Bring your Referendum 1 (tunnel) questions to WSHS tomorrow

checkbox.jpgOne of the few things that will actually be settled by the August 16th ballot is Seattle Referendum 1 – since most of the ballot otherwise is comprised of primary races, narrowing candidate fields to the top two.

“Settled,” of course, is a relative term here.

Technically, Referendum 1 asks you to approve or reject Section 6 of City Ordinance 123542, related to Seattle’s role in the 99-tunnel plan. The “section” is what remains after a separate court fight.

Symbolically, it has been pointed out that this may be Seattleites’ only chance for a public vote on something related to the tunnel.

Or is it a potentially meaningless vote?

That’s part of what we’ll discuss at what appears to be the city’s only all-tunnel pre-election forum, happening right here on the peninsula tomorrow night, as the West Seattle Chamber of Commerce presents a public forum, moderated by your WSB editor, Thursday at 6 pm, West Seattle High School Theater. Two reps from each of the two major groups campaigning on the issue – pro-tunnel Let’s Move Forward and anti-tunnel Protect Seattle Now – will be there; you’ll have a chance to ask your question after the first round of opening statements and moderated discussion. Hope to see you there.

13 Replies to "Bring your Referendum 1 (tunnel) questions to WSHS tomorrow"

  • Brian Allen July 20, 2011 (3:28 pm)

    Well I certainly hope we get some answers to the many problems with this insane project summarized in the excellent piece on Crosscut the other day (

    For that matter, tunnel supporters haven’t addressed the questions raised by Dominic Holden over a year ago (…

  • West Seattleite July 20, 2011 (4:43 pm)

    Well that’s one perspective. There’s also the article published in Crosscut the other day “The Environmentalists argument FOR the tunnel”–case-for-the-waterfront-tunnel/

    It’s clear that the environmentalist community is split when it comes to the tunnel, but it also seems to me that there’s several other reasons to support moving forward.. Economic, congestion, parks and open space… The project as a whole will be something really special! And it’s funded.

  • Gene July 20, 2011 (5:29 pm)

    West Seattleite — look at the reports from the state/WashDot, a tolled tunnel will put about as many cars on downtown streets as just closing the viaduct and doing nothing — for $3B less.
    Also, this hasn’t been talked about, but the only way to keep traffic in a tolled ($9 round trip!) tunnel will be to add “congestion pricing” for all vehicles entering downtown (what they do in London). I can’t wait to see what the folks who gripe about raising parking to reasonable rates do when they have to pay $4-5+ just to drive into downtown.
    The tunnel doesn’t make environmental sense, it certainly doesn’t make economic sense, and no matter what we do or don’t do, West Seattle is pretty much getting the short end of the stick.

  • ws4ever July 20, 2011 (10:44 pm)

    Is there no hope that citizens can decide this matter instead of the City Council? Key flaws make this a stupid compromise, IMHO.

  • Bill Reiswig July 21, 2011 (12:33 am)

    I was against the tunnel 2 years ago because I really did not think it re-thought transportation in any type of substantive way in what will be a century of climate change and peak oil. Both of these will effect us far more than traffic.

    Then I read the Dominic Holden article in the Stranger referenced by Brian. There is a long history of large and complicated infrastructure projects in this country going far above budget. There is no denying that the waterfront of Seattle has a good possibility of causing numerous tunneling difficulties notwithstanding the record-sized bore being attempted. IF the boring machine gets stuck, costs will rapidly escalate. This project will be built in an era with excalating raw material and oil costs and an unstable financial system. People who look you in the eye and say the “costs” or “expense” of any of these projects can be accurately known are either dissembling or are ill-informed of the rapidly changing variables.

    The most responsible route for this city would be to build a replacement that took into account climate change, oil depletion, our high federal-civic-and-corporate debt, and the benefits possible from emphasizing more rail, transit, foot, and bike transit. This option would be the option with the least risk, least cost, least auto-centric, and most forward thinking. It would be the streets/transit/I-5 (surface) alternative.

  • WS commuter July 21, 2011 (9:27 am)

    Tunnel opponents seem to deal in wishful thinking.

    I am amazed at the unrealistic claims articulated here – which seem to focus on the fallacy that if it isn’t perfect (the tunnel), then it shouldn’t be built. Life doesn’t work that way – we make compromises and do the best we can. The tunnel is the best available solution to our regional reality.

    1. There will never – NEVER – be an I-5 expansion through downtown. McGinn and his far left cronies push this lie, but from engineering, cost and political standpoints, it won’t happen. Deal with this truth. We all are saddled – forever – with the terrible choice made a generation ago to not build I-5’s capacity through downtown to what it should have been.

    2. Thus we are left with the need for those two additional lanes north/south through the chokepoint of downtown. That is what the current SR 99 gives us through the Battery St. tunnel … and what the DBT will continue to give us. It is simply the worst sort of false logic which says that since the DBT won’t have capacity for 100K cars a day, it won’t work. The DBT will carry 50-70K a day under all studies – which are trips that would otherwise be choking I-5 and our surface streets into gridlock. If you don’t believe that, then recall the two days after the Nisqually quake. Mr. Reiswig, you eloquently reference legitimate concerns, but when you laudably talk about “rail, transit, foot and bike” you depart from reality. There is no vision to build any rail whatsoever for W. Seattle/Burien/N.P./Des Moines. Sound Transit is 20+ years away from completing the projects already in the works. There is no social will for people to ride the bus more – look at the spike in oil prices of late and metro ridership is up only 6%. People drive cars. That won’t change.

    3. The “surface/transit” option – and I say this as a life-long, card-carrying Democrat with environmentalism in my blood – is deluded folly. It is the worst sort of social engineering that is guarenteed to cripple the city. We have cars. Deal with it.

    4. Rebuilding the viaduct is no gain – we would go through 3-4 years of hell living out the “surface/transit” option during the time the old viaduct was torn down and a new one was being built … and we would do this for roughly the same cost as the DBT … and at the end of the day, any new viaduct would still be seismically vulnerable, especially built in the fill/tide flats of the central waterfront.

    The fear-mongering of tunnel opponents is amusing, but ill-informed. Yes – large infra-structure projects carry risk. Life carries risks. I am one of those who won’t directly benefit from the tunnel – I’ll have to take a surface street to work with the loss of the Seneca exit. But I also recognize the requirement that we maintain two “highway” lanes on SR 99 for the greater good of our region.

  • DP July 21, 2011 (10:00 am)

    I think I’m coming down with a severe case of TFS. Tunnel Fatigue Syndrome. Every time someone says tunnel, I get this throbbing pain in my head.

  • metrognome July 21, 2011 (10:53 am)

    WS Commuter — nice summary; doubt if I could have said it better myself, altho I’ve tried several times. As far as tunneling risks, note that there is a rail tunnel under downtown that is over 100 years old. And note Metro’s technical success with the bus tunnel that opened in 1990. Both were completed in similar soil conditions. As far as the tolling and potential influx of cars into the street grid, there are numerous other projects (i.e. the 4th Ave off-ramp from the WSB) to give drivers new options. People will adapt and we will survive as a species … unless the tunneling unleashes some long-buried alien life form …

  • Karl July 21, 2011 (11:55 am)

    What are we voting on and why?

    The City Attorney asked King County Superior Court for a judgment determining if Referendum 1 was subject to Seattle’s referendum powers.

    The judge decided that Sections 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 7 and 8 of Ordinance 123542 were not subject to a referendum vote and were in effect as of March 30, 2011. The judge decided that only Section 6 of the ordinance is subject to referendum.

    The City Council placed Section 6 of Ordinance 123542 on the ballot for approval or rejection in a referendum vote.

    Section 6 states: “The City Council is authorized to decide whether to issue the notice referenced in Section 2.3 of each Agreement. That decision shall be made at an open public meeting held after issuance of the Final Environmental Impact Statement.”

    My conclusion at this point is: if you want the City of Seattle to allow construction access for the State of Washington’s Alaskan Way Viaduct Replacement Project, vote “Yes”; however, if you want the City to deny the aforementioned, vote “No.”

    I look forward to this evening’s discussion about process minutia and will examine the facts so I may be better informed for next week’s vote (primary election ballots will be mailed on July 27th).

  • Morgan July 21, 2011 (1:53 pm)

    Claims that the tolled-tunnel will carry more than 50% of the viaduct’s capacity are personal beliefs. The analysis released by WSDOT this month shows that it will carry roughly 1/3 of the current flows, because it will be tolled to the tune of $9 round trip to fill the current funding gap.

    I-5 expansion in downtown is a matter of reconfiguring the paint and removing two exits so that we have 3 lanes all the way
    through. It’s not about widening the highway.

    The Transit and I-5 option has been well studied by WSDOT and was the leading option prior to the back room deal our Governor instigated.

    All government decisions are social choices, including the intent to maintain our addiction to an auto centric transportation system that keeps us addicted to foreign oil, paves over our world, isolates us from one another, and forces us to sit in traffic, white-knuckled from the stress. Let’s gets some distance from that social engineering of last century.

  • Bill Reiswig July 21, 2011 (3:22 pm)

    West Seattle Commuter;

    I respectfully disagree.

    1. “I am amazed at the unrealistic claims articulated here – which seem to focus on the fallacy that if it isn’t perfect (the tunnel), then it shouldn’t be built.” … this is somewhat of a straw-man arguement. Obviously any proposal will have its benefits and risks. Tunnel critics merely maintain that the bore tunnel carries the greatest risks of heavy cost over-run.

    2. The idea that I am being unrealistic about rail, bus, bike or foot infrastructure accelerating rapidly ignores that perceptions and motivations of governments and people can change rapidly. There are people with a vision of linking our light rail or surface rail with West Seattle, or changing how we live/ commute/ travel. The easiest way to change the MPG of cars is not to build green cars, but to have massive numbers of people choose to carpool or form “jitneys”… this type of cultural attitude can and will change rapidly if people are forced through economic circumstances to change habits.

    My point here is that the attitude that “cars are here, live with it” ignores that cars must be fueled by something, and the petroleum fix we are used to is rapidly entering a very unsustainable period. Already, car use in Seattle Metro has dropped by something like 8% in the last 5 years. People who think that natural gas or solar vehicles can and will replace petroleum run cars in their current numbers have very unrealistic expectations about the cost of these cars and their infrastructure.

    Yes. I am saying we should socially engineer a city with fewer cars and whose citizens can live happy productive lives without them. I think it will make for a better city, better air, and will create the kind of civic innovation and leadership deserving of a progressive city like Seattle. This is no different more or less “social engineering” than the intentional choice to make our infrastructure dependable on cars. I look realistically at the future and I see climate change already causing trillions in damages and much chaos, and I look at the end of petroleum and I see transit and pedestrian infrastructure as that which is sustainable. Not cars.

    WIth respect, that is how I see the situation we’ve been dealt. I veiw myself as the realist, and your views based on wishful thinking informed by the past.

  • Jeff July 21, 2011 (11:03 pm)

    “WE THE PEOPLE” must rally together to stop this MADNESS. The endless spending. The pointless building.
     Too many good things are being closed or shut down because of budget cuts. Important things like parks and schools. Yet there is so much money to build a tunnel which is GUARANTEED to cost more than they originally will tell us.
    All you hear about is how there is no money. Budget cuts. So if we ALL work together we can come to an agreement that makes the most sense for “WE THE PEOPLE”.
    I just purchased I need a volunteer to help build the website. I have a business location that I am happy to share towards the cause. Our children are counting on us. The people of Seattle are counting on us. We’ll make this our first action of stopping the madness.
    PEACE IS NOW is the organization that will be representing “WE THE PEOPLE” of this great country- the United States of America. is another domain I’d like to put to use soon. Volunteers that are interested in saving our country before it’s too late are more than welcomed to join. We need people to wake the people up.
    Then we need people in the political arena to help us make changes possible. Change that is good for our country- no longer just good for big business. Our forefathers would be very upset for what is taking place today.
    You have to start somewhere so I’m starting with this crazy tunnel idea. Enough is enough people.
    From here we’ll work our way to a National level. Congress and Obama taking shots at each other while our country goes down the drain is not only childish but an insult to “WE THE PEOPLE”. There are very limited jobs available yet everything is being made in China. It’s time The large companies paid their taxes. The rich get richer and “WE THE PEOPLE” the backbone of America get kicked to the gutter. The list goes on and on…..
    no more. It’s time to build America back up. Before it’s too late.

    Peace Is Now
    peace is now (facebook)

  • Adrian August 1, 2011 (9:01 am)

    I am one of those voters on the fence. My two major concerns are:

    No exit from a tunnel to downtown or vise versa.

    I commute to DT everyday, either by car or bus, and can not believe that this is not in the tunnel plans. Can you imagine taking surface streets during an M’s or Sounders game. It’s not just an issue of getting people past DT, it’s also getting people to DT.

    Cost overruns billed to the tax payers.

    This goes way beyond Ref 1 or even the viaduct/tunnle debate. A toll could help with overruns but the possibility of increased congestion on surface streets due to people avoiding the toll is a concern (again, surface street congestion will be out of control with no exits anyway).

    p.s. Also, an I5 expansion through DT sounds great, if it was even feasible. But you can not just re-paint the lines and close exits. That defeats the purpose of getting people DT and Capitol Hill and pushes more people to SoDo or, dare I say, Mercer and South Lake Union.

Sorry, comment time is over.