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Old October 1st, 2006, 02:50 AM   #321
urbanaturalist
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NAFTA Superhighway(s).....There's Got to Be Better Alternatives

First, I find it appalling that the major media outlets hardly if ever cover this story. When is the last time the Today Show, Good Morning America, CBS Evening News, No Spin Zone, etc had a segment on the NAFTA Superhighway or anything else related to North American integration. Lou Dobbs gives some effort on it, but thats about it.

Secondly, the politicians in Congress and the White House and bureucrats seem to ignore it or downplay the whole thing.

These NAFTA Superhighway(s) in their current proposed formations/routes are somewhat excessive and extreme and unnecessary I think. Even if cross border trade and population growth expands, which it will, I don't agree that it necessitates building a brand spanking new 400 yard wide (4 football fields wide) NAFTA Superhighway/toll road (proposed TTC-Texas Transit Corridor-I-35) from Laredo, Texas to Kansas City to Duluth, Minnesota. This TTC-35 would parallel the already existing Interstate 35. In addition, TTC-69 (I-69) would begin in Southeast Texas to Indianapolis to Michigan to Toronto. The Texas Transit Corridor (TTC) is a statewide version of the NAFTA Superhighway projects in that it involves building 4,000 more miles of road in Texas alone! .......definitely wasteful overkill. I thought we had pretty much completed our highway system in United States.

I'm not against connecting North American cities and beyond with efficient transportation access, although I understand that there are many quandaries and issues that arise from this concept. My concern is that many of these routes are unecessary and overdone. For instance, the proposed I-69 route (S.E. Texas to Toronto), has sections of it that are truly over the top. For example, the proposed southwesternly link from Indianapolis to Memphis, TN entails bulldozing through agricultural and rural areas of Indiana, Kentucky, and Tennesse with a brand new interstate. Whereas a just as efficent route using I-70 from Indianapolis west towards St. Louis, and then south on I-57 which merges into I-55 south will just as easily get you to Memphis Tennesse. Thus, I-69 could overlap I-70, I-57, and I-55 on these routes. Similarly, from Memphis, TN, I-69 could follow I-40 west to Little Rock, AR, then follow I-30 west towards Texarkana,TX, then go south on a proposed I-49 to Shreveport, LA then I-69 could be constructed towads the southwest to Houston and Mexico. Thus, again I-69 could overlap I-40, I-30, and proposed I-49, on mostly already existing interstates. Expanding lanes would be more efficent, cost saving, and more environmentally sensible, than rampaging through the countryside.
I understand that links have to be built, but the more they correlate with existing highways, the better.

Thats just the beginning, other links are being proposed as wellnew (i.e unnecessary highways). Across the United States.

If we are going to facilitate new trade and population growth, why are we not just expanding existing highways/interstates and increasing high speed passenger and freight rail, instead of wasting money, destroying farmland, forests/wetlands for new asphalt. The only thing a many of these NAFTA Superhighway(s) (TTC-35) for instance would facilitate is more sprawl. All this talk about ethanol, which I''m leery of anyway, involves subjecting millions of acres of cropland to producing corn. Now we want to run a 400 yard (4 football field wide) interstate through the breadbasket of this country?

Proponents of the NAFTA Superhighway(s) would say that it is necessary to build it because we can get around cities that are already choked with traffic. So instead of adding lanes (3 or 4 each side of say I-35 that goes through San Antonio and Austin, Texas), it is necessary to spend 10s of billions of dollars on a brand new interstate?? I would actually advocate for building intersate tunnels underneath existing interstates when they reach major metropolitan areas. It sounds far-fetch, but in California for instance they are discussing plans to build a Pasadena interstate tunnel underneath a historic part of the city. Thus, if that same ingenuity and desire and conscientiousness for concentrated development (smart growth, sustainable development) would emerge in Texas, there would be great benefits to behold. Texas would save 100,000s of acres of land, still promote economic growth, and still be able to charge a toll if necessary to help pay for such an enormous infrastructure project.

Proponents of the NAFTA Superhighway(s) would say we need to build a Customs facility in Kansas City along the I-35 NAFTA Superhighway, and we want to introduce new security measures and technology. I find this reasoning a joke. Number one, the border crossings already exist to check trucks before they enter and leave the U.S. Again, what is the problem with expanding the lanes and employees at the border crossing. Plus, new security measures and technology can be alpha and beta tested at existing border entrys. Secondly, its obvious that an open border paradigm is going to happen before 2050, so the need for a Customs Facility with improved security technology in the middle of the country is a lame lame lame excuse and reason to build a NAFTA Superhighway(s) in th current proposed form.

Proponents of the NAFTA Superhighway would say we are going to build passenger/freight rail lines, broadband cable, and oil and gas pipelines as well. Why would you build passenger lines that are not connected to cities? There could be an argument for taking freight rail around cities, but even then it shouldn't necessarily have to be 100s of miles away from the nearest metro. Broadband cable should connect cities. Oil and gas, not fond of either, could arguably bypass cities but in some instances could be connected to cities. I think we should be bringing as much capacity as possible to or near our cities, whether its road or rail.

Proponents of the NAFTA Superhighway would say we need to help Mexico expand its highway infrastructure. I agree with that, Mexico probably does need to expand its road and rail infrastructure to major cities and American cities as well. However, why not just link Mexican highways with already existing American interstates and highways?

Human population is growing in the U.S., Mexico, and Canada, and that must be faciliated, but smart growth and sustainable techniques should take precedent in all 3 countries. Building a massive superhighway project in the all these countries will only facilitate more sprawl, which only means more cars on more crowded highways and more pollution in the air for global warming to feed on. We've already been down that "road", and are currently still reeling from the effects of highway induced sprawl. Its seems like this whole NAFTA Superhighway(s) situation in its current would only induce an expansive backward looking Highway Industrial Complex, with certain corporations........the usual suspects......... benefitting the most. If we are going to spend billions of dollars on transportation here, in Mexico and Canada then put that money to local urban rail and highspeed passenger and freight rail. If we absolutely have to expand highway capacity then do it on existing highways and facilitate interstate tunnel development near large cities
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Old October 1st, 2006, 06:44 AM   #322
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You know, I had heard about this about a year or so ago. But I thought they gave up on that idea, I didn't know it was still out there.
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Old October 1st, 2006, 07:08 AM   #323
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I had never heard about this project before! You're right, there's gotta be a better way of connecting North America... In Mexico there's a proposal for a high-speed railway.
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Old October 1st, 2006, 09:36 AM   #324
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I put this on par with Dade County's dream of building an elevated 2-lane truck road from the airport to an industrial park ~2 miles west. There are lots of trucks, but IMHO spending hundreds of millions of dollars building a brand new elevated road just for them is stupid, because *maybe* half the trucks driving along the existing road in question would actually benefit from it. And that number will diminish over time, as more and more new industrial parks get built in the area (but NOT in the specific area served by the proposed truck road). I'd rather see them culvert over the useless canal/ditch next to the existing road (NW 25th Street) and widen the whole road to 8 lanes (from 6), with flyovers at the two biggest intersections for east-west traffic. The total cost would be almost the same, but at least then EVERYONE would directly benefit from the improvements... not just the politically well-connected owners of the specific industrial park that would be served by the new road...

As for the NAFTA road/Texas Corridor idea, the main thing everyone forgets when thinking it's cheaper to build a new road out in BFE is the fact that expensive urban areas account for MAYBE 2% of the north-south distance along existing interstates. Acquiring a hundred feet of expensive ROW through that 2%, plus a hundred feet through the cheap 98%, is probably going to cost about as much as trying to acquire a mammoth brand new 300-500 foot swath through even the cheapest rural areas...

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Old January 6th, 2007, 04:53 PM   #325
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Seattle: Alaskan Way Viaduct

Locals should know the project well. Highway 99, the second main north-south route through the city after Interstate 5, becomes a double decker elevated structure along the waterfront of downtown.



The original structure was built 50 years ago, and is in bad need of an update. The expressway is only 2 lanes wide at some points, has no breakdown lanes, and engineers say it was critically damaged in the 2001 Nisquilly Earthquake.

There has been a very heated political debate about what to do with this project. Both sides have put their might behind two main proposals that would build an earthquake sound structure capable of handling the traffic flow through downtown.

http://seattlepi.nwsource.com/transp...viaduct06.html
http://www.wsdot.wa.gov/Projects/Viaduct/animations.htm

The first main proposal, which is supported by the mayor of Seattle and much of the city council is to replace the elevated highway with a cut and cover tunnel. The pros of the tunnel are that it re-opens downtown to the waterfront, and kills two birds with one stone by replacing the Elliott Bay Sea Wall. The cons being that it is projected to cost twice as much as the 2.4 Billion earmarked for the project, and that it would close of numerous surface streets for up to 3-1/2 years until the project is completed.

The second main proposal, which is supported by the governor (in a manner of speaking) and much of the state legislature is to essentially to replace the viaduct with an updated viaduct. The structure would be wider to handle more lanes of traffic and have larger support columns to meet earthquake code. The pros being that its cost is much closer to the $2.4 billion, and wouldn't require as drastic a road closure. The cons being an even bigger barrier between down town and the waterfront.

There have been numerous other proposals such as a suspension bridge, demolishing the viaduct all together and re-routing traffic onto surface roads, and simply just repairing the old viaduct. The new tunnel and viaduct are the only ones being seriously considered by WSDOT.

SO what do people think about this project? Let's hear some Seattleites opinions on the political mess, and some outside opinions on the project itself.
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Old January 7th, 2007, 03:24 AM   #326
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I like the tunnel idea. It opens up so much space for the waterfront.
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Old January 7th, 2007, 12:59 PM   #327
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From Seattle here, I also like the tunnel idea.
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Old January 12th, 2007, 11:21 PM   #328
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I used to live in San Diego and i guess that the Tunnel Idea would be best too, espeically from an economic standpoint. But it also gets rid of the barrier that the viaduct provides against the elements.
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Old January 13th, 2007, 08:22 AM   #329
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Anyone have any info on the other proposals besides the new viaduct and alaskan way tunnel? I saw news bits on a western ave tunnel, I heard talk of a bridge over elliott bay, I heard talk of doing "a thousand little things" and just tearing the viaduct down and not rebuilding, etc. What else has been proposed?
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Old January 15th, 2007, 01:20 AM   #330
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Tacoma i-5 changes

edit: oops i was gonna start a new thread sorry if i put it in here
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Old January 15th, 2007, 01:23 AM   #331
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Tacoma, Washington - I5 changes

does anyone know what the plan is for it?

I have driven through that area a couple times the last few months and it seems like some major reworking is going on - the over passes that seem to be no more etc.

are they widening it? adding new exits etc?

its a pain when you want to pass thtough and you get caught in the rush hour traffic

one time it took us 3 hours from Marysville to Tacoma - on the way back the same thing took us like 30 minutes
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Old January 17th, 2007, 07:01 PM   #332
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A new third proposal, being referred to as "tunnel light" is gaining support in the city council. It involves a 4 lane, side by side tunnel, with two 14' breakdown lanes that could be used for traffic during rush hour. The shallower tunnel is said to reduce cost to the point that the city might be able to afford it without a city wide tax increase. Next step is winning support from the govenor.

http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/htm...aduct17m0.html
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Old January 17th, 2007, 09:12 PM   #333
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They have been talking about this for so long

i know with projects such as these there are huge issues involving funding

but what i dont understand is this:

obviously there is a HUGE price tag...

but the benefits seem to out weigh the cost...

burying the highway would give access to the entire waterfront area along downtown, this would open it up for developments parks, new condo's some new highrises etc.....

wouldnt the LONG term effects of the more expensive option be better for the city instead of just rebuilding the viaduct which is the exact thing they are trying to remove from the area?
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Old January 18th, 2007, 05:32 AM   #334
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Well, it sounds like its a moot point anyways:
http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/htm...btunnel17.html
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Old January 18th, 2007, 02:42 PM   #335
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Well, when the viaduct's closed for SIX years during construction....the city will obviously adjust its commute patterns to accommodate the change, right? After six years, people will get used to it. Traffic will have gotten normal maybe after a few months. And then the newer, bigger, uglier viaduct will open back up and traffic will get worse again. Ugh. Am I the only one who seems to think this way?!

So my opinion is to not build anything! Maybe a surface street if it comes to that---but that's what Alaskan Way is for??

I was optimistic about the 4-lane tunnel....but why build a 4-lane tunnel when you can build a 4-lane boulevard for less?!!
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Old January 18th, 2007, 07:13 PM   #336
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I liked the idea of "a thousand little things" as well, but the big fear is that the city loses north-south capacity for freight and commuters. Maybe the better strategy would be to let them go ahead with the 520 replacement, and just tear down the viaduct.
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Old January 20th, 2007, 05:59 AM   #337
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Discussion started over in "subways and urban rail" just trying to consolidate:

http://www.skyscrapercity.com/showthread.php?t=394270
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Old January 20th, 2007, 03:48 PM   #338
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http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/htm...viaduct19.html

Voters to get say on elevated highway and four-lane tunnel
By Susan Gilmore and Mike Lindblom

Seattle Times staff reporters

Seattle voters will weigh in March 13 on whether to replace the Alaskan Way Viaduct with an elevated highway or a four-lane tunnel.

The Seattle City Council voted 6-3 this afternoon to put two alternatives on the advisory ballot. Council members seemed unsure what would happen if both measures pass or fail. One will be an up-or-down vote on the elevated viaduct and the other, also an up-or-down measure, will ask if voters favor a four-lane tunnel.

The council has not yet finalized the ballot wording, but members did agree to list $3.41 billion as the cost for the four-lane tunnel, a trimmed-down tunnel alternative that Mayor Greg Nickels began promoting this week. The measure asking voters if they support a new elevated structure will indicate that most of the funding for its $2.8 billion cost has been secured.

The city is asking King County to have an all-mail election. The cost has been estimated at $1 million. Replacement of the viaduct would be the only issue on the special-election ballot.

The March 13 vote represents a last-ditch effort by the city to gather support for a tunnel, which, big or small, would be pricier than a new elevated structure.

The council action also caps a tumultuous week over how replace the 1953 viaduct.

Nickels on Tuesday began championing the four-lane tunnel as a good alternative to the $4.6 billion, six-lane tunnel he had wanted for so long. The four-lane tunnel would carry just as many cars as a six-lane tunnel, he said, and cut $1.2 billion from the price.

The next day, Gov. Christine Gregoire and legislative leaders said the four-lane tunnel was not an option, and the state will either replace the viaduct with an elevated highway or shift more than $2 billion from the viaduct to the Highway 520 floating bridge.

In December, Gregoire had been expected to announce whether a six-lane tunnel or an elevated highway would be built along the Seattle waterfront. Instead, she called on Seattle voters to decide the issue, saying it was the only way to break a political stalemate over the two options. She was criticized for punting, but this week took a harder stand after hearing that Seattle might not hold a vote until after the Legislature adjourned -- if it held a vote at all.

Her announcement prompted Nickels and council members to work toward the March advisory vote.

"We've been coerced" by the state to hold the election, said council member Peter Steinbrueck, who voted no with David Della and council President Nick Licata. "I see this as political tyranny, the choices have been rigged for us."

The four-lane tunnel idea, called the "hybrid tunnel" by the city, has been intensively studied only since Jan. 5 — at the city's request — by the state Department of Transportation, project consultants, and an expert review panel appointed last year to look at the viaduct and Highway 520 bridge. The panel said the smaller tunnel "showed promise" and could save hundreds of millions of dollars.

But DOT officials ceased work on the issue Jan. 11 and said the state would not fund further viaduct study by the panel.

State Transportation Secretary Doug MacDonald said today he couldn't comment on whether the city's $3.41 billion figure is credible.

"We are not going to say anything about a number that we haven't had a chance to examine," he said.

Councilwoman Jan Drago, head of the council's transportation committee, said after today's vote that if the DOT didn't study the new tunnel costs, the city would hire an independent firm the council hopes will validate the numbers.

Drago, who supports the four-lane tunnel, said a vote was the only way to avoid having an elevated highway forced on the city.

"We don't need Olympia dictating to Seattle," she said. "We can speak for ourselves.

Susan Gilmore: [email protected] or 206-464-2054. Mike Lindblom: [email protected] or 206-515-5631.

Copyright © 2007 The Seattle Times Company




http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/htm...pacity19m.html

Q&A | Can a four-lane tunnel do the work of six lanes?
By Mike Lindblom

Seattle Times staff reporter

At first, the pitch sounds like snake oil: a four-lane waterfront tunnel that can carry as many cars as a tunnel with six lanes and save $1.2 billion.

But just a few days ago, a panel of experts said Seattle Mayor Greg Nickels' last-ditch proposal for a narrower tunnel deserved a closer look by the state.

Gov. Christine Gregoire, however, said enough was enough. She ordered an end to the discussion. Either the state will build a cheaper elevated replacement for the Alaskan Way Viaduct, or more than $2 billion in state aid would be shifted to the equally needy Highway 520 floating bridge.

Nickels and other pro-tunnel city leaders aren't ready to take no for an answer.

They hope a city advisory election would give the tunnel another chance.

Even assuming Olympia cares, the city first has to convince voters that the plan Nickels is now promoting is credible.

Q. How can four lanes carry as many cars as six?

A. During rush hours, the safety shoulders would become exit-only lanes, effectively widening the roadway from four lanes to six. In the morning commute northbound, the right shoulder would become an exit-only lane to Western Avenue. The speed limit would be reduced at peak times.

In off-peak times, the shoulders would serve as break-down lanes, and cars would exit the highway from the usual right lane, leaving two through-lanes in each direction. "The best engineering judgment tells you it would work, but you have to go back and do the analysis," said panel member Don Forbes, a former Oregon state transportation director. The panel was appointed by Gregoire and legislative leaders.

Q. Would traffic become clogged if a car stalls at rush hour?

A. Quite likely.

The city would need to station tow trucks nearby, to clear fender-benders and breakdowns, said Deputy Mayor Tim Ceis. Stalls are rare enough that the occasional tie-up seems a reasonable tradeoff for a possible billion-dollar savings, Forbes said.

At off-peak times, when traffic is moving fastest, there would be a full-sized shoulder, where stalled cars could pull over.

Q. Would a narrower tunnel save money?

A. The city, after seeking data from the state Department of Transportation and engineering consultant Parsons Brinckerhoff and other members of the viaduct design team, produced a cost figure of $3.4 billion. The DOT would not discuss the figure this week.

A four-lane tunnel, with lanes built side by side, would require a shallower trench than the stacked six-lane tunnel. A smaller tunnel would use less concrete. Construction could be finished by July 2013, or 1 ½ years sooner than the big tunnel, the city says.

Q. If this tunnel is so great, why didn't the city propose it sooner?

A. City staffers say they looked at a leaner structure after a price shock Sept. 20, when DOT estimates for the six-lane tunnel increased $1 billion.

Until that point, the city thought a six-lane tunnel was affordable. "Until September 20, we were dealing with a $3.6 billion project," said mayoral spokeswoman Marianne Bichsel.

On Oct. 30, Nickels told KUOW radio a four-lane tunnel might save money.

In mid-December, Gregoire issued a finding that the mayor's funding plan on the original $4.6 billion, six-lane tunnel fell short. She called for Seattle voters to choose between an elevated or tunneled highway — and bear the extra cost of a tunnel.

The city says it recently devised a cheaper four-lane version that connects at Western Avenue — solving an earlier problem that doomed an earlier four-lane alternative.

Q. Did Gregoire act in haste ?

A. The city says it briefed DOT on the four-lane tunnel Jan. 5, kicking off a week of study that included a day of reports to the panel.

But DOT told the panel six days later to halt its review.

"I've been working in infrastructure over 30 years, and I've never seen data on a good idea suppressed in this way," complained a city consultant, Doug Hurley.

In a letter to Ceis and Gregoire this week, the panel says the latest four-lane concept "shows promise."

The panel suggests an independent cost review, before any citywide vote on the future of the highway.

Mike Lindblom: 206-515-5631 or [email protected].

Copyright © 2007 The Seattle Times Company
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Old January 23rd, 2007, 01:42 AM   #339
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Seattle is making a big mistake with replacing this thing. Just get rid of it, replace it with a normal street at a much lower cost. Car drivers can suck it up or choose to use other alternatives.
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Old January 24th, 2007, 03:09 AM   #340
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http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/htm...iaduct23m.html

Tuesday, January 23, 2007 - Page updated at 11:17 AM

Gregoire says viaduct vote still matters
By Andrew Garber

Seattle Times staff reporter

OLYMPIA — Gov. Christine Gregoire, who seemingly dismissed the idea of replacing the Alaskan Way Viaduct with a tunnel last week, now says she wants to hear what Seattle voters have to say on March 13.

"I will never, ever say that a vote of the people is a waste," the governor said in a news conference Monday, later adding, "That's just fundamentally wrong. I, as an elected official, do not believe that."

Yet the governor wouldn't say what she would do if voters opt for a four-lane tunnel that Seattle Mayor Greg Nickels and a majority of the Seattle City Council say would be much cheaper than the six-lane version the state has proposed.

"I can't answer," she said, noting there are too many unknowns.

Gregoire said there are serious, unanswered questions about the narrower tunnel, such as how much would it cost, how much traffic it would carry and "who is going to pay for the shutdown of the waterfront to those businesses that will probably be out of business for 27 months?"

"I refuse to end up with a Big Dig, to end with a project that starts out at $2 billion and ends up at $14 billion," she said, referring to Boston's $14.6 billion tunnel project plagued by massive cost overruns and faulty construction.

Gregoire said it is the responsibility of the city, the Legislature and herself to address as many of those questions as possible before the Seattle vote.

Marianne Bichsel, a spokeswoman for Nickels, said "we're pleased that the governor appears to be willing to listen to what the voters of Seattle say about this."

Nickels sent a letter to Gregoire on Monday asking her to authorize the state Department of Transportation and an expert review panel to study the new tunnel proposal.

The governor's office said Gregoire had not made a decision about the request.

Seattle City Council president Nick Licata said the governor's statement "left not only the door open for the tunnel, but a very wide door."

However, Licata, a tunnel opponent, said Gregoire "made the statement before she saw the ballot title, which as I feared came back without any cost figures."

The governor and legislative leaders have said the proposal going to voters in March should contain cost estimates for both replacing the viaduct with a tunnel and building a new elevated highway.

That isn't going to happen.

"We're left with a simple design choice; that really puts the debate in a situation ... where we will see a pro-tunnel vote," Licata said.

City attorney Tom Carr said he dropped the cost estimates from the ballot title because, with a 75-word limit, there wasn't room to explain where the numbers came from. He added that cost estimates will be part of the election campaign.

Gregoire's comments Monday represent the latest twist in an ongoing squabble over replacement of the aging viaduct, which carries Highway 99 along the downtown waterfront.

State House leaders want to build another overhead highway, while city officials want a tunnel that would open the downtown waterfront to redevelopment.

Last month, Gregoire issued her findings on the viaduct options, saying the state could afford a $2.8 billion elevated highway but that the finance plan for a $4.6 billion, six-lane tunnel didn't pencil out.

Acknowledging the political stalemate, she called on city leaders to put the options on the ballot before the legislative session ends April 22 — or else the state would move ahead with the elevated structure.

Instead, Nickels came back with a new, smaller tunnel proposal that he said would cost $3.4 billion — $1.2 billion less than the larger one.

He met with the governor and Democratic legislative leaders to pitch the idea. They didn't like it and said the state would either build an elevated highway or spend the billions set aside for the project on a new Highway 520 bridge.

The Seattle City Council decided to put the new tunnel on the ballot anyway, along with a measure asking voters if they want to replace the viaduct with an elevated highway.

Although Gregoire's comments left the tunnel option open for now, the project still appears to be at a political standstill.

Democratic leaders in the state House on Monday said nothing has changed for them. They plan to move ahead with an elevated highway, no matter what the outcome of the advisory vote in Seattle, said House Majority Leader Lynn Kessler, D-Hoquiam.

Nickels and a majority of City Council still seem intent on building the tunnel.

Senate Majority Leader Lisa Brown, D-Spokane, said she supports the governor's position.

"We have two very passionate views on what should be done here," Gregoire said. "You have a situation where the Legislature could choose not to appropriate the funds. The city could say we're not going to give you any permits so you're not going to build an elevated structure.

"It is time for us to come together with a common vision. I hope the city of Seattle is able to do that, and I hope they are able to bring the legislative leadership along with whatever it is they want by way of an outcome. The impasse is real, and it's difficult."

Staff reporters Susan Gilmore and Mike Lindblom contributed to this report.

Andrew Garber: 360-943-9882 or [email protected]

Copyright © 2007 The Seattle Times Company
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