We've been busy getting out the paper today so I haven't had time to Slog. But you've got to check out this rumble between Mayoral challenger Mike McGinn and incumbent Greg Nickels—firing back and forth email accusations about the proposed deep bore tunnel. McGinn has opposed the tunnel as his primary campaign tack, a strategy that seems to be gaining him support in recent polls. But Nickles, a leading proponent of the tunnel, claims that McGinn is deceiving voters. He says the surface-transit option would cost Seattle more than the tunnel. It started last night, when McGinn took a jab over a meager forecast for Seattle's budget in this press release:

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"Given Seattle's spiraling budget crisis, Greg Nickels and Joe Mallahan need to come clean with the public about how they intend to raise $930 million dollars from Seattle residents to pay for the Viaduct Tunnel that they both support," said Michael McGinn. "Specifically, what taxes or fees will they increase, who will they impose them on, and how long will the taxes last?"

Nickels spokesman Sandeep Kaushik didn't explain how to pay for a $930 million bore, but he did shoot back a news release a couple hours later:

[T]he campaign this evening will begin placing thousands of automated calls to Seattle residents to clear up the distortions and half truths about candidate Mike McGinn’s position on the Alaskan Way Viaduct. McGinn has used mailings and multiple rounds of push polling to create the erroneous impression among many voters that he is an advocate for lower taxes.

In fact, the opposite is true. His actual position on the Viaduct — which he leaves out of his communications with city voters — would involve tearing up the existing agreement with the state in order to take down the Viaduct and replace it with surface streets. This option would still require $930 million from Seattle taxpayers.

McGinn's campaign was all up in my inbox again this morning, citing a 2007 AP article in which Nickels said that voters "sent a very clear message — whether it is above ground or below, they don't want to build another freeway on our waterfront. The three of us [Nickels, Ron Sims and Christine Gregoire] have heard the voters. This is the 21st Century and what the people of Seattle have said is we must put aside the 1950s mind-set about transportation and find new and better alternatives." McGinn sent a rejoinder to argue that Nickels has gone back on his word:

"Not only did he break his promise, now he's trying to stick Seattle taxpayers with the most expensive option on the table."

"And now Nickels is desperately trying to convince voters that they have to pay $930 million plus cost overruns no matter what solution we come up with," McGinn said. "That's simply false. The cheaper option he rejected would cost Seattle much less."

Bored with the tunnel yet? You will be.

McGinn also sent this graphic to show the tunnel is more expensive than all our levies combined:

Tunnel_Cost.jpg

That's only half the story, Nickels's campaign shot back before noon. The surface transit option isn't free. In fact, Nickels says, it would end up costing Seattle more. Although the final cost would be more for the tunnel—$4.2 billion compared to $3.5 billion for the surface option—the Nickels campaign calculates that Seattle's share would be more for the surface option.

Surface Option:

City would be responsible for local streets and local improvements:
Seawall $256 million
Waterfront Promenade $100 million
Utility Relocation $252 million
City Streets $193 million (includes Mercer, which McGinn supports)
Streetcar $135 million

TOTAL $936 million

State pays for:

Moving Forward Projects $1.1Billion (includes southend and northend)
Western Couplet $500 million
I-5 Improvements $ 500 million
Transit $400 million
Traffic Mitigation $30 million
Transportation Demand Management $37 million

TOTAL $2.567 Billion

McGinn's response, however, is a little weak. He doesn't address the issue of how much his option would cost. After all, it's McGinn's turn to answer this question: If the problem is that the city can't afford to pay $930 million for a tunnel, how can it pay $936 for the surface transit option? Instead McGinn just asks more questions in his next press release:

1. Why did Nickels break his promise to not pursue a tunnel?

2. Why did Nickels choose an option that was significantly more
expensive and put Seattle taxpayers on the hook for the balance and
cost overruns? We can widen I-5, add transit service, improve the
waterfront, and repair the seawall within $2.4 billion.

3. Why won't Nickels disclose the details of planned tax increases to
pay for the tunnel?

Since this issue is the biggest part of McGinn's platform, he needs to hit back with a substantive answer. If Nickels's figures are wrong—e.g., the surface figures are bloated—McGinn should say so. He has raised the specter of cost overruns falling solely on Seattle's back (due to a questionable law passed by the legislature that many people think will be tossed out) but the debate has been about this $930 million being too much to pay. Voters want to know: Will the surface plan that McGinn wants actually cost us less? And regardless of which option prevails, both candidates need to explain how we're going to pay for it.