Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Get over it, you lost.

Yes, it's been a long absence for me-- lots going on in life which I won't get into here, but one thing that happened locally is very much worth noting: The tunnel option for Seattle (aka The Big Dig II, The Big Dig Goes to Washington) is dead. This comes as a great relief to all intelligent people everywhere. As anyone with command of more than a few brain cells could have guessed, the technical difficulties of digging a tunnel through soggy, clay-like Seattle soil right next to Puget Sound would be... problematic to say the least.

State leaders' rejection of the tunnel came hours after the state Department of Transportation issued a letter declaring a four-lane tunnel too dangerous to merit further study. The tunnel concept, in which the shoulders would be used as exit lanes at rush hour, has "serious operational and safety problems," the DOT said.
As for safety, she said, "The DOT review has shown that the hybrid tunnel proposal does not meet state and federal safety standards. Furthermore, an accident where people could not escape this tunnel could prove catastrophic."
It was also interesting to note that State Lawmakers, in an extremely rare moment of fiscal responsibility, were unambiguous about their rejection of such a scheme. And really, who can blame them? This is the kind of project that would tarnish the career of any politician who comes near it.

The reaction in Olympia was striking in that lawmakers spoke with one voice, where before there was ambiguity. [Seattle Mayor]Nickels and other tunnel supporters had taken advantage of any political uncertainty to press their case.
Nickels, frankly, should thank his lucky stars because this project would have eventually been dubbed "Nickels' folly" had it been allowed to go on. However, Seattle isn't out of the woods on this yet, because Nickels is turning out to be one of the more hard-headed, arrogant control freaks of recent mayoral memory. Nickels is the type of politician who threatens his constituents if he gets a whiff that they don't agree with him, and he's repeatedly warned that if he doesn't get his tunnel, he'll tear the viaduct down and go with the utterly crackpot "surface street" option, because he refuses to have any elevated freeway. While Nickels promises to continue his campaign for a tunnel, the real fear is that we'll get nothing, which will please seven community activists who drive their Volvos from Madison Park to Downtown three days a week, and as such cannot conceive of why anyone would ever need a freeway in the first place.
If a tunnel is not possible, Nickels has said in the past that his preferred alternative is tearing down the viaduct and using existing surface streets and improved transit to replace it.
The mayor, who confoundingly has pushed this patently dumb tunnel option is politically no idiot. He knows that the surface street option is the dumbest plan of all, and his strategy here is to give Seattle residents something that he knows won't work as punishment for not getting his tunnel. This, in turn may make Seattle residents beg for a tunnel once the arm-twisting gridlock sets in.


Anonymous said...

What I find amazing is that the legislators actually listened to the experts they pay to give them advice, government employees. Often this isn’t the case. Of course it helps that the idea was financially untenable to begin with, but how often has that stopped them in the past.

Anonymous said...

If we can just get the Sonics off to KC we'll be on a roll...