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Extra Fizz: McGinn and the Surface Transit Option

By Josh Feit September 15, 2009

Seattle Times wonky transportation reporter Mike Lindblom has a big (and important) story this morning on mayoral candidate Mike McGinn's main issue—McGinn's opposition to the $4.2 billion tunnel.

It's a well reported piece, laying out both the pros, cons, and question marks about McGinn's pledge to stop the tunnel. (Although, I'm sure Erica "the C. is for Crank" Barnett—a wonky transportation reporter herself—will be weighing in later today with her thoughts about the shortcomings of Lindblom's article.)

The one thought I have about Lindblom's story if this: McGinn was able to pull off a nice little trick during the primary, coming out strong against the tunnel without ever really stressing his controversial "surface transit" alternative. By simply being the anti-tunnel guy, he not only brought along (and fired up) his base—urban greens, who want the surface transit option—he also got the support of the cranky, lesser-Seattle crowd, who don't like the fancy tunnel either. (McGinn worked this crowd by playing up the anti-tax message.)

However, now that it's the general and McGinn has to flesh out his "No Tunnel!" position with his idelalistic surface transit option, the cranky, lesser-Seattle crowd (which wants a rebuild and not a surface transit option) may get wise that McGinn is not their thing.

McGinn came through the primary by reigniting the strange-bedfellows coaltion that sent the tunnel down in flames in the special 2007 election—the surface transit dreamers and the rebuild reactionaries. McGinn's going to have to be a pretty good dancer to hold that coalition together in the general as the issue gets more attention. Getting forced to break out his surface transit plan in a front-page Seattle Times article may have been the first misstep.
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