On October 29, state highway officials released a massive report on traffic, noise, greenhouse gases, air quality, and other impacts of the proposed deep-bore tunnel, the leading option for replacing the Alaskan Way Viaduct. One problem: "As currently defined, the project does not include tolls," says the Supplemental Draft Environmental Impact Statement (SDEIS).
That's a fatal flaw, according to Seattle City Council member and tunnel critic Mike O'Brien, because the state can't pay for its share of the project without the tolls. (A proposed $4 toll charge would divert more than half of the existing traffic that currently uses the viaduct onto city streets and I-5.)
What information the document does provide about tolls is contradictory. It first asserts that the tunnel project will cause 22,000 vehicles to switch from the viaduct to city streets and I-5. But in one chapter that acknowledges the possibility of tolls (the rest of the document ignores the impact of tolls), the SDEIS says that an additional 40,000 to 45,000 vehicles would take surface streets instead.
"You open it up and it says there are going to be slight traffic changes and everything is going to be fine, unless you go hundreds of pages into this thing and realize that's not the real scenario," says O'Brien.
He calls the process "a little bit of a sham."