City Hall

McGinn Talks Tunnel on KIRO with Dave Ross

By Erica C. Barnett July 5, 2010

Mayor Mike McGinn just spent the majority of an hourlong interview with KIRO Radio's Dave Ross talking about, what else, the deep-bore tunnel. (On KOMO last week, I said that McGinn has lately been perpetuating his campaign-era image as a single-issue candidate by acting more and more like a single-issue mayor).

McGinn reiterated his sound bites about cost overruns on the tunnel ("All I've been asking is one simple question: Who is going to pay for cost overruns?") and tried to position himself as the voice of reason under siege by a barrage of "bizarre" objections and questions from tunnel supporters. (For example, state house transportation chair Judy Clibborn has said that a road diet on Nickerson---essentially, reducing the number of travel lanes, adding a turn lane and bike facilities, and making pedestrian improvements---is a plot by McGinn to bottleneck traffic on the north end of the tunnel and sabotage the project.)

"I'm prepared to agree to the tunnel as long as the state pays for any cost overruns," McGinn said. "I keep moving! I said, 'I will sign the agreement if we can put a clause in there that says the agreement becomes effective once the state changes the law."

The state legislature doesn't want to change the law, of course, because the current law is favorable to the state; it says that "property owners in the Seattle area who benefit from" the tunnel will pay for any costs over the state's contribution of $2.8 billion. And the city council doesn't want to demand that the state change the law, because they don't want to delay the project.

McGinn did get in one good sound bite about overruns (expect it to become part of his repertoire): Comparing the tunnel to Sound Transit's initial light rail line, which was shortened by seven miles when it went $1 billion over budget, McGinn said, "When Sound Transit went over budget, they built a shorter line and asked voters to pay to finish it. When you have a 50-foot-diameter boring machine underground, half a tunnel isn't going to be worth anything. ... It's not as if we can scale it back" if things go wrong, McGinn said.

McGinn also reiterated his commitment to get a light-rail measure on the ballot next year. "That would be, I believe, a good investment in our future."
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