City Hall

Mayor McGinn Responds to Council's Tunnel Vote

By Erica C. Barnett August 3, 2010

In a conference call with a handful of reporters this morning, Mayor Mike McGinn responded to a resolution passed by the city council yesterday on the deep-bore tunnel. The resolution affirms the city's commitment to sign three agreements with the state, allowing the tunnel to move forward, but holds off on actually signing the agreements until two potential tunnel contractors have released their bids.

McGinn has said repeatedly that the council still has time to work with him to resolve the question of cost overruns; he wants the city to refuse to sign the agreements until the state legislature removes language in state law saying Seattle-area property owners will be responsible for paying any overruns. By delaying any action, he said today, the council has given itself time to push the legislature to remove the overrun provision.

"I think the council's action is interesting in a lot of respects, but ultimately, it's not really any action at all," McGinn said. "They weren't willing to commit to the agreements with the state at this time, so in fact, there's lots of time yet" for council members to reconsider their positions. "What I've asked is that we not proceed with the project while the state has the expectation that Seattle's going to pay cost overruns, so we're going to continue pushing our position."

McGinn also addressed a proposal by the council to increase the commercial parking tax 2.5 percent to pay for initial work on the downtown seawall. McGinn has proposed a 30-year, $243 million bond measure to pay to replace the seawall; the council is considering three combinations of funding sources, only one of which includes McGinn's bond. McGinn had planned to propose a commercial-parking-tax increase to help plug an ongoing budget shortfall at the city's department of transportation.

He said that even if the council does raise the parking tax, he will still introduce a tax proposal to "take care of our local streets and bridges." And he said that although the council hasn't "been willing to move very quickly on" the seawall, he would be "willing to have a discussion" about whether his bond measure, or some other combination of taxes and fees, is the best approach to paying for the seawall.
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