Duel of the scary Viaduct videos

Pro- and anti-tunnel advocates each showcase their disaster scenarios.
Pro- and anti-tunnel advocates each showcase their disaster scenarios.

The Washington Department of Transportation has posted a scary "what-if" video of what would happen to the Seattle waterfront in the event of a quake that was just a little closer and longer than the 2001 Nisqually quake. You get to see how things are predicted to come apart: an Alaskan Way Viaduct that pancakes in sections and a seawall collapse that pulls parts of the waterfront away from the shore and collapses structures along the piers. Some question why the video is being posted now, and whether it's part of an election scare tactic that will help mayoral candidate Joe Mallahan, a tunnel proponent.

On the other side, the Mike McGinn mayoral campaign, which once vowed to stop the tunnel but now maintains it will focus on criticizing the project's funding viability, unveiled a new campaign ad that suggests the tunnel will be a fiscal disaster. Comparing it to Boston's Big Dig and other boondoggles, the TV ad estimates huge cost overruns are likely, as much as $15,000 per Seattle household. It asks whether voters are willing to risk that much in voting for Mallahan.

Both are partly based on realities we live with every day: There will almost certainly be another major quake in Seattle someday, and virtually all large engineering projects go over original budgets.

Seattle isn't the only place where impending disaster has been hot politics: In the King County exec race, Susan Hutchison and Dow Constantine have argued over who is doing enough to prevent major flooding in the south county this year as communities beef up levees and plan for a possible dam failure. Hutchison has said she'd call in the Marines, and Constantine declared October "Flood Awareness Month"!

Call this the FEMA election.

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    About the Authors & Contributors

    Knute Berger

    Knute Berger

    Knute “Mossback” Berger is Crosscut's Editor-at-Large.