On KUOW's "Weekday" this morning, city council president Richard Conlin, budget chair Jean Godden, and transportation chair Tom Rasmussen said they supported Seattle City Attorney Pete Holmes' lawsuit to avert a vote on three city-state agreements on the deep-bore tunnel; said Mayor Mike McGinn's obsessive focus on the tunnel has harmed the city's relationships with leaders in Olympia, and called the mayor's tunnel obsession a "distraction" that has prevented the council from working with the mayor on other pressing issues.

"My primary concern is what [the mayor's opposition to the tunnel] does to our relationship with the governor, with the state legislature, and with our regional partners," Rasmussen said. "They look at us and they wonder, what in the world is the mayor doing? He's undermined the governor, he's criticized her, he fights with leaders from around the region, and that makes it very difficult for us to get the kind of cooperation that we need, because transportation projects don't just end at the city limits."

Conlin added, "I do think it has been a distraction for [McGinn]. I think he's focused on something that has really caused him to not be able to focus on things that would be helpful to the city."

[pullquote]"They look at us and they wonder, what in the world is the mayor doing? He's undermined the governor, he's criticized her, he fights with leaders from around the region, and that makes it very difficult for us to get the kind of cooperation that we need."[/pullquote]

Asked whether the council supports Holmes' decision to sue to stop the tunnel referendum from moving forward, Conlin called the case "legally plausible," adding: "Those agreements specifically provide that the state is fully responsible for the cost of the project. That's what's so strange about this idea of putting this to a referendum, because [the agreements are]  what protects the city against the risk of cost overruns. It's a legally binding contract."

Rasmussen jumped in, saying that the tunnel agreements obligate the state to work with the city on things like the design of tunnel portals and toll rates; "If those agreements go away, the state has no obligation to work with the city on those and many other issues. Why would we want to undermine or nullify agreements that protect the city?"

None of the three council members gave much credence to studies that have shown the tolling rates that will be necessary to build the tunnel (the state is counting on $400 million from tolls) will dump 40,000 cars onto downtown streets. Although those findings, which came directly from a state Department of Transportation analysis (and were subsequently confirmed by a city-sponsored study), Conlin breezily dismissed them as the "worst-possible-case scenario [and] not a case that we expect will happen."

Godden added, "People tend to put a larger number of the number of cars that will be diverted than actually will happen. ... People will find out that it's a good way to get around and they will go ahead and use it."
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