Reacting to the bored-tunnel plan, ex-Washington State Transportation Secretary Doug MacDonald wrote an excellent column in Crosscut today. He is asking the right questions:
Are we wisely capturing new technology and innovation to build a
transportation system that conserves energy and serves tomorrow’s job
economy? Or are we still trapped in yesterday’s thinking — building
roads for cars of obsolete design to neighborhoods with unsustainable
energy footprints and connecting transit systems into job centers that
are miles away from job growth? And are we improving our vast paid-up
asset of existing transportation corridors and right-of-way to achieve
new gains in capacity and efficiency from what we already own?
Thomas Key, who works on the renewable-energy program of the Electric Power Research Institute, believes that micro wind-power generation is infeasible, and he cites city zoning restrictions as one obstacle. But the City of Seattle's proposed revisions to the multifamily housing zoning code would allow personal windmills to be built.
The Legislature will also consider a proposed bill providing for the development of infrastructure that would support electric vehicle infrastructure, which the bill defines as "structures, labor, machinery, equipment, circuitry, and electrical appliances necessary to support an electric vehicle, including battery recharging stations and outlets and battery exchange stations." Sen. Fred Jarrett (D-Mercer Island) introduced the Senate version (SB 5418 (pdf)), and Rep. Deborah Eddy (D-Kirkland) introduced the House version (HR 1481(pdf)). Hearings are already scheduled:
1/29: Scheduled for public hearing in the House Committee on Technology and Energy & Communications at 10:00 AM. (Subject to change)
1/30: Scheduled for public hearing in the Senate Committee on Environment and Water & Energy at 8:00 AM. (Subject to change)
Also, Rep. Sharon Nelson, (D-West Seattle) introduced a bill, HR 1490, that would add several measures to the Growth Management Act with the hope of reducing greenhouse-gas emissions. This one is also schedule for a hearing:
Jan 28 Scheduled for public hearing in the House Committee on Local Government & Housing at 8:00 AM. (Subject to change)
SB 5335 (pdf), a bill introduced by State Sen. Ken Jacobsen, would recommend---but not require---that motorists provide a three-foot buffer between their vehicles and any bicyclists or pedestrians whom they pass. Do you think it should be a legal requirement rather than a mere recommendation? Email Sen. Jacobsen.
Fuse Washington and a host of other progressive groups have endorsed Sherril Huff for King County Elections Director. Although Friends of Seattle will not be endorsing anyone in this race, many of Huff's endorsers are reliable progressives whom we can trust---Fuse, Washington Conservation Voters, Sierra Club, and more. For this special election, your ballots must be postmarked by February 3.
Using words such as "visionary," "complicated," and "serious" to describe the bored-tunnel proposal for replacing the Alaskan Way Viaduct, the Seattle Times editorial board appears to have suddenly developed a taste for tunnels and a tolerance for taxes. We can't figure out why, though. The ed. board obviously loves that the plan might result in less disruption than would the alternatives:
In dramatic contrast to the earlier tunnel plan, sequencing of
events requires much less down time for waterfront businesses and
streets, with obvious deleterious spillover onto Interstate 5. The old
plan would have resulted in perhaps six years of disruption; this
approach involves less severe interruption for about half that time. This is key: The viaduct doesn't come down until the tunnel is finished. We've seen what long construction projects can do to a neighborhood. They can kill business and stymie mobility.
Other than that, however, we're hard pressed to see why the ed. board is excited. Usually hostile to new taxes, the board doesn't seem bothered by the prospect of $1.4 billion in new local taxes (at least) and $400 million collected from tolls on the tunnel:
The cost of the project is pegged at $4.25 billion, with most of the
total the state share, $2.8 billion already in hand [ed.: this is a misleading characterization of the state's contribution; it is not "in hand," but merely promised, and the state's commitment is $2.8 billion but the state budget currently allots only $2.4 billion towards the project; presumably the remainder will be funded with tolls], and the local
portion coming from specified new tax sources. No need to be naive. The cost is a guesstimate; the final number will be higher [ed.: yes, it will be higher; engineering is currently only 1% complete]. Very importantly, increased costs to local residents will be high
but borne over many years. The sincere hope is that the economy will
Sure, higher taxes may be "borne over many years," which certainly decreases their sting, but these higher taxes will decrease the likelihood that other new taxes could be levied to fund bus-service expansion (other than the service increases included in the bored-tunnel plan), the streetcar network, and the Bicycle Master Plan. So the bored-tunnel will preclude other investments in Seattle's transportation infrastructure. Brushing aside this consideration and the huge new tax bill, the board seems to view this as a jobs program:
The current recession is one factor that helps make this project
more attractive. The convergence of a jobs package and economic
stimulus combined with the longtime vision of connecting the city to
the waterfront gives this package momentum.
Um, all alternatives for replacing the Viaduct would create jobs. And the surface-transit options would also open the city to the waterfront. So it's hard to see how these are comparative advantages for the bored-tunnel plan. Still, the board dismisses the alternatives, namely the surface-transit options:
Another factor is that all those supporters of a so-called
surface-transit option had to realize that the capacity needs of their
favorite solution could never be met. The line of red lights would have
choked the streets with traffic.
The point of surface-transit options, however, was never to try to move as many vehicles as could the existing highway or as would a replacement highway. The point was to move people, and to do it as cost-efficiently as possible and in a way that would reorient our transportation investment to a progressive mix of facilities for walking, biking, and riding transit.