State and city leaders met for hours yesterday to decide the fate of the Alaska Way Viaduct, but couldn’t come to a decision. That’s pretty much because city leaders refuse to accept the rebuild option, and state leaders refuse to pay for anything but that. But as recalcitrant as the participants were, one new idea did emerge from the meeting:
The joint statement says there are two options, build an elevated replacement or, “Reprogram funding to the 520 replacement project.”
I think this was supposed to be a threat or something, the implication being that the city risks losing $2.2 billion in state funds if we don’t budge on a rebuild. But if the governor does repurpose the Viaduct money towards the 520 bridge, it could actually end up saving local taxpayers a ton of money.
Stick with me on this one.
The region needs to replace both the Viaduct and the 520 bridge, but the total amount of money thus far committed by the state towards construction of the two projects combined is less than the projected cost of the 520 bridge alone. Who makes up the difference? Local residents, via various city, county, port and RTID taxes. And possibly tolls.
If the governor forces through a rebuild, not only would Seattle get a double-decker freeway it doesn’t want, but we’d be forced to tax ourselves to pay the difference between the state share and the total cost. Talk about adding insult to injury. And then we’d also have to tax ourselves to make up the difference between the cost of a new 520 bridge and the state share of the project.
But… if Governor Gregoire were to repurpose the state’s Viaduct commitment towards the 520 bridge, local taxpayers would pay much less for their share of that project. And then freed from the strings that come with state money, Seattle could choose a surface-plus-transit alternative that costs much less money than a Viaduct rebuild.
Think about it. The state share of the cost of the two projects remains the same, but the combined cost is substantially slashed. This saves local taxpayers money.
As far as I’m concerned, this might be the perfect political compromise. The state refuses to pay for any Viaduct replacement that reduces capacity. Fine. Don’t. We’ll use our own money to tear it down and do what we want with it. It is our city afterall. But as long as the state keeps the money in the region, local taxpayers don’t actually lose a dime. Indeed, by choosing a less expensive surface alternative, we actually save money.
Sounds to me like a win-win situation.