What Could Possibly Go Wrong

The Seattle City Council is about to give the state permission to dig the world's largest deep-bore tunnel under downtown Seattle. Here's what the city council doesn't want you to know before they vote.

Comments

1
I'm glad you've finally made up your mind on this, dear.
2
Thank you for this wonderful opus.
3
Truly and verily, Dominic Holden has written a world-class article.

Aside from the financial aspect, which has the potential for untold future devastation (see link at end of this comment, please), the feasibility of this particular megaproject is incredibly suspect!

The soil composition underneath downtown Seattle by itself should bar such a tunneling project, but when consideration is extended to the stability of Elliot Bay's sea bottom, the inaneness of this fix becomes obvious.

All variables haven't been examined and examined in a most thorough manner -- this way lies disaster.

When the bombers made their first botched attempt at destroying the World Trade Center in 1993 by planting explosives on one side of a WTC tower's base foundation, in order to topple the tower sideways, they thankfully demonstrated a complete lack of architectural knowledge of the towers design, only exceeded by their lacking in incendaries knowledge.

But such an event could occur in downtown Seattle with this deep-bore tunnel, should a sinkhole occur in the vicinity of one of the skyscrapers, toppling such a structure sideways and causing untold death and destruction.

Such an event is conceivable given the geotechnical nonfeasibility of this project.

And I am the most pro-union (former labor organizer), pro-tech, and lover of feasible megaprojects around, but this ways lies insanity.

The link below leads to a recent article detailing the sad financial details surrounding Boston's Big Dig. Food for thought on the financial side:

http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2010-06-30…

Major thanks again to Dominic for a most intelligent and exhaustively insightful article.
4
Wow- fearmongers unite! Nice way to bring back the terrorism angle. Poor losers, I say, the whole lot of ya.
5
No downtown exits.... no tunnel!
6
How much of our State Budget goes to contractors? How much of that money is pure profit?
The tunnel is a payout to well connected contractors.
7
Seattle never ceases to amaze me. A crumbling sea wall and major North-South traffic route have been discussed since I moved here 8 years ago, with exactly zero work completed. I think what we are failing to realize is that there are no perfect options. Each proposal has major drawbacks, limitations and advantages. That is what happens when you build a city in a geographically confined space and fail to elect forward-looking governments for the last 40 years. Does a short-term squabble over cost overages put us into a position where we have to make much more expensive choices in 10-15 years when we still have no replacement for the AWV?
8
#7, while I agree with your comment "..fail to elect forward-looking governments for the last 40 years..",

the corruption factor reigns supreme as well.

With the obsession with the most expensive transportation option, tunneling, being about the only option allowed on the table, troubles can be expected to ensue.

No kickbacks to the pols were instituted in the Seattle Monorail Project, hence its demise. (The same, of course, can't be said for this poorly designed light rail debacle.)

And, @ #4, there was no "terrorism angle" -- simply stating that their original plan could be fully, and inadvertently, realized in Seattle if enough concerned citizens refuse to pay attention!
9
Seems like a losing proposition for Seattle. Who to contact to make residents' voices heard?
10
This was incredible, Dominic.

I like to think of myself as fairly well-informed, but I didn't know even a fraction of this. Holy crap, I am gobsmacked.
11
As I understand it, we are taking the word and promises of Politicians (not engineers) that a public works project will not incur delays, accidents or cost over-runs. During this phase, the construction experts the Politicians hired agree with them on these 'facts'.

Does anyone else here have a bullshit meter they can use?

Can someone get a voters inititive going to allow the electorate a 'vote' in this shit storm of 'fiscal management'?
It may have been a mistake for us to eviscerating our own tax base.
It IS a mistake to allow ourselved to be mortgaged to bad planning from Olympia (or any one else for that matter) IF we can reasonably prevent it.

12
thank you for outstanding research. What will the depth be between the top of the tunnel and the bottom of various buildings along the route, including the federal building? It seems very improbable there would not be some sort of settling. What are the cost estimates to fix any settling? And would new buildings be more expensive to build because they would require stronger structure?

I also really wonder how the buses are supposed to help mitigate traffic.

It is reasonable to expect traffic levels to drop though. People will go to Southcenter or Bellevue or Northgate to shop instead of downtown. Businesses will locate elsewhere because of the hassle factor of getting into the city, and also of getting around it once there.
13
This was a fantastic article. A lot of great points. The tunnel, to me, has always seemed a very unreasonable and hostile project. I know there's been a lot of money already put into this option, but it does little to solve actual problems we're already facing. Hell, this thing is 5 fucking stories tall and only accomodates 2 lanes each way!

/DEALBREAKER!
14
I am pro-tunnel, but there is no f-ing way city residents should bear the entire cost-overrun load. Overruns should be the proportional responsibility of all three parties involved.
15
While I've always like the *idea* of a tunnel to replace the Viaduct, I have long suspected that the geological conditions wouldn't support it. Hell, Seattle is on a goddam fault line!

Dom, you've convinced me that a deep bore tunnel is a horrible plan. A more limited "cut & cover" tunnel might be more feasible, but any plan should involve removing the Viaduct and re-opening the Waterfront to Downtown. A well designed, surface version of Alaskan Way could possibly improve traffic flow through & into the city.
16
"shall be borne by property owners in the Seattle area who benefit from replacement of the existing viaduct with the deep bore tunnel."

wouldn't this mean the downtown waterfront property owners that no longer have the viaduct in their neighborhood and instead a new waterfront park?

it seems that the real reason for all this protest has always been to protect these downtown property owners, not the general populace.
17
Removing the language that sticks Seattle with the overruns won't happen. It might get struck down in court, but I doubt there's the votes to simply take it out. The state hates Seattle.

The only change Olympia might make is to scrap the tunnel and do a new elevated freeway, and we lose our waterfront for another 50 years.
18
Mr. Holden is to be congratulated for a fine piece of journalism. He puts the construction cost and risk issue in clear perspective. And, these are only a part of the problem.

As he notes, to date there is no EIS and, with that, obviously no 20-year traffic forecast that is mandatory, according the the State's own design manual. Absent the traffic forecast, insofar as the design hour volume (DHV)is concerned, there is likewise no capacity analysis. And, absent a capacity analysis it is impossible to see how this thing will function. Remember, too, that absent a capacity analysis we have no real handle on potential traffic diversion. So, how good is the design?

Next, there is a lot or research on tunnel traffic accidents and the impact of narrow shoulders on traffic operations. Why has WSDOT failed to review that research?

Finally, it is important to note that there are no less than five (5) highway safety design standards that came out of the Highway Safety Act of 1966. Three have been abandoned with the permission of FHWA. Two others have been ignored. Then, to ice the cake, the ADA standards have been decimated for the escape route for NB tunnel users.

I hope your readers will ask a few very simple questions and, after that, follow the obvious trail.

Why are they installing 4-hour fire doors in the tunnel?

Why does the Seattle Fire Department want higher air pressures in the escape corridors?

Why is the SFD asking for 10 foot shoulders when the tunnel design has only 6-foot shoulders on one side and only 2-foot shoulders on the other?

Why are they openly worried about getting first responders to the scene?

While the power costs to the tunnel will likely top $2 million per year, it is a drop in the bucket to the tort liability coming down the track.

In summary, the deep bore tunnel is a trial attorneys dream. With WSDOT, the city, the port and the county already put on notice they have no affirmative defenses.

Fortunately, among others, the Seattle City Council can be sued along with their "marital community".

Sleep well.

Chris
19
That's outstanding, admirably cogent piece of journalism. The Stranger proves itself to be a world-class newspaper more and more each week.
20
There is a certain element of Seattle Political Fantasyland going on with The Stranger's torch carrying campaign for the recently elected Seattle Mayor, Mike McGinn;AKA anything but the tunnel McGinn. When I read about his interest in finding a surface street solution to any viaduct replacement I wonder how all those additional buses are going to eliminate many of the private passenger vehicles that use Highway 99 or clog I-5? What happens to all those people who require a car to transport themselves or goods from one end of Seattle to the other? Are they suddenly going to look for ways to avoid downtown Seattle or the neighborhoods around downtown? Only the Mayor seems to think that everyone is physically able and willing to blaze new bikeways for a greener, less car friendly Seattle.
With the city facing a 54 million dollar shortfall next year and the legislature meeting in January of 2011 to find a solution for that 3 billion dollar budget shortfall in the state budget, who in Seattle thinks the Governor, the state department of transportation and the legislature is willing to return to the drawing board based upon the whims of a Mayor who seems increasingly eccentric and acting like an official who was just elected to chair a Sierra Club Conference in Boulder, Colorado.
Lots of luck Seattle for finding a lot of sympathy in the metro area or more importantly that fiscally nervous state legislature.
21
Regardless of whether or not the overuns are paid for by the city or state shouldn't be the biggest argument. Either way we will br paying for it, we pay state taxes here too. The difference is spokane, tri~cities, etc. will be getting fucked even harder and deeper, paying for a horrible project they won't even see the benefits of. The big point here is that this project is horribly conceived and reeks of corruption from top to bottom, and will hurt the city and state regardless of who foots the bill.
22
16 your point is right on the nail. Our wonderful bike riding, faux-eco warrior, corporate lawyer, mayor. Has got all the wanna-be minds in Seattle brewing,I applaud the research and the article. However its all in The Mayor's little scheme to protect the top 1% populist. (I hate to remind everyone but that is exactly what G.W. Bush did with this country not too long ago.) The real people who will be put out are the developers who have their greedy little hands on the billions of revenue from developing "Our"
waterfront. If you don't believe me then, why did Frank Chopps plan never gain any steam? because the land would still be owned by the state. Not rich developers, like Titan, selig, etc. companies, our Mayor is great at representing by lining his pocket books and by falsely making you believe he is working for you.Just switch those names with Brown and root, or Halliburton, NOT much difference. I guess all you have to do in this town is ride a bike, grow a beard and throw a party at a little thug gangster bar. And everyone in Seattle thinks your on the level. When is this town going to grow up and quit being smart and petty. And start being intelligent and forward thinking?
23
A tunnel, a rotten viaduct, no South Park bridge, blah, blah blah. You're choking on your own belly-button lint Seattle. Effing Tinytown B.S.
24
Regardless of whether or not the overuns are paid for by the city or state shouldn't be the biggest argument. Either way we will br paying for it, we pay state taxes here too. The difference is spokane, tri~cities, etc. will be getting fucked even harder and deeper, paying for a horrible project they won't even see the benefits of. The big point here is that this project is horribly conceived and reeks of corruption from top to bottom, and will hurt the city and state regardless of who foots the bill.
25
Didn't even have to read your article to smell the bullshit.

The deep bore tunnel does not go adjacent to the waterfront as your illustration shows. The old cut-and cover design did perhaps that's what you had in mind.

On the other hand the University Link Tunnel does go underwater at the Montlake cut. Do you intend to sound alarmist on that project as well?
26
Holden's most convincing argument against the bored tunnel for me is found in the section titled "Maybe the project deserves to die."

In that section, Ron Panannen admits diverting 64,000 cars daily is significant. Well duh. A conservative estimate of 40,000 vehicles displaced from the Belltown access to SR99 will incur 'significant' environmental impact upon South Lake Union, Lower Queen Anne and the Denny Way corridor.

It was heartening to read, "That environmental impact study will compare the bored tunnel to an elevated replacement and a cut/cover tunnel option." All previous studies have shown the Cut/cover Tunnelite has the "least" environmental impact. It's obvious.

Not so obvious is how the Surface/Transit option has less (though not least) environmental impact because it contains the displaced traffic mostly to Alaskan Way, an improved I-5 and transit upgrades.

Further complicating the bored tunnel, the inextricably-integrated Mercer West and Alaskan Way projects are likewise atrocious engineering designs incapable of managing the least displaced traffic.

All this talk about cost-overruns is a ruse. More important is the engineering, the environmental impact, and the very real threat of something catastrophic going wrong with the bored tunnel, a risk too terrible to gamble on.

Tunnelite would not impose any risk to downtown Seattle buildings, ever. It makes the strongest seawall and most stable Alaskan Way surface. It's the only option that creates a car-free gardened walkway between Steinbrueck Park and the Waterfron. WSDOT misleads the public about its construction disruption because the only replacement they seriously considered before the March 2007 vote was an elevated replacement, engineering almost as bad as the deep bored tunnel.
27
holy christ, at this point let's just rebuild the viaduct and be done with it.
28
For cryin out loud, the viaduct has always been an engineering monstrosity.

Consider the Belltown access to SR99:

The southbound entrance from Elliott is an uphill blind-merge. The northbound exit onto Western is a downhill speed-increasing 1-lane ramp that accellerates traffic onto surface streets or backs it up for blocks onto the AWV.

Tunnelite rebuilds SR99 beneath Elliott and Western. It makes the southbound entrance a simpler downhill clear-merge, and the exit north onto western becomes an uphill speed-decreasing 2-lane ramp that reduces backups.

The Columbia and Seneca ramps onto 1st Ave should go because traffic should not be directed on steep downtown sidestreets to 1st Ave, a major transit and pedestrian corridor where there's too much traffic. The entrance and exit to the Battery Street Tunnel also should go for much the same reason.

How could the DOTs even consider an elevated replacement? Being WSDOT means you never have to admit making gigantic mistakes. What could go wrong with the deep bore is a question its directors never ask, let alone answer.
29
i think someone should just sit down in front of the dig site and not move. what are they gonna do, run you over with a drill 5 storys high? that would look pretty bad on the news. just thinkin out loud here
30
All one has to do is raed what happened in Boston. The cost overuns were HUGE! The same thing will happen here with the exception that the fine citezens of Seattle will foot the bill.
31
56 foot diameter tunnel borer. WHAT?!
If the blades wear out or are broken, the tunnel borer is stuck in place and cannot be removed by backing it out. WHAT?!
If the soil caves in behind the tunnel borer, the resulting sinkhole can take the Federal Building with it, including the people inside the Federal Building. WHAT?!
The proposed tunnel turnpike has no off ramps into downtown Seattle. WHAT?!
Is there a MAP showing the ROUTE of this proposed tunnel? I thought it was over where the Alaskan Way is. Not UNDERNEATH DOWNTOWN SEATTLE!!!!!
The cheapest option might be replacing the viaduct with a viaduct. Or Stan Lippman's bridge over troubled waters.
But THIS proposal, would do more damage than loading the B-17 we see flying around with bombs and having it drop those bombs on Downtown during lunch hour.
32
I wish we had a corrupt mafia mayor so we could get stuff built.
33
As a property owner in Seattle, the funding of the tunnel scares me a lot. Between the Port and the City we could get double-soaked. That means your rents go up too kiddies.

Chosing between our out of touch governor and our hippie mayor, not to mention the idiots on the council is just not an awesome choice in any regard.

No I do not mean I want Republicans. I want responsible leadership that actually has this project funded properly before it is launched. Is that too much to ask?
34
look seattle, just don't do it. brisbane, australia just got it's own tunnel. it was supposed to be financed with a combination of public and private funds, with the private company making back its money over a 30-year period through tolls.

no-one uses the tunnel, no-one pays the tolls. all the other roads are still congested because the tunnel has failed to attract travellers, due to the tolls. for the same amount of money, 2 bridges with four lanes each could have been built. as it is, only one tunnel, one unprofitable tunnel with four lanes total got built. once again, this did nothing to alleviate our traffic issues.

you are getting sold a massive group-wank vanity project that you will be paying for FOREVER. and it will not make anyone's life better, and it is a waste of valuable resources that could be spent on better things.

good luck seattle.

adieu,

brisbane, australia.
35
I dig the tunnel option.

It will help funnel tourists into the new Chihuly exhibit at Seattle Center.
36
They built a tunnel along the riverfront in Trenton, NJ. The vibrations from it have structurally damaged the nearby houses. It's not even UNDER anything - just a tunnel that runs a short distance along the river for a short distance, with a park over it. I'm not sure what a deep-bore tunnel would mean for structures near it... But something to consider.
37
What a load of fear mongering tripe. You put alot of "facts and figures" while bending numbers like you're doing a limbo and even throwing in the "big dig" comparison (viaduct tunnel 8 lane miles and one tunnel----big dig 160 lane miles and surface disruption).

Northbound traffic gets a downtown exit at Atlantic instead of dumping into the gridlock at 1st and Seneca. Southbound traffic gets a massive improvement in flow at Denny. The distribution from both those areas will be better than the downtown dumps today.

Misleading hyperbole. How about comparing how a 13 mile tunnel is different from a 1.8 mile tunnel and that it's less likely to encounter the same wearing problems. How about mentioning the success of two 50ft. 4 mile long tunnels under the Yangtze river that were completed in 20 months through highly water-bearing gravel and silt.

Your agenda is clear but your reasoning is not.

38
What a load of fear mongering tripe. You put alot of "facts and figures" while bending numbers like you're doing a limbo and even throwing in the "big dig" comparison (viaduct tunnel 8 lane miles and one tunnel----big dig 160 lane miles and surface disruption).

Northbound traffic gets a downtown exit at Atlantic instead of dumping into the gridlock at 1st and Seneca. Southbound traffic gets a massive improvement in flow at Denny. The distribution from both those areas will be better than the downtown dumps today.

Misleading hyperbole. How about comparing how a 13 mile tunnel is different from a 1.8 mile tunnel and that it's less likely to encounter the same wearing problems. How about mentioning the success of two 50ft. 4 mile long tunnels under the Yangtze river that were completed in 20 months through highly water-bearing gravel and silt.

Your agenda is clear but your reasoning is not.

39
Thanks for writing this article.

If this tunnel happens and fails, and the people of Seattle are on the hook for the cost, it will be the legacy of all those attempting to cram this down our throats and their careers will suffer. Why can we not have a public discussion of the biggest transportation project in Seattle history? Why can Conlin, other members of the council and the Governor not adequately address these concerns? Why is that not reasonable? If there is nothing to hide let's get it on the table and talk it out. The actions and method of those pushing this is entirely irresponsible and not in the best interest of the Seattle taxpayers that will be hung out to try by it's potential cost overruns. At minimum, a public discussion of these issues and the pro counterpoints, please. If this is the best thing for Seattle then do the public a service and address these concerns Conlin.
40
What a load of fear mongering tripe. You put alot of "facts and figures" while bending numbers like you're doing a limbo and even throwing in the "big dig" comparison (viaduct tunnel 8 lane miles and one tunnel----big dig 160 lane miles with multiple tunnels a massive bridge and surface disruption).

The tunneling work is estimated at 350 million with 98 million (28% of 350) of the contingency of 415 million for all overruns. If tunneling is your primary cost overrun concern as you claim it is then then why are you whining about all kinds of other phantom overruns. The big concern of a tunnel overrun is covered by 140% with a 500 million bond. WSDOT is running within 1% of their project estimates for the last decade and their last big project (the Narrow Bridge) was 15% under budget.

Northbound traffic gets a downtown exit at Atlantic instead of dumping into the gridlock at 1st and Seneca. Southbound traffic gets a massive improvement in flow at Denny. Dumping traffic into a downtown grid that cannot handle it is and was a stupid idea. Distributing at the perimeter has many advatages.

More misleading hyperbole. How about comparing how a 13 mile tunnel is different from a 1.8 mile tunnel and that the TBMs are less likely to encounter the same wearing problems. How about the fact that the soil under the city is better understood and can be more thoroughly analyzed? How about mentioning the success of two 50ft. 4 mile long tunnels under the Yangtze river that were completed in 20 months through highly water-bearing gravel and silt? How about considering the incredible advantages we gain by having roadways and transit underground so that our surface streets are quieter, cleaner and more pedestrian and bike friendly?

Your agenda is clear but your reasoning is not.
41
Didn't know you were a geologist Dominic.
42
Last week: Complain about the existing Viaduct

Today: Complain about the tunnel

Next week: Complain about the existing Viaduct and the tunnel

Did you ever think about how there is no perfect solution? Seattle has a great way of talking about ideas & never following through with them (remember the train system?). Something has to be done, and this may be it.

43
I love the Seattle P-I editorial on this as well.

As I said last night, Seattle is in a war between Billionaires and Millionaires for the soul of our city, yet nobody is paying attention to the needs, wants, and desires of the Citizens of our City.
44
oh, and a belated @35 for the irony-oh-irony win.
45
@42 - we killed the Thompson Expressway. Never forget that.
46
Oh seattle thank you for this upcoming failed dig that will fail in one way or another. The article fails to mention the business cost this is already having...Just look at the businesses along 1st avenue and everywhere along the West Seattle Bridge. They're not doing all that construction to help ease the massive traffice flow those of us in West Seattle are already dealing with, they're trying to figure out what the hell to do with all of us once they cut us off from downtown. Why do I want to pay for a tunnel that I won't even be able to use to get to work? Oh and when I do want to bike to work, thank you for putting that much more dangerous and irritated drivers on the surface streets for me to dodge
47
Great article, well written, Dominic.
It's apparent all the tunnel supporters here did not or can not read.
48
If Colin, Bagshaw and the other Seattle City Council and state government supporters of the tunnel do not want to meet and discuss or debate the growing cost and build issues of the tunnel, perhaps it would be best to just ignore them and have public discussion without them. Would Town Hall Seattle? the Stranger? King 5 or other news outlets consider creating a venue?
49
Good idea, Fairhaven.

I just twittered this article to half the White House cabinet, by the way.
50
What are you so worried about? Richard Conlin says not to worry. Smile. Be happy. Get fucked.
51
This is a biased load of crap.
52
@48 Oh, glad you woke me up. You make great points! I love how you showed your erudition by countering each point line-by-line. Well done!
53
dammit, that should be @51.
54
If a single life is lost to this process, can we have Richard Conlin arrested for involuntary manslaughter?
55
Thanks for this excellent example of investigative journalism on the proposed tunnel. While you may be assailed by some as a Cassandra for daring to bring up pesky and inconvenient facts, I would be surprised if Murphy's Law doesn't prove you prescient in this matter.

After all, if a shmucky little event like the 2006 Pride Festival could rack-up a $150,000 cost over-run, how much more is a project with the complexity of the tunnel likely to do so?
56
@54 unlikely. Most boards buy L&I insurance to limit liability and shield people from consequences, as I recall city councils are usually the same.

You have to prove active attempts to kill people by decision. Any construction project of this size will result in a few deaths, or severe injuries, and unless the legislator making the decision is a practicing engineer with experience at both tunneling in soils/vacuoles below sea level and in building viaducts in similar soils/vacuoles or surface projects, they can't be presumed to have the technical knowledge to fully understand that their decisions are killing people.
57
Hoooooooo boy.

Seattle is NOT the city I knew and loved growing up here.

@39: I am 85 years old: I agree with you. It's shameful. You know we're screwed when the city's elected officials refuse to listen to and properly address the needs of the taxpaying people over filthy-rich, corrupt special interest groups.

I, too, am at a loss for words.
58
@25 - what the fuck are you talking about? Go see the video posted at Seattle Transit Blog:
http://seattletransitblog.com/2010/07/07…

It starts at the waterfront in Sodo, then goes under downtown to meet up w/ 99 again at Denny-ish.
59
One of the dumber articles I've ever read, Dominic. You've swallowed McGinn's line on this and are ignoring the legal evidence that the State's cost overrun provision is unenforceable. Unfortunately, your argument is pointless once that's taken into account, and your evidence that McKenna is obligated to defend state law is not the same as saying this one is constitutional. If you'd taken the time to research the legal angles, covered in a few sentences at the end of your article, you'd have seen that your article is pointless and inane.
60
Whoa! There's alot of stuff here!That article was huge. It even had "reporting" and stuff. It is agreed something needs to be done. The scope of reality and political discourse is wide. Politicians should protect the people and peolple should be realistic. The entire state would REALLY hate Kingco. if they pay a dime.Tragic
61
"But Governor Chris Gregoire and most members of the city council—under city council president Richard Conlin's leadership—insist that there is nothing to worry about and that any public discussion about potential cost overruns is unnecessary."

But wasn't it "The Stranger" that told us that we should vote for "goat loving" Richard Conlin? Now, "The Stranger" is saying that he is evil? BTW, I didn't vote for him. Loving goats makes me a little uncomfortable.

This article, while well written, states the same thing the voters did about the tunnel. No Frelling Tunnel! Unfortunately, our State Legislature and Governor have decided that we, in Seattle, will suck it up. Now this same State Legislature and Governor want Seattle to come up with paying cost overruns, Frell them!

Y'all listened to "The Stranger" and voted Conlin back into office, guess y'all will have to deal with the consequences.
62
I've always considered McGinn the Accidental Mayor, perhaps he is the perfect fall guy for the overreaching tunnel.

His Inspector Clouseau moves have seemed to accelerate the tunnel process and unite a bunch of foes into a unified force.
63
This article nailed it correctly. I have actively followed this conversation for years. In addition to what was said,I would add - follow the MONEY to know why things are the way they are. For years land developers have been licking their chops anxious to get their hands on this premier downtown property for high profit housing development. Right now they claim the viaduct will be torn down and a park built over the tunnel. But watch how this will change when the citizens of Seattle get stuck with the inevitable cost overruns. The so called park will be given away to developers. I hope everyone takes the time to read the entire article all the way to end. The City Council lack of leadership on this is pathetic.
64
Why are you people at The Stranger sucking the mayor's cock every fucking day? All of your arguments listed above should have been made more forcefully YEARS AGO when we voted on this issue in the city's very first mail-in ballot election.

Of course better surface streets, wiser direction of traffic, and efficient direction of public transportation is the BEST solution to eliminating an ugly viaduct or a wide surface highway or an iffy tunnel option. HOWEVER, that choice was added to the ballot TOO LATE causing a split election.

Seattle must pay for the cost over-runs if we want a livable downtown/waterfront.
65
Darth #61: I'm with you. Unfortunately, Richard's opponent in the 2009 election (David Ginsburg) was very weak and inexperienced. He wasn't able to capitalize on the knowledgeable progressive disdain for Conlin's politics. The tunnel issue has less to do with McGinn than with Conlin.

#63 has it right: follow $. E.g., why did Conlin vote against Peter Steinbrueck's down zoning of retail use of industrial zoned land to discourage conversions? His surface reason: we need more "process." huh
66
This article is undoubtedly the biggest piece of shite I have ever had the misfortune to read in my entire career as a civil engineering journalist. Mr Holden has managed to demonstrate with one article (I've never read any of his others) that he is capable of spending a large amount of time (or not, which is far more likely considering the result) producing a misinformed, biased and truly sloppy, sensationalist fantasy - that manages to misunderstand, misrepresent and misquote almost every single source printed in this sorry excuse for an article.

I am not merely shocked this drivel was published - I am, frankly, appalled. I just wish The Stranger had published its ‘Public Editor’ comment in as prominent a position (and type font) as it’s lead article, as that (at least) gives voice to a satisfying element of educated reason on the article.

I would be delighted to write an informed response to this piece and would like to know if The Stranger will take me up on the offer – I personally know many of the people that were quoted both without their knowledge and completely out of context in this article (including Mr Flyvberg) and I’m pretty sure they’d be quite willing to provide a response too!

To use Mr Holden’s vernacular, no-one is trying to f*** you over Seattle, you just happen to have some really f***ing stupid journalists who seem to be quite happy spending their week sensationalizing the mayor’s press releases, rather than actually doing their job – i.e. writing something that’s not a total load of utter bollocks.

Amanda Foley
Editor
North American Tunneling Journal
67
Citizens of Seattle, this is the most miss-informed piece of junk I have ever read. A written response to this drivel is on its way...watch this space. The only thing that is fuc#ed is Mr. Holdens bullshit!
68
@ 66 [Amanda Foley]

"This article is undoubtedly the biggest piece of shite I have ever had..."

Please clarify; are you referring to shit, or are you referring to Shiite?

Either way, I hope your esteemed publication North American Tunneling Journal can spring to install spellcheck on your Mac IIe before you fire another ill-advised bitch-rant toward the citizens of Seattle.
69
Way to drop right to the misogyny, Texas10R.
70
I go back and forth about how I feel about the tunnel project as a whole, but I unequivocally support McGinn in making sure that Seattle isn't stuck with the cost overruns. That's just the mayor doing due diligence. There should be direct and black and white language that dictates that cost overruns be shared by the city, the state and the Port.
71
@70 (and elsewhere)

The reason Seattle is being stuck with tunnel cost overruns is that it insisted on a tunnel replacement for the AWV rather than a new elevated structure - which the state (SR99 being a state route and all) had allocated the funding for. Why is that so hard to understand?

72
@66 So it looks like you're in town, Amanda Foley, according to the Tunneling Journal facebook page http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=34….

Instead of writing "an informed piece" how about an interview with Dom?
73
@71 holy shit, people have short memories and are willing to swallow a lot of bullshit. The city never insisted on a tunnel. After the advisory ballot vote (where the initial tunnel plan failed) the stakeholders committee recommended I-5/Transit as the preferred option (one that was agreed to by the business community, city, and state). Then the governor ignored the recommendation, and convinced Nickels and Sims to go along with it (in exchange for concessions about transit that have since evaporated). "The City" most certainly never insisted on a tunnel.
74
Wait. There is no environmental impact statement yet?

Posters who use your "common sense" arguments to how traffic patterns will be improved/affected by this project/not this project: are you insane? You think your gut intuition is a reason to plunk down 4 billion of public money? There are entire disciplines of highly educated people that are devoted to studying these problems in QUANTITATIVE ways. Can we please hear what they have to say before we spend the money?

This article is supposed to monger fear: it apparently has to because the downsides of the tunneling option are not being adequately discussed ($4 billion price tag warrants some public discussion).

To the editor of the tunnel boring magazine: oh, you don't like an article discussing how tunneling is often a dumbass idea (in the conditions particular to Seattle)? Big surprise. Your advertisers would probably love a ringing endorsement of not tunneling, right?

As far as I can tell, the pro-tunnel argument (in the shiny case where everything goes perfectly) is that we get to see more waterfront from downtown. It better be absolutely iron-clad that if we spend public money to free the area from the viaduct that it doesn't end up housing more empty $1-3 million dollar condos. For that matter, which Seattle-ites have easy access to that theoretical park? The owners of the few occupied new condos downtown...great.
75
Bringing up the advisory ballot is like punching below the waist and getting away with it. All of the options on the advisory ballot failed equally. This town can't ever be for something, it's against everything.

It's also disingenuous to say there are no downtown exits. As if the south and north exits aren't part of downtown. As if the existing exits in the middle of downtown are useful now.

There is some kind of fantasy land where neither a tunnel nor an elevated freeway get built. The Stranger is living in it. Those really are the two choices. Left with those two, there is only one choice that gives Seattle a functional waterfront versus another loud ugly eyesore.

Yeah, there are details to work out but none of them are deal breakers. Let go of the negativity as if the project won't happen. Focus the effort on the details that matter (yeah, cost overruns is one) because that's where there can be something effective done instead of whining.
76
Holden's most convincing argument against the bored tunnel for me is found in the section titled "Maybe the project deserves to die."

In that section, Ron Panannen admits diverting 64,000 cars daily is significant. Well duh. A conservative estimate of 40,000 vehicles displaced from the Belltown access to SR99 will incur 'significant' environmental impact upon South Lake Union, Lower Queen Anne and the Denny Way corridor.

It was heartening to read, "That environmental impact study will compare the bored tunnel to an elevated replacement and a cut/cover tunnel option." All previous studies have shown the Cut/cover Tunnelite has the "least" environmental impact. It's obvious.

Not so obvious is how the Surface/Transit option has less (though not least) environmental impact because it contains the displaced traffic mostly to Alaskan Way, an improved I-5 and transit upgrades.

Further complicating the bored tunnel, the inextricably-integrated Mercer West and Alaskan Way projects are likewise atrocious engineering designs incapable of managing the least displaced traffic.

All this talk about cost-overruns is a ruse. More important is the engineering, the environmental impact, and the very real threat of something catastrophic going wrong with the bored tunnel, a risk too terrible to gamble on.

Tunnelite would not impose any risk to downtown Seattle buildings, ever. It makes the strongest seawall and most stable Alaskan Way surface. It's the only option that creates a car-free gardened walkway between Steinbrueck Park and the Waterfron. WSDOT misleads the public about its construction disruption because the only replacement they seriously considered before the March 2007 vote was an elevated replacement, engineering almost as bad as the deep bored tunnel.

The viaduct has always been an engineering monstrosity.

Consider the Belltown access to SR99:

The southbound entrance from Elliott is an uphill blind-merge. The northbound exit onto Western is a downhill speed-increasing 1-lane ramp that accellerates traffic onto surface streets or backs it up for blocks onto the AWV.

Tunnelite rebuilds SR99 beneath Elliott and Western. It makes the southbound entrance a simpler downhill clear-merge, and the exit north onto western becomes an uphill speed-decreasing 2-lane ramp that reduces backups.

The Columbia and Seneca ramps onto 1st Ave should go because traffic should not be directed on steep downtown sidestreets to 1st Ave, a major transit and pedestrian corridor where there's too much traffic. The entrance and exit to the Battery Street Tunnel also should go for much the same reason.

How could the DOTs even consider an elevated replacement? Being WSDOT means you never have to admit making gigantic mistakes. What could go wrong with the deep bore is a question its directors never ask, let alone answer.
77
@73,

You are just plain wrong. Nickels had been pushing for a tunnel for years, a solid majority of the City Council supported a tunnel for years, and the current backroom tunnel deal/proposal was the result of the aforementioned actors and the downtown business community's collective horror at the Stakeholder Group's apparent readiness to recommend the so-called "Surface/Transit" option (which, by the way, polls indicated would have been crushed by Seattle voters by a wider margin than either a tunnel or elevated replacement for the AWV).

Gregoire was ready to move forward with an elevated replacement but then got massive pushback from Nickels, the Council, and the downtown business community. You have that history exactly backwards.

http://slog.thestranger.com/2007/02/greg…
78
NorthWesterners are chumps. Who cares about any of this. It may happen, it may not happen... at the end of the day it will always be slow-paced in Seattle, always boring, always filled with socially timid xenophobic passive-aggressive smug pretentious douche bags. Tunnel or other option in or out, what ever passes will not take decades to complete in sleepy slow-ass Seattle.
79
God. This town sucks. If anyone is new to Seattle, please note: Get the FUCK OUT. These people are all about government beaurocracy, bickering, ...anything that would provide an assertive direct decision, becuase that would not be passive aggressive. Tunnel or not, it will take DECADES until a 'solution' is provided here. In the mean time you could be in another city that acutally can offer people who respond socially let alone provide eye contact on a general basis. If the Stranger was not pretentious and smug, it would be the Seattle Weekly. But hey, you could stick around and see if will work with this tunnel thing, because maybe it wont be soo dismal next winter... yeeeah, riiight
80
Please just remember the experience that the fine citizens of Boston went through with the construction of the "Big Dig" and remember that along with the inevitable cost overuns YOU will be responsible for the costs this time around. Don't be fooled by the politico's current cost estimations. Those are only the beginning of the true FINAL costs.
81
Honestly, given how grotesquely over capacity Seattle's transportation system is, I don't know how any responsible adult can propose a solution that would reduce capacity so dramatically, let alone one that's so begging to fail, that gambles so much on everything going to plan.

I've been a software engineer for twenty-six years, so I know what I'm talking about when I say Murphy's Law is only funny to engineers in a bitter, ironic way. Things always go wrong - ALWAYS - and the bigger the project the more things go wrong. This one's going to explode in all kinds of ways - any experienced engineer can see it coming - yet its backers are trying to suppress candid discussion of these risks with name-calling and peer pressure.

For those who back the tunnel no matter what could go wrong, no matter how bleeding edge the proposed project is, no matter how many other Seattlite oppose it, no matter how financially vulnerable to cost overruns it makes Seattle, no matter if it financially paralyzes Seattle for the entire duration because this project consumes so much of the budget, no matter if it reduces 99's carrying capacity and spills over tens of thousands of cars onto I-5 and surface streets to clog our over-capacity transportation system, no matter if we must commit even before finishing the environmental-impact statement that might end up revealing something catastrophically disastrous lies in wait for us - for all of you who demand Seattle rush to incur this mountain of risk, I ask this simple question:

Are the problems you're trying to solve as big as the problems you will definitely create, let alone the many other potential problems that may or may not come to pass?

Removing an eyesore? Really? That's your justification for wrecking our budget, reducing our transportation capacity, and gambling with Seattle's health over the next decade?

Good God, there are Seattle neighborhoods that can't even afford sidewalks, the number of people losing their homes and living on the streets is growing faster than we can keep up with the problem, we're reducing library hours and park service, closing schools and fire stations and discussing reducing police coverage because we're so broke, but we're going to piss away all this money and maybe a lot more and we're going to take all these technical risks because it's desperately desperately important for downtown to be prettier? On what planet does that even remotely make sense?

The bored tunnel plan unbalances the entire city budget to solve a single problem, when there are other solutions that could solve the same problem more completely and with less risk while still leaving us with some money to solve our other pressing problems.

With these kinds of pressures on our city budget and with our transportation network so stressed, the only responsible way to deal with the viaduct is to pick the cheapest, surest solution that at least preserves existing capacity.

So what if a cheaper, safer, higher-capacity solution is ugly? Seattle has a lot of important problems it needs to solve, not just this one, so we have to be adult about this and sacrifice less important considerations to make sure we meet our more serious responsibilities.
82
Got cash?

...

Good.

Cause you're going to have to pay an ADDITIONAL $10,000 per household - renting or owning - in taxes for the cost overruns for the Billionaires Tunnel that we Seattle Citizens don't WANT and never VOTED for.

Enjoy going broke.

...

That's about what it costs for that cool hip car the guinea pigs ride in in that cool car commercial.

That's a lot of dough.
83
All that matters here is that @66 Amanda Foley is dead sexy. Did you see those Facebook pictures?

I could insert some crude joke about deep boring and tunneling, but I bet she has heard them all before.

I'd go all Benny-from-Total-Recall on that ass.
84
The City of Seattle is like a drunk insisting they are going to get sober and then constantly hitting you up for more monney so they can get wasted.

The State and the Port need the viaduct capacity. The road merely goes through Seattle. The State never needed the gold plated tunnel that Seattle demanded.

The City has been all over the place. First demanding a tunnel option. Then proposing their own useless tunnel option. Then having a meaningless vote without two of the three current replacement options. Finally the Mayor coaleased on the current bored tunnel option. Then the city nominated two candidates for Mayor by a lower percentage then any of the options on the advisory vote. Then they elected a man who dropped his opposition of the tunnel because his polls told him to.

It's hard for the rest of the State to feel sorry for Seattle when we're giving them bilions for their Waterfront park.
85
Why don't we build a the tunnel through Elliot Bay instead? That has to be cheaper and could be expanded to have off-shoots that run to West Seattle, Bainbridge or Vashon even. The technology for big round interlocking cement pieces already exists, so why not use the bay for this? Then turn the waterfront into a mixed use area of shops and open public spaces, install the Chihuly Museum there (right next to Holland America for instance), and leave the driving under water? Could work, right?
86
I was just going to make a suggestion similar to what the immediately previous commenter (Squidia) said, though I would add that for most of this, we don't need to tunnel through anything -- just put down a tube on the floor of Elliott Bay, like the BART tube under SF Bay.
87
It's the end of the world as we know it, and I feel fine...
88
@85 Elliott bay/puget sound is somewhere between 500 and 1000 ft deep in some spots. Depth drops considerably right off of the waterfront. Couldn't work.
89
@54- Manslaughter is when you pin someone down and shoot them in the back. So no.
90
@75- What the ballot proved was that people wanted the surface option.
91
@88 The NOAA chart at http://www.charts.noaa.gov/OnLineViewer/… shows reasonable depths, with the deepest shown sounding anywhere east of Duwamish Head at 66 fathoms (~400ft) a little east of the line between Pier 90/91 and Duwamish Head. This tube could be built well inland of that and in shallower water. For comparison's sake, the BART trans-bay tube is in 135 ft of water, and they were able to do that almost 50 years ago.
92
@88 the DEIS for that wouldn't even pass the sniff test - and by building in a federal waterway, you automatically involve certain oversight by other agencies that aren't directly involved in the current project scope.

But hey, live in a dream world if you want.
93
on the other hand, I sure we'd enjoy watching the billboards if they did that, right? I'm hungering for some Ivar's ...
94
@90,

On what planet? It wasn't on the ballot. All of the polling done at the time showed that it was less popular than the two options which were the subject of advisory votes, which is PRECISELY why Jan Drago et al made sure voters didn't get to weigh in on it.

There isn't majority support for any option (though I strongly suspect that retrofit would come closer than any of the others if people were actually allowed to choose it).
95
The surface/transit option has less environmental impact than the Deep Bore Tunnel (DBT) because it contains the 110,000 displaced vehicles to Alaskan Way and I-5, and includes transit upgrades to provide alternatives to driving.

The DBT disperses 64,000 vehicles daily onto many additional surface streets through Lower Queen Anne, South Lake Union and the Denny Way corridor as well as Alaskan Way and I-5. In other words, the DBT will make traffic worse in all these main districts.

The option which manages traffic best with the least environmental impact is some version of the cut/cover Tunnelite. WSDOT directors have always lied to the public about its construction disruption because up until the March 2007 vote they had only intended to build an elevated replacement which they gambled voters would approve. Then they found the worst option of all in the deep bore tunnel and decided the peons deserve punishment.
96
More of that Obama type magic as Mcginn was voted in to end the crap he turned around and supported after he was elected?

Well the votes of the elctions dont match the votes of projects and even if it did the crap would not end and this hole in the ground would continue as the governor would sit her nasty ass on it as would the entire circle of jerks for a few more years and in the end it would be substandared crap that would last ten years and need to be fixed or replaced with a "new Idea"

yep the south park bridge has so many angles on this story?

your vote dont mean jack shit and that mayor possition is as powerful as a pair of hobos underware? you may scare some kids with it but that about it!

no they cant replace an old bridge to south park but they can start some giant hole in the ground? that says it all?
97
Great article Dominic. In light of all of our financial problems its incredible they want to move forward with this project.

What about the suggestion above about running a Seattle inititiave to block the project?
98
Wow I've been away for the last 3 years and I plan on moving back in 2012. This crap is what waits for me when I get back? Those politicians in Olympia really know how to screw people over. I would love to organize a mass rally if I was back and hopefully this project doesn't see the light of day, When I get back I don't want to foot the bill for some sleazy back room sweetheart deal.
99
THANK YOU THANK YOU for this article. Our city is seriously short sighted if it agrees to go ahead with the tunnel. What will happen when in 4-6 years of rerouting PLUS gas price hikes? People realize this was an unnecessary project and that we've been duped by those in Olympia who do not have our best interests in mind. I have a hunch that some contractors payed a special favor to someone in government and now we are getting a stupid project that will affect business downtown for 4- 6 years!!! Why ask for our opinion and then go ahead with something we've voted against.?
100
i'm shocked at the number of comments praising this article for being well written. more than half of the complaints lodged against the tunnel are the same complaints ALL constructions projects have. no matter what is done there is chance of cost overrun, it could take longer than expected and unexepected problems could occur. he should have stuck to problems with the tunnel project itself, not construction in general.