Seattle Courant

State Senate Approves Alaskan Way Deep Bore Tunnel

Alaskan Way Viaduct
By Keith Vance
March 5, 2009 04:03PM

Now the bill heads to the House of Representatives where passage is not a forgone conclusion. House Majority Leader Frank Chopp, D-Seattle, has not been a fan of the deep bore tunnel option. Chopp has said that he prefers replacing the aging viaduct with another bridge, yet it's not clear he will seek to stop this bill in the House.

The deep bore tunnel plan is expected to cost more than $4 billion. The elevated option, supported by Chopp, is about half the cost, but downtown businesses don't want another bridge.

If the bill passes the House state funding can not exceed $2.4 billion and must include $400 million in toll revenue. The state money can only be used to bore the tunnel and tear down the existing bridge. Gregoire's original proposal sought $2.8 billion from the state.

"There are no new funds in this bill," Murray said. Any additional money for cost overruns, he said will not come from the state.

Seattle voters rejected the deep bore tunnel plan in 2007 in an advisory election, yet under pressure from businesses and labor organizations, Gregoire, Nickels and King County Executive Ron Sims struck a deal in January to move forward to replace the 1953-vintage viaduct with a tunnel.

Opponents of the project are concerned that the four-lane tunnel, two stacked on two, will be built near a fault line. In the event of an earthquake a tidal wave could fill the tunnel with water. Also against the tunnel are maritime businesses that will not be able to transport fuel through the tunnel, forcing them on to surface streets or I-5.

Sen. James Hargrove, D-Port Angeles, voted against the bill. He said that investing in automobile transportation is a mistake. "We need to have a major paradigm shift in how we deal with transportation and spending money on infrastructure and we need to start managing our growth," Hargrove said.

The other five Senators who voted against the bill were Don Benton (R-Vancouver), Mike Carrell (R-Lakewood), Derek Kilmer (D-Gig Harbor), Debbie Regala (D-Tacoma) and Mark Schoesler (R-Ritzville).

The bill passed the Senate 43 to 6 and now proceeds to the House of Representatives.

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Read the full text of Senate bill 5768 here.

Read a brief summary of what the Alaskan Way project should like here.

Diagram showing Alaskan Way Viaduct vulnerabilities