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September 19, 2005

Dead End For Viaduct?

Headline from the Seattle TimesRemove the viaduct even if state can't rebuild it?

Apparently, Seattle city officials are increasingly willing to say that, if the state's gas tax hike is repealed this November (as looks increasingly likely), the Alaskan Way Viaduct along Seattle's downtown waterfront should simply be torn down.  The existing structure poses a safety hazard, and without the $2 billion provided by the state gas tax, there's simply no money to replace the Viaduct with a tunnel, which is the city's preference.  (Of course, even with the gas tax there may be no money for the tunnel; but that's an issue for another day.)

Of course, the word from the mayor's office probably isn't final; proponents of the Viaduct will no doubt try to resurrect the rebuilding project even if the state's funding dries up.  But if this this certainly raises the stakes for November's statewide vote on the gas tax -- more and more, it looks like the gas tax vote will wind up being, in effect, an up-or-down referendum on rebuilding the viaduct.

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Wow, this is getting complicated.

How do I vote "no" on the tunnel without voting "yes" on crippling state government?

Posted by: Mars Saxman | Sep 19, 2005 6:22:50 PM

So, are they trying to scare Seattlites into voting against the tax repeal by threatening them with no tunnel or rebuilt viaduct? Because I think it might have the opposite effect. Aside from those West Seattle folks who commute using the Viaduct, I suspect a whole lot of Seattlites are going to say good riddance.

Posted by: Kent | Sep 20, 2005 6:43:01 AM

..more and more, it looks like the gas tax vote will wind up being, in effect, an up-or-down referendum on rebuilding the viaduct."

How do you get there? That's how I personally see it -- that is why I am voting for repeal.

But statewide, the only thing I can see as decisive is the Mayor's state-of-denial about the tunnel - a yes to keep the gast tax can be read as giving him a $2 billion down-payment on a nice-but-not-essential (and how many hundreds of those do we have in this State?) tunnel. Nickels is going to be the one to kill the gas tax in your scenario?

Posted by: David Sucher | Sep 20, 2005 7:04:14 AM

David -
Hm. Perhaps I should rephrase that. You're perfectly right -- people will be voting for or against I-912 for all sorts of reasons, and only a fraction of them will actually use the Viaduct as a litmus test for their vote. It's not *really* a referendum on the Viaduct, at least not in the minds of all voters.

But on a practical level, it seems that the only project that lives or dies with the gas tax, as currently structured, is the Viaduct. All the others biggies -- widening 405 and 520, SR 167 -- will have second (or, really, third or fourth) bites at the apple down the road. Nobody's given up on them yet. But as things stand now, if the gas tax gets yanked the city *seems* primed to pull the plug on any waterfront highway - surface, tunnel or aerial.

So my point -- perhaps ill-phrased -- is that, as things are shaking up, I-912 may turn out to be a reasonably binding up-or-down vote on the Viaduct. That's not necessarily the intent of its framers or the voters, but it may be the practical outcome.

(That said, there's probably something to the idea that the gas tax repeal wouldn't have garnered quite so much support statewide if so much money didn't go to King County projects -- and the tunnel in particular. Looking at the list of projects authorized by the gas tax hike, Puget Sound really does take more than its share of gas tax revenues. One could argue that this is fair -- Puget Sound's gas taxes have historically underwritten projects elsewhere in the state -- but fairness probably has little bearing on the politics of the vote.

On the other hand, maybe *any* gas tax increase, regardless of how the money is distributed, would fail in the current political climate. I'm not enough of a political junkie to parse this one.)

Posted by: Clark Williams-Derry | Sep 20, 2005 10:20:05 AM

I am not disagreeing btw that the gas tax and the Viaduct are very much realted at the Seattle polls. That's why I am voting FOR repeal, in fact.

Posted by: David Sucher | Sep 20, 2005 8:13:47 PM