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May 30, 2006
I would generally be the very last person to be in favor of the government spending a dollar more than it had to, let alone hundreds of millions more. However, the viaduct replacement is a unique and complex issue. If one takes the short term view, then it makes sense cost-wise to just repair the existing viaduct or to replace it with a surface street. But if you take the long term view then the tunnel is the logical solution.
What is the downside of the tunnel? Cost!
What is the upside? Maintenance or even improvement of traffic volume, the opening up of extensive areas adjacent to the waterfront for housing, businesses and parks.
The housing and businesses would pay property taxes, a lot of property taxes, the people living in the housing would spend money downtown and this would result in more income for local businesses and more business and sales tax revenue. There would be increased tourism, which would also result in more income for local businesses and more tax revenue (business tax, hotel tax, taxi fare tax, sales tax, etc.). The new housing and businesses would also result in more service jobs with the resulting increase in income and tax revenue.
Some of this land would no doubt be set aside for parks, which would benefit the public and also help tourism, with the resulting income and tax benefits. And lastly there are the intangibles that can not be measured in dollars, such as the value of a beautiful waterfront for generations to come.
A study needs to be done to show the benefits of the increased tax base, increased sales tax, etc., as well as the cost benefits associated with traffic flow. I would wager that such a study would show that a tunnel would pay for itself in a very few years if all of these factors were taken into account.
This is a major decision that will help define the future of Seattle. Generations yet unborn will judge us on what decision we make.
The Daily Journal of Commerce welcomes your comments.