Seattle Courant

Olympia Says Seattle Property Owners Should Pay for Cost Overruns to Replace Viaduct

Alaskan Way Viaduct
By Keith Vance
April 23, 2009 06:04PM

Well last night in Olympia, House legislators said Seattle could end up paying a lot more than the $957 million the city has already committed to the project. An amendment, sponsored by Rep. Judy Clibborn, D-Mercer Island, states that “property owners in the Seattle area who benefit from replacement of the existing viaduct” will pay for all cost overruns.

“I think it’s terrible,” Councilmember Nick Licata said. While he doesn’t think the amendment will hold up in court, “it’s a very serious concern.”

Basically, this amendment caps the state’s commitment at $2.8 billion, with $400 million coming from tolling.

But at this point, it’s not a foregone conclusion this change will even make it out of the Senate, but if the amendment does become law, and let’s say the speculators and prognosticators are wrong and the tunnel ends up costing 2 percent more than they thought it would, that’s a chunk of change.

According to the current design plans, it will cost roughly $4 billion to replace the viaduct with a tunnel. If they’re off by just 2 percent, that's $80 million. Four percent, well you guessed it, that's $160 million to be paid by “property owners in the Seattle area who benefit from replacement of the existing viaduct.”

To put this into context, as the recession continues to bore a tunnel through the city’s budget, just in the last few months and weeks, $40 million has been cut from this year’s budget. The $13 million in cuts announced by Nickels last week could result in the entire library system being shut down for a week this summer and a slowdown in road repairs and park maintenance.

And if projections are correct, and they usually aren’t, another $40 million will need to be cut from Seattle's budget next year.

How much deeper can we dig?

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Alaskan Way Viaduct Overview
Check out our previous coverage of this issue here.