The Votes are in on Referendum 1, and while many more ballots will still be counted, yesterday’s nearly 60% approval vote for Referendum 1 should remove any doubt about the city’s commitment to work with the state on the replacement of the Alaskan Way Viaduct. Referendum 1 was seen as a vote on the tunnel while technically it was a vote on how the City Council should make a decision on three important agreements with the state on the project. With the vote behind us, the Council has a clear path to take several actions in the coming months.
Following the completion of the environmental review and a Record of Decision by the Federal Highway Administration this summer, the City Council will give the state notice to proceed with three agreements between the City and the state. The agreements are very important to protecting Seattle — describing how the city and the state will work together on this very complex project.
The agreements are clear that this is a state project and that the Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) is responsible for paying its share — the State will indemnify the city. They also give the city an important role in determining how tolls are established and assure that the state will work with us to protect our neighborhoods from the impacts of traffic that will not use the tunnel because of the tolls.
I am currently working with the state to identify people who will be members of a tolling advisory committee, jointly appointed by the state and the city. The committee is to assess and make recommendations to mitigate traffic diversion impacts caused by tolling of the tunnel. That committee will be finalized within the next several weeks. I am concerned about the diversion of traffic from the tunnel because of the tolls and I will work to minimize that possibility.
The replacement of the Alaskan Way Viaduct is referred to as a “program” by WSDOT because it is so extraordinarily complex. Construction projects extend from the Spokane Street Viaduct to West Mercer Street. There are many challenges and risks, and the deep bore tunnel is only one project of the program. Fortunately, the work is proceeding well at the south end with the Holgate to King Street project and the Spokane Street Viaduct project being constructed on time and within budget. A very informative map which shows all of the projects of the Alaskan Way Viaduct program can be found here.
Ensuring that the replacement of the Alaskan Way Viaduct proceeds as smoothly as possible with the least amount of disruption to Seattle neighborhoods and traffic is my highest priority. When it is completed I believe that it will serve our transportation needs very well for generations. Also, because of the removal of the Viaduct we will be able to create one of the most attractive and beautiful waterfronts in America.
Please feel free to write or call my office any time.