Considering the reality of what we are facing in these economic times, why would we want to write a check to replace the Alaskan Way Viaduct with the most expensive, most risky, least studied and slowest-to-construct option?
That’s from Rep. Geoff Simpson’s recent opinion piece in the Seattle Times. It’s about the tunnel. You know, the thing that’s got all that “critical mass“?
Here’s something I bet you didn’t know:
In other parts of Washington State, the highways are built and maintained using the state’s tax dollars. But the legislature and Governor Gregoire have proposed adding extra taxes, taxes that will be paid by the residents of varying taxing districts:
Residents of King County would pay the state gas tax each time they fill up their tank and about $200 or more for car tabs each year. Then, the taxpayers in the Port of Seattle’s district — which again is everyone in King County — will be on the hook for another $300 million from property taxes. Through the shell game of tax-increment financing and other city taxes, Seattle’s citizens alone will shoulder nearly a billion dollars. And finally, if the state Senate transportation chair has her way, we’d each have to pay a toll to drive in the new tunnel.
In other parts of the state, it doesn’t work this way:
in Eastern Washington and other parts of the state, the state actually pays for state highways. What confuses me is why local taxpayers should be taxed time after time to pay for infrastructure that is vital to the entire state’s economy. State highway projects anywhere else in the state would be paid for with state funds, not local taxes.
If the state doesn’t have the money for a tunnel, where does that leave us?
We don’t need a tunnel because there is another option that is faster, cheaper and less risky. Replacing the viaduct with the surface/transit proposal is the best available option because it is financially responsible, better for the environment and leaves our options open for the future. It removes the dangerous viaduct earlier and we could still build a tunnel or another elevated roadway. And it will carry enough traffic to get by for several years.
If it takes an op-ed from a Kent firefighter to shake up the stale conventional wisdom that surrounds the viaduct debate in Olympia, then that’s what it takes. What I want to know is, where are my Seattle legislators? I want to know why they’re ready to sign on to a project that’s 1% designed, a project that could cost as much as 12 billion dollars. Why are Seattle legislators so willing to lock us in to a terribly unfair scheme of local taxes for a state highway?