My colleague, Richard Conlin, president of the City Council, has written a well-argued opinion piece over at Publicola.net about the Alaskan Way Viaduct replacement project. I agree with Richard wholeheartedly. Please read it.
Those who oppose the deep-bore tunnel replacement project, including Mayor McGinn and other environmentally-focused leaders who favor alternative forms of transportation and reduced reliance on highways and vehicles, might have ground to stand on if Seattle had three or four major north-south thoroughfares. But we only have two—Interstate 5 and State Route 99—because of our unique geography. Giving up one of these two thoroughfares in an effort to "force" people out of cars is economically far too risky, in my opinion. As Port Commissioner Bill Bryant said a couple of weeks ago, the people who will pay for miscalculation here are the approximately 70,000 local families and workers who rely on a strong, successful maritime and industrial economy.
Remember, the central waterfront project—including removing the viaduct—is closely linked to the Spokane Street and Mercer corridor projects that are already underway. All of of these projects—Spokane Street, Mercer and Alaskan Way—must be successfully completed in order to protect our core economic strength which is our maritime, industrial and manufacturing base.
This set of projects is also about opening up our central waterfront to everyone, creating public open space, reconnecting downtown to the Puget Sound, and improving our quality of life. As Council President Conlin points out in his piece, Seattle can follow the experience and leadership of other American cities who have revitalized and energized their waterfronts by making smart decisions. We are on that course today and the City Council is strongly united to see this vision to reality.
Some, including Mayor McGinn, suggest that the Council does not understand the risks with this work or that we are not protecting the interests of Seattle taxpayers. Nothing could be further from the truth. While the Mayor is objecting and issuing press releases, the Council is actually engaged in serious negotiations with the state to protect our interests, including those of every Seattle taxpayer, and monitoring these projects to make certain we fully understand what is happening, why it's happening, and how best to protect our interests. We are meeting every week with the state and our legal, engineering and technical experts to make sure we are satisfied with the moving-forward progress that is being achieved. And through all of this, we have made very clear that the City of Seattle and our taxpaying property owners are not responsible for any cost overruns related to the state-controlled segments of these projects. In the next couple of weeks, we will consider legislation that makes this point abundantly clear.
So, which course would you follow? Continue to build on the ten or more years of successful regional planning that has gone into these projects and create an amazing central waterfront while, at the same time, protecting our core economic and transportation foundation? Or, stop the project dead in its tracks because you disagree with the decisions already made and take us in a new direction that potentially threatens our core economic base? This is an easy choice for me.