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January 31, 2007

Tunnel lite to get a design and cost review

Posted by David Postman at 3:50 PM

Gov. Christine Gregoire has restarted the review process to have the experts look at Mayor Greg Nickels' narrower tunnel option. She and a bipartisan group of lawmakers sent a letter today to the Department of Transportation and the Expert Review Panel asking them to do a limited review of the design and cost estimates before Feb. 13.

There is a list of questions they want answered. And the letter says:

Separate from the questions above, we would like the Expert Review Panel to review the cost estimates for the hybrid tunnel proposal based upon the answers to the above questions. What is the real cost difference between the hybrid tunnel and the elevated alternative? The City has identified some cost savings that could be also applied to the elevated option. Please make a cost comparison of the elevated option and the hybrid tunnel proposal using common scheduling and cost savings assumptions.

The letter says, "We do believe that voters should have the opportunity to, as much as possible, make an informed decision."

The review is something Nickels has wanted. I don't read the letter as Josh Feit does as a demand that DOT "get some answers from Nickels about his tunnel lite option." But I also have reason to doubt that everyone who signed the letter did so with an open mind.

Here's what House Speaker Frank Chopp just told reporters about the letter:

"The idea is to point out the ... inconsistencies of the tunnel lite plan."

He said there are numerous questions about the feasibility, cost and capacity of the city's plan. And he thinks the review will bolster his argument that a new elevated structure is a better idea.

"I think when people see the answer to all those questions, they'll be convinced even more."

Feit says the letter is not a bad idea, but adds to what he says is sloppy policy-making.

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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