City Hall

Tunnel Initiative Filed

By Erica C. Barnett July 29, 2010

Elizabeth Campbell—a viaduct rebuild supporter—has filed an initiative "that will force a public vote on the Alaska Way Deep Bore Tunnel Project."

The initiative reads, in part:
The construction, operation or use of any City right-of-way or City-owned property wherever situated for a tunnel for vehicular traffic, or tunnel-related facility, to replace in whole or in part the Alaskan Way Viaduct is hereby prohibited.

The initiative is clearly aimed at building a new viaduct instead of a tunnel. For example, the initiative says, "The proposed tunnel will cause a significant disruption of and impacts to the scenic vistas now available to and/or enjoyed by the thousands of daily users of the Viaduct." And it says a surface/transit option would be "impractical to accommodate the level of traffic on the Alaskan Way Viaduct."

It's likely that another initiative or referendum will be filed before this is all over. (A referendum can't be filed until the city council actually signs three agreements with the state on the tunnel, because the resolution they proposed this week is nonbinding and is not subject to referendum).

A few reasons I don't believe this is the initiative that will stop the tunnel:

1) This isn't the first time Campbell has filed an initiative to stop the tunnel. In 2004, Campbell filed an initiative that would block tunnel construction. That initiative didn't get enough signatures to make it on the ballot. Campbell filed another such initiative in 2009; that one, too, failed to get enough signatures to qualify.

2) Campbell's other efforts to stop the tunnel have failed. In 2009, she sued the state (twice) and city to stop the tunnel; those lawsuits have since been dismissed.

3) Campbell plans to push the initiative as a volunteer effort headed up by Dick Falkenbury of the monorail project. Instead of using signature gatherers—paid or otherwise—Campbell's group will use unmanned kiosks and signing boards with petitions sheets for people to sign. Passive tactics like sign boards typically generate far fewer signatures than active signature gatherers, who can answer questions and pressure people to sign.
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