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March 14, 2011 at 12:13 PM

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McGinn wants viaduct closed by next year

Posted by Lynn Thompson

Update: The mayor's communications director called us a little while ago to say that in his KUOW interview, Mayor Mike McGinn meant that he favored closing the viaduct by 2012, and that he didn't necessarily mean that it should be torn down by then. An earlier headline here said the mayor wanted the viaduct torn down by 2012.

Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn on Monday called for the Alaskan Way Viaduct to come down by 2012, because of safety concerns renewed by the devastating Japanese earthquake.

McGinn, speaking on KUOW radio, said current plans to replace the double-decker viaduct with a deep-bore tunnel leave the viaduct standing until 2016, and that's if there's no significant construction delays.

McGinn, in his monthly appearance on Weekday with Steve Scher, suggested that the City Council "revisit the date of the viaduct" closure.

"I think when you see what's going on in Japan and you see the potential, you know, loss of life and damage that could be done, I really think it's appropriate to evaluate whether it's right to just say we're going to leave it up kind of indefinitely or we're going to leave it up until we get this other solution in place."

McGinn said the city routinely makes judgments about the safety of structures and condemns unsafe ones.

He said he would like other elected officials to "come forward" on the viaduct safety issue, and hoped that -- given what they see in Japan -- they would be willing to "revisit the closure date."

McGinn said that in choosing to replace the viaduct with a tunnel rather than his preferred surface/transit option, we are left with the option that leaves the viaduct in place the longest -- until 2016, when the tunnel is scheduled for completion.

McGinn repeated his opposition to the tunnel, calling it the "worst" option, because, he said, in addition to leaving the viaduct up for the longest time, it leaves the city on the hook for any cost overruns, requires tolling to pay for and will divert significant traffic onto Seattle streets.

The City Council two weeks ago overrode McGinn's veto of agreements between the city and state to proceed with the $2 billion tunnel. The state already has signed contracts to build the tunnel.

Since then, two McGinn staffers have taken leaves of absence to work on a referendum campaign that seeks to put the agreements up to a vote of the people.

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Jim Brunner
Covers politics.

Keith Ervin
Covers the Eastside.

Andrew Garber
Covers politics and state government from Olympia.

Emily Heffter
Covers local government.

Mike Lindblom
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Kyung Song
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Lynn Thompson
Covers Seattle City Hall.

Bob Young
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