Who predicted problems for the Seattle tunnel project?
There may be no winners or losers when it comes to Seattle’s new waterfront tunnel, but there were critics who predicted a project riddled with problems.
One of those, of course, is KIRO Radio’s own Dori Monson: “Remember when I put my job on the line a few years ago when they said they were going to tunnel under Seattle? I said, if it comes in on time, on budget, I would quit my job? And the Secretary of Transportation said, Oh, that’s incentive for us to come in on time and on budget.
Well, it looks like my job is pretty safe,” Dori said. He has proposed an alternative to waiting on Bertha: bury her and build a bridge across Elliott Bay.
Businesses along the waterfront expressed concerns about the project: “We didn’t initiate this. It’s not our proposal. It’s a necessity because the viaduct is going to fall down or it’s in bad repair,” said Hal Griffith, a landowner on the waterfront for more than 40 years who launched the Seattle Great Wheel.
He conceded in January 2009 that his property values might rise when the project is complete, but said his family had concerns about whether available parking for his customers will disappear along with the viaduct.
There was a group dedicated to defeating the tunnel before it even started: Yes Viaduct! It filed Initiative 99 to bar “the construction, operation or use of city right of way or city-owned property wherever situated for any tunnel to replace the Alaskan Way viaduct.”
Gene Hoglund, co-chairman of the group, said the proposed tunnel would leave the city without an effective transportation link between the fishing fleet in Ballard and critical marine industry infrastructure and suppliers south of downtown.
“This is going to destroy the maritime industry as we know it in Seattle,” Hoglund said.
And then there was Seattle’s former Mayor Mike McGinn. He posted on his Facebook page in April 2011:
“State law says Seattle will pay for all cost overruns on the deep-bored tunnel. Before putting the public on the hook for cost overruns, we should first ask their permission. That’s why I support a public vote,” McGinn wrote.
But McGinn conceded after the voters spoke in August 2011, “The public said move ahead with the tunnel, and that’s what we’re going to do.”
And of course, there were those who openly supported replacing the Alaskan Way Viaduct with a tunnel.
After the August 2011 vote, former Washington State Transportation Secretary Paula Hammond spoke about urgency: “The citizens are supportive of the project and tired of the debate, and they want us to just get the darn thing done.”
Governor Jay Inslee said in January 2014 it was too early to play the blame game after WSDOT revealed a pipe was jamming up Bertha:
“Let’s drill Bertha, let’s get this job done, let’s focus as a team to get the job done and we’ll worry about some of these cost issues at the appropriate moment,” Inslee said.
And then there’s the former governor, Christine Gregoire. She suggested the replacement should be a deep bore tunnel nearly five years earlier in January 2009.
Joined by Mayor Greg Nickels, King County Executive Ron Sims and Port of Seattle chief executive Tay Yoshitani, Gregoire told a news conference that time had run out on deciding what to do about the earthquake-prone elevated roadway and touted the nearly 2-mile-long tunnel as a state-of-the-art solution.
At that same news conference, Nickels said, “Once and for all, we will tear down the ugly and dangerous viaduct that divides our city …. today we reclaim our waterfront.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.