/S Light Rail line. And it should run under Second Ave.

This current Viaduct replacement tunnel plan deserves to die.

GaryP

Posted Tue, Nov 2, 12:27 p.m. Inappropriate

The simple fact is that by the time this expensive, devious process has been fully executed, and the community actually begins to experience the reduction of mobility and increased congestion resulting from the plan, the perpetrators will all be working on their second pensions as consultants.

We’ll still have the same organ grinders…just different monkeys.

Refurbish the viaduct. Still time to do the right thing.

jmrolls

Posted Tue, Nov 2, 1:15 p.m. Inappropriate

The track record of mega projects coming in on budget is that no politician can be trusted, unless proven other wise. That's a mighty short list in Washington starting with Brian Sonntag.

This boomer politically correct stuff is disgusting - "blah blah blah I'm a no account dead beat blah blah blah. We are all deadbeats. Blah blah blah.

BTW, I don't think I've ever gotten an editor's pick!

I guess I must have insulted to many deadbeats!

Posted Tue, Nov 2, 1:27 p.m. Inappropriate

Why are we talking about a "post fossil fuel" economy? Even most peak oil theorists project a gradual decline in oil production. It's a fair prediction that fuel efficiency and population growth will keep Seattle's stats for miles-driven relatively stable in the coming decades, even with dramatic increases in transit use and more focus on proximity.

mhays

Posted Tue, Nov 2, 3:51 p.m. Inappropriate

I suggest that the LID be set up now to raise a few $100 million to replenish the contingency funds which the state gave away to the bidders. Because a project of this size and risk requires a fully stocked contingency fund, right?

Tolling the viaduct could also start ASAP, to replenish contingency funds and provide experience with the effects of tolling on traffic.

Of course my subtext is that if people recognized the full costs of this project, the project wouldn't be happening. Faith-based financing is the only thing keeping it going.

spock

Posted Tue, Nov 2, 6 p.m. Inappropriate

Spock, that would make more sense if all of the other options has better defined costs. In truth any figure used for them is a guess, even if you just mean project cost. Obviously very little design has happened on anything except the tunnel, and no design whatsoever has happened on options that didn't make the state's earlier shortlists. Further, the other options all have much larger issues with constrution side effects such as lost business, both due to construction mess and due to permanent issues such as traffic through Downtown (surface option) or having to spend another couple decades looking at the existing viaduct.

mhays

Posted Tue, Nov 2, 6:03 p.m. Inappropriate

It is incredibly easy to see that McGinn is acting like bully here, but I would also contend that the council is not being the friendliest folks either. As far as I can tell, the council is not making any effort to work out the differences between their stance and McGinn's stance on the tunnel.

Additionally, it seems that in an effort to bolster the momentum of the tunnel project, the council is failing to ask the tough (and I believe legitimate) questions on the cost overrun provision. A open, compromising council would ask these questions regardless of McGinn's opposition to the deep bore tunnel. However, the council instead chooses to hide in its trench and call McGinn an obstructionist, when they should be asking the same important question on Seattle tax-payer burden he is. The "Don't ask Don't get the wrong answers" policy, as David Sucher puts it, doesn't cut it if you want to be considered above the bullying of McGinn.

As far as the tunnel is concerned, I think the events that led to the decision to go forward with the Deep Bore Tunnel should be reconsidered. In late 2008 two final options for the viaduct were proposed by the WSDOT a surface option and a elevated option. With both of these choices, as well as a cut and cover tunnel, being a political nightmare, Nickels, Gregoire and Sims agreed to go forward with a deep bore tunnel.

Around the same time this option was also recommended by a stakeholder committee. While this may seem like a justification for the decision, I think this project was (is) too big to give to a stakeholder committee. Their compromise was to pick the most expensive option because no one on the committee had much of a stake in the additional dollars.

Through all of this I think that a lot of the facts got lost. This compromise failed to consider the ramifications of the massive increase in cost over the other options, as well as the impacts on the Queen Anne, South Lake Union neighborhoods, which would surely face increased traffic from diverted Interbay and Ballard travelers. Indeed, the compromise gave everyone a decent solution while giving no one a good solution.

Because of all this, and despite the fact that many people loathe the Seattle process, I think the viaduct dceision needs to take a step back one more time in order to review the tunnel choice. A good way to do this would be to have a two part vote, the first part with five options on the ballot: deep bore tunnel, cut and cover tunnel, rebuild, renovation, surface street option. And the second vote being a majority takes all of the top two vote getters in the first vote.

Or alternatively a random group of 50 or so Seattleites could be chosen and briefed by all the stakeholders, WSDOT, and who ever else wants to say their piece. Then, after 30-90 days or so of briefings, contemplation and research, (intermittent of course) the group would make a decision in a similar fashion as above. While that may seem crazy, I think its probably the only way to make a decision without the massive array of contentious political ideologies getting in the way of a good choice. Plus wouldn't most Seattleites love the intellectual challenge?

Posted Tue, Nov 2, 9:29 p.m. Inappropriate

Again, for reference...

No other proposed configuration for the AWV matches the existing viaduct in any transportation related category. The rights of ways already exist. The configuration already can handle 110,000 vehicles a day. It already provides a bypass for downtown and off ramps for the core, Ballard and West Seattle. It already meets the demands for commercial vehicles. It can incorporate modern seismic protections for elevated highways and other enhancements for noise abatement, bikes, pedestrians and aesthetics. It acknowledges the fact that rubber-tired, multi-passenger vehicles are still the choice of over 90% of us. And it’s billions of dollars cheaper than this present mistake in the making.

The elevated solution clearly offers more benefit for everyone than any of the other designs, and eliminates this endless noodling about how the transportation matrix may or may not work itself out when the viaduct is gone. It was never a barrier to anything and can be easily incorporated into any number of surface park designs (the only one with no arterials) It’s that no one EVER considered it on this basis…it was ALWAYS tear it down. It’s as if contemporary egos can't accept the fact that anyone from decades past could have possibly got it right the first time.

By retaining the only effective bypass for the core, the viaduct offers the best way to modulate, or even eliminate traffic downtown thus accommodating virtually all of the considerations of the neighborhood except aesthetics.

And unlike speculative videos and drawings of solutions with unfinished engineering details and unknown capacities, you can see a real working elevated model down on the waterfront right now doing its job. A retro / rebuild of the viaduct should be considered again. It works, it's affordable, and if a vote were held tomorrow it's the solution that would be chosen.

This is not a stadium. This is something that will impact the quality of life for the region. The pity is that no one really knows if it will be better or worse until AFTER billions of dollars are spent.

One last thing…the WSDOT’s own recent poll showed that an overwhelming majority of those surveyed think vehicle capacity in the SR 99 corridor should be increased or kept at the same level as today (which the tunnel does NOT do) and that only 27% of those surveyed even knew that the tunnel option had been chosen.

Still time to do the right thing.

jmrolls

Posted Wed, Nov 3, 1:30 a.m. Inappropriate

Sorry, Cross, you misidentify me. Yes, the Port supports the deep-bore tunnel, but that does not make it a Port project of the type listed in the law giving the Port LID authority. Best to read the whole law, not just one section that you like. It would be a huge stretch to force-fit this State project into Port LID authority, and such an attempt would quickly become one of those lawyers' full-employment projects.

And even more importantly, the Port is governed by 5 elected commissioners who are not going to expend that much political capital to gore Seattle taxpayers; they get too many votes from us to do that. The Port is not going to pull the State's fat out of the fire.

Bottom line, we're back to my original point -- the State must pass new legislation to effectuate the forced assessment of Seattle property owners to pay cost overruns. Gov. Gregoire has said she would veto any such legislation (while she's in office to do so), and I believe her.

And I'm not carrying any water for this project. I remain convinced it's misguided due to the lack of on- and off-ramps and the tolls that are necessary to cover $400m of its construction cost. Those two factors alone will force most of today's viaduct traffic onto surface streets, but without the improvements and amenities that would've come from the Surface+Transit alternative.

In fact, tolls are likely to be self-defeating, driving so much traffic to available and free surface alternatives that toll revenues will be too small to retire the debt.

Prediction: a generation after opening the thing, our children will ask "What WERE they thinking?"

Posted Wed, Nov 3, 1:33 a.m. Inappropriate

One of the most tragic things about "the Viaduct" situation as a whole is the lack of imagination to examine options. Imagine for example that we were a declining empire, in serious trouble with overseas entanglements, a nation divided by profound cultural outlooks to the point that the nation is governable only by inertia. Imagine that we in Washington _absolutely_ had to maintain north/south mobility through the core city of the region but could "only" spend, say, $500 million.

In a heartbeat we would simply repair the existing Viaduct.

What prevents us from considering repairing it seriously -- (no, I don't believe that WSDOT has thought enough about it) -- because few can imagine that the Viaduct could actually be an improvement and positively benefit Seattle as a piece of urban design. But they are wrong.

Consider something like the Parisian Viaduc des Arts.
http://europeforvisitors.com/paris/articles/viaduc-des-arts.htm
The model is obvious; please just go check out the link or Google it.
Brewster has already correctly sung the praises of New York City's High Line.
Frank Chopp has been going in the right direction -- the Choppaduct -- and I have been waiting for him to further the idea. (I suspect he is going to wait until the decisive moment comes along when we have exhausted ourselves.)

So far we have failed with our conventional, richer-than-we-think-we-are, timidities. The deep-bore tunnel solution chosen for us by the "serious people," like my friend erstwhile environmentalist Richard Conlin, is to simply spend spend spend.

So I agree with JM Rolls, and staybailey as well -- "still time to do the right thing."

Posted Wed, Nov 3, 9:13 a.m. Inappropriate

Why talk about the DDT and Peak Oil?

http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=8157560573983231771#

One of the things that happens when demand exceeds supply is that price increases. Unfortunately it doesn't rise slowly but rather in large price jumps.

Since we can see this future coming, it's important to build infrastructure now that we would want to have in that future. Because once the price jumps start, we can't roll back the clock and go, oh wait! I didn't really want that tunnel for fossil fueled cars, I wanted some electric powered transit.

GaryP

Posted Wed, Nov 3, 9:34 a.m. Inappropriate

R on Beacon Hill writes:

"Yes, the Port supports the deep-bore tunnel, but that does not make it a Port project of the type listed in the law giving the Port LID authority. Best to read the whole law, not just one section that you like. It would be a huge stretch to force-fit this State project into Port LID authority, and such an attempt would quickly become one of those lawyers' full-employment projects."

You are wrong about that. The Port has LID authority to pay for any "public improvements". RCW 53.08.050. The commissioners already decided this tunnel/seawall work is a public improvement benefiting the Port.

Further, that statute says the Port has LID authority just as "cities and towns" do. The statute specifying the scope of LID authority cities and towns have is RCW 35.43.040. That statute says LID revenues can be spent on public streets, bulkheads, and retaining walls (among other capital improvements). The Port would be well within its legal rights to form a LID by a resolution and give the assessment revenue to WSDOT for this project. That may be how it comes up with the $300 million that it already has agreed to pay. It also may be how WSDOT gets the money to pay for amounts over the $2.8 billion spending cap.

"And even more importantly, the Port is governed by 5 elected commissioners who are not going to expend that much political capital to gore Seattle taxpayers; they get too many votes from us to do that."

Lots of the property owners targeted for the largest LID assessments are corporate entities. They don't vote. The Port commissioners would consider it a pleasure to start imposing those LID assessments. The financial beneficiaries of those WSDOT payments (contractors, law firms, financing outfits, labor unions, and engineering firms) will contribute heavily to their reelection campaigns. It would inure to the benefit of Port commissioners to start up a LID for this project. They couldn't care less about the votes of the relatively few condo owners who could vote against them who'd be hit with the assessments.

crossrip

Posted Wed, Nov 3, 11:37 a.m. Inappropriate

David,
interesting piece but you're starting to sound unhinged about Mayor McGinn. You talk about a "meretricious debate" and compare the Mayor to a "cornered animal." This isn't Redstate, David, you need to pull it together.

DannyK

Posted Wed, Nov 3, 12:04 p.m. Inappropriate

There are many questions concerning the Deep Bore Tunnel. Here is the list for today:
1.What is the cost including; Principal, Bond Interest, Maintenance, and Traffic disimprovement?
2. What is the source of this money, or how much are our taxes increasing?
3. Why should we (as announced last week) guarantee that the taxpayers will pay for any failure of the boring machine. The public does not design, build, or operate the borer. What a lopsided contract!
4. What kind of a bid opening is this? One page “will build tunnel for less than $1.9 billion”. The State is paying these companies one million dollars each for a one page bid. Would you let these guys remodel your kitchen?
5. Why is the State taking the risk of the tunnel undermining the buildings above the tunnel? They are not designing or building the borer or the tunnel.
6. The City of Seattle is signed up for the biggest gamble ever. We do not have the money to start; how can we afford to finish?
7. Where can I get through Seattle without a $10 Toll? Answer, the tranquil waterfront promenade.
8. What happened to the tranquil waterfront Promenade? The tunnel.
9. What is the chance of the Viaduct falling? 5% in 50 years. That is 0.00098 chance of failure per day in 50 years. The Viaduct is safer than your shower.
I agree, the CHOPADUCT at 1/2 the cost and many times the utility.

Seaview

Posted Wed, Nov 3, 12:42 p.m. Inappropriate

Oh, in case anyone wonders what I think should be done.

First add a zillion bits of steel to bind the roadway to the pillars so in the event of an earthquake, it doesn't pancake on the cars on the roadway.

Second, fix the dam seawall so that in the event of an earthquake, the soil under the roadway stays there.

Then wait the twenty years that this repair will give us. Meantime build the LINK Light rail spur to West Seattle and lay the tracks for trolley down Westlake to Freemont and Ballard. Then build a Light Rail elevated line from the Seattle Center to Ballard and North with fewer stops.

That project will move people and in the long run be the system we really need.

GaryP

Posted Wed, Nov 3, 5:54 p.m. Inappropriate

R on Beacon Hill writes:

"And even more importantly, the Port is governed by 5 elected commissioners who are not going to expend that much political capital to gore Seattle taxpayers; they get too many votes from us to do that. The Port is not going to pull the State's fat out of the fire."

Tell you what - as you're so tight with the port commissioners, just get 'em to sign a pledge saying they won't use LID revenues to pay WSDOT's costs over the cap. You do that, and I'll stop posting about how it looks like that's exactly what the plan is.

Since we're discussing whether or not the commissioners might use that power maybe you'll agree with me on a related point. Do you agree the governor and Carlyle are wrong when they say additional legislation would be needed before the revenues to cover excess costs could be obtained from Seattle property owners? The Port's statutory LID authority as is could do the job.

crossrip

Posted Wed, Nov 3, 9:58 p.m. Inappropriate

Sorry, Cross, you're the one talking about what the Port commissioners will do -- you show us their pledge, which you apparently know all about, to pick put the tab for the overage, maybe even for the entirety of the Port's $300m pledge in addition, to put all the buck on the back of "benefitted" property owners.

Oh, and while you're at it, please show us a legal opinion advising the Port commissioners that they do in fact have the authority you claim to pay all those costs -- for a STATE project, the legal opinion that satisfactorily argues that the governor (a lawyer) and Carlyle are wrong on the need for new state legislation. Until I see that, no, I won't and can't agree that they are wrong and you are right.

You are obviously so exquisitely well connected that I'm sure you can easily meet my modest requests.

Posted Wed, Nov 3, 10:42 p.m. Inappropriate

David Sucher said, "One of the most tragic things about 'the Viaduct' situation as a whole is the lack of imagination to examine options." I couldn't agree more. The fact that the rebuild option has never been seriously considered is shocking. Fiscal extravagance is real problem that plagues many Seattle infrastructural projects, and a more minimalistic approach should be taken more often. Sometimes 100 little fixes are better than one big fix (and its certainly less risky).

Continuing on the idea of imagination, I would contend that many of solutions proposed lack any imagination. They are the most standard, uncreative, cookie cutter options one could conceive of. I don't see why more creative solutions for dealing with problems of viaduct can't be created. If addressing freight traffic is so important why not build freight and transit right of ways or lanes? If addressing traffic through downtown is so important why not make 1st Avenue and Western Avenue one way? Why isn't it acceptable to reduce the traffic capacity, and therefore traffic, bypassing downtown on 99 through if it meant that the street grid north of the battery St. Tunnel could be cheaply fixed without building overpasses over aurora? If the viaduct is so ugly and loud, why not find different ways to make it more visually appeasing and quieter? While some of these ideas wouldn't work, it's the idea of thinking outside the box that counts.

Also what's so bad about a renovation? It might be "punting" on the issue, but it would give us 30 or so years to see where the urbanist and environmentalist movements go before deciding on whether we really need two freeways through downtown for the next century. Additionally, it would free up $2.3billion or so dollars to spend immediately on significant transit improvements, or schools or whatever else seems like it will pay some economic or social dividends over the course of the next 30 years. Maybe at that point, when we would truly have to deal with the roadway once and for all, we would be fully prepared to take it down without an expensive tunnel, massive traffic congestion or a giant 6 lane boulevard.

Posted Thu, Nov 4, 6:19 a.m. Inappropriate

The good news, staybailey, is that it seems more and more likely to me that conservative legislators may yet save us — enough of them will speak out clearly that "Yes we did mean that Seattle should pay the extra costs for a tunnel." Maybe there will be a silver lining in an otherwise dreary election.

Maybe the Governor will finally realize that we simply cannot afford a tunnel which is expensive to begin with and likely to go way over budget; Democrats who come to their senses and want to backtrack on the tunnel can blame it on Tim Eyman.

My own hunch is that at long last we will do the sensible thing and repair the Viaduct. Thanks Tim Eyman.

Posted Thu, Nov 4, 7:28 a.m. Inappropriate

Christine Gregoire yesterday: "We know we can no longer afford many of the programs and services that Washingtonians rely on."

Yes, I suspect that alternative options will need to be imagined.

spock

Posted Sat, Nov 6, 1:34 p.m. Inappropriate

Am I the only one who wonders from time to time what it would have been like to have a governor who actually knew transportation systems, or public utilities, or the differences between rural and urban needs, or... well, you get my point. It's so depressing when I think about who all's in the political pipeline and their actually skill and real-life experience level. I sure do miss Ron.

Posted Mon, Nov 8, 4:47 p.m. Inappropriate

David Sucher, and by inference others, too, states it very clearly. "What prevents us from considering repairing it (the viaduct) seriously ...?" This is what renowned structural engineer, Victor O Gray, P.E., has been strenuously arguing for nearly ten years. To no avail. WSDOT has the mindset that if it aint new it is no good.

Fortunately, and brought before both WSDOT and the attorney general, is a nice little federal statute that mandates WSDOT take a look at all alternatives. This clearly points to a refurbished viaduct at the very least.

In this regard, and of tremendous importance, Title 23, USC, Section 106, requires the state perform a Life Cycle Cost study. Moreover, under Subsection f (2) it notes that the value engineering study, by definition, "... means a systematic process of review and analysis of a project during its design phase by a multi-disciplined team of persons NOT INVOLVED IN THE PROJECT in order to provide suggestions for reducing the total cost of the project and providing a project of RQUAL OR BETTER QUALITY.

The requirement for a value Engineering study is contained the the state's own Design Manual. It cannot be ignored. That it needs a separate non-connected reviewer is compelling.

Accordingly, to me, the deep bore tunnel is far from a done deal. Even ignoring Title 23 (and its corollary, OMB Circular No A-13, Value Engineering) the state has yet to figure out how to meet the ADA requirements for handicapped transit riders. Thus, with all METRO Dart (Dial-a-Ride) buses having wheel chair access on their right sides, with the wheelchair platform extending out 6 feet 9 inches (measured from the edge of the rear tire wall) and with the ADA design needing an additional 5 X 5 foot area for turning the HC user 90 degrees to the right or left, you can see it wont work on a 2-foot shoulder. Indeed, it wont work on a 6 foot shoulder, either.

Clearly, lacking ADA access for any emergency, you can look to the Dept. of Justice and/or the Seattle Office for Civil Rights to view the DBT with a jaundiced eye.

For short, it aint over till the fat lady (or skinny governor) sings.

seebee

Posted Mon, Nov 8, 4:51 p.m. Inappropriate

David Sucher, and by inference others, too, states it very clearly. "What prevents us from considering repairing it (the viaduct) seriously ...?" This is what renowned structural engineer, Victor O Gray, P.E., has been strenuously arguing for nearly ten years. To no avail. WSDOT has the mindset that if it aint new it is no good.

Fortunately, and brought before both WSDOT and the attorney general, is a nice little federal statute that mandates WSDOT take a look at all alternatives. This clearly points to a refurbished viaduct at the very least.

In this regard, and of tremendous importance, Title 23, USC, Section 106, requires the state perform a Life Cycle Cost study. Moreover, under Subsection f (2) it notes that the value engineering study, by definition, "... means a systematic process of review and analysis of a project during its design phase by a multi-disciplined team of persons NOT INVOLVED IN THE PROJECT in order to provide suggestions for reducing the total cost of the project and providing a project of EQUAL OR BETTER QUALITY.

The requirement for a Value Engineering study is contained the the state's own Design Manual. It cannot be ignored. That it needs a separate non-connected reviewer is compelling.

Accordingly, to me, the deep bore tunnel is far from a done deal. Even ignoring Title 23 (and its corollary, OMB Circular No A-13, Value Engineering) the state has yet to figure out how to meet the ADA requirements for handicapped transit riders. Thus, with all METRO Dart (Dial-a-Ride) buses having wheel chair access on their right sides, with the wheelchair platform extending out 6 feet 9 inches (measured from the edge of the rear tire wall) and with the ADA design needing an additional 5 X 5 foot area for turning the HC user 90 degrees to the right or left, you can see it wont work on a 2-foot shoulder. Indeed, it wont work on a 6 foot shoulder, either.

Clearly, lacking ADA access for any emergency, you can look to the Dept. of Justice and/or the Seattle Office for Civil Rights to view the DBT with a jaundiced eye.

For short, it aint over till the fat lady (or skinny governor) sings.

seebee

Posted Fri, Nov 12, 12:48 a.m. Inappropriate

What can anyone in Olympia be trusted to do?

The subverted the will of the entire state to curtail spending twice, and the regularly use fiat power to serve whatever master is pulling their leases.

jabailo

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