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August 28, 2006

Letter to the Editor: Waterfront campaign misinforms the public

In the Aug. 21 edition of the DJC, Margie Slovan writes that the Port of Seattle is upset that the city of Seattle's renderings of the imagined future waterfront without a viaduct neglect to include cargo ships, container terminals, and freight trains.

I noticed a similar discrepancy when I attended the Downtown Seattle Association's “DSA Viaduct Forum” breakfast. In all the images presented of the waterfront, I didn't notice one building over five stories. Yet, when Glenn Pascall presented his economic analysis, a disappointment considering that it didn't take into account loss of business during the construction period, he relied in his analysis on the maximum build-out of currently underdeveloped sites. I'm no expert on downtown zoning, but I have a sneaking suspicion that height limits on the waterfront will be more than five stories.

Digital and hand drawn renderings are powerful tools that, when properly used, help citizens envision the future. They are also easy to manipulate, and the impetus to do so is strong in a massive public project that is being so aggressively sold by the mayor's office.

While I am a staunch advocate for Seattle's waterfront reclamation (though I think the surface plus transit option makes the most sense), I'm very disappointed at what seems to be a campaign to misinform the public as to the costs and implications of a tunnel.

When asked if he had updated construction figures to take into account soaring steel, copper and cement prices, Ron Paananen of WashDOT replied that he had last done so in November of 2005. If I were to take a 10 month-old construction estimate to investors and ask them to foot a $4 billion project, I would be laughed out of the room. And yet, strangely, there was no laughter at the DSA breakfast, and I'm starting to feel myself that there is little humor in what could soon be a debacle of mayoral proportions.

Joshua Curtis

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