City Attorney on Tunnel Cost Overruns: "The City Cannot Be Forced to Pay"


Mayor McGinn is right.

Which is why the Billionaires Tunnel will fail to get a majority of the vote in the required public vote.

Since it's above the bonding authority of the City Council.
"Mayor Mike McGinn agrees that the enforceability of the cost-overruns provision isn't the issue."

He does? Since when - since this morning after he heard what Pete Holmes said?
Cost overruns=Corruption.
Screw it, I'm moving to the east coast in a couple of years anyway. Fucking build it and pave it with GOLD!!!

Sounds like Pete Holmes drank Gregoire's koolaid; delay is not the only, or biggest cause, of overruns in urban megaprojects. The tunnel boring machine hitting an unexpected obstacle, and stall out; there could be a seismic event during boring; inaccurate analysis of the tricky water table could lead to site flooding; ground vibration or settlement could cause a sinkhole under one or more downtown buildings; ground vibration and soil settlement could cause failure in rickety Pioneer Square water infrastructure; there could be a labor dispute. You can't prevent these technical problems by going faster.

WSDOT has said that their #1 tool to control project costs and avoid overruns is to ‘manage project scope’. This means that if a costly problem emerges during boring, for instance, then some other part of this complex project will get its budget axed.

That puts Seattle electeds in a bind.
There will likely be cost control / scope reduction tradeoff decisions down the road, and WSDOT is likely to suck the funding needed for the dig from the other parts of the project. What decision authority does Council have to protect Seattle's interests, if any?
Is funding protected for the parts of the project important to Seattle, such as the $290 million for the waterfront street replacement, funding for lids at the portal areas, and reconnecting the street grid at Thomas, Republican, and Harrison? Or are they OK with the state simply defaulting on these promises, as they did with $190 million for transit funding?

Good explanation, Dominic.

Count me in the camp of people who aren't dead-set against the tunnel, who consider it the lesser of two evils (the greater evil being a new viaduct), and whose primary concern is that Seattle not be stuck with the cost overruns. Frankly, I'm satisfied with Pete Holmes's assessment. He has allayed my concerns.

Gloomy Gus @2, I too am confused now by the mayor's position. It is strange that Mike McGinn is now saying his issue isn't that the overruns provision but rather the spending cap by the state. McGinn: "Saying that the city cannot be made to pay a cost overrun doesn’t address the problem of what we do if there is a cost overrun.”

I'll tell you what we do if there's a cost overrun. Just let the project sit there until the state comes up with the rest of the money. I'd have no problem with the aborted remains of an underground highway sitting underneath downtown Seattle indefinitely. We can leave it there as a monument to our fiscal shortsightedness, circa early 21st century.

Anyway, it seems like the real deciding factor here could be this contract the city and state are expected to sign within a week.
God, it's times like this when I wish I could step inside that dank, murky place that is Frank Chopp's brain and find out what he knows that the rest of us don't. I think Chopp knows exactly what will happen if and when there are cost overruns, and he's not saying because to do so would create a political firestorm.

I'd love to ask anyone else in the know for their opinion of who picks up the tab, but I'm afraid most of the people in the know have a vested interest one way or the other.
You're confused over McGinn's flip-flop? Really?

Any time a FACT runs up against his blather, the blather shifts and he says, "No, that's what I meant all along."

Thank goodness the new urbanists got such a dweeb in office. After this debacle perhaps they'll go away.
Hey, "You're not serious" @8, so you think it's so overwhelmingly obvious that McGinn is on the wrong side of the "FACTS"... Then, instead of taking another shot at him, why don't you explain to the rest of us why you are--and apparently have always been-confident that Seattle taxpayers have nothing to worry about when it comes to cost overruns on the tunnel? If you're so knowledgeable, then tell the rest of us how things are going to unfold when there are overruns?

P.S. It's apparent to me that all these personal attacks on McGinn are nothing but blowing smoke, an attempt to distract us from the real issues at hand.
@7 - Frank's running the long game.

The actual Billionaires Tunnel being built is not required for the Long Game to work, just his backing of it.

But silly people who have no idea how easy it is to leverage the new EPA emissions regs, native population sites, or other things have no idea how easy it is to stop the SR-99 Billionaires Tunnel.
@9 - Mayor McGinn is very popular in Seattle amongst the actual voting electorate.

It's just whiny millionaires in the suburbs and their lapdogs that have a problem with him.
@Cato the Younger Younger

Good idea. Nobody on the East Coast would ever think about spending billions on a tunnel.

McGinn won by 50.5%. He was lagging in the polls till he moderated his anti-viaduct stance and said he wouldn't oppose the project. That does not sound like "very popular" to me.
2 things, first, who does the mayor think would pay the cost overruns on a surface option?
Why the fuck does that shithead think the legislature would kiss his ass on that option?
Second, Holden, your math is fucked up. Look at the beakdiwn of the cost items and you will see continency/risk dollars of 415 million dollars that are not counted in overrun, they are consumed, and there is another 400 million in more tolling not attached to anything. The actual drilling portion that the mayor is now trying to ignore is 350 million dollars. With the contingency, and the extra tolling, how do you get to 600 hundred million dollars?

The mayor even says that is not his point (likely because he knows he has been overstating the risk for 8 months), he has now settled on the language of the lagislaturs, see my first point.
The state will try to fuck Seattle with either option, why would anybody pretend that they would act differently after Mayor McSandbag drags this thing out?

Apply the same criteria if you are going to do analysis, thanks in advance.

Put down the beer, Mike, you are the Mayor of Fuck You Seattle.
Well, my other concern is that if we (Seattle) don't settle the cost overrun provision before signing the agreement with the state, we could start the project, and run out of money in the middle of the construction, and the state will send us the bill, the city will refuse, and we will have half build tunnel forever. This will be disaster for Seattle, and a major disruption for down town Seattle. Let us make sure that we know who is responsible and paying the cost overrun because the cost overrun will happen—guarantee
This cost over-run impass will continue right up to the 2011 legislative session. Then the State will announce that since they are expected to pick up the whole cost, they will NOT fund a Tunnel solution which was Seattle's idea anyhow.
They will fall back to other previously announced alternatives. A new Viaduct will not fly in Seattle. The no-replacement option will not be accepted by the State. What is let is a Retrofit of the Viaduct which they should have done back in 2001. It will get done sooner, cost less and cause the least disruption. And will maintain the same traffic volumes we already enjoy. It will also continue to provide access to downtown.

And that's the truth!