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Monday, May 12, 2014

HAHAHAHA! Who Convinced Us the Deep-Bore Tunnel Was Only Way to "Move Forward"?

Posted by on Mon, May 12, 2014 at 2:34 PM

The tunnel boring machine is stuck. It's going to be stuck until next year—or longer. But let's recall that Orwellian marketing geniuses actually sold the $4.2 billion megaproject to voters as a way of getting unstuck. They claimed the machine—the machine that is now completely immobilized—was the way to "move forward." Here's the pro-tunnel campaign's 2011 commercial:

It's a fabulous ad. The 30-second spot, by a campaign called Let's Move Forward, argued that a tunnel would be the fastest way to replace the dangerous viaduct. In fact, the tunnel was the slowest viaduct replacement and, as predicted, the technical obstacles and delays will leave the viaduct standing even longer.

So who was selling the snake oil?

Not just Mayor Ed Murray, who sponsored the state's legislation to dig a tunnel while he was in the senate, and not just Seattle City Council member Tom Rasmussen, who sponsored the city legislation to sign contracts. Not just former mayor Greg Nickels, former governor Chris Gregoire, or former county exec Ron Sims. And not just political hacks Christian Sinderman, Alex Fryer, and Dan Nolte running the campaign (thanks, guys). Sure, they're all to blame.

But flashback—let's never forget: The folks bankrolling the Let's Move Forward campaign were also THE TWO COMPANIES BUILDING THE TUNNEL.

Seattle Ethics and Elections Commission records show that at $25,000 a piece, two of the top donors to Let's Move Forward were Tutor Perini and Dragados USA, who teamed up to form Seattle Tunneling Partners. Seattle Tunneling Partners had been awarded a $1.1 billion state contract to dig the tunnel.

Who are these companies? Dragados was part of a $7.5 million fraud settlement on a New York tunnel contract and Tutor Perini is famously litigious about forcing local government to pay them more money. And now? There are cost overruns. The state says it won't pay and the Seattle Tunneling Partners says it won't pay—so we're stuck again.

You can't make this up. It's the political equivalent of a snake eating its own tail. And a snake can't actually eat its own tail. Eventually it just gets stuck.


Comments (47) RSS

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fletc3her 1
Just noticing this now?
Posted by fletc3her on May 12, 2014 at 2:46 PM · Report this
The tunnel is the biggest con job pulled on this city in a really long time.
Posted by junipero on May 12, 2014 at 2:49 PM · Report this
Eric Arrr 3
Former Mayor, did you say? Surely you don't intend for readers to think you meant McGinn?
Posted by Eric Arrr on May 12, 2014 at 2:56 PM · Report this
Dominic Holden 4
@1) No.

@3) Good ol' Mister Nickels.
Posted by Dominic Holden on May 12, 2014 at 2:58 PM · Report this
MrBaker 5
If the Stranger gets its wish then you could get a new viaduct.
Posted by MrBaker on May 12, 2014 at 2:58 PM · Report this
It's been said time and time again. Cut the losses and retrofit the viaduct.
Posted by ortolan on May 12, 2014 at 3:01 PM · Report this
Hawke 7
#3 McGinn has been solidly against the tunnel. Seattle has more than one former mayor.
Posted by Hawke on May 12, 2014 at 3:01 PM · Report this
Dom must be really sad that McGinn wasn't able to stop the tunnel, despite giving his guarantee (and Dom reporting it).…
"If I am mayor, I guarantee you, they are not going to build that tunnel through town," he told the Spitfire crowd.

It's a wise tack, considering polling conducted by his campaign in late May shows that McGinn jumps from fourth place to a commanding lead when voters are told the tunnel's cost overruns could fall on the city and that McGinn is the only mayoral candidate who opposes it. "I could be like the other candidates and claim that I am for walking and biking and transit and public safety and social services and for spending billions on a tunnel," says McGinn. "But they are not being realistic with the people. You cannot be for all of those things simultaneously, because we don't have the resources to pour $930 million into a tunnel and work on our other priorities."
Posted by ChefJoe on May 12, 2014 at 3:10 PM · Report this
Thanks for staying on this Dominic. Seattle needs you.
Posted by Beyond Disgusted on May 12, 2014 at 3:12 PM · Report this
@7, you mean like how kids oppose brussels sprouts but you still make them eat them ?…
Mayoral candidate Mike McGinn announced this afternoon he would no longer fight a tunnel replacement for the Alaskan Way Viaduct shortly after the city council's unanimous vote to approve a preliminary tunnel plan.
Posted by ChefJoe on May 12, 2014 at 3:13 PM · Report this
MrBaker 11
@9, well, the Stranger didn't need two Goldies.
Posted by MrBaker on May 12, 2014 at 3:19 PM · Report this
Pope Peabrain 12
This city cracks me up. Corruption FTW.
Posted by Pope Peabrain on May 12, 2014 at 3:21 PM · Report this

When is this town going to stop touting Sinderman as a big POOH BAH. HIs actions cause us harm.
Posted by Hired Hacks on May 12, 2014 at 3:26 PM · Report this
seatackled 14

One might wonder what's wrong with you if you aren't sad that McGinn didn't stop it. But there are so many reasons to wonder what's wrong with you that one might as well not bother.
Posted by seatackled on May 12, 2014 at 3:29 PM · Report this
One needs to follow the money. I'm sure multiple palms were greased (or campaigns financed) to get enough of the political establishment on board to ram this monstrosity through. And I doubt it was just the two main companies involved in digging the tunnel that did the political dirty work - a 1.1 billion dollar contract makes for a lot of rain. Here's hoping tunnel financing gets so completely tied up in courts that all work on the project stops for years and years and the city, because it has no alternative, just tears down the viaduct and implements the surface option.
Posted by screed on May 12, 2014 at 3:30 PM · Report this
fletc3her 16
What I would really like to see is the current viaduct come down starting now. We shouldn't wait until the tunnel is complete for the rest of the project to move forward. During the delay we could make a lot of progress on the aspects of the project.

I'm of the opinion that the tunnel is going to be useful, but tearing down the viaduct would provide the perfect case study of how bad things are without the secondary access controlled north/south route through Seattle.
Posted by fletc3her on May 12, 2014 at 3:36 PM · Report this
@10 What are you whining about? You got your tunnel, and your candidate is in the mayoral seat, too.
Posted by cracked on May 12, 2014 at 3:39 PM · Report this
monkey 18
Two things I can't be held responsible for as a voter:
1. The tunnel.
2. Mayor Ed Murray.

I wish that made me feel better.
Posted by monkey on May 12, 2014 at 3:39 PM · Report this
@18, no, unfortunately we're going to feel worse as time goes on. 3.5 more years of Murray and probably at least that amount of time watching the tunnel fiasco.
Posted by sarah70 on May 12, 2014 at 3:46 PM · Report this
@19, that's how I felt when I started paying MVETs for a monorail that wasn't even budgeted.
Posted by ChefJoe on May 12, 2014 at 3:54 PM · Report this
I think sarah70 @19 is correct. I think I'm just going to feel incrementally worse for the next 3.5 yrs. Ugh.
Posted by gnossos on May 12, 2014 at 3:54 PM · Report this
MrBaker 22
The McGinn fantasy will never happen because the legislature was not and will not gift money to Seattle for enough transit to make that work (see plan B, C, E, and D).

And it's a state highway.

It was either a tunnel under of some sort, or a new viaduct over replacement.
If you still prefer neither and floated the possibility of the "surface option" as some kind of viable alternative then you must have missed the past 3 years of activity in Olympia.
Even McGinn expressly mentioned his preference less and less, unless forced to say it, as his opposition dragged on.
Opposition to any one thing was/is more popular than supporting any one thing.

This, too, is an appropriate time for anybody opposed to that half-assed Surface Option to point toward Olympia and say "I told you so, and I told you why"

I have no idea what people are going to complain about when the tunnel is done, but I know they will find something, they always do.
Posted by MrBaker on May 12, 2014 at 3:55 PM · Report this
treacle 23
Goddammit. I swear I'm going to fire all these idiots who are responsible for the Tunnel-Boondoggle. FIRED, I TELL YOU!!

I mean, seriously, in the middle of a recession, when civic money is tight and going to be so for several years, we still decide to dig the largest-bore and technically very tricky tunnel through the middle of our downtown core... Brilliant. Just brilliant.

Smart move, Gregoire et. al. Smart fucking move.

You are fired.
Posted by treacle on May 12, 2014 at 3:57 PM · Report this
treacle 24
@22, Obviously they will complain that it took 2x as long as it should have, and cost 3x as much as predicted. Causing a 2x reduction in funding for, oh I don't know, effective city-wide mass transit that would reduce traffic on all involved roads...
Posted by treacle on May 12, 2014 at 4:07 PM · Report this
Will in Seattle 25
I could take it down in 24 hours.

And then all those not digging the tunnel could remove the existing Viaduct rubble.
Posted by Will in Seattle on May 12, 2014 at 4:14 PM · Report this
MrBaker 26
@24, you are fired.
Posted by MrBaker on May 12, 2014 at 4:20 PM · Report this
And how about those 100 or more pro-tunnel posts that used to appear in the Publicola comments threads every night.

Any idea where those came from? Some of us argued them, others gave way.

That's ok.

Posted by Supreme Ruler Of The Universe http://_ on May 12, 2014 at 4:24 PM · Report this
Another Tutor Perini project in the news:…
Posted by lambarch on May 12, 2014 at 4:30 PM · Report this
sperifera 29
For each billion in overruns that the City of Seattle ends up picking up (cuz you KNOW some is going to get passed off to the city eventually) that works out to $1,675 per resident. $6700 for a family of four.

Could this project run a billion dollars over budget? Who could possibly foresee such a thing?

Kill. It. Now.
Posted by sperifera on May 12, 2014 at 5:42 PM · Report this
Sure is a good thing the state only required $500 million in bonds on a $1.2 billion tunnel. We can scrap it all and afford to do 42% (or less) all over again.
Posted by ChefJoe on May 12, 2014 at 6:02 PM · Report this

Thx for the link.
Must read but not right before bed time (unless you like horror stories.)
Posted by Not my real name or yours on May 12, 2014 at 6:04 PM · Report this
Sean Kinney 32
Tunnels are cool. Cars go into a hole and then BAM!: out the other side.
Posted by Sean Kinney http:// on May 12, 2014 at 8:01 PM · Report this
Maybe someone should take a peek at the contract and see if it contains any nonperformance clause. If so, cancel the contract and sue for the money already spent.

Either bid out fixing this mess to someone conscientious and competent, or wall it in so someone could lead guided tours of the abandoned dig in 100 years.…
Posted by Brooklyn Reader on May 12, 2014 at 8:01 PM · Report this
@8 for at least the next 2 years McGinn will be right. He was Mayor, and the tunnel has not been built!
Posted by pat L on May 12, 2014 at 8:34 PM · Report this
@16: State highway, asshole.
Posted by And I'm cruuuuuisin' on it on May 12, 2014 at 9:04 PM · Report this
The 'Surface Street Option' is no option. It's a fucking joke. Exhibit 'A' would be the total apocalyptic gridlock in this town when the Viaduct was closed after the Nisqually Quake.

Although that just might create The Stranger's bicycle utopia they've always pined for.
Posted by CPN on May 12, 2014 at 9:05 PM · Report this
ragold 37
They all met and planned this in the Ivar's owner's living room.
Posted by ragold on May 12, 2014 at 9:44 PM · Report this
The old rail tunnel under Seattle was dug by hand in less than a year. Probably cost less than a billion dollars too - even adjusted for inflation. But who wants to create jobs when capitalists can profit?
Posted by Upchuck on May 12, 2014 at 9:46 PM · Report this
All the snake oil in the world will not get this snake unstuck. Can't we declare a "do-over" before we throw any more money down this hole?
Posted by lanscot on May 13, 2014 at 1:22 AM · Report this
@38, it took longer than a year
Posted by ChefJoe on May 13, 2014 at 7:26 AM · Report this
Cascadian 41
@38 and 40. According to…, construction of the Great Northern Tunnel took over 20 months. April 1903 to December 2004. And the tunnel wasn't open for service until May 1906. So over *three years* from first shovel to first service.
Posted by Cascadian on May 13, 2014 at 11:34 AM · Report this
We call this Great Reportage, Mr. H.!
Posted by sgt_doom on May 13, 2014 at 4:47 PM · Report this
TCLballardwallymont 43
@36 "Exhibit 'A' would be the total apocalyptic gridlock in this town when the Viaduct was closed after the Nisqually Quake."

I don't remember it being like that. I do remember the "Viadoom" predictors being proved wrong when it didn't happen.
Posted by TCLballardwallymont on May 13, 2014 at 5:37 PM · Report this
8Way 44
@38, According to… The rail tunnel cost $1.5 million. I can't find an inflation calculator that goes back to 1904, but from 1913 to today, that is about $36 million. Lets be generous and say $50 million. The current tunnel at 4.25 billion is approx 85x the cost of the rail tunnel.
Posted by 8Way on May 13, 2014 at 9:58 PM · Report this

Your memory sucks.
Posted by CPN on May 14, 2014 at 12:49 AM · Report this
I stand corrected. Still saved a lot of dough and created a lot more jobs though... Rather than letting industry and capital horde all the profits. I doubt this tunnel will be done in 20 months or open in 3 years.
Posted by Upchuck on May 14, 2014 at 4:53 PM · Report this
There is the rumor that the tunnel machine is not broken at all. In fact, it's being used to drill a side passage to the Coleman dock. This will provide the Navy with a much needed submarine port, ready for quick deployment against the unpredictable Vancouver government. Just a coincidence that it takes exactly 15 months to drill to the bay and return?
Posted by jcgmich29 on May 27, 2014 at 8:54 PM · Report this

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