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Tunnel vote likely in Seattle, but it may not resolve anything

A conceptual drawing of the proposed deep bore tunnel slated to replace Seattle's Alaskan Way Viaduct.
A conceptual drawing of the proposed deep bore tunnel slated to replace Seattle's Alaskan Way Viaduct.

Opponents of the tunnel proposed to replace Seattle’s aging Alaskan Way Viaduct say they’ve gathered more than enough signatures to force a public vote. But a new poll suggests that won’t settle the contentious issue. 

Another public vote?

The group Protect Seattle Now says they’ll turn in a petition today with more than 27,000 signatures. They only need about 16,000 to get their measure on the ballot.

The measure wouldn’t let voters choose between viaduct replacement options;it would simply invalidate three contracts the city has signed with the state that move the tunnel forward. But even with enough signatures, it's likely to be challenged in court, which could delay a vote.

No majority, no consensus

TheSeattle Times reports that a new Elway Pollshows 55 percent of Seattle voters want to vote on the project. But the poll also shows a three-way split among those voters between repairing the existing viaduct, replacing it with a deep-bore tunnel or improving surface streets and transit instead.

  • 38 percent favored a new or repaired viaduct;
  • 35 percent favored a tunnel;
  • 21 percent favored improved surface streets with upgraded transit;
  • 6 percent had no opinion

Political Pushback

Both the state and the city’s political establishments have lined up behind the tunnel option. And Secretary of Transportation Paula Hammond warned Monday that any delay in the tunnel project would set back a solution by months and cost tens of millions of dollars.

Liam Moriarty started with KPLU in 1996 as our freelance correspondent in the San Juan Islands. He’s been our full-time Environment Reporter since November, 2006. In between, Liam was News Director at Jefferson Public Radio in Ashland, Oregon for three years and reported for a variety of radio, print and web news sources in the Northwest. He's covered a wide range of environment issues, from timber, salmon and orcas to oil spills, land use and global warming. Liam is an avid sea kayaker, cyclist and martial artist.