Councilmember Nick Licata
Statement by Seattle City Councilmember Nick Licata on Bored Tunnel
Agreement Legislation and Mayorís Proposed Budget
Mayor Nickelsí budget includes $603 million for city bored
tunnel-related projects, eight months after he signed an agreement with
the Governor and King County Executive. Now the Council will take a week
to evaluate his proposal and approve a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA)
endorsing it. MOA legislation will be introduced Monday and up for a
vote Tuesday in the Transportation Committee, with a final vote expected
the following Monday.
There is something wrong with this picture. Why rush to sign an
agreement that is barely off the press? What is motivating this
breakneck speed after no action for months? I fear that the public may
get the impression that the current mayoral election may have something
to do with it. There is no clear reason for the City Council to bypass
our budget deliberations.
The Council should act responsibly in considering legislation stating
the cityís intent to enter into an agreement with the state and
agreeing to fund $787 million in city projects as part of the bored
tunnel project to replace the Alaskan Way Viaduct.
Voting two business days after receiving the mayorís funding proposal
falls short of accountability standards we should be setting for
ourselves. We have eight weeks to consider the mayorís budget; the MOA
should grow out of that work, not precede it.
Seattle can be a good partner with the state by replacing the central
seawall, establishing a promenade on the downtown waterfront, completing
the Spokane Street Viaduct Project, and replacing utilities on the
central waterfront. Signing an MOA with the state on these items is a
reasonable step to take, but the Council should first determine how we
are going to pay the bill. The mayor has released only the vaguest of
plans, including parking taxes, possibly increasing property taxes, and
a new vehicle license fee. He released no proposal for funding the
In 2008 the city auditor cautioned about beginning large capital
projects without full funding in place. This agreement commits the city
to a path to begin capital projects without telling the public how this
full funding will occur; it goes against the spirit of the auditorís
The state legislature required WSDOT to report back in January with a
revised cost estimate for the bored tunnel (and prohibited awarding
contracts before that), and whether $400 million can be raised from
tolling. A 2002 study estimated $35 to $95 million could be raised. The
legislature required cost overruns to be paid for by Seattle property
owners. This agreement does not address this provision, and acting
prematurely could place Seattle taxpayers at risk.
Itís time to do our homework.
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