The phrase,'Unsound Transit', was coined by the Wall Street Journal to describe Seattle where,"Light Rail Madness eats billions that could otherwise be devoted to truly efficient transportation technologies." The Puget Sound's traffic congestion is a growing cancer on the region's prosperity. This website, captures news and expert opinion about ways to address the crisis. This is not a blog, but a knowledge base, which collects the best articles and presents them in a searchable format. My goal is to arm residents with knowledge so they can champion fact-based, rather than emotional, solutions.


Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Gregoire does not reject the Alaskan Way Viaduct Tunnel option

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Gregoire: No bias against Alaskan Way Viaduct tunnel
But she casts doubt on Seattle's viaduct vote


OLYMPIA -- Accusations by Seattle officials Monday that the state is biased against a tunnel option for replacing the Alaskan Way Viaduct are "ludicrous," Gov. Chris Gregoire said.

But she warned that doubts are growing about the credibility of a March 13 Seattle vote in which people will be asked to express their opinions about replacing the structure with the tunnel or an elevated structure.

"Basically (lawmakers) are saying, 'How do we pay credence to a ballot that says: 'Option A; option B; all of the above; none of the above?' How does one really say that this is a credible ballot?" Gregoire said of the vote. "And secondly, how do we really know voters are informed?"

Also Monday, Republicans said the $2.8 billion of state money earmarked for the viaduct should be shifted to a less contentious project.

The flurry of statements and counterstatements reflected how contentious the debate about replacing the structure that carries 110,000 vehicles a day through downtown Seattle has become.

Today, the state's feasibility report for Seattle's preferred tunnel plan is supposed to be released. However, on Monday city officials assumed the worst and pre-emptively accused the state of purposely slanting the report against the tunnel.

Mayor Greg Nickels is lobbying hard for the more expensive four-lane tunnel option over the elevated replacement. Nickels recently abandoned his plan for an even more expensive six-lane tunnel, which has led some to dub the four-lane option "tunnel lite."

The results of the state's study "cannot be credible" because the city wasn't allowed to take part in the analysis and the cost estimates weren't reviewed by an expert review panel, said Nickels' spokeswoman Marianne Bichsel.

On Friday, the independent panel gave up trying to analyze the project, saying it didn't have enough time.

Bichsel and a city major-projects engineer, Bob Powers, said state members of the viaduct project team found no major problems with the city's "hybrid" tunnel design before tunnel opponent and Speaker of the House Frank Chopp became upset that the state department was working on it.

"It is the politicians that have interceded," Bichsel said.

In an exhaustive chronology released by Nickels' office, the city offered its perspective of the events leading up to today's report.

It suggests state Department of Transportation officials were pressured to slant their analysis against the tunnel plan despite the fact that they had earlier agreed with the city's assertion that it had no "fatal flaws" and could be built for $3.4 billion. The estimated cost for a new elevated viaduct is $2.8 billion.

The chronology ends with an entry for Saturday implying that Transportation Secretary Doug MacDonald doctored the report.

"Saturday Feb. 10, 2007 -- Reports circulate that MacDonald spends entire weekend at the project team's office heavily editing and revising engineers' report," the release stated.

Gregoire and MacDonald dismissed that idea.

"My heart goes out to the Seattle Department of Transportation," Gregoire said. "They are under immense pressure to be advocates and they are good advocates. I've told the (state) Department of Transportation, as has legislative leadership, 'There's no pressure on you. We want the truth.'"

MacDonald said the notion that he "was over there somehow twisting the analysis to make it meet some outcome is really pretty funny."

He said he was simply writing the letter and reviewing the report that he was to sign as head of the department.

"All I know is we've done the best and most cautious engineering analysis we can, and it will stand or fall on the appeal it has to people's common sense," MacDonald said. "It's interesting the city is working so hard today talking about an analysis they have not seen."

He said the responses to the questions were drafted last weekend, out of the presence of both Gregoire and legislators, and as of Monday evening Gregoire had not seen it.

The department's responses to the questions will be released today, though MacDonald declined to describe its conclusions.

In a briefing Monday, representatives of the mayor's office and the Seattle Department of Transportation said they'd been told that a big issue with the four-lane tunnel design was its ability to handle an estimated 113,000 vehicles per day by 2030.

Another, they said, was the proposal to use shoulders to handle commute-hour traffic, while the other two lanes in each direction would handle the traffic the rest of the day.

WSDOT would not comment on the city's speculation, but said questions about the proposal from Gregoire and leaders of legislative transportation committees would be answered Tuesday.

The questions include federal approval for using outside shoulders for traffic and two-foot shoulders inside the travel lanes. Other questions ask how using the shoulders would affect emergency responses, how much traffic might be diverted from a new tunnel to Interstate 5 and how it would affect freight movement,

Gregoire Monday reiterated that she would prefer a tunnel if money were no object.

"I'd also prefer a Mercedes but I can't afford that either," she said.

Meanwhile, Republicans are ready to shift the $2.8 billion in state money away from the viaduct and into the state Route 520 or the Interstate 405 projects.

"We need to keep our transportation projects moving forward, or they become more costly and the public continues to lose faith in us and the system," said Rep. Fred Jarrett, R-Mercer Island.
P-I reporter Larry Lange contributed to this report. P-I reporter Chris McGann can be reached at 360-943-3990 or

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