Blog Seattle Post-Intelligencer: ’09 Could Be Seattle’s “Year Of The Tunnel”

An editorial tonight online at the Seattle Post-Intelligencer praises the smart decision by Washington Governor Chris Gregoire, Seattle Mayor Greg Nickels and King County Executive to take a harder look at an inland deep bore tunnel to replace the worn out Alaskan Way Viaduct on State Route 99 in downtown Seattle.

Could this be the Year of the Tunnel for Seattle? An idea that seemed buried could make a decisive comeback. After being left off a list of two final possibilities for replacing the Alaskan Way Viaduct, a waterfront tunnel survived the end of 2008. On Tuesday, Gov. Chris Gregoire, King County Executive Ron Sims and Seattle Mayor Greg Nickels postponed a final decision on a long-term replacement, which they had promised by Dec. 31.
Even on an already-protracted decision-making process, this is a healthy delay. Assuming that a choice can be agreed to within weeks, it’s much more important to make a good call than an immediate one. We are glad that Gregoire appears to be looking closely at all the relevant numbers: costs, how to apportion them and how traffic will move….strong arguments for some inclusion of a tunnel option clearly got the governor’s attention.
…At this point, a surface-transit option certainly deserves first place. It’s the most reasonably priced. Unlike a viaduct and a tunnel, voters haven’t rejected a surface plan. But the current tunnel idea, involving deep boring, is quite different from what Seattle voters turned down in early 2007. Gregoire seems to be interested in the advancing technology for boring, which has been used by Sound Transit. Tunnel backers at the well-versed Cascadia Center say costs would be lower than the state estimates.
Tolling and city contributions could help hold down costs. With the economy in the tank, a big state project might be a good idea. Perhaps federal help would be available. Gregoire, Sims and Nickels need to make a good decision based on solid numbers. That will get 2009 off to a good start.

KOMO 4 TV aired a story tonight (user-friendly Flash video link and transcript here) also highlighting the growing momentum for the deep bore inland tunnel option.