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Crosscut: No Reason To Rush on Tunnel

By Erica C. Barnett April 8, 2011

In an op/ed that was apparently rejected by the Seattle Times, environmental and land use attorney Douglas Bricklin argues on Crosscut that the city council and state are "playing games" by suggesting that the decision to build a deep-bore tunnel in downtown Seattle was made a long time ago---one of the arguments tunnel supporters have raised to support their position that three agreements between the city and state on the tunnel are merely "administrative," and are not subject to referendum.

The argument that the tunnel is not a done deal, in short, boils down to the fact that the state and city have not signed off on a final environmental impact statement for the project, and that until they do, both parties could still reject the tunnel. Tunnel opponents point out that the city has refused to sign off on smaller projects like a new homeless encampment in Georgetown on the grounds that they haven't gone through full environmental review; why, they ask, should a multibillion-dollar project like the tunnel be an exception?

Bricklin writes: ...
The state and the city are still working on the [environmental impact statement] for the viaduct replacement project. That EIS will analyze both the tunnel alternative and alternatives to the tunnel. Until the Final EIS is published, neither the state nor the city is allowed to make any decision that would predispose it toward the tunnel. Is that news to you? It might be given that so many politicians and bureaucrats want you to believe the tunnel is a done deal. ...

So, which is it, [tunnel supporters]? Has the decision not been made yet (because to do so would violate the state law that mandates that the EIS be prepared first)? In that case, the council has to put the referendum on the ballot.

Or, are you going to continue with the line that the decision already was made and the referendum is too late — even if that means you admit to violating SEPA’s requirement to do the EIS before irrevocable decisions are made?

The city council and state can’t have it both ways. Either comply with SEPA and admit the recent decisions are ripe for a referendum or keep the referendum off the ballot and admit you are violating SEPA.

We have a call out to Times editorial page editor Ryan Blethen to find out why the paper decided not to run Bricklin's editorial.
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