Council agrees to $927 million for tunnel

The Seattle City Council agreed today to move forward with the Alaskan Way Viaduct deep bored tunnel and Seawall Replacement. In a unanimous vote, they agreed to a Memorandum of Agreement with the Washington Department of Transportation. According to the press release, “The agreement authorized today outlines the city and state’s funding and construction responsibilities and outlines Seattle’s $927 million obligation to the project set for completion in 2018.” The Council is expected to act next year on proposed funding options, which could include “an increase in the Commercial Parking tax and a new Transportation Benefit District to collect vehicle license fees.”

Geeky Swedes

The founders of My Ballard

62 thoughts to “Council agrees to $927 million for tunnel”

  1. 2018. Be still my heart.

    I hope that a “new Transportation Benefit District to collect vehicle license fees,” means city stickers. It may cut down on Ballard's car farmers…seriously, my neighbor and his wife have 5 cars between them. Yeesh.

  2. “Transportation Benefit District” makes me nervous. Raising the parking tax makes sense as would charging a toll to use the tunnel. Making everyone in a given area pay for the tunnel (or a new viaduct) doesn't make sense since it's neither a common good nor a public good.

  3. Give him a break? Seriously? You're ok that he mounted a one-issue campaign based on stopping a tunnel that he had no possibility of stopping?

  4. You wouldn't be able to see the sunset if the viaduct was replaced. The current federal guidelines require the gardrails be so high, only the highest of the high suv drivers would have seen anything other than a massive wall on both the upper and lower levels.

  5. That's right, we're all supposed to take buses, bicycles and unicorns in future Seattle.

    Anyone who thinks the Mayor of Seattle's job is to fight global warming, rather than fix potholes and collect garbage, needs their heads examined.

  6. Air is a public good, roads are not. Keep in mind I'm talking about the economic definition of public good.

    For those who don't understand economics the definition of a public good is a good that is non-excludable and not subject to rivalry. Not subject to rivalry means one person using the good will not diminish the availability of that good to others. Non-excludable means you can not exclude people from using the good. The traditional textbook examples are air and lighthouses. Air is available to everyone and your breathing of air doesn't significantly diminish the availability of air to others. The light from a lighthouse is available to every ship in the area and doesn't lose effectiveness regardless of the number of ships approaching the shore.

    A road on the other hand can be made exclusive to the use of certain people (such as excluding pedestrians or charging tolls) and the use of the road by one person can diminish the use of the road by others (think gridlock). Roads are traditionally thought of as being Private Goods (excludable and subject to rivalry – cars or a t-shirt also being examples) or Common Goods (non-excludable but subject to rivalry – examples being water or fish in the ocean).

  7. Agreed and I say that as someone who does rely on cycling and public transit for 90% of all my trips.

    Do keep in mind one thing: what's the solution without public transit, cycling, etc?? If everyone drives solo in a car what do you propose to do? You can't build more roads without tearing down people's homes. Like it or not, people cycling and taking the bus do make it easier on people who need/insist on driving. Imagine how much your commute would suck if that bus you're driving behind were instead 80 additional cars. Also imagine how much better it would be if those 30 cars you're sitting behind at a red light were instead a single bus. Instead of sitting through 2-3 cycles of the light you'd only be sitting through 1. Like it or not we do need a public transit system.

  8. We've all heard the silly campaign for boaters to get their certificate for life for their boat(s), right? Well why not “biker-ed” in where these folks are also mandated to receive plates, education, information on how to be better cyclists, etc? This is another area where money can be raised to “better us all”. Or is the biker lobby too big? They do want to also be part of the solution don't they? This and much higher fees on dog licensing is a great way to raise $$ when we obviously need more. Let's tax ourselves into prosperity for goodness sakes!

  9. Okay, fine — I wasn't thinking of pure public goods, because hardly anything *is*. But you said the viaduct was not a common good, either (it seems to me that the definition of “common good” is a fairly good fit for the popular definition of “public good”).

  10. Dumb argument for two reasons:
    1) When you're driving on the viaduct you should be paying attention to your driving, not the view.
    2) At my last office I wasn't able to enjoy a view of the water because the viaduct blocked the view.

    Claiming the viaduct should be saved for aesthetic reasons is just insane. It's a monumental eyesore. I lived in SF when they still had the Embarcadero along their waterfront. The situation then was the same as it is in Seattle. People claimed tearing it down would cause massive traffic delays and bring forth the apocalypse. Guess what? It didn't and SF didn't bother with a tunnel. They simply tore down the Embarcadero and didn't replace it. It cause huge traffic headaches for a few months but eventually people got used to it and found alternatives. Of course it helps that San Francisco had an effective public transit system while Seattle does not (especially something like BART for the east siders).

  11. At the start of the campaign, things could possibly be changed.
    Now, the most realistic thing that could possibly be done is to get the state to eat (or at least split) the inevitable cost overruns.

  12. You can see the view and pay attention to the road. It is not as if you see cars and the road superimposed on a black void when you are paying attention to driving.

    That said the “I'll miss the view” argument is silly — we'll gain a beautiful waterfront park that will upgrade the area significantly.

    The Embarcadero Freeway argument is specious. Among other huge logistical differences, that waterfront freeway curved around the city. Our city curves around the viaduct/waterfront. In SF there are myriad ways to get from the start point of the Embarcadero to the end point, all urban but much shorter as the crow flies. In Seattle the options are urban streets too, but none shorter and most longer.

    But speaking of the Embarcadero, the City of San Fran did a great job reviatalizing it after the freeway came down. Hopefully Seattle doesn't half-ass the waterfront revamp after the viaduct comes down.

  13. A few reasons why cyclists shouldn't have to pay as much as cars:
    1) Bikes and pedestrians don't tear up the roads and pollute the air the way cars do. The air in LA isn't brown because of cyclists.
    2) Bikes and pedestrians are not the number one cause of death among children – way ahead of cancer, diabetes, stranger abduction, etc., etc.
    3) Bikes and peds don't violently kill 40,000+ people a year. That's more than guns, pit bulls, Al Qaeda and other boogeymen people instead chose to focus on. In fact, cars kill more people in one year than bikes have killed in the past 80.
    4) Bikes and peds do pay for roads through sales and income taxes. Car licensing fees and gas taxes on the other hand don't cover the full costs of car use.
    5) Most car/bike, car/ped and car/motorcycle accidents are found to be the fault of motorists. The Toronto police did a recent analysis of car/bike crashes and concluded cars were at fault 90% of the time. Similar studies in California and Portland show motorists at fault in the majority of crashes (though not as high as the hard to believe Toronto numbers).
    6) The vast majority of cyclists are also car owners so we're already paying our share in terms of licensing fees. Reality is most cyclists pay more than non-cyclists since we paid taxes/licensing fees for our cars AND taxes on the purchase of our bike. If anything we have MORE of a right to the road, not less.

    I do agree there needs to be cycling education. Many people do ride like complete idiots and I have ***ZERO*** sympathy for any cyclist who blows a stop sign and winds up a hood ornament as a result. That's not tragic, it's just Darwinism in action! Cyclists think they can safely run stop signs but they're fooling themselves. The time will eventually come when they think they looked both ways and the road was clear only to find out the hard way that it's not. BTW, try asking a commercial truck driver about how stupid and dangerous most motorists are!

    The real problem is education. We simply do a terrible job of traffic education in this country. AFAIK, students are not required to learn traffic safety in school. As a result they don't learn to ride their bikes safely. This then extends to not driving safely. Our lax licensing requirements only enforce this. The driving tests in this country are a joke and it's little wonder we have close to double the number of crashes as Europeans for the same number of miles driven. Also traffic fines and enforcement are a joke. You can kill a person with a car, have it be 100% the fault of your negligence and never spend a day in prison, receive only a minor fine and still be allowed to drive. That's insane. If your negligence results in someone being injured you should have your license yanked for at least a year and be required to undergo very extensive driver training.

    The pro-cycling lobby also isn't helping much. Many of their plans seem to be more about making a statement for cyclists rights rather than improving cyclist safety. Prime examples of this are the sharrows/bike lanes on 24th and Stone Way. These seem to have been put in place to make a statement than to make life better for cyclists. If it were about making cycling safer they would have simply put the bike lanes in on 28th and Wallingford which are only a few blocks away and have significantly less traffic. The Missing Link is another example. If safety was the real issue they'd simply move the Burke-Gilman one block north to 46th and avoid the dreaded railroad tracks entirely. Instead they insist on making a point about cyclists rights.

  14. I drive in city traffic every day and bike plenty too — made a living on my bike for a while.

    The anti-bike sentiment in this town is the height of short-sightedness. Why does it bother people so much if bikes don't follow all the rules? They aren't cars — momentum is important and bikes don't carry the mass to do damage anything remotely like a car or a bus. I never, ever get in anyone's way; rather I slip through traffic quietly and efficiently, clearing out space for cars to do their thing.

    I think almost all bikes on the road do this. The cyclists that piss me off are the ones that follow rules slavishly and screw up my ability to drive my car efficiently (i.e. taking up an entire traffic lane and moving slowly as they please — totally passive aggresive behavior).

    So why so much anti-bike sentiment in Seattle? To me it seems like irrational sour grapes/jealousy (I'm an angry donut and I hate that happy person w/ the elevated heartrate)/easy scapegoat for road rage. Is there really a problem with bikes worth worrying about? I don't think so.

  15. The difference between common good and public good is the idea of rivalry. An example of a government supplied Public Good is streetlights – everyone can benefit from the light they provide without diminishing the availability of the light to others. Broadcast television is another example – we all can receive broadcast TV and we can all consume it at the same time without diminishing its availability.

    Cable TV, on the other hand, would be considered a Club Good because the availability is limited to those who pay (making it “excludable”) but it lacks rivalry since one person receiving cable TV doesn't prevent another person from receiving it.

    A Common Good is typically a limited resource that is equally shared. An example of a government supplied Common Good is clean drinking water. We all have access to it but it is a limited resource – if you drink that glass of water then I can't. Many roads can be considered Common Goods – anyone can use them but the more people use them the less available they become. The viaduct and most freeways would typically be considered Private Goods because they are a limited resource and some people (pedestrians, trucks carrying hazardous cargo, etc.) are specifically excluded from using them. And yes, it is confusing that something run by the government and paid for with public funds could be considered a Private Good!

  16. If that was McGinn's position from the outset I would have been out there campaigning for him. I'm not thrilled about the cost of the tunnel, but otherwise it's the best solution at this point.

  17. Regarding the availability of alternative roads, San Francisco was in a much tougher bind than Seattle. Both have surface streets next to/under their freeways – SF had Embarcadero, Seattle has Alaskan/Marginal. However, if we close down the viaduct motorists driving through Seattle will still have the I-5 option (which is only a whopping 1/2 mile east!) Motorists in San Francisco on the other hand were forced onto surface streets because the Embarcadero was the only freeway running north of Market. Also surface street traffic in SF is much more congested than surface street traffic in Seattle.

  18. Let's see the city council votes unanimously to move forward with the deep boreed tunnel, BEFORE it has funding in place. Sounds like creating new school borders before looking at the new census (2010) data. Oh yes, and let's not forget spending a ton of money on the monorail (moneyrail), before voting to can it. Seattle politics is anbelievable! Surely, I am not the only one who sees this.

  19. Unless we tear down the Convention Center I-5 will never be more than 3 lanes each way through downtown. Adding, lets say for the sake of argument, 1/2 of the 100,000 trips per day to I-5 is not an “alternative”. IMO.

    As you noted in your earlier post, if we had public transit like SF THAT would be an alternative.

  20. I agree there are some people who just get really pissed when a smiling cyclist passes them while they're sitting stuck in traffic burning $4+/gallon gas. Nothing you can do to make those people happy and if anything I feel sorry for them having to piss away so much of their time like that. However I think much of it is more the cyclists who blow a stop sign/red light and force a motorist to slam on their brakes to avoid hitting them. I've had that happen more than once while driving my car. There are also plenty of stupid cyclists who ride without adequate lighting at night. Just last week I nearly ran over some hipster doofuss on his fixed gear bike because he was wearing all black and had one tiny, dim, red blinky which was strapped to his messenger bag and pointed skyway rather than backward. You also get cases of the Lance wannabe crowd who decide to ride 2 abreast on a single lane road and won't let cars pass. In these situations I totally understand why drivers get pissed at cyclists.

    As for the “they aren't cars” argument, all I'll say is it's funny how quickly cyclists throw that out the window when a motorist cuts them off. Then it's the “The law considers me a vehicle just like a car” diatribe. Sorry but you don't get to have it both ways. Either you're a law abiding vehicle with rights AND responsibilities or you're not. You may not like that but it is the way the law works. If you want to be a rebel without clue that's your prerogative – just be sure to put your big girl pants on, be an adult, and not whine when the cops hand you a ticket for a traffic violation. You can't have rights without responsibilities – that's not how societies work. If you don't obey the laws then you have no holy high ground to stand on when others also break the law.

    Riding in traffic is also something which can largely be avoided. I'll never understand why cyclists ride on major arterials when instead they could be riding one block over on a side street. In addition to avoiding conflicts with cars these side streets usually have less glass, fewer potholes, are more scenic and often times faster because they have fewer red lights and stop signs. Prime example is 24th and 28th in Ballard. Going down 24th from 85th to Market you're sharing the road with cars and constantly having to keep an eye out for cars pulling onto 24th. You also have to contend with a half dozen traffic lights. Now if you take 28th you have no traffic lights to contend with, only a couple of stop signs, and far less traffic. It's less stress and it's faster and yet what do most cyclists do? They ride down 24th because that's where the bike lane is at. Go figure.

    Finally, having ridden all around the country I don't think there's a lot of anti-bike sentiment in Seattle. If anything this is easily the most cycling friendly town I've lived in. Most motorists here are MUCH more polite to cyclists than in many other places I've lived and ridden.

  21. “We'll gain a beautiful waterfront park”.

    Have you been to a downtown park. Take a walk through Pioneer Square park and it will give you a good idea of what the waterfront will look like. It will become a homeless encampment and drug haven. If we can't even take care of the small parks, how do you figure the city can take on such a massive one. More than likely it will be a park for a short time and then sold off to developers as long as they “make some park space available” because the cost is just too high for the city to manage. It will then be turned into high rise condos and office buildings with park-like grounds.

  22. I really need to get back up to speed on the tunnel (high school boundary stuff has distracted me), but isn't a big part of the tunnel going to be the big park built above it? That seems like a common good (or is that a public good)?

  23. No, that would have been the old cut and cover plan.

    The deep bore plan has an undefined pedestrian area along the waterfront that will only be something better than a slab of cement if the tunnel doesn't go over budget. Oh, and it will be next to a signal light optimized 35 mph 4 lane freight cooridor.

  24. The tunnel doesn't go where the Viaduct is. The tunnel will be more under downtown so the viaduct stays up while they're building the tunnel for the least amount of traffic disruption.
    Once the tunnel is done, the viaduct will be taken down and replaced with a boulevard and park.

  25. Yes though you could build the park without building the tunnel.

    Personally, I like the tunnel proposal even though building it will absolutely be a nightmare for several years. I spent plenty of time in Boston when they were doing their Big Dig and boy did that ever make a huge mess out of things while they were building it to say nothing of the astronomical cost over runs (which will almost certainly happen with our tunnel!) Of course now that it's done it's made life much better.

  26. The traffic pattern of the Embarcadero was very different in that it was a distributor, and not a major through highway.
    Most 99 AWV traffic doesn't get off in the middle of downtown, but south or north of it.

  27. Traffic going the same direction rarely kills cyclits.
    Cross traffic and turning traffic is what usually causes fatalities.

    …but people don't know that because we don't do eduction well.

    Wallingford doesn't connect to the BGT. Stone Way does. The end to end connectivity is one reason why Stone Way was chosen. The fact that in the summer 10% of the peak PM commute traffic was cyclists (I helped measure that with several evenings of counting cars and bikes) is another reason why Stone Way has a bicycle facility.

    I happen to teach bicycle safety classes. Cascade offers the to the public. When going downhill, like on Stone Way, cyclists are often going at speeds where we keep up with motor traffic and should be taking the lane as sharrows should indicate instead of hugging the door zone.

    Stone Way and the Missing Link make sense to me after spending some time trying to understand the factors that contribute to cyclist fatalities and how frequently each factor comes into play.

  28. I ride down 24th because when I do, I'm traveling at 25-30 mph and other traffic is going about that speed.

    If I were to ride down 20th or 22nd, nobody would expect someone to be driving at 25 or 30 mph, so I should slow to the speed of traffic on those streets (15-20 mph) so that I don't get hit by someone backing out of their driveway without looking because it is such a quiet street.

    Going uphill, I'm much slower so I don't mind taking the neighborhood streets. Going downhill, for me the arterials are a safer choice.

  29. I'm going the same speed and wouldn't ride that fast down 20th or 22nd. What makes 28th an ideal choice is that it's much wider than the other side streets so you can safely ride at 25mph while avoiding the red lights. Not sure why that particular street is wider than the others but it is handy.

  30. So you would vote to fund something that had not yet been greed to? Sounds like driving blind to me. Oh wait…that’s what you whined about in your statement about the light rail.

    As for schools they must plan in advance also or when need arises the folks in Seattle whine that powers that be did not anticipate. Seattleites cannot be please therefore politicians have given up and I can’t say I blame them.

  31. My wife and I lived in Boston while it was going on too. I remember going to the aquarium and seeing the big dig store, run by the city of Boston!! We both turned to each other and said, “They are never finishing this thing.”

  32. Didn't they close down a bunch of the other traffic and transit options during the big dig? Wasn't it a different tunneling technology used there? Wasn't the total scale of the project much larger?
    I'm not naive to think that ours will be perfect, but I'm also not so naive to think that they are identical either.

  33. But we are in Seattle and we don't take care of our current parks. It would be an amazing park in a perfect world, or different city, but if you look at what we have now it is a pretty good predictor of the future of this park.

  34. “Either you're a law abiding vehicle with rights AND responsibilities or you're not. You may not like that but it is the way the law works. If you want to be a rebel without clue that's your prerogative – just be sure to put your big girl pants on, be an adult, and not whine when the cops hand you a ticket for a traffic violation.”

    sure I've got no problem with that. As long as it is a ticket and not the death penalty enforced by some malcontented driver who decides to enforce the law with his Audi.

    I've got at least 100k miles on my legs, and at least 40k of that is in busy cities — do you understand how many hours that means I've ridden a bike in traffic? Again, I've never got a ticket, never caused any traffic issue or consternation, and only have been hit twice, both right turns right in front of me. Both times I got up, brushed off my big girl pants, quietly informed the driver they were a moron, and went home to fix my bike.

    And frankly screw “how the law works” — I believe that reasonable people should be mindful of laws but ultimately act in ways that make life easy if there is no present danger. So I jaywalk, roll through right-on-red in my car if the intersection is completely clear, and slide past stop signs if the road is vacant. It is not rational to toe every chicken shit regulation the state imposes, and I am certainly not ever going to.

  35. I wasn't whining about the lightrail, it was the monorail. About the schools, the Demongraphics in Ballard have changed SO much in the 15 years I have lived here. When we moved in there was 1 baby on the block, we now have 19 . The school board should wait until the new numbers are in before busing out kids that can walk to their local high school. Kids can't even get into their refrenced elementary schools, because we have so many kids here in Ballard,The cost of busing that many kids in 5-8 years, when they get to high school will be enormous. And finally, we were talking about the tunnel, our transportaion issues in Seattle have always been a money pit, my point is they go about the decsion process the same way, I agree sometimes it is best to keep things simple, but when we are approaching a 1 Trillion dollar tab, maybe we should make sure the same b—s—, doesnt happen 3 years from now, after tons of money have already been sunk into the process.

  36. “So I jaywalk, roll through right-on-red in my car if the intersection is completely clear, and slide past stop signs if the road is vacant.”

    What does every single person say right after the accident? “I didn't see anyone there” “They came out of nowhere”
    The point of stopping at stop signs ALL THE TIME is that you are not omniscient and can't be sure that nobody else is there. If you want to risk it, realize that you are doing just that…taking a very real risk complete with all the potential consequences.
    My driver ed teacher had a great line about using your turn signals… “You're not just using your signals for the cars you see, but for the cars you don't see. That's why it's more important to signal when you think nobody is there.” Ever have a car start to move into your lane on the highway with no idea you're there?

  37. SeaSpider,

    The Embarcadero Freeway comparison is spurious, specious, and incorrect. A much more apt comparison would be removing the Golden Gate or Bay Bridge.

    One might guess you've not driven downtown San Francisco, at 5pm trying to get on to the Bay Bridge Eastward since the Embarcadero Freeway was torn down. Large portions of downtown gridlock immensely, and it can take an hour to get onto the bridge. One hour. I've done it, and going 12 blocks takes 1 hour. This is with BART, cablecars, AC Transit, MUNI, etc. SF will be adding water taxis as well. No comparison. At all.

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