Steve Shay
Ed Plute (pictured here at an initiative 101 campaign in August of 2010) delivered a petition to the Seattle City Council on Friday, Oct 21, asking the city to assess all City of Seattle costs on, for and behalf of the deep bore tunnel entirely to the benefitting property owners in the Central Business District.

Concerned citizens petition the Mayor and Seattle City Council to create a Special Benefits District for associated Alaskan Way replacement costs

As the first part of the Alaskan Way viaduct is coming down in the following days, a group of citizens is trying once more to fight the proposed tunnel and point out its deficiencies.

Reluctantly accepting that the viaduct is coming down, the so-called Highway Safety Advocates are setting out to shift Seattle's apportioned overrun costs to those who so fervently wanted it, and to draw the public's attention to the safety concerns of the tunnel.

Spearheaded by Ed Plute, Christopher Brown, and Victor Gray, the group delivered a petition to the Mayor and Seattle City Council on Friday, asking the city to assess all City of Seattle costs on, for and behalf of the deep bore tunnel entirely to the benefitting property owners in the Central Business District.

"We're admitting that we cannot stop the tunnel. It's going to be built. It's about getting taxed for something I don't support and I'm never going to use," said Plute at an HSA meeting in Ballard earlier this week.

The State Legislature has capped the State’s share of the cost of the deep-bored tunnel to $2.4 billion with an additional sum of up to $400 million which can be raised from toll revenues.

The implementing statute has mandated that all other costs including the relocation of the City’s utility systems must be borne by “the City of Seattle”.

This statute also states that any cost overruns are to be paid by Seattle.

"People say the statute won't hold up in court but I think it will fly," said Brown.

Brown explained that the tunnel will require 70 megawatts daily for tunnel lighting and ventilation. While WSDOT's maintenance budget will fund the costs of the megawatts, Seattle will have to pay for building the system to provide the power.

"The trouble is, to get the power to the tunnel the cost is in the order of about $170 million and that ain't hay," Brown said.

In addition to the construction and operation costs, the HSA believes that Seattle will have to shoulder the liability and lawsuits that will inevitably arise from the tunnel as it's currently designed.

Having carefully combed through the tunnel design and Environmental Impact Statements, Brown came to the conclusion that the proposed tunnel is "an inherently unsafe device".

Brown cited safety issues such as inaccessibility for emergency and operating vehicles in case of an accident, deviations from the federally adopted highway standards, insufficient handicap accommodation, and narrow shoulders.

"Accidents are going to happen and the city could be considered negligent in the design of the tunnel and be burdened by lawsuits, if not class action suits, by people who get trapped in the tunnel," Brown said. "Be that as it may, the liability should lie with those who want the tunnel."

The purpose of the petition is to request that the City of Seattle create a Special Benefits District as designed by a June 1, 2010 study by Allen-Brackett-Shedd.

The analysis was designed to assist the City of Seattle in the Alaskan Way Viaduct and Seawall Replacement Program and in decision making regarding the potential feasibility for a Local Improvement District (LID) or multiple LIDs.

An LID is a district in which those who own property that increases in value due to an improvement, pay for the improvement. In this case, the LID would surround approximately 10,000 downtown Seattle households and businesses along the waterfront that would benefit from a new open waterfront.

"Since the Downtown Seattle Association and the Seattle Chamber of Commerce have been fully supportive of the project, and recognizing that they with others are the beneficiaries of the project, it is only fair to the suburban Seattle neighborhoods that they be responsible for the attendant costs shifted to Seattle by the Legislature," the petition states.

"I think now, the way to throw a monkey wrench into this project is to bring up the money," said Plute. "That will at least get people to listen."

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