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John Batchelor

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Dino Rossi: Bertha officials ‘couldn’t organize a kegger in a brewery’

Former State Senator Dino Rossi joins the chorus of criticisms hurled at the Seattle tunnel project. (WSDOT)
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Not everybody wants to say, “I told you so,” after watching a major mess up. But when it comes to Bertha and the Seattle tunnel project, Dino Rossi, a former member of the Washington State Senate and two-time Republican gubernatorial candidate, has no qualms about it &#8212 even if he might be benefiting from a slightly selective memory.

“It’s clear, these folks couldn’t organize a kegger in a brewery,” Rossi told KTTH’s Todd Herman. “It’s amazing to watch this and it didn’t have to be that way. There were a lot of other ideas. It’s not that a tunnel is some new idea that we invented. They’re doing this all over the world. Of course, we have the railroad tunnels underneath the city of Seattle that were built in 1905, so this is not new technology.”

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There have been plenty of criticisms hurled at the Seattle tunnel project over the past few years, most recently since Gov. Inslee suspended work until the contractor can prove work on the tunnel is safe.

When running for governor in 2008, Rossi proposed replacing the elevated structure along the waterfront with either a deep-bore or cut-and-cover tunnel.

Rossi told Herman that state officials never should have tried digging the tunnel at sea level, instead starting at Second or Third Avenue and to create long-term lease options on the waterfront for shops, boutiques, and hotels.

“The money you get from the leases, you bond against it and pay for the tunnel,” he said. “But I’m, of course, a real estate guy, so it’s too logical.”

Rossi told Herman “it could have been done right and it could have been done differently for much less money,” although his $15 billion plan at the time was criticized for its price tag.

Herman asked if there was some sort of “sickness” about these large projects in Washington state &#8212 pointing to missteps with the floating bridge, Galloping Gertie and the decision to narrow I-5 to two lanes. Rossi dubbed the problem “radical environmental theology.”

“They hate cars and if you hate cars, you’ve got to figure out how to restrict them,” Rossi said. “…they don’t want to really enhance the connection into Seattle because they want to force you into the mode of transportation they would like to see you in. It’s basically about control of your life.”

Rossi believes there is a war on cars in Washington, and while on the state Senate, was the first prime sponsor of a bill to open the HOV lanes during non-peak hours.

“People thought I was a heretic,” he said. “It was like, ‘I can’t believe you’d do that.’ We were the only western state that doesn’t, that didn’t at that time, so I ended up getting all this hate mail. One guy wrote… ‘We mustn’t breach the sanctity of the diamond lanes.’ It’s a painted on diamond, folks. And it’s all about through-put: How many people can you get through in a given period of time? That’s what this is about.”

While Herman joins KIRO Radio’s Dori Monson in wanting the project permanently stopped, Rossi says they “probably are” too far down the road to hit the brakes.

“They’re not gonna stop it,” he said. “You might want to stop it; they’re not gonna stop it.”

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