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Thursday, June 22, 2006

Also Re: Tunnel Tax

Posted by on June 22 at 10:25 AM

First of all, it’s just a tax on property owners. Business owners who lease (the same ones who’ll almost certainly go out of business while the waterfront is torn up for nearly a decade) get no say. Josh is right: They should be getting assistance from the city, just like business owners along the light rail line, which is tearing up the Rainier Valley for a much shorter period of time.

Second, when will this $250 million materialize? Not during construction: Property values are expected to plummet while the waterfront is inaccessible, and the city’s own viaduct planning documents indicate the city expects many businesses to relocate permanently or shut down. Moreover, the LID along the South Lake Union streetcar route is only expected to raise $25 million—Nickels’s tunnel tax implausibly envisions revenues ten times as high.

The bottom line is, Nickels and his fellow tunnel zealots don’t have the money to build the $4-billion-plus Alaskan Way tunnel. Currently, they’re $2 billion short—and that’s before the inevitable cost overruns. This plan, even if it works (and there are good reasons to think it won’t) won’t get them there.

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OK, not only is it a property tax, but it's also a tax on renters, because if you rent or lease downtown, you don't get to vote, but you can be darned sure the building owners will pass on the tax to you. For a tunnel you literally won't be able to use (no downtown exits, remember?).

Second, you get to listen to all the carp about a view skyline, and get suckered into believing it, but everything we've EVER seen about waterfront development says that all the buildings in front of you will be literally torn down and rebuilt as tall as possible - don't believe me? go to Vancouver BC, NoLa, SF, SD, etc. Yup, giant tall hotel buildings built where they promised there would be a view. So, not only won't you get a view for your fancy leased condo downtown, you'll get the noise and view obstruction from the construction of the replacement buildings.

Third, they'll borrow the money, at a time that interest rates (and loan rates) are increasing. Which means, when you add in the COST OF BORROWING, this will cost TEN TIMES the cost of the monorail - and only SEATTLE citizens will pay it. No state money past the totally paid for replacement of the elevated viaduct - even the Port, the City, the County, and the State all agree on this point. And no fed dollars - Bush hates us.

In other words, it won't be the usual 30 percent city tax deal, it will be 100 percent city taxes.

I'm sure the city will find a way to exempt the property developers that line their pockets with campaign cash. They have before.

Look, I used to rent at the Harbor Steps, with an 8th floor view right over the top of the viaduct - and if they had come to me and asked if, as a renter, I'd be willing to pay a yearly tax not only to have that sucker torn down - but to have no 6-lane surface boulevard put in its place either - I'd willingly have coughed up 10% on top on my rent for that - maybe more.

Also when I lived at the Steps, I rarely if ever used the Viaduct - why would I use something I abhored?

I preferred surface streets myself.

As for the poor business owners, well - we're talking about a district that's even worse than SF's Fisherman's Wharf area in terms of kitsch.

I tried eating at the Salmon Cooker a few times - until I found out they used farmed salmon, not local wild salmon.

Let them take their tourist traps somewhere else.

I heard they have 3.1 billion in anticipated funds. And, the 'no highway' alternative (which has very little public support based on the latest Elway Poll) still costs a ton of money as do all the other options.

Bottom line at this point is if you want a beautiful waterfront for Seattle you will become a tunnel zealot too. If you want a rebuilt bigger highway on the Waterfront you will support any of the other options on the table.

I want my tunnel AND my waterfront promenade and I am willing to find good ways to pay for it.

Good call, Will.

BTW - if you really believe getting rid of an elevated Viaduct will result in a bunch of new open space, I've got a bridge across Lake Washington to sell you...

Right on, Tunnel of Love.

As I've said before, you surface boulevard proponents are playing a dangerous game, since as the Elway poll showed, you've got very little support.

Nickels is just looking for ways to pay the difference so rebuild/repair zealots like Will and X don't shove another Viaduct down our throats.

He deserves some support for that.

Once a sound financial plan for the tunnel is in place that can silence detractors (yeah, right...well, convince the skeptical anyway), that's the time to make your case for the surface option - not because of limited funds, but because it's the best one.

Now that I no longer live at the Steps, and also (as I did even then) consider the Viaduct unnecessary - better to improve I5 and build out some east/west links to that for Ballard and the southwest - I too support a surface option - but not a six lane one carrying viaduct traffic.

Maybe two lanes, and no through traffic - that's what I'd like to see.

But unlike you Stanger people - I'm also realistic.

The whole question of the AVW HAS to include a discussion of the seawall, too. The waterfront has to be dug up anyway to replace the seawall. That cost will be in addition to the cost of replacing the viaduct. The businesses are going to suffer the effects of having the waterfront dug up no matter WHAT we do with the AVW. The ONLY sensible thing to do is to bite the financial bullet and build the tunnel at the same time. Among other things, tunnels are actually MORE seismically safe than an elevated structure - it seems counterintuitive, but it's true; it's the harmonic sway that buckles supports and abutments.

Seattle being Seattle, though, the cheap-ass passive-aggressive world capital of engineering by commmittee, we will sit in complete paralysis because we cannot reach consensus, until either Mother Nature takes the AVW down for us (have you ever SEEN the pictures of the damaged supports after the Nisqually Quake?!) or until we throw up the most cheap-skate, short-sighted, ugly POS replacement we can possibly come up with. God forbid anyone anywhere should not love whatever the solution is, so since we have no actual political leadership, we'll all just sit on our asses hoping the problem just somehow goes away.

With reasonable debt service, not the $11 billion debacle the Monorail Board proposed, the monorail would have cost $4 billion. Will, are you trying to suggest that the tunnel will cost $40 billion? Please tone down the hyperbole. It detracts from your other, more reasonable points.

I agree with Dan, Josh, and Erica here. Our top priority in this whole viaduct replacement debate should not be what to replace the viaduct with, but rather to prove the following points:

  • Greg Nickels is an idiot.
  • Greg Nickels is a hypocrite.
  • Greg Nickels has an unnaturally oversized head. (Literally. I mean, it's like a beach ball.)

Sure, in the process, we'll be left with an expanded elevated highway along the downtown waterfront that will cement our dependence on the automobile for the next 100 years and make us a laughingstock in places like SF, NY, Chicago, Portland, Canada, and Europe. But compare that small downside with the enormous gratification and vindication that comes with proving a point should be overwhelmingly obvious already.


As I understand it, the tunnel wouldn't duplicate the seawall's function south of where the structure touches down now - it jogs east of the shoreline at that point, and the wall is a good deal away from the road route (it mostly only duplicates the proposed tunnel route from about S. Main to about Seneca or so - which is part of how Nickels and Co. removed the northern portion of the seawall from the project in an attempt to lowball the actual cost for the "core project".)

And we should point out if they build the tunnel, they're also going to build a 6-lane surface street for the trucks and surface traffic, so it's not like a tunnel makes it go away.

Will in Seattle wrote: "And we should point out if they build the tunnel, they're also going to build a 6-lane surface street for the trucks and surface traffic, so it's not like a tunnel makes it go away."

I thought the current plan was four lanes surface for six lanes tunnel, and the City Council was looking at six lanes surface for four lanes tunnel. (I wish they would look at four and four.)

Cressona -- I just checked the WSDOT page and you are right -- the preferred alt. is 6 lanes tunnel, 4 lanes surface. I also think 4/4 is a interesting idea.

At a time when gas is at $3+ per gallon, and looking like it will stay that way (and our gas is half the price it is in Europe and Asia); and everyone is agog over Al Gore's movie, An Inconvenient Truth; and we are involved in a war that is at least partly related to oil; and our mayor is gloating about implementing the Kyoto accord locally even if Bush won't have anything to do with it; why, why are we looking to spend billions of dollars to enable MORE cars to get around more easily?

We SHOULD be making it more difficult to get around in cars. The monorail plan is sunk, but rather than spending billions on a car tunnel for more cars, we should be finding a better way to move more people by mass transit. If the monorail isn't it, then more light rail or whatever. We should be spending the money on mass transit, not enabling more cars.

New Urbanism... you lack, or ignore, the perspective of the tens of thousands who use that viaduct each way, who come from West Seattle, the south side, the north side et al.

I know what comes in response: "They're wasteful SUV driving... (stereotype stereotype stereotype) and you're a fundie, etc."...or, "Gomez, you're ignorant, you don't know what you're talking about... (insert vague, baseless character assaination in lieu of valid argument)...."

Again, this issue is not just about you and what you want, and this goes for everyone else who wants the Beautiful Seattle Option because they hate cars, and think tearing down the viaduct will either solve everything or teach those car driving interlopers a lesson. There are other people in this city besides you, who have needs that are different than yours. I welcome you to look these people in the eye face to face and tell them their needs don't matter as much as your wishes.

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