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August 1, 2010 at 4:00 PM

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Seattle citizens weigh in on Alaskan Way Viaduct tunnel debate

Posted by Letters editor

How many Seattleites does it take to screw in a light bulb?

This is in response to “Council to delay tunnel action,” [Page one, July 27].

First there must be a study of the old light bulb by a committee of engineers to determine if the bulb will explode and burn down the house. Then a committee of designers must plan alternative light bulb designs. A few years later the bulb choice is voted on, with none of the above the winner. Then a new bulb is designed, which, of course, necessitates another engineering study of a suitable socket, and another design committee for the optimum light output. And a few years later, when bulb replacers are about to start work, suddenly a new vote is planned, and we’re back to where we started.

How many Seattleites does it take to screw in a light bulb? A couple of hundred thousand to not screw in a light bulb. Candles anyone?

— David Rader, Seattle

Remember the monorail project

Obviously, the “M-Word” has been written out of our civic history, but, still, it shouldn’t take long to recall the infamous Seattle Monorail Project — and, more importantly, our four public votes in favor of updating and expanding the Seattle monorail. Public votes, we learned, do not carry much weight with our City Council.

Let’s not waste our money on another one.

— Bob Hollowell, Seattle

Hanford, the BP spill and the deep-bore Tunnel

Hate to say it, but Seattle’s proposed deep-bore tunnel makes me think of Hanford. People may not remember it, but in the 1970s a consortium of Washington utilities decided to build five reactors, with the aim of producing cheap and efficient energy. One limped to completion with massive overruns and, as estimated costs rose from $4.5 to $23.9 billion, the projects went into default in 1983, leaving Washington state ratepayers still paying 15 percent of their bills for principal and interest.

Promoters assumed everything would go according to plan, but then human fallibility intervened.

Our tunnel also reminds me of deepwater drilling, BP’s and that of other companies. Their official fail-safe systems were all prepared on paper. But they were pushing the limits of their experience, had never adequately tested the systems in real-world conditions, and because humans (and greedy corporations in particular) cut corners and make mistakes, the systems didn’t work, and we ended up with America’s worst environmental disaster.

Not all megaprojects fail, but the proposed deep-bore tunnel would be the widest ever dug, and that bodes poorly for predictability. Add in the deep-bore machines already stuck underground for the Brightwater sewage project, and the arrogance of those who claim to be able to predict all possible costs and outcomes is staggering.

Yesterday, I took the bus on the viaduct from West Seattle to downtown, an efficient trip that will be impossible with the new tunnel. I looked at the office buildings whose owners are the real beneficiaries of this project. At the very least our City Council owes us certainty that we will not be on the hook for extra costs.

— Paul Loeb, West Seattle

Those who stand to benefit should pay overruns

The arguments over tunnel cost overruns are pointless without bids to determine what an overrun might be. And the assignment of all costs, including overruns, should be according to who benefits.

Tunnel advocates contemplate a park, increased views and a “connection” to the waterfront. Those aims would mainly benefit the owners of commercial establishments next to the viaduct. They do not impress non-city drivers and a tunnel would deprive them of fine viaduct views.

We need a fast, uncomplicated way for non-city drivers to get through Seattle — a way also beneficial to Seattleites, since passing all north-south traffic through other Seattle roads would greatly overload city streets.

The conclusion is that either a direct replacement of the viaduct with a new, stronger viaduct or a tunnel, would benefit the citizens of Seattle at least as much as the non-city drivers. If the city folk want the “waterfront connection,” park and minimal-view improvements that might come from the risky and expensive tunnel, so be it. But they should pay all the difference in cost between a tunnel and a new viaduct and half of a new viaduct cost.

— Spencer M. Higley, Edmonds

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