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Eye On Olympia

New Viaduct? Tunnel instead? Tunnel Lite?

(Background for Eastern WA readers who haven’t been following the drama: Gov. Chris Gregoire and key lawmakers are very, very reluctant to spend the extra money replacing Seattle’s elevated Alaskan Way Viaduct with a tunnel. They fear Big Dig-style massive cost overruns. It would be cheaper, simpler and far quicker, they say, to simply replace the elevated freeway with the same thing. Seattle leaders, who see this as a historic effort to rid the city of its ugly waterfront freeway, are pushing for a tunnel.)

“I guess I’m gonna speak for the public. Why did we wait so long? We’ve been spending a lot of money over a lot of years trying to make a decision…To me this is an 11th hour issue. And I really am disappointed, because I think that people need to move forward and do something…I have people from this committee and across the legislature coming to me saying we need money for projects. And everyone sees this project in seattle that’s gone on and on and on and has cost lots and lots of money. And what you’re coming forward with now, it seems to me we needed to do more work, and how much more is that work going to cost and where is that money going to come from?”

--Senate Transportation Committee chairwoman Sen. Mary Margaret Haugen, D-Camano Island during a hearing Thursday.

In response, Sen. Ken Jacobsen, D-Seattle, noted that Seattle has long been a “donor county,” watching its tax dollars go to pay for projects in other counties, particularly in rural areas of the state.

Everybody else likes to make a decision (for) all the money that goes in together. But then when we turn around for the donor county to receive their share, all of a sudden everybody’s got a problem.”

Haugen fires back:

I don’t think anyone had any problem with the donor counties. I went to my voters and told them we have a crisis in central Puget sound, please do not repeal the 9.5 cents, we need to spend $2 billion to rebuild the (viaduct). I don’t care which way they do it. Just do it. And don’t spend any more money. With that, we’re adjourned.

Short takes and breaking news from the Washington Legislature and the state capital.