Seattle voters say goodbye viaduct, hello tunnel


by KING 5 News

Posted on August 16, 2011 at 8:35 PM

Updated Wednesday, Sep 14 at 2:04 PM

SEATTLE -- Seattle voters came out in a big way Tuesday in favor of an underground tunnel to replace the Alaskan Way Viaduct.

Initial counts in the Referendum 1 race showed nearly 60 percent of voters approving the measure.

For complete primary election results, click here to visit's election page.

A yes vote for Referendum 1 means the Seattle City Council can continue with the project to replace the viaduct with a deep-bore tunnel under downtown Seattle.

Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn, who has outwardly expressed his opinion against the tunnel many times, issued a brief statement when the results trickled in Tuesday.

"I worked to give the public a direct vote on the tunnel. The public said move ahead with the tunnel, and that's what we're going to do," he said.

Seattle City Councilmember Mike O'Brien, an opponent of the tunnel, said Wednesday morning he does not expect any more challenges to this project.

"I think this is it," said O'Brien. "There will always be people who ask questions, but I think it is time we move forward. We have a project about what the waterfront looks like moving forward, so we move forward there. I assume in the next few days we hear the state issuing their record of decision to move forward and purchase that drilling maching from Japan."

Several other lawmakers also shared their reaction.

Governor Chris Gregoire said in a statement: "Seattle voters sent a message loud and clear with this vote - enough is enough. After 10 years of debate, hundreds of public meetings and technical studies, and thousands of public comments, it is time to move forward without delay."

State Senator Ed Murray, the prime sponsor of the bill that authorized the Alaskan Way Viaduct Replacement Project, said: "It has been ten years since the Nisqually Valley earthquake seriously damaged the Alaskan Way Viaduct - and after ten years, the city has finally decided upon a solution."

Seattle City Councilmember Tom Rasmussen, who supports the tunnel, outlined the next steps for the city council.

"We have three important agreements that we have to sign with the state that will protect the city during the construction of the tunnel," said Rasmussen. "That's the next thing that the city council is going to do, we are going to execute those agreements and then we are going to make sure they are enforced."

Supporters of the tunnel claim all options have been studied for a decade, and that work has already begun ahead of schedule and under budget. They say any delay would waste time and taxpayer money.

Those against the tunnel claim it's too expensive and will result in tax increases. They also say a tolled tunnel will have drivers looking for other routes. Opponents say there are options that are a billion dollars cheaper.

The state expects the tunnel to take crews until late 2015 to complete.