Even with contracts awarded and groundbreaking set for September, opponents of the $2 billion, 1.7-mile downtown bored tunnel in Seattle haven’t stopped fighting. But now the public has told them to kindly go away through an Aug. 16 Primary vote. Without a lot of options left, opponents may have no other choice than to finally listen to the public.
After Seattle and Washington State deliberated for years over how to replace the aging—and earthquake-susceptible—double-decker structure running along the city’s waterfront, the process was moving forward nicely with a tunnel as the featured piece of the $3.1 billion project.
Proponents say the tunnel option is the best choice in regard to transportation flow and will open up the waterfront for public use. Opponents worry about environmental impacts, potential cost overruns with one of the world’s largest deep-bored tunnels and the message a tunnel sends in supporting more vehicular traffic.
Those who agree the tunnel is a grand idea include Gov. Chris Gregoire, the city’s labor and business leaders and eight of the nine Seattle City Council members. McGinn doesn’t concur, however, and a group tossed Proposition 1 on the city’s Aug. 16 Primary ballot in an effort to stop the Highway 99 tunnel.
That didn’t work too well, as about 60 percent of voters supported the tunnel in the vote. While the actual ballot measure officially asked voters if they thought the city should enter into agreements with the state on the tunnel project, the measure was really about the tunnel in general. And everyone knew that.
McGinn relented after the Tuesday vote, saying the public wants to move ahead with the tunnel and that is what he will do. Of course, the state planned to keep moving no matter what the vote was, since groundbreaking is set for September and the contracts are well in hand to Seattle Tunnel Partners, which is New York’s Dragados, the construction division of Spain’s ACS Group and Tutor Perini Corp. of Slymar, Calif.
While the City Council and tunnel supporters say the vote was strong, direct and powerful and the lone council member against the tunnel called the vote “decisive” and asked for tunnel opponents to take the loss graciously, according to the Seattle Times, some anti-tunnel folks say they will continue the fight. When will they stop? After the tunnel breaks ground? After vehicles are driving through it in—hopefully—2015?
Even with a few lone dissenters still in the mix, the tunnel will move forward. And now comes the questions that come with every tunnel project of this size: How smooth will this construction process go?