The preliminary financing plan that the anti-tunnel campaign, Protect Seattle Now, has been trying to force the Washington State Department of Transportation to release was actually largely online all along. [pullquote]The preliminary financing plan that the anti-tunnel campaign has been trying to force the Washington State Department of Transportation to release was actually largely online all along.[/pullquote]
A separate anti-tunnel group, Seattle Citizens Against the Tunnel, which favors a rebuilt viaduct as opposed to the surface/transit option favored by PSN, discovered it and sent it around last night.
As WSDOT tunnel project manager Ron Paananen told Erica last week, the supposedly secret plan is similar to preliminary plans WSDOT had already released, according to wonky Seattle Times transit reporter Mike Lindblom.
All the numbers in the plan are identical or nearly identical to what was already in the public domain, through news interviews, the environmental impact statement, DOT fliers, and especially the January 2010 tolling study. Part of the package is an application by DOT to gain permission to toll from the Federal Highway Administration, which is contributing to the project.
Based on a quick look, here are highlights:
* The state suggests it can finance the tunnel even in the event that WSDOT cannot raise a planned $400 million in toll-backed bonds. The following passage addresses what DOT considers a low-probablility scenario where the Legislature balks at tolling the tunnel:
However, if the authority to sell bonds paid by toll revenue is not granted, WSDOT will work with the legislature to find alternative sources of funding. Options may include a mix of the following: reducing or deferring other WSDOT projects within the state, alternative financing with private parties, perhaps pursuing other federal programs like the Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (TIFIA), revising use of other funding from Port or local sources, or perhaps using the capacity within WSDOT's federal program.
* The state says that recent analysis is honing in on peak toll rates of $3.50 to $4 per trip, in 2015 dollars. These are somewhat cheaper than the top-end price in the environmental-impact statement, peaking at $4 to $5. High tolls are expected to cause serious diversion and congestion on city streets. The state acknowledges they need to be lower.
* More tolling studies are planned through 2012. Toll-backed bonds would be sold in 2014, and the tunnel open to traffic in early 2016.
* There is not a detailed cash-flow spreadsheet to show the finance payments over 25-30 years. That level of "investment grade" study is due later.
Last week, Highway 99 administrator Ron Paananen told reporters there is not much new in the financial plan, a comment that turns out to be largely true.
2. "I support getting to school and work on time."—Robert Higa, UW student from Kent
UW students, who make up 6.6 percent of Metro riders, have released a YouTube video supporting the pending $20 "congestion reduction charge" to prevent drastic bus service cuts.
3. "For every two steps forward in the recovery, it seems we are taking one step back." —Gov. Chris Gregoire
In an email to state employees yesterday, Gov. Gregoire announced that she wants all state agencies to prepare for more revenue shortfalls by finding 10 percent reductions, prioritized in five percent increments.
Though our revenue collections have continued to show slight improvement this biennium, our near-term outlook has weakened. The uncertainty our state could experience as a result of downgraded credit ratings, federal debt concerns, European markets and the lingering effects of the tsunami in Japan, are causing us to be extra cautious.
After dealing with a $5.2 billion shortfall last session, making $4.6 billion in cuts for the 2011-2013 biennium, and getting the bad news right after the session that we're down another $328 million for the biennium, Gregoire said yesterday, "should more bad news happen, we must be prepared."
State senate budget chair Sen. Ed Murray (D-43, Seattle) says the next revenue forecast could be as high as $1 billion short or "only" a few hundred million.