Politics Local Control
posted by December 28 at 11:30 AMon
City Council Member Jan Drago, chair of the council’s transportation committee, sent out a letter on the viaduct today. She dismisses the Governor’s call for a public vote between the elevated rebuild and the tunnel and reiterates her support for the tunnel.
Last September, the City Council vetoed the elevated rebuild option by voting 7-1 in favor of the tunnel—with the boulevard/transit option as the city’s back-up plan.
Here’s Drago’s letter.
December 28, 2006
I want to thank you for contacting my office regarding the Alaskan Way Viaduct and Seawall Project. We have received hundreds of e-mails, letters and phone calls representing every point of view on this issue and stirring incredible debates. I truly appreciate everyone who took the time to contact me. I would like to quickly review the progress of the project and update you on where things currently stand.
There is no disagreement that the viaduct needs to be replaced. The question is how and with what option. Since 2001, the City has been working with the Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) to determine what alternative should be selected to replace the aging and deteriorating viaduct. After many briefings, meetings, and long discussions, the Council voted in January of 2005 to select a tunnel alternative as the preferred alternative.
During the 2006 Legislative Session, the Legislature did two things regarding the Viaduct project:
it directed the governor to convene an expert review panel to look at the feasibility of the financing and implementation plans, and it delegated authority to the City legislative body (City Council) either to adopt by ordinance a preferred alternative for the Alaskan Way Viaduct or to place the selection on an advisory ballot to the voters of the City of Seattle.
On September 1, 2006 the Expert Review Panel (ERP) released its report which stated that the finances were sound and reasonable for the cut-and-cover tunnel. The ERP accepted the project’s funding assumptions as reasonable and stated there were no fatal flaws in the cost estimate. Following the release of ERP’s report the Council voted to select a tunnel as the preferred alternative. We also noted that if it is determined that a tunnel is not feasible, then we would begin to look at a surface + transit option. This decision was forwarded on to the Governor for her review and final decision.
On Friday December 15, the Governor released findings on both the Alaskan Way Viaduct and SR 520 projects. She stated in opposition to her Expert Review Panel that the finance plan for a Tunnel Alternative was not feasible and sufficient. The Governor stated her preference for a “cut and coverâ€ť tunnel as she shares the belief that there is a value to the community and environment. She also believes that an elevated structure has problems of its own.
Instead of making a final decision the Governor is sending the issue back to the citizens of Seattle asking them to select an alternative through an advisory ballot measure. The Governor would like this vote to occur in the spring of 2007.
I was surprised and disappointed by the Governor’s decision. It is one thing if the advisory vote is clear and decisive, however a close vote on a complicated issue may create more problems than it solves. Advisory ballot votes on the monorail project did not determine its fate. The project was canceled after four votes endorsing it. In addition, holding a special election by spring as requested by the Governor will cost Seattle taxpayers roughly $1 million.
My position has not changed. I believe that we have the ability to move forward with a tunnel plan at this time. We have heard from the Expert Review Panel that the financing plan is feasible and that delay is not our friend. We need to move forward with a tunnel alternative.
The Council is preparing to move forward. A decision to hold a special election in March must be made no later than January 19, 2007.
I appreciate your active interest in this project and look forward to hearing your thoughts as we proceed.
Jan Drago, Chair
Seattle City Council
Footnote: It’s true that at her December 15 press conference, Gov. Gregoire expressed her preference for the cut and cover tunnel. Although she endorsed the tunnel with a hefty caveat: “This would be an easy decision for me if cost was not a factor…” She goes on to say the tunnel option is consistent with the city’s goals, but then adds: “But cost is a factor I have to consider…The finance plan for the tunnel as described in the Draft Environmental Impact Statement is not feasible and sufficient to complete the project.” In the same statement, Gregoire described the elevated rebuild option as “feasible and sufficient.” Gregoire took the surface option and the retrofit off the table.
So, Gregoire wants a vote between two options: An imaginary one and the elevated rebuild.
Given that a vote between an imaginary option and a feasible option seems like a rigged vote, I think Drago’s acid letter is a laudable response to Gregoire… as in: “Yeah, thanks Chris, we’ll take that into consideration.”