Talk about cost overruns: It turns out that a proposal by Mayor Mike McGinn to put a $241 million seawall bond measure on the ballot that stalled last year (council members said the measure was premature and that the city could fund the seawall without using up so much of its bonding capacity) would have been tens of millions of dollars in the red if it had been passed by voters, a new city report reveals.

At the end of a nearly three-hour meeting of the city council's briefings committee last week, city transportation planners revealed that the seawall ballot measure proposed by Mayor Mike McGinn last year would have fallen tens of millions of dollars short of funding the project, potentially sending the council and mayor "scrambl[ing] to add additional money to make sure we could complete the projects in the levy," as council president Richard Conlin put it Monday.

The new estimates put the cost of seawall design and construction at a range of $310 million to $390 million, up from $274 million, and the total cost of the project (including utility work and contingency funding) at a range of $335 million to $416 million, up from the previous total of $285 million.

Among several reasons the new estimate is higher: The  project itself is now longer; the city now plans to use a different seawall design that's more structurally sound; and the project now includes ecosystem restoration.

Conlin's comments were a not-so-veiled dig at the mayor's initial haste to get his own seawall measure on the ballot. McGinn originally wanted a $241 million levy to fund the seawall to go on a citywide ballot as early as last May; the council put the kibosh on that proposal.

"One thing we could take as a positive from this is that we did not go out to the voters with an inadequate proposal," Conlin said.

We have an email out to McGinn spokesman Aaron Pickus to find out what the implications of the new, higher estimates are for the mayor's proposed ballot measure.
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