Councilmember O'Brien left office on December 31, 2019. This website is for archival purposes only and is no longer updated.

Monday’s Special Committee: the deep-bore tunnel project

8 Comments (Leave Comment)

At 9:30am on Monday, at a special full council meeting of the Seattle City Council will be voting on whether to overturn the Mayor’s veto on C.B. 117101, which would authorize the City to execute the agreements with the Washington State Department of Transportation, allowing them to proceed with the deep-bore tunnel project.

I believe that there is too much risk in this project and at a time when we are cutting funding to education, transit, and human services, we need to also be thinking about less expensive and less risky alternatives to replacing the viaduct.  I will be voting no, but the veto override will almost certainly occur 8-1.

Once passed, the city council has another option – we could refer the agreement to the citizens to approve.  I am attempting to introduce a resolution on Monday that would do just that.  If this project has cost overruns, the people of Seattle will be paying those cost overruns one way or another.  We owe it to our city to give the people a say – are they willing to bear this risk or not?

The last time the public voted was in the beginning of 2007 and 69.65% said they did not want a risky tunnel at that point.  This is a new tunnel, but the risks are even greater, and the impacts outlined in the supplemental draft environmental impact statement are significant.  You deserve to have a chance for your voices to be heard.

Below is a draft of the Resolution I will be trying to introduce at the Special Committee:

RESOLUTION _________________

A RESOLUTION submitting a referendum regarding City of Seattle Ordinance 117101 to the qualified electors of the City, at an election to be held on August 16, 2011; calling on the City Clerk to certify the proposed referendum to the  King County Director of Elections, requesting that the Director of Elections call a special election in conjunction with the August 16, 2011 primary election and submit the proposition to City voters, requesting that the City Attorney prepare a ballot title and explanatory statement, and requesting that the Director of Ethics and Elections ensure that the measure is in the voter’s pamphlet.

WHEREAS, in 2001 the Nisqually earthquake damaged the Alaskan Way Viaduct and Seawall; and

WHEREAS, in March of 2007 the voters rejected a tunnel alternative when presented this option in an advisory ballot; and

WHEREAS, the Washington State Legislature passed Engrossed Substitute Senate Bill 5768 and the Governor signed the bill into law designating Bored Tunnel Program as the preferred replacement for the Alaskan Way Viaduct, but made it clear that Seattle area property owners would be responsible for any project cost overruns; and

WHEREAS, no funding source has been identified to mitigate the impact of the tens of thousands of additional vehicles that are predicted to use the City’s downtown streets after the completion of the deep-bore tunnel; and

WHEREAS, the City of Seattle is facing significant financial stress and does not have the resources to address project cost overruns or mitigation expenses; and

WHEREAS, the environmental review of the Alaskan Way Viaduct Replacement’s preferred option is almost complete and we have a better understanding of the risks and impacts associated with the deep-bore tunnel than we did in 2007; and

WHEREAS, the decisions concerning replacement of the Viaduct and Seawall will affect the City for the next 100 years and will profoundly shape the region’s future transportation network; and

WHEREAS, the people of Seattle should have a direct voice in a decision of this magnitude; NOW, THEREFORE,


Section 1.  The Director of King County Elections, as ex officio supervisor of elections, is requested to call a special election to be held in conjunction with the state-wide primary election on August 16, 2011, and to submit to the qualified electors of the City the referendum measure set forth in Section 2.

Section 2.  The City Clerk is authorized and directed, not later than 84 days prior to August 16, 2011, to certify the referendum measure for the ratification or rejection of Ordinance 117101 entitled:

AN ORDINANCE relating to the State Route 99 Alaskan Way Viaduct and Seawall Replacement Program; entering into certain agreements with the State of Washington as provided in RCW 39.34.080, RCW Chapter 47.12, and other applicable law; and ratifying and confirming certain prior acts.

passed by the City Council on February 7, 2011, vetoed by the Mayor on February 17, 2011, and reconsidered and passed by the Council on February 28, 2011, as authorized by Seattle Charter Article IV, Subsections 1.H and 1.K. 

Section 3.  The Seattle City Attorney is requested to prepare a ballot title and an explanatory statement for this referendum measure.

Section 4.  The Executive Director of the Seattle Ethics and Elections Commission is requested to take those actions necessary to place information concerning this referendum measure in the August 2011 voters’ pamphlet.


RSS feed for comments on this post |

Comment from Leonard(Lenny)Larson
Time February 26, 2011 at 12:00 am

In my opinion, not quite ad nauseum, I have stated that the viaduct could have been built for 1/3 less than the predicted cost of the tunnel and cost overruns. It can still be built ! perhaps lower and with nearly the same off/on ramps.
I have seen re-bar three inches in diameter, and with super strength cement could withstand a 6-7 earthquake . The “stanchions” support columns, could be cast on site, and bolted to big cement bases,(similar to the light rail or Seattle Center monorail ) .
I believe the tunnel will be a fiasco in drilling, remember the cave-ins on Beacon Hill for Light rail . Now envision this under the soupy ground for the tunnel and the old brick structures above it.
Further, with the tunnel, note the north/south commuter a.m. and p.m. traffic mixing with the normal downtown traffic. I think Seattle will rue the day it starts the tunnel bore. I wish them much luck, as I for one, will never use it ! GOOD LUCK.
LENNY, No. Beacon Hill
ps: this writing may be copied and posted .

Comment from Keith Biever
Time February 26, 2011 at 12:20 am

Kudos Mike,

Your head and heart show you care about fiscal responsibility!

Comment from Salle Certo
Time February 26, 2011 at 2:25 am

I agree! The project is too risky and costs too much money. Especially with Seattle bearing any cost overruns and those will be enormous when all is said and done. Not to mention, the new tunnel will not even carry as many travelers as the Viaduct does now. No way will people want to pay a toll and if they do it will further delay traffic. I believe one way to alleviate the shortfall of the State’s budget especially for human services, education and transit would be to not build the tunnel.

I still believe the Viaduct can be rebuilt or repaired at a cheaper cost. Besides it is Historic and we all love the view! The water front can still be developed for everyone to enjoy even with the Viaduct standing.

If the city is going to go through with this, in the near future it should at least close the Viaduct for a week and see how traffic flows through the city. I really believe the State and Seattle will regret the decision to build the tunnel. As mentioned we voted against a tunnel and perhaps now it is time for us to vote again.

I wish I could attend the meeting so thank you Mike O’Brien for being the people’s advocate! Good luck! And THANKS!

Salle Certo

Comment from Maxx
Time February 26, 2011 at 4:13 am

On target! Let this tunnel madness end.

Comment from Lee Trousdale
Time February 26, 2011 at 3:40 pm

Totally spot-on, Mike!
God bless you and your rational and heartfelt position of responsible leadership.

Comment from Mary Paterson
Time February 26, 2011 at 4:38 pm

Thank you, Councilmember O’Brien,
This gives opponents to the tunnel some new hope and I will certainly be there Monday morning at 9 to offer public comment in favor of this resolution!
I am opposed to the tunnel and to a viaduct replacement, both, and I oppose them both because I am an environmentalist who believes we should not build any new (or replacement) roads for individual vehicles. Instead, we need to take action now to lower our carbon footprint by investing transportation funds into public transit: ferries across Lake Washington and up and down the Sound, improved and reduced-fare bus service, lots of park and ride access to light rail. If we cannot lighten our carbon footprint on our severely stressed environment, what kind of future are we handing our children–not our metaphorical “children,” but literally my children, your children, our community’s children?
No new roads for cars. Clean green jobs in public transportation–ferries, buses, light rail–instead!

Comment from Denny Gunna
Time February 27, 2011 at 6:00 am

In order to effectively address this critical issue we must first examine why the tunnel has been so widely identified as the best choice of the various options that are available.

An careful and honest review of the interests of the port and the manufacturing community reveals a great deal. If the port loses its ability to move freight the losses in earnings for that party will be highly significant. Of at least as much importance will be the losses in employment and the ripple effect of these two factors will be deep and widespread. The same is true for the manufacturing community.

Consider that the history of public investment in these entities have been enormous. It was the public who provided, and maintains the navigable waterways, the existing roads and highways, the communication systems, the workforce possessing the required levels of education as well as the legal and judicial infrastructure. Is it any surprise that these great giants of industry demanded–and received a promise that the many would once again dig deep into their pockets to keep big money happy? And what are the projected results if we don’t? Increasing unemployment, increasing numbers of families losing their healthcare plans, probably many more home forclosures, reduced demand for goods as a result in less money in circulation, as well as reductions in state and municipal revenues.

So it is clear that there must be a way to keep those industries from losing the environment (reminder, the people provide and maintain said environ) that permits them to continue reaping massive profits and employ tens of thousands of working, consuming, taxpayers.

I have to suggest–no, insist, that even as big business works hard in the halls of power, as well as the press to make sure that people who are workers, consumers and taxpayers must pull their own weight or die–that we demand the same of them. We should have no objection to their tunnel per-say as long as they pay for it. After their tunnel is built, with their money, and in our soil, we can go to work on our new elevated roadbed.

Problems will be drastically reduced this way. Big business will be able to move product without the disruptions that would occur by destroying the existing trade route before securing a replacement. The port and the manufacturing community will continue to make the money they need to continue stuffing their offshore accounts, the workforce will maintain their employment. Local merchants will continue to enjoy the demand of a somewhat prosperous workforce and the tax revenues will continue to be paid.

During the period of time between the ribbon cutting for the tunnel and the completion of the elevated roadbed industry will have to share their tunnel with the public. Once the elevated road is done we will stay out of their tunnel and they will have to stay off the publicly owned road or pay a fee for all usage.

Comment from Peter Lindsay
Time March 2, 2011 at 8:15 pm

There have been many strong arguments already made against the tunnel. But there are a couple areas that have not been addressed at all. I have not heard any estimate of the power consumption lighting and ventilating the tunnel 24/7 for the life of the tunnel. Nor are the added expenses of equipping and training generations of first responders to serve the tunnel being addressed. What will happen when (not if) a truck explodes in the tunnel like the one that did the other day on I5? Why and who disqualified the surface option before it was fully examined and characterized? Why are the construction union members (who largely don’t live in Seattle) being given so much influence while the voters, who voted down a less expensive tunnel, are ignored by the people who are supposed to represent them? It is starting to smell a lot like corruption to me.

Leave a comment

You need to login to post comments!

© 1995-2018 City of Seattle