This Washington

Extra Jolt: House Transportation Chair says Tunnel Delay Would Cost Millions

By Erica C. Barnett March 28, 2011

Not a winner or loser, but a jolt nonetheless: In a letter responding to legislative transportation leaders' questions about the cost of delaying the deep-bore tunnel, state Department of Transportation secretary Paula Hammond responded today that if agreements between the city and state on the tunnel do not move forward as planned next week, the immediate cost to the state would be $54 million, in the form of added costs to WSDOT and the tunnel contractor "to complete utility design work, and escalation and bonding and insurance costs due to the schedule delay."

The details from WSDOT, sent out via email by legislative Democrats late in the day, is an obvious response to today's news that a group aiming to stop the tunnel gathered well over the required number of signatures to get its anti-tunnel measure on the ballot.

A referendum that is likely to have enough valid signatures to make it on to a citywide ballot would, in theory, overturn three agreements between the city and state on relocating city-owned utilities and giving WSDOT permits to do construction on city streets. Tunnel supporters maintain that the agreements aren't subject to referendum (because, they argue, they're mere administrative measures to implement a previously adopted policy), and WSDOT maintains that, as a state agency, they have the right to operate in city right-of-way with or without the city's participation and input.

In addition, Hammond writes, "If the agreements are not in effect in August when we plan to issue the notice to proceed for final design and construction, we estimate that there would be approximately $20 million in cost impacts for each month of delay" on top of the $54 million. "For every month of delay, the opening of the tunnel would be delayed by one month."

Mayor Mike McGinn, a supporter of the anti-tunnel ballot measure, did not immediately return a request for comment.
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