“Why does Frank Chopp hate Seattle?” That’s the question Josh asks at Publicola after State Rep. Reuven Carlyle (D-36) showed him an amendment to the Viaduct Bill that pins potential cost overruns on the backs of Seattle taxpayers.
The amendment, sponsored by House transportation committee chair Rep. Judy Clibborn (D-41, Bellevue, Factoria, Newcastle), says any cost overruns on the Viaduct tunnel project have to be paid by Seattle-area businesses—a standard for a state-funded project that Carlyle argued had never been applied to locals before. (Without any local accountability measures, for example, Rep. Carlyle pointed out, the state has spent $1.56 billion on 405.)
[…] Carlyle wasn’t simply standing up for his turf, though. He believed the amendment, if passed, would set a “dangerous precedent” that locals across the state could now be held accountable for cost overruns “on any bridge, ferry, roads, or building project.”
The “Big Bore” is the brain child of the oh so credible Discovery Institute, which, based on its profound respect for the sciences, promises that new and barely tested deep bore technology can dig the tunnel cheaper and faster than ever before possible.
Um… maybe. But maybe not. The deep bore tunnel is without a doubt the least studied Viaduct alternative from an engineering and a geological perspective, and yet it was quickly embraced by the powers that be after local voters and politicians appeared to be reaching a consensus on the much less sexy surface/transit option.
Surface/transit was also the least expensive option, for both the state and the city, and no doubt the easiest to accurately estimate costs, as we have a helluva lot more experience laying down asphalt than we do sending giant boring machines through downtown Seattle’s relatively unexplored substrata. Discovery’s assurance’s aside, the Big Bore is by far the riskiest option in terms of potential cost overruns. I’m loathe to bring up Boston’s infamous Big Dig, as I don’t subscribe to the notion that Americans have somehow lost the ability to engineer tunnels, but… well… shit happens.
And if shit happens, it should be the responsibility of the state to clean it up. After all, it’s the Governor and the Legislature who put up the most resistance to the surface/transit option, and who eagerly sought out the Big Bore as a magically delicious alternative. So why the hell should local taxpayers, who were already prepared to settle on a less expensive, less risky (and yes, less elegant) solution, pick up the tab should Discovery’s faith-based transportation plans turn out to be not all that intelligently designed?
We shouldn’t, and now is the time for Mayor Nickels and other local political leaders to send a clear message to Olympia that, if they change the terms of the deal on us, forcing us to pick up the costs of their potential blunders, then the deal is off. Seattle has already agreed to pony up $1 billion toward the cost of replacing this state highway, but if this amendment sticks, placing all the risk on our backs, I say we put away our checkbook and tell our legislators to just go screw themselves.