As Washingtonians, it was hard not to read the national shoutout that Gov. Jay Inslee got in last Sunday's New York Times with some skepticism.
In a foreboding climate change column, calling for immediate action, NYT columnist Thomas Friedman started off quoting Inslee from the Showtime climate change series Years of Living Dangerously: "Of the many things being said about climate change lately, none was more eloquent than the point made by Gov. Jay Inslee of Washington State ... when he observed: 'We’re the first generation to feel the impact of climate change and the last generation that can do something about it.'"
True. So why are we committed to building the waterfront tunnel?
However, it's hard to ignore that the Washington State Department of Transportation's most prominent project right now, the $4.5 billion tunneled freeway with $2.8 billion in state funding, continues to organize state transportation planning around the car-centric (110,000 vehicles a day) model developed during the 1950s as opposed to a green option that's more in line with Inslee's executive order to "identify and implement opportunities to increase statewide investments in multimodal transportation."
With costs increasing daily, the stalled tunnel project seems like the perfect opportunity for re-thinking our investments; you know, turning a crisis into an opportunity.
And Fizz knows, based on an interview with then-Congressman Jay Inslee, that he used to be interested in the green option, a boulevard design (check the link above from People's Waterfront Coalition activist Cary Moon).
Cue up Josh's interview with then-Rep. Inslee:
I asked Inslee what he thought about Nickels's tunnel option. To my surprise, Inslee brought up the People's Waterfront Coalition streets-and-transit option. He didn't outright endorse it, but he seemed interested. He chastised Nickels for "missing a major opportunity" to make a "fundamental break" with our old way of thinking and said Nickels needed to think more seriously about the surface option. "Especially," Inslee said coyly, "since the mayor is going to be coming to people like me for federal money."
The political mea culpa and arm twisting it would take to backtrack on the tunnel (God forbid, former Mayor Mike McGinn was right—and even worse, Erica C. Barnett, 10 years ago) is daunting politically. But neither Inslee nor his candid WSDOT director Lynn Peterson are tied to the ugly tunnel battles of 2007-2011.
In addition to being a financial fiasco, the tunnel will be an environmental disaster by encouraging car capacity—build it and they will come—that we don't need.
Inslee is perfectly set up to "do something about it."
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