In case you want to watch as it happens, we’re noting this here before the vote: At the Seattle City Council meeting that’s under way now, councilmembers will vote on the Memorandum of Understanding that solidifies the city’s support for the deep-bore tunnel planned to replace the Central Waterfront section of the Alaskan Way Viaduct. You can watch live here. Public comment at the start of the meeting included one person suggesting that the item should be tabled until after the election, since, in that person’s view, the Joe Mallahan-Mike McGinn mayoral race equals a referendum vote on yes/tunnel vs. no/tunnel. 3:19 PM UPDATE: Councilmembers have just voted unanimously in favor of the memorandum of agreement supporting The Tunnel, though there were a few sharp exchanges when Councilmember Bruce Harrell said he wasn’t sure why they were voting on this now, wondering whether they’re trying to “beat people over the head with our support for the tunnel” when, he noted, they’d expressed their support before. He also expressed hope that greater discussions is ahead for details of how the city will pay its share of the tunnel costs. ADDED 3:51 PM: Here’s the official City Council news release about this afternoon’s vote: (added 6:03 pm, other statements including that of mayoral candidate and tunnel opponent Mike McGinn)
Today, the Seattle City Council voted unanimously to approve a Memorandum of Agreement between the Washington Department of Transportation and the city, authorizing both parties to move forward with the Alaskan Way Viaduct deep bored tunnel and Seawall Replacement.
This agreement marks the fourth in a series of contracts for the project. In September, the Council approved three contracts with the state that authorized more than $480 million in state funds to be used for reconfiguring the south portion of the Viaduct.
“We’ve reached agreement with the state and we will continue moving forward,” said Councilmember Jan Drago, chair of the Transportation Committee. “The citizens of Seattle deserve more than process, they deserve progress that brings them a vibrant waterfront and a safe, reliable transportation system.”
The agreement authorized today outlines the city and state’s funding and construction responsibilities and outlines Seattle’s $927 million obligation to the project set for completion in 2018.
Last Friday, the Council reviewed and discussed a variety of possible funding sources for the project, including an increase in the Commercial Parking tax and a new Transportation Benefit District to collect vehicle license fees. The Council is expected to act on proposed funding options in 2010.
“The viaduct replacement will provide safe, effective transportation solutions that our region desperately needs,” said Council President Richard Conlin. “By opening up our waterfront, Seattle will also create new opportunities for local businesses and tourism, enhancing the attraction of Seattle and Elliot Bay as a signature destination for residents and tourists.”
ADDED 6:03 PM: Several other statements have hit the inbox. First, mayoral candidate and outspoken tunnel opponent Mike McGinn:
Today, the City Council authorized Mayor Greg Nickels to sign an intergovernmental agreement with the State of Washington committing Seattle to the tunnel plan.
I disagree with the decision. I disagree with the timing.
But the reality is Mayor Nickels and the Council have entered into an agreement, and the City is now committed to the tunnel plan.
If I’m elected Mayor, although I disagree with this decision, it will be my job to uphold and execute this agreement. It is not the Mayor’s job to withhold the cooperation of city government in executing this agreement.
I will, however, continue to ask tough questions:
• We don’t know how much it’s actually going to cost.
• If it ends up costing more than the current budget allows, there is serious disagreement between Seattle and the State over who will pay the cost overruns.
• Where will the money come from, and who will bear the burden? Will we have to cut police, fire, library, or services for the poor?
I will not stop asking the tough questions nor will I ever stop standing up for Seattle’s interests in this process.
I’m worried the people that want the tunnel have a champagne appetite and the City has a beer budget. The question is who will end up paying the tab.
There is a clear choice in this election.
My opponent has refused to ask any hard questions about the tunnel.
In fact, when asked about the Legislature passing the cost overrun amendment, he said:
“If I were mayor, rather than taking potshots at Democratic leadership who put that (amendment) on, I’d express disappointment and say, “OK, we can live with this.”
Seattle cannot live with paying the cost overruns on the tunnel.
From City Councilmember Nick Licata:
“I crafted three amendments to the bored tunnel agreement between the city and state passed by the City Council today. The amendments would 1) clearly state that this agreement does not commit the city or Seattle-area property owners to covering cost overruns, 2) that the city would need to secure funds before beginning implementation, and 3) would seek funding for its projects.
I sent these amendments to Gov. Gregoire and she does not support them. So, in the spirit of wanting to work with the state and not fight with it on the replacement of the Alaskan Way Viaduct and the Seawall, I will not be bringing them forward.
Let’s also be clear what this legislation does. Our Law Department says it commits the city to only 3 things:
1. To continue to work together to complete the Alaskan Way Viaduct and Seawall Replacement Program;
2. To endeavor to open the bored tunnel by the end of 2015;
3. To develop additional agreements, deal with issues such as right-of-way use and utility relocation. Unlike this agreement, those will certainly be legally enforceable.
This agreement is policy statement, not a contract. I do not agree with certain elements of it, such as the intent to spend $150 million on the Mercer Project. But what is most important to me is providing a clear record that the city is not consenting to the provision of state law requiring Seattle-area property owners to pay for cost overruns. Since I am not introducing that amendment, I will state for the legislative record: I do not believe that in passing this agreement, the city of Seattle is agreeing to pay any cost overruns on the deep bore tunnel.
Future agreements will be when the real, substantive decisions will be made. I will support future agreements if they conform to the Federal Office of Management and Budget standards for best practices as previously identified by our City Auditor.
Unlike this agreement, future agreements must include a reliability risk analysis of funding sources, and the development of contingency plans in the event funding sources do not materialize.
And there’s a statement from Mayor Nickels:
“After years of debate and discourse, we are finally getting down to removing the dangerous Alaskan Way Viaduct from our waterfront. I commend the City Council for taking this step and supporting the bored tunnel solution. Now, we must act on our decisions. I’m pleased that WSDOT will soon advertise contracts to replace the south mile of the Viaduct. We will preserve transportation choices and open our city up to Elliott Bay for the first time in my lifetime.
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