The city council remains stalemated over the fate of the Alaskan Way Viaduct, with two key council players—council president Nick Licata and transportation committee chair Jan Drago—firmly at odds over whether to let voters decide how to replace the damaged waterfront highway.
As The Stranger reported online last week ["Compromise Solution on Viaduct?" Erica C. Barnett, Jan 4] Drago is seeking a compromise between the various viaduct players, including House Speaker Frank Chopp, Mayor Greg Nickels, and the Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT), that would allow the city to avoid a divisive public vote between a larger new viaduct and a six-lane cut-and-cover tunnel. Drago's latest proposal involves a four-lane tunnel that would bypass downtown. A smaller tunnel could cost less than the six-lane alternative, although no one really knows how much.
Licata, meanwhile, continues to insist on the public vote demanded by Governor Christine Gregoire, which he believes will favor a rebuilt viaduct—his preferred solution. In an e-mail last week, Licata announced that he will hold a special council meeting on January 19 to vote on language for a March ballot measure.
On January 5, Drago called the governor's demand that the council put a measure on the ballot in March "a little unreasonable," and said a majority of the council was interested in reaching a compromise. Licata, however, said hoping the legislature will sign off on a compromise would be like "pulling a rabbit out of a hat," adding, "logic would dictate that the council would support a ballot measure." The council has already voted in favor of a six-lane tunnel with a surface/transit alternative as a "backup" if money for the tunnel can't be found. For now, though, no one's even considering a study of the surface/transit option, which would reduce car capacity about as much as a four-lane tunnel and would almost certainly cost much less.