The "V" Word

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On Tuesday, Gov. Christine Gregoire officially endorsed a new, larger elevated viaduct regardless of what Seattle voters choose in a March 13 vote. Gregoire's explicit endorsement of a new Alaskan Way Viaduct is the third position she's taken so far on the fate of the viaduct. Initially, she endorsed a six-lane tunnel. Later, she said she did not have a preferred option, and vowed to respect "the will of the voters." Now Gregoire has flipped again. However, her statement Tuesday highlights what we've said all along: This vote, which is merely advisory anyway, is rigged to force a massive new viaduct down Seattle's throat.

Tuesday's news came on the heels of an announcement by the Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) that the highway department considers the mayor's four-lane "surface/hybrid" tunnel "unacceptable." WSDOT's rushed analysis of the tunnel found that (with shoulders that could be converted to travel lanes at rush hour) it would result in "unacceptable sight distances" and "does not meet the state's safety standards." Additionally, the four-lane tunnel would not "maintain vehicle capacity needs," WSDOT's overriding concern. (Because investing in transit instead is just a kooky pipe dream, obviously.) The analysis was done without the assistance of the state's own expert review panel, whose members bowed out after announcing they didn't have enough time to do a good job, or the city, which WSDOT kicked out of the process. WSDOT also declined Tuesday to release a new cost estimate for the tunnel. WSDOT said in a letter to Gregoire, "The task of providing a new estimate would be [too large] because fundamental changes in design are embraced by the new proposal." ERICA C. BARNETT

The "P" Word

A private investigator from Renton who filed for a ballot initiative to cap payday-loan interest rates is getting a crash course in politics. Richard Newland proposed the initiative last week (he'll need 224,880 signatures to get it on the ballot), just as activists were working in the legislature to get some sort of cap bill or stiffer regulation passed.

It appears that Newland's self-starter effort isn't invigorating the citizen action he may have hoped for. Groups like Citizens Against Payday Predators said it had no idea who Newland was or where his idea came from.

Maya Baxter of the Statewide Poverty Action Network, which is part of the pro-cap coalition, said, "It makes it obvious that there are outraged citizens out there," but says her group has not yet had time to consider the ballot initiative because it's so focused on the legislature.

Newland is a bit crushed by the lack of love. "The coalition doesn't have the stones to go after an initiative," he said. Newland says he'll stick with his baby for now. "I started the process, I paid the $5, I'll ride it through," he said. "It would be nice if I could do this all by myself, but I know it's a bigger job than one guy can handle." ANGELA VALDEZ