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Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Now She Asks … ?

posted by on January 31 at 15:23 PM

In another sign of Gov. Christine Gregoire’s political sloppiness in handling the viaduct, she just sent out a letter to WSDOT demanding that they get some answers about Nickels’s tunnel lite option.

She wants to know what the likelihood of federal approval for building variances will be; she has questions about safety precautions; she has questions about capacity; she has timeline questions. And she begins the letter by stating sternly that no evaluations have been done and this is not fair to voters.

All good questions. So, why is it sloppy?

Because all of this wouldn’t be an issue if she had stuck by her January 17 statement that tunnel lite was off the table. Unfortunately, she flip flopped on that about a week out, saying she wanted to hear from Seattle voters.

This affair is the most uncouth and embarrassing stint of governance and “leadership” (from the city council, the mayor, and the governor) that I’ve witnessed since I began covering politics in Seattle nearly 10 years ago.

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Couldn't agree more. It's a disgrace on all sides. They should do what they do on the East Coast. Just build the dang tunnel and slap a big toll on it. Those who use it, pay for it.

Posted by jforrest | January 31, 2007 3:29 PM

You got that right. Should have stuck to her guns. Especially since she already had the upper hand in being the Decider of what ends up being built on this State Highway.

Posted by Will in Seattle | January 31, 2007 3:30 PM

Oh, and it sounds like local enviro groups are leaning towards a Just Say No endorsement for either anti-enviro choices of tunnel or viaduct, since neither adds transit or encourages higher capacity per lane or has pollution tolls.

Posted by Will in Seattle | January 31, 2007 3:32 PM

Josh...I agree; this has been very poorly handled by all the pols involved on the executive level.

Posted by Timothy | January 31, 2007 3:41 PM

I'm no transportation expert, but doesn't the tunnel light option with added lane capacity and some added public transportation make the most sense? The rebuild just seems plain idiotic. I'm a Seattle guy, and if that damned viaduct gets rebuilt it is just one more reason to move to Portland for me. No politician with any vision should support the rebuild. Plane silliness. So if the tunnel light plus seems so obvious, what's the deal? Just do it.

Posted by Meinert | January 31, 2007 3:51 PM

Gregoire has sealed her doom as far as I'm concerned. If she runs for re-election in 2008, I'm voting for her GOP opponent.

Posted by Gomez | January 31, 2007 3:53 PM

Yes, very poorly handled indeed. My question is why weren't the various "lite" options given a thorough and fair consideration early on? Then we might have had some more useful options to choose among. As it is, WSDOT rejected them out of hand, early on, because they had less capacity than what's there today. Sigh... Our most important Deciders still worship at the alter of the motor vehicle, in spite of all the lip service to global warming, energy independence, etc. etc. I wish I had some confidence that they will give a fair shake to tunnel lite, but that would require a true change of heart re vehicular capacity needs. If dozens of other major cities in North America can successfully tear down their waterfront viaducts and replace them with surface boulevards, then Seattle should be able to also. How do we get there, to the People's Waterfront Coalition solution? First thing, obviously, is to Vote NO Twice on the only options available to us now.

Posted by Roger on Beacon Hill | January 31, 2007 3:59 PM

Oh, spare me your contrived outrage, Josh. "the most uncouth and embarrassing stint of governance and “leadership” (from the city council, the mayor, and the governor) that I’ve witnessed since I began covering politics in Seattle nearly 10 years ago?"

You have a short memory indeed, and a pretty skewed perspective. The "most embarrassing stint of governance and leadership" was Gary Locke's cave-in to Tim Eyman's rabid dogs after the court declared Initiative 695 unconstitutional.

"Gutless Gary" had the Legislature scrap the Motor Vehicle Excise tax, which he didn't have to do, which led directly to the present situation. If we had the revenue today that the MVET had provided, does anybody think we's be in the mess we're in?

Posted by ivan | January 31, 2007 4:03 PM

This has been my constant peeve with Seattle politics. No one has any balls to do anything.

We need some Chicago style leadership around here. I'd love to wake up and hear on the radio that they demolished the viaduct overnight.

Posted by John | January 31, 2007 4:18 PM

Weren't you the Walter Cronkite of transportation journalism just a while ago?

You're sounding now like Miss Manners: "uncouth."

Cover your mouth when you cough, dear boy.

Stick to the Monorail. That's the one subject where you are 100 percent couth.

Posted by Pot, kettle | January 31, 2007 4:19 PM

Ivan @ 8,
I'm not outraged. I'm laughing over here.

Posted by Josh Feit | January 31, 2007 4:21 PM

Yeah, laugh then. Because pretty soon people are going to get tired of your schtick.

Whatever any elected official does or does not do, there's Josh, right on schedule, telling everybody how dumb these electeds all are, because they didn't do this, or they should have done that -- all after the fact, and without a hint of context, capped with some meant-to-be-devastating judgmental statement. Just like Sharkansky.

One Sharkansky in this town is already one too many, and soon they will all ignore you like they ignore him, and so will the readers.

Posted by ivan | January 31, 2007 5:03 PM

@ 12,

And will you start ignoring me too, Ivan? I'd be just devastated.

Posted by Josh Feit | January 31, 2007 5:09 PM

What I can't figure out is how long these politicians -- all Democrats I sadly note -- are going to continue to torture themselves, torture us and make their Party look stupid.

When will they give up and do the obvious: Repair the damned thing.

You know that's where this will end. There simply is no other scenario which is plausible.

In fact, Josh, I haven't heard you playing out plausible scenarios from where we are now. What do you think will actually happen --not what you hope will happen.

Why don't you oer us some trajectories which avoid the absurd -- e.g. the Tunnel's new price is $1.5 billion -- and which have widespread political appeal -- which eliminates the immediate adoption of the Surface option.

So? Game away.

Posted by David Sucher | January 31, 2007 5:37 PM

I feel bad now for badmouthing Peter Sherwin the other day because I think he has the most sensible proposal -- and the most likely scenario -- out there. Repair the viaduct just enough to make it last, say, 10 more years, or just long enough to phase in the surface+transit improvements. And only then tear it down.

Really, the Sherwin proposal is to the People's Waterfront Coalition proposal as a Barack Obama phased withdrawal from Iraq is to John Murtha's "get our boys out now." It's a more moderated means to the same end. And it's the kind of thing that nobody's really been talking about, but when the smoke clears, it's what'll be left standing. (Well, perhaps "left standing" isn't the best choice of phrase here.)

Posted by cressona | January 31, 2007 7:16 PM

Yes that's the Sherwin proposal but even more importantly it is the Steinbrueck proposal now too:

Posted by david Sucher | January 31, 2007 7:27 PM

And I still favor a cable stayed bridge into Elliott Bay which reconnects Seattle to Ivars fish bar; opens up the waterfront to housing, additional business and transit and addresses the state's capacity issue. Too bad Sherwin, Steinbrueck and posters to this thread have a myopic interest in
its benefit or are challenged by the technology.

Posted by Princess Caroline | January 31, 2007 7:51 PM

At this point, only a high-magnitude earthquake which collapses the structure will spur any action. Maybe. And that's just goddamn pathetic.

Posted by laterite | January 31, 2007 8:18 PM

Laterite, FWIW, the 520 bridge is more likely to fail long before the Viaduct would be projected to collaspe in a major earthquake. Just ask the experts: WSDOT.

Posted by Princess Caroline | January 31, 2007 8:32 PM

You may be correct on that count. Yet another critical project locked in endless inaction.

Posted by laterite | January 31, 2007 9:01 PM

@5 - from an enviro view, neither the tunnel-lite nor the elevated viaduct rebuild are a wise use of state highway funds. Neither adds capacity, neither adds HOV lanes, neither has a requirement in law for tolls that promote HOV usage and discourage SOV, and both take away funding that could be used to do that.

However, as someone may have pointed out, on a practical level I'm voting for the Elevated Viaduct rebuild. But that's not the environmental way of looking at it.

Now, if they had put the Surface Plus Transit on the ballot, that would have easily been endorsed. There might have even been an endorsement for the No Build (Tear Down) option.

Posted by Will in Seattle | January 31, 2007 9:50 PM

Sloppiness by the Governor? That is complete BS! The Seattle city council and mayor have been extremely sloppy, belligerent, and generally idiotic - IMO the Governor is just working with what she was given.

Posted by tom | January 31, 2007 10:59 PM

I don't get it. How is this the most embarrassing stint out there? Because she "wanted to hear from Seattle voters."? I agree that it's not organized, it's sloppy as hell and all that, but for christ sakes, this isn't a fucking war we're declaring, it's rebuilding the viaduct. Having an answer before Jan. 13th at 3:20pm is not a must.

Posted by cliff rancho | February 1, 2007 8:42 AM

The problem is that the vote isn't at all binding, making them free to ignore the results of the vote, and both the state and the city have decided what they want.

The governor was elected to be a GOVERNOR, a leader! Gregoire, in showing absolutely no initiative and not taking charge, has absolutely failed her duty.

Posted by Gomez | February 1, 2007 9:07 AM

Meinert, you're common-sense compromise plan wil never be accepted by a bunch of ideologies with no basis in economic reality.

God forbid we actually preserve the throuhg-corridor for trucks from Ballard and Interbay to get through the city.

The same people here who lament the loss of character on Pike Pine apparently don't give a rip about blue collar jobs in Ballard.

The same people who gush about the need for urban density and livability don't care that a large portion of Viaduct trips will end up on the street grid (transit improvements or no - just ask KC Metro planners yourself) making life a little less livable in Belltown.

Build a smaller tunnel to preserve a through corridor. Toll it to charge users. Get transit improvements for displaced, non-through trips. enact the central waterfront plan.

Posted by flotown | February 1, 2007 9:39 AM

Don't tear up the central waterfront for years and decimate the business
entitites and jobs you are promoting,
Flotown. You, the mayor and the city
council need to realize these can be protected by building a cable stayed bridge and dismantling the Viaduct. It will address capacity; open up the city to the waterfront; add housing and businesses; provide room for transit, and do it at a reasonable cost and at minimal displacement.

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