News House Speaker Frank Chopp Open to Boulevard/Transit Option
posted by December 7 at 15:33 PMon
I did a long interview with House Speaker Frank Chopp (D-43, Capitol Hill, U-District, Wallingford) today at the Tully’s on 45th and Meridian in Wallingford.
I’ll post a longer report about the interview after I get a chance to review the tape, but I want to report this tidbit right away: He’s against the current rebuild and open to the People’s Waterfront Coalition transit boulevard option.
Here’s what he said when I asked him if he was actually for the rebuild or just against the tunnel. “We can’t afford the tunnel,” he began, scoffing at the current estimate of between $3.6 to $5.5 billion, putting it at $6 billion at least. Then he took out a black pen and proceeded to draw a sketch of what he referred to, with a tone of frustration, as “the three alternatives people are aware of now.” He drew: the tunnel, the retrofit, and, in his words: “the ugly elevated thing.”
It was news to me that he was against the current rebuild option.
I reminded him that the retrofit was ruled out this week, and so he drew a big X through it, and said that leaves the tunnel, which he opposes, and the rebuild. He drew Xs through those two options as well: “I don’t like either one of those,” he said, calling the current rebuild proposal: “ugly, noisy, uninventive, stupid, you name it,” He also boasted about his “focus to kill the tunnel.” So in Chopp’s opinion, all the official options up for review are DOA.
Then Chopp surprised me again: “That leaves two alternatives that I’m very open to.” He started sketching again, drawing two options he felt hadn’t been given a fair hearing. “One is the surface transit option,” he said. “I’m okay with this if it’ll work.”
By “work” I asked him if that meant “maintain capacity”… and he said simply: “I don’t know if the surface transit option is good or bad, but I’m open about it. If that’s what we end up with, I’m happy.”
He also said we should look at a different redesign for the elevated option, although he didn’t give me specifics. “It’s great urban design!” he said cryptically. (I didn’t want to indulge him on that one, so I didn’t push for details. I’ve heard rumors that it’s a bizarre, expensive, three-tier design with an elevated park.)
Finally, re-emphasizing that we don’t have the money for the tunnel, he said: “If we don’t do the tunnel and we do one of these two other alternatives—the better elevated or the surface option, and I’m open to either one, then you have the money to pay for that.”