AGC urges a “yes” vote on the upcoming Seattle Referendum I regarding the tunnel to replace the Highway 99 viaduct as a “yes” vote keeps the process on track.
There’s been a lot of confusion about what, exactly, the referendum is about. The referendum is not a vote on building the tunnel or not, it is about the process. A “yes” vote keeps everything moving forward; a “no” vote itself doesn’t stop the tunnel, it simply delays it and increases costs.
Here’s the first paragraph of the proposed voter’s guide statement by Seattle City Attorney Pete Holmes:
“This ballot measure will neither eliminate nor choose the deep-bore tunnel as an alternative to replace the Alaskan Way Viaduct. Rather…your vote may affect how the City Council will decide whether to proceed with current agreements on the deep-bore tunnel beyond preliminary design work, after environmental review is completed.”
A judge ruled last month that one section of a 140-page agreement between the city and state covering preliminary design work on the tunnel could go to voters. That section says the City Council shall “give notice” whether or not to proceed on the project once the final environmental review is done.
So the referendum is a narrow decision about whether the council puts that notice in the form of a resolution or an ordinance. If the “no” vote wins, the Council would have to pass an ordinance, and then that ordinance could be subject to yet another referendum.
No matter the technicalities of the referendum language, there is a political subtext in play. If the “no” vote wins big, some elected officials might sense that as the political winds turning against the tunnel. Even though the referendum isn’t an up-or-down vote on the tunnel, elected officials could read more into it and seek to add more hurdles into the process. But with all of the time, money and expertise that has gone into the process already, it’s time to keep going on the tunnel project, and a “yes” vote will make that happen.