Head West, Turn Right

The Joint Blog of the Conservative Northwest Blogging Alliance: Red State Points of View from a Blue State Point on the Compass.

Friday, August 12, 2005

Seattle Department of Transportation – Where $800 Million is Nothing to Worry About

I listened to a luncheon speech on July 26 by Grace Crunican, Director of Seattle Department of Transportation. This speech was given at a Bellevue Rotary meeting and focused on the Alaskan Way Viaduct. Ms. Crunican was a good speaker and presented a number of interesting facts regarding regional transportation projects. She repeatedly referred to the “great” job the governor and state legislature did on passing a major transportation “funding” package. She commented often that the business community had to “get behind” the No on I-912, which would repeal the 9.5 cents gas tax increase.

While discussing the tunnel option including a great animated movie showing how traffic will move through the new tunnel, she did not present other options for the project. She discussed the problems with the sea wall, which will be replaced whether or not the viaduct is replaced and how the construction projects will impact traffic in the area. The Alaskan Way Viaduct handles 25% of the north- south traffic flow through downtown Seattle.

During the question and answer section, she was asked about funding and the cost difference between a tunnel and replacing the viaduct with a similar but updated structure. The cost for the tunnel option is $4.4 billion. The replacement project would be $3.0 billion. The current funding is $2.0 billion from the new gas tax, $500 million from the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), and $500 million from the Port. She stated that would leave $800 million of “local” funding to complete the project. How this adds up to an $800 million shortfall (it looks like $1.4 billion) is a mystery. To replace the existing viaduct as is would only be $3.0 billion for which there is current funding. But she stated the additional $800 million cost for the tunnel was not a major concern. And all these costs do not add any additional traffic capacity.

The numbers don’t add up - $800 million vs. $1.4 billion and only one option is being presented by the City of Seattle. The money is available to rebuild the viaduct and if Seattle wants a tunnel then Seattle should pay for it.


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