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Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Breaking: Tunnel Revived by Drago and Discovery Institute!

posted by on March 14 at 17:58 PM

Well, its (non-wingnutty) transportation arm, anyway. City Council member Jan Drago is co-hosting a meeting titled “Breaking the Log Jam: Advanced Tunnel Technology and New Financing Options for the Alaskan Way Viaduct” with Bruce Agnew of the Discovery Institute’s Cascadia Foundation next Friday, March 30, at City Hall. On the agenda: A brief update on surface/transit options by city transportation department head Grace Crunican, followed by a lengthy lecture on deep-bore tunnel technology, an option that has some salivating now that both the new viaduct and the cut-and-cover tunnel have been rejected. Deep-bore tunnels are carved by machines with mouths that can be as large as football fields; a deep-bore tunnel was considered and rejected for the waterfront several years ago. The seminar will also look into public-private partnership options for financing whatever replaces the viaduct. Public-private partnerships have alarmed government watchdogs because of the potential for huge profits for private companies (from tolls, for example) with little or no benefit to taxpayers.

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Yup, this is "all the vogue" these days...

See here:
Why you could soon be paying Wall Street investors, Australian bankers, and Spanish builders for the privilege of driving on American roads.

Posted by LH | March 14, 2007 6:12 PM

Oooo I think I've got an erection. This is self paying, once we see pictures of this proposed project the birth rate will skyrocket and create a new set of taxpayers!

Not if I'm paying Austrailian bankers ... but maybe...

Posted by alto | March 14, 2007 6:17 PM

Given the surveys that showed many drivers would change their plans rather than pay a toll, I can't see too many private financiers stepping up to the plate for $12 billion.

Posted by Some Jerk | March 14, 2007 6:22 PM

cretinism meets bechtel, new technology, and ripping off the public.

time for jan to go?


Posted by seabos84 | March 14, 2007 6:27 PM

Interesting, isn't making people change their plans the whole point of the surface alt? I'd like to know if the survey said anything about what routes other than the tunnel they might take, I doubt they'd be feasable.

Posted by alto | March 14, 2007 6:27 PM

Some Jerk - please do read the article - the investors don't care, cuz if the $$ doesn't pan out, the public is still on the hook for the debt. it's bad stuff i tell ya...

Posted by LH | March 14, 2007 6:27 PM

"machines with mouths that can be as large as football fields;"

Would these be the ones that have the 50 yard line in the middle? ECB could you give a link to information on these machines?

Posted by Sherwin | March 14, 2007 6:29 PM

So is this presentation based on intelligent design? The ideological orientation of the tunnel people becomes more clear...

Posted by georgetown stew | March 14, 2007 7:11 PM

Oddly temperate posting here by Erica C.

Cat got your tongue?

Where's the outrage over the transportation chair pushing an idea rejected by 70 percent of the voters?

Can't blame this on the mayor, sweetie.

Posted by "Where's the outrage" | March 14, 2007 7:20 PM

#9 Does have a point.

Where's the sound and the fury from our fearless posters? Too much free wine offered by Viet?

Posted by Mrs. Harlan Edwards | March 14, 2007 7:26 PM

Let's hope the excavation uncovers a trove of transitional fossils.

Posted by rodrigo | March 14, 2007 7:38 PM

"Non-wingnutty transportation arm"? Says who? Done any investigating of the DI's funding, ECB?

Posted by rodrigo | March 14, 2007 7:42 PM

LH: Yup, this is "all the vogue" these days...

See here:
Why you could soon be paying Wall Street investors, Australian bankers, and Spanish builders for the privilege of driving on American roads.

LH, aren't you the one from Nick Licata's office? I wouldn't be surprised that you're branching out now from old Seattle, anti-outsider populism into all-American, anti-foreigner Lou Dobbs populism. Your use of the terms "Wall Street investors, Australian bankers, and Spanish builders" is very reminiscent of the xenophobia they used to stir up in the 19th century American West against Wall Street and London investors and German and Jewish bankers.

I mean at some point, you and Nick might want to take a look in your respective mirrors and ask, "Do I have any shame?"

Posted by cressona | March 14, 2007 7:43 PM

By the way, public-private partnerships like this could very well be a bad deal for the public. And it's crazy to even think of any kind of tunneling in that corridor in light of yesterday's results. But could we at least address this with a higher level of discourse than we're used to from the Licata camp?

Posted by cressona | March 14, 2007 7:46 PM

I agree. This sounds promising. And yes, the Discovery Institute's transportation wing has a good reputation and no creationists. If these evil, possibly hook-nosed financiers make money, and we get something really amazing and wonderful, I'm happy for them.

Posted by Fnarf | March 14, 2007 8:05 PM

"...mouths that can be as large as football fields."


Oh, sorry, I forgot, this is The Stranger and its ace urban planning "reporter" has no no need for facts.

Posted by City Comforts | March 14, 2007 8:19 PM

CC: Ask Fnarf. Maybe it should have been "noses as big as football fields".

Posted by rodrigo | March 14, 2007 8:55 PM

The Discovery Institute seems to do a good job. Their best idea in my book is lidding I-5 thru the U-District. There would be some truly spectacular views from a park south of 45th, and plenty of room for some condo towers on the north side to pay for it.

Posted by Some Jerk | March 14, 2007 9:07 PM

Whoops, should read Cascadia, not Discovery. I support both transit and evolution...

Posted by Some Jerk | March 14, 2007 9:14 PM

I hear Godden is coming out with an elevated surface tunnel.

Posted by Lionel Hutz | March 14, 2007 9:43 PM

We have always wanted a tunnel under Eastasia.

You nailed it, @9.

Posted by World Class Cynic | March 14, 2007 9:46 PM

Pursuing this route is clearly political suicide. Either Drago has decided not to run again or she's lost her mind.

Posted by Christian | March 14, 2007 10:10 PM

Cressona - yeah that's me.

I lifted the tag line on the Mother Jones article...

"Why you could soon be paying Wall Street investors, Australian bankers, and Spanish builders for the privilege of driving on American roads."

Not my words, Mojo's words. Lou Dobbs?! What a hoot.

The point is - roads are the historical foundation of PUBLIC property...and the 3Ps can result in private ownership.

Why do you have to be so mean? What objection do you have to my "level of discourse?"

Posted by LH | March 14, 2007 10:19 PM

As always, Bruce Agnew and Jan Drago's assessment of the voting public is spot on - I, like 70% of the city, voted against the tunnel not because of its financial excesses nor its political impossibilities - I (we) voted against the tunnel because I (we) feared... IT WASN'T DEEP ENOUGH. With Jan and Bruce on the case, that tunnel will go where it belongs... where the sun don't shine.

Posted by Lionel Hutz | March 14, 2007 10:25 PM

Fnarf @ 15 - are you being sarcastic? I hope so. I rely on you to defend the common good.

This issue isn't whether investors can make money (not a problem, agreed), the issue is whether the investment leads to privatization of public roads, and what happens when the return on their investment falls short.

Please read the article at the link @1.

Posted by LH | March 14, 2007 10:27 PM

Ah, Lisa, we finally agree again (I guess...sort of...). This Discovery Institute stuff is ding-dong snake-oil city. More freeways...brought to you by crazy people! See you at the CTHULHU screening, I hope.

Posted by Grant Cogswell | March 14, 2007 11:14 PM

SAVE SEATTLE and tell Greg Nickels NO!!!!

Posted by islandblackberries | March 14, 2007 11:24 PM

CTHULHU screening?!

I guess my siging up for updates from the movies website was a waste, as I have yet to hear about this :(

Privatizing our roads would be a bad idea even if we couldn't just about be guaranteed that the MegaCorps will get a sweetheart deal that will fuck us over in every imaginable way.
Sadly our state seems to have elevated this to high art (but by no means are alone in this despicable thievery)

Posted by K X One | March 14, 2007 11:31 PM

Grant - I didn't know you were in town till I read an earlier post! When/where is the screening? I'm so there.

Posted by LH | March 14, 2007 11:45 PM

I don't have a problem with properly structured public-private partnerships. Emphasis on properly structured. It's when the benefits to the public are wholly imaginary that problems arise. But if some company builds it and gets to keep the tolls, I would be very happy, as long as it gets built.

I have no idea what the latest developments in tunnel shield technology are; "as big as a football field" doesn't sound too outrageous, though; remember the behemoths that dug the second I-90 tunnel under Beacon Hill? I imagine this would be a similar task -- really the worst stuff to tunnel through you can imagine, far worse than solid rock (which is actually about the easiest).

Posted by Fnarf | March 15, 2007 9:04 AM

Hmm. According to Professor Google, the largest tunnel boring machine is currently the Herrenknecht S-317, with a diameter of 15.43 meters, which is nowhere near as big as a football field; it's only about a third of the width even. But then, why would a road tunnel have to be as large as a football field? Two of these tubes and you've got your highway to spare.

Posted by Fnarf | March 15, 2007 9:10 AM

okay, i give up, no one is gonna read the article. the issue isn't that they get the tolls. they operate the ROADS, our public roads, they don't just get the tolls. private companies end up operating our infrastructure.

"DeFazio's take harkens back to Eisenhower and his vision of a national highway system as vital to economic development, commerce, and even national security. "It's a scam, basically," he says. "And you lose control of your transportation infrastructure. It means you fragment the system ultimately. It just does not make sense for an integrated national transportation system."

The transportation committee staffer echoes DeFazio's broad concerns. "You're replacing a federal-state partnership with a public-private partnership," he says, "and the whole idea of developing a national transportation system may go by the wayside." When asked whether private interests will begin to drive transportation decisions, including when and where roads are constructed, he responded, "Absolutely. They would definitely only go to where the profit is." Just as the creation of a National Highway System promised, in Eisenhower's words, to "change the face of America," so too could its demise.

Ralph Nader, too, has been vocal in opposing the privatization deals. Last February he wrote a scathing letter to Mitch Daniels, comparing the toll road lease to the Louisiana Purchase, "only Indiana is the France of this deal. You are taking a minuscule up-front payment in return for a large downstream private profit to a foreign company which is being handed a captive customer base." Nader says he and other consumer advocates were late to recognize the trend. "Who would have dreamed" that the nation would begin actually selling off its core assets, he told Mother Jones. "That's new. They caught everybody napping."

Posted by LH | March 15, 2007 10:21 AM


guilty of not reading it yet - do you know if the states are prevented from building competing transit or roads?

Posted by Sherwin | March 15, 2007 10:27 AM

The tunnel is dead. Period. Anyone still persisting in that delusion is totally nuts.

Posted by Will in Seattle | March 15, 2007 11:17 AM

oh, and I'm looking forward to Grant's Cthulhu screening - it was fun spotting him in the Grey's Anatomy scenes on the docks!

Posted by Will in Seattle | March 15, 2007 11:20 AM

KX1, your signup is not in vain. This screening is crew and friends only, sorry. And sorry to be changing the subject and bringing in irrelevancies (to this) when I am drunk and computery. OK, back to the viaduct, y'all.

Posted by Grant Cogswell | March 15, 2007 11:31 AM

in some cases, yes!

"Indeed, private road operators often insist on noncompete clauses that limit governments from expanding nearby roads. In 2003, Orange County bought back the lease for a set of pay-to-drive express lanes in the median of Route 91, just so it could finally expand the adjacent road. Toll road companies can even get governments to do their enforcement for them: In July 2004, the consortium that owns Toronto's 407 etr, a 67-mile highway that relies on transponders and cameras to collect tolls, sued the provincial government to force it to deny license plate renewals to motorists who hadn't paid their tolls. In the end, the consortium, which included mig and Cintra, was successful.

Posted by LH | March 15, 2007 12:47 PM

Well, if Nader's against it, it's definitely worth a look. I'd kill a puppy if he told me not to.

Posted by Fnarf | March 15, 2007 5:43 PM

Sure Grant, just rub it in our faces that we can't go to the screening by posting it on Slog- sheesh!


My first impulse on hearing that Nader is against it is that it MUST be good, but we can't let knee-jerkism (tm) lead us down this path...

This is the way that Nader truly is a spoiler, anything he comes out against is bound to get support whether it deserves it due to his and his followers well deserved wing-nut reputation, and anything he comes out in favour of me might as well kiss goodbye.

What the left really needs is an assassination squad...

Posted by K X One | March 17, 2007 12:59 AM

Grill Crunican on the surface + transit alternative. She wasn't much of a department director at ODOT. I'm not surprised she found more acceptance in Seattle. Since it's only a "brief update" she'll be giving, force the issue. This tunnel boring machine sounds like smoke and mirrors to me. The voters rejected both elevated and tunnel options, so why the little attention to the surface + transit option unless SDOT doesn't want the public to know what it's up to?

Find out how many stoplights on Alaskan Way were in the study. Find out more about rebuilding SR-99 under Elliott and Western Avenues. Ask about doing a 4-lane rather than 6-lane study, including a 1-way frontage road northbound just east of Alaskan Way.

I'll wager Crunican is up to no good.

Posted by Wells | March 17, 2007 10:20 PM

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