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Welcome to STop, the Seattle Times Opinion blog where our editorial writers and editors share their evolving thoughts on a variety of issues. STop is a place where opinion writers and readers can exchange views and readers can learn more about how editorial positions are formed.

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August 18, 2005

Tunnel, Monorail, 912

Seattle councilmen Peter Steinbrueck and Tom Rasmussen came in today to talk about the mayor’s downtown plan. But I couldn’t allow them to leave without a comment on the two big-ticket projects in the public spotlight: the Alaskan Way Tunnel and the Seattle Monorail Project.

“The tunnel is dead in the water,” Steinbrueck said. The message had come from Sen. Patty Murray, and it was clear to him. He said it was time to think about the rebuild alternative.

Rasmussen was reluctant to say that. “I’d love to have a waterfront free of that viaduct,” he said. Well, so would Steinbrueck, who said he was also willing to consider the surface-street option of the People’s Waterfront Coalition. I think it would be a permanent traffic jam—and it would be worse for pedestrians, who can now walk under the Viaduct without any problem.

(There is another option officials don’t talk much about, which is to shore up the existing structure with steel, as was done with the Magnolia Bridge. I have talked to several retired engineers who say this is quite feasible, but the state says it is not because of the continuing risk of failure. I hear this idea often from members of the public, but officially it is not on the table.)

I also asked the two councilmen about the Monorail. Steinbrueck said he was pleased that Mayor Greg Nickels had given the Monorail board a mid-September deadline to come up with a plan to save the project.

Someone asked him if that was an impossible deadline.

“Perhaps,” Steinbrueck said. He added, “I have lost confidence in having a Monorail-type system.” He said he did not see any sense in two different rail technologies, each expensively running through downtown. He said if the city wants to connect Ballard and West Seattle to downtown by rail, it will make more sense to add extensions to light rail and use the bus tunnel to get through downtown.

Rasmussen said, “Every day monorail seems less and less possible,” not only because of its financial and bidding problems, but because of the substantial rise in the cost of concrete and steel.

Both of these projects are doomed, I think. And the establishment around here should accept that, and act on it before Nov. 8th, if they want any chance of defeating Initiative 912, which would roll back the gas tax --because when voters think of the increase in the gas tax, they think of these two projects. And, yes, I know, there is no gas tax in the Monorail, and gas tax only for a replacement Viaduct, not a tunnel. Doesn't matter. People vote on what they think and feel, and they think and feel they are paying for extravagances.

Respond to Bruce.

 
Posted by Bruce Ramsey at August 18, 2005 03:45 PM



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