Blog Seattle Divided? Tunnel Tug-of-War


Photo Source: WSDOT

“Is there a culture war being waged for the soul of Seattle?,” asks Jordan Royer in an article that appeared today in Crosscut. A one-time candidate for Seattle City Council and former public safety staffer for Seattle mayors Paul Schell and Greg Nickels, Royer’s article folds the debate about replacing the Alaskan Way Viaduct into his article, “How a Quiet Culture War is Dividing Seattle.” 

The great debate raging about the Alaskan Way Viaduct is another place where the cultural battle is playing out. Some are eager to test the theory that reducing car capacity forces people to get around by other means. The problem with conducting this experiment on our waterfront, however, is that you squeeze the port and all those well paying jobs. The Port of Seattle is contributing up to $300 million for the tunnel project, and it’s not because they want to be nice or because it’s part of their responsibility. They are contributing because they know they are in a competitive fight for survival as a major container port and understand what’s at stake if the project doesn’t move forward.

Royer, who cites a study that shows that 45,000 manufacturing jobs were lost in Seattle in the last decade, also points out that Seattle still ranks relatively high among U.S. cities in terms of manufacturing jobs. His points are amplified by federal export data available through the Seattle Industry website of the Manufacturing Industrial Council. Year-in, year-out, according to information from those sources, the greater Seattle metro area produces $45 billion to $55 billion in exports, about half of them accounted for by Boeing jet liners, with the rest coming from thousands of small manufacturing firms including more than 220 Boeing suppliers located inside the Seattle city limits. Most of these companies rely on the Interstate 5–State Route 99 corridor every day to move people and goods. The deep-bore tunnel agreed to by the city, county and state is the best way to keep that commerce moving while and after a viaduct replacement is built.
“This is why some of the discussions about the tunnel replacement for the viaduct seem so strange,” Royer tells us. “It appears to be more of an ideological test than a common-sense approach to the realities of the future.” Indeed, even though the region is relatively well-positioned, “failing to invest in our infrastructure” is the surest way not to keep it there. And if the numbers don’t convince, among the reasons common sense should be the touchstone, according to Royer, is because the measurements of the industrial base aren’t just an obscure set of numbers and trends, but also represent “thousands of real people….”