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April 22, 2009 11:25 AM

Frank Chopp promises vote on viaduct bill today

Posted by Andrew Garber

House Speaker Frank Chopp says there will be a vote today on legislation calling for the Alaskan Way Viaduct to be replaced with a deep-bore tunnel.

"We're definitely having a vote on the viaduct, there is no question about that," Chopp said.

The promise came after several lawmakers accused Chopp of holding the viaduct bill hostage. They said he would not allow a vote on the viaduct because of concerns he had about separate legislation needed to replace the Highway 520 bridge.

The viaduct bill has been in a holding pattern all week. The governor and Democratic leaders in both chambers say they have a deal, even though many people don't like a provision requiring Seattle property owners to pay for any cost overruns related to digging the tunnel.

Yet Monday and Tuesday went by without a vote.

Several legislators say a fight between Chopp and lawmakers on the east side of Lake Washington stalled movement on the bill. The Highway 520 bill is mainly aimed at authorizing early tolling on the existing bridge to help raise money for a new structure. However, there's an ongoing fight between Chopp and eastside lawmakers over proposed work on the Seattle side of the highway.

Chopp has pushed for language in the bill that keeps open prospects for an interchange on the west side of Lake Washington that includes a tunnel under the Montlake Cut. Eastside lawmakers feel that option would be too expensive.

Chopp today said there's no connection between the two bills.

House Transportation Committee Chairwoman Judy Clibborn, D-Mercer Island, said she has the votes to pass the viaduct bill, even though many people are concerned about the law requiring Seattle residents to pay for cost overruns.

Seattle Deputy Mayor Tim Ceis said he doesn't like the requirement, but the city won't oppose the bill.

"I'm not going to put a happy face on it, but I'm also not going to jeopardize the project over what I see as a fairly petty gesture, a negative gesture, towards the city of Seattle," Ceis said earlier this week.

The Senate passed an earlier version of the viaduct legislation, and Gov. Chris Gregoire also supports the measure.

Seattle Times reporter Jennifer Sullivan contributed to this report.

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Andrew Garber
Covers politics and state government from Olympia.

Jennifer Sullivan
Covers the state Legislature from Olympia.

Chantal Anderson
Covers the state Legislature from Olympia.

Emily Heffter
Writes about the city of Seattle and local politics.

Mike Lindblom
Covers transportation.

Jim Brunner
Writes about money and power from Seattle.