“The tunnel project is 70 percent completed, according to WSDOT, so there’s no turning back at this point,” [Seattle City Council President Tim Burgess] added. “It is city government policy that this project be completed. The governor agrees. The mayor agrees. We must move forward.”
Look, I’m not suggesting that now is necessarily the time to pull the plug on the deep bore tunnel (or more accurately, put a plug in it). I’m not privy to enough information to make that decision one way or the other. But we should at least be open to that possibility, regardless of how much money we’ve already spent on the project.
No doubt Burgess understands this. If the engineers were to estimate that it would cost an additional, say, $20 billion to “move forward” and complete the tunnel, I’m guessing Burgess would be more than willing to turn back at this point. But would he turn back if the cost of completion was another $1 to $2 billion? How about $4 billion? Or how about $10 billion?
The money we’ve already spent on the tunnel is a sunk cost (in more ways than one), and as such should have no impact on our future spending decisions. What matters from here on out, given the known cost overruns and risks, is whether we’re likely to get more for our taxpayer money completing the remaining 30 percent of the project, or whether it makes more sense to to turn back and pursue a different option. Our prior expenditure of both financial and political capital should in no way influence our decision.