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Originally published Sunday, February 6, 2011 at 4:01 PM

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Time to proceed on the tunnel project to replace the Alaskan Way Viaduct

The Seattle City Council votes Monday on agreements specifying responsibilities of the city and the state in preparation for the deep-bore tunnel replacement of the Alaskan Way Viaduct. The council must vote to proceed with the project, including overriding an anticipated mayoral veto.

THE Seattle City Council votes Monday on utility and street-use agreements between the city and state in preparation for the deep-bore tunnel replacement of the Alaskan Way Viaduct. This may not sound like much but it amounts to high drama in Seattle.

Ours is a city riven by the tunnel decision, obsessed with endless process. The end of February marks the 10th anniversary of the Nisqually earthquake, which serves as a jarring reminder of the need to replace the viaduct with a viable alternative.

But Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn and the City Council — indeed the mayor and the Legislature — are at odds about how to replace the viaduct and pay for any overruns.

With the mayor throwing spitballs from the sidelines, the council is expected to vote 8-to-1 Monday in favor of agreements specifying how the parties will proceed.

Remember, McGinn vowed as a candidate not to interfere with an earlier decision to build a tunnel, but that was campaign talk. The mayor-who-would-not-interfere has said he would even sign a citizens' anti-tunnel petition to undo what his predecessor, Greg Nickels, agreed to. That by itself is breathtaking for a CEO of a city. A spokesman said he had not yet signed, but, "When he does, I'll let you know."

The mayor-who-would-not-interfere plans to veto the agreements unless state lawmakers change language in tunnel legislation that says Seattle area property owners who benefit from the project are on the hook for overruns, or the city adopts language the mayor believes ensures Seattle is not liable. The council provided its own language said to protect taxpayers and property owners.

Even for people who do not love the tunnel, there is a moment when doing something that provides reasonable mobility makes sense.

The council must proceed in orderly fashion, overriding the mayor's veto, even as the sideshow of one or two anti-tunnel citizens' initiatives rolls forward. At least one initiative may appear on the August or November ballot. If successful, the courts would have to decide if a city initiative supersedes state law.

A sturdier Legislature would change this nonsense, provided by House Speaker Frank Chopp, who represents Seattle.

Still, it is up to the council to move things along.

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