Afternoon Jolt: Transcript Highlights Provocative Statements on Tunnel Costs

By Afternoon Jolt December 16, 2010

Just about everyone on both sides of the tunnel debate says they don't want Seattle to pay for cost overruns.

A couple of years ago, however, King County Labor Council executive secretary David Freiboth, a tunnel proponent, said he wanted the "local community" to pay for overruns. And tunnel opponent Cary Moon said it would "be great if we could limit the state contribution to this project at $2.8 billion."

The comments came at a meeting of the viaduct stakeholders' group, a 29-member group convened to advise the city, county, and state on viaduct replacement options, in December 2008.

According to a transcript of the meeting, Freiboth said:

I am totally committed to not being perceived as advocating for some sort of additional money out of the legislative process. ... So in advancing the concept of keeping the [tunnel] on the table, it’s with the understanding that the local community has to come up with what it’s gonna take to make that happen. ... [W]hether you are talking about cost overruns, whether you’re talking about additional services or additional parts of the plan that are going to inflate the cost, that’s all got to be part of what the locals in this area are willing to step up and find a way to find the money to finance.

Contacted today, Freiboth says he didn't mean to refer to things like "additional services or additional parts of the plan that are going to inflate costs" as cost overruns.

"As soon as I spoke the words, I realized that I was using inaccurate terms," Freiboth tells PubliCola. "What I intended to address was additional costs of the project beyond what the state had budgeted that were a result of demands for additional features not included in the states project. Those 'cost overruns' would need to be addressed by the city. I in no way intended to indicate that the city should be on the hook for cost overruns that result from elements of the project that were a part of the state’s budgeted plan."

Moon's statement, she's a tunnel detractor, came in response to comments from Tayloe Washburn of the Greater Seattle Chamber of Commerce and Rob Sexton of the Downtown Seattle Association. Washburn's comment: "We are not asking the state to support one more cent in the $2.8 billion. ... Those who benefit from this investment should help pay for it.” Sexton's: "Hold firm on the $2.8 billion. And not ask the state to use gas tax money to fund the incremental cost of this project beyond the $2.8 billion. We have a responsibility, and I agree completely with Tayloe, we have a responsibility in this region, if there’s something that we want, if there’s an investment that we feel strong enough to make, we ought to be willing to pay for it.”

In response, Moon said, "I agree with the language that was proposed by Tayloe and Rob. I’d be great if we could limit the state contribution to this project at $2.8 billion."

Contacted by phone, Moon said she was trying to make the point that the state should choose an option it could afford, like the $1-billion-cheaper surface/transit/I-5 option. "I support finding a cost-effective solution," Moon says. "If the state adheres to a price cap [and runs into overruns], they're going to start cutting that are important to Seattle, and I don't want that."

We'll certainly bring this up at tonight's PubliCola tunnel forum at City Hall, where both Freiboth and Moon will be debating starting at 7:00 pm.
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