What Could Possibly Go Wrong
"We are rushing forward with a technology that has never been tested in a dense urban environment in the United States," Richard Conlin said in a press release, "with funding so marginal that every time we raise a question, we are told that delaying a week or adding a cost will kill the project."
Another quote from Richard Conlin: "If this project is now so fragile that taking the time to make good decisions endangers its ability to go forward, then the project is doomed to failure."
And another: "There remain concerns about the project's finances and impacts as a whole."
City council president Richard Conlin could be talking about the downtown tunnel—a project that has no bids, no completed design, no completed impact study, and no source to pay for cost overruns, and which involves unreliable technology in a dense urban environment—but all those quotes are Conlin talking about the monorail project that he helped kill.
Now Conlin calls raising questions about runaway costs on the downtown tunnel "grandstanding" and criticizes the mayor for taking an "adversarial approach." But when the city council was contemplating a bill in 2004 to allow the monorail project to move forward, Conlin deployed many of the same arguments about the monorail that he's now dismissing about the deep-bore tunnel.
Now Conlin doesn't want people at City Hall to raise questions about a project with marginal funding because those arguments have "been distorted and overblown in order to kill the project," he wrote on his blog in May. "Demands that the state stop the project and address potential cost overruns are an intentional misdirection."
But in 2004, Conlin told the Seattle Weekly that "raising concerns and asking that they be addressed is not obstructionist."
Conlin's concerns about a runaway megaproject were justified. The Elevated Transportation Company estimated base costs for the monorail project at $2 billion. But it came out later—after the sort of intense financial scrutiny that we haven't had on the tunnel—that the project would cost $11 billion dollars with financing and take decades to pay off.
But while Conlin was for public debate, scrutiny, and getting answers when it came to building a populist mass-transit project—Conlin is opposed to public debate, scrutiny, and getting answers when it comes to building a tunnel through downtown Seattle.
"I continue to be unconvinced that the overall feasibility of this project has been demonstrated," Conlin said of the monorail six years ago. He could—and should—be saying the same things now. Maybe Conlin isn't worried. But Seattle taxpayers should be.