City Hall

McGinn Sending Tunnel Agreement to Council with Cost Overrun Provision

By Erica C. Barnett June 28, 2010

At 10:30 this morning, Mayor Mike McGinn will announce that he's transmitting an agreement on the downtown deep-bore tunnel to the council. The agreement will include a provision that says construction on the tunnel will not go forward unless the state removes a provision putting Seattle taxpayers on the hook for any cost overruns on the project.

It'll be interesting to see what the exact language of McGinn's version of the contract is, because---contrary to widespread belief---the state law doesn't actually put Seattle, the city, on the hook for overruns, but Seattle property owners who "benefit" from the project. Who those property owners might actually be has never been identified.

McGinn previously vowed to veto any agreement with the state that doesn't include the cost overrun provision---a promise that city council president Richard Conlin called "grandstanding."

Conlin has not yet returned a call for comment. However, his staff tells PubliCola that the council president can't imagine state legislators passing policy in the future that requires Seattle to pay outright for cost overruns on a state project---policy that would open up other cities to the same risk. From the perspective of someone representing Eastern Washington, for example, such a policy would be the epitome of big government gone amok.

The council needs six votes to override a mayoral veto. The last version of the memorandum passed unanimously.
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