Seattle residents agree with mayor on tunnel cost overruns, poll finds


by KING 5 News

Posted on July 19, 2010 at 3:33 PM

Updated Monday, Jul 19 at 5:48 PM

SEATTLE – Nearly two-thirds of Seattle residents agree with Mayor Mike McGinn that construction of a deep-bore tunnel to replace the Alaskan Way Viaduct should wait until the state agrees to pay any cost overruns, according to a new KING 5 News poll.

SurveyUSA asked 500 Seattle residents about their opinions on the controversial tunnel. McGinn has said he would veto any contracts that leave Seattle on the hook for cost overruns. The majority of the Seattle City Council and Gov. Chris Gregoire have signed off on the project. Gregoire has said delays will increase the cost.

Right now, residents are pretty evenly split on whether they support the tunnel. Forty-seven percent tell KING 5 they do support it while 46 percent say they don't. A similar poll taken last August had support at 49 percent and opposition at 43 percent.

The vast majority of those who support the tunnel are from the downtown area. Those who say they are from west or south Seattle mostly oppose the tunnel. Those in north Seattle were evently split.

Related: Complete demographic breakdown of the poll

The poll finds 63 percent of Seattle residents agree with McGinn that construction should wait until the state agrees to pick up the tab on cost overruns. Thirty-one percent disagree with McGinn.

"We're kind of jumping in there and saying we'll figure out later who pays for it, and I have a lot of respect for the citizens of Seattle saying you know what, we're not sure what we want transportation-wise, but we definitely don't want to start this until we figure out who's going to pay for it," said Seattle City Councilmember Mike O'Brien.

If there are extra costs, 52 percent of those polled say all Washington taxpayers should be required to help. Thirty-six percent say it should be paid for by Seattle-area property owners who benefit from the tunnel.

Should there be a public referendum on the tunnel before the city agrees to construction? Fifty-eight percent of respondents say there should be a referendum while 31 percent say no.

Eighty-one percent of those polled are very concerned or somewhat concerned about the cost of the tunnel. There is a nearly equal response about the safety of the Alaskan Way Viaduct, with 79 percent saying they are very or somewhat concerned.

The margin of error for the survey ranged between ± 4.3 and ± 4.5 percent, depending on the question.