It was all smiles for the ceremonial shovel-turning that concluded the kickoff event for the Alaskan Way Viaduct South End (Holgate to King) project this afternoon – but in the round of speeches that preceded it, some sharp words over the “next” AWV project, the one to replace the elevated structure along the central waterfront. The event included a long line of mostly elected officials on stage, with dozens of union-banner-displaying workers and a few sign-wielding tunnel opponents.
Mayor Mike McGinn alluded to his tunnel concerns but went on to say he didn’t think this was the time and place to talk about them; nonetheless, those who took the podium right after him – including Tom Rasmussen, one of seven Seattle City Councilmembers onstage – promptly proclaimed their strong support for the tunnel. (Hear them both in this next clip, with state Transportation Secretary Paula Hammond – filling in for Gov. Gregoire, who had a sudden trip to D.C. – inbetween:)
Shortly afterward, Seattle Port Commissioner Bill Bryant (below) went so far as to say the process that resulted in the tunnel choice had included hundreds of meetings and thousands of public comments, so, he all but shouted, “Enough already! We cannot wait another day” to build the tunnel.
That project, however, is still at least a year-plus out; south end work starts now. More video and photos shortly; meantime, click ahead for the official news release sent by WSDOT afterward:
State and local officials, labor leaders, local businesses and members of the public gathered today to break ground on construction to replace the southern mile of the seismically vulnerable Alaskan Way Viaduct.
“Today is an important milestone in our efforts to replace the unsafe Alaskan Way Viaduct. We are moving forward and staying within schedule and on budget. The bid for this project came in 25% below estimated costs, which is good news for taxpayers,” said Governor Chris Gregoire. “As we replace the aging viaduct, we are addressing a major public safety concern, creating thousand of family-wage construction jobs and ensuring that a major transportation corridor remains open for business.”
Elected leaders thanked U.S. Senator Patty Murray for her critical role in making the day possible through her work in Congress to secure $101 million in federal funding for this portion of the program.
“We must never forget that replacing the viaduct is not just about getting people to work, home or the ballgame and freight to and from the Port of Seattle. It’s about getting people and goods there safely,” said Senator Murray. “I was proud to fight for the funding to help this project move forward. And I applaud my colleagues for working so hard by my side to make this investment in the viaduct that will protect our residents and lay the foundation for future economic growth.”
Elected leaders from the City of Seattle, Port of Seattle, and King County attended the event.
“The City Council has been actively working with our regional partners to make this corridor safer and more efficient,” stated City of Seattle Councilmember and Transportation committee chair Tom Rasmussen.“Today we are taking the next step in opening the waterfront up to the people, allowing our city and waterfront businesses to grow in a way that Seattle and the region have come to depend on.”
“The cargo that moves to and from port facilities creates tens of thousands of jobs – good, family-wage jobs that keep the region’s economy moving even during a stubborn recession,” said Port of Seattle Commission President Bill Bryant. “That’s why the port is investing in this project. An efficient transportation system is the backbone of Washington’s economy, and can’t afford to wait.”
“We have worked together for a long time, from the local to the state level, to make this day possible,” said King County Executive Dow Constantine. “In addition to creating valuable jobs, this project, in combination with the Spokane Street improvements, will greatly increase mobility and safety for our region.”
At today’s groundbreaking ceremony the speakers were flanked by workers representing the various trades that will build the new roadway.
“In these tough economic times, it’s important that we are doing everything possible to create jobs,” said Dave Freiboth, Executive Secretary of Martin Luther King County Labor Council. “By moving forward today, we are putting people to work and getting us one step closer to replacing the unsafe Alaskan Way Viaduct.”
In the SR 99 S. Holgate to S. King Viaduct Replacement Project crews will demolish the viaduct through the SODO neighborhood and replace it with a side-by-side roadway that will meet today’s standards for earthquake resistance, traffic flow and safety, and environmental protection.
“Moving forward with this piece of the viaduct replacement project will help us move people and goods quickly and safely, and provide 600 good jobs this summer – just when we need them most,” said Phil Bussey, President and CEO of the Greater Seattle Chamber of Commerce. “We applaud this significant milestone, and we look forward to the groundbreaking of the bored tunnel next year.”
WSDOT awarded the construction contract for the project to Skanska USA Civil, based in Riverside, California. Skanska submitted the low bid of $114,569,194.25. The bid was 25 percent under WSDOT’s $152,620,104.46 estimate. For more information, visit the project Web page at www.wsdot.wa.gov/Projects/SR99/HolgateToKing