Seattle voters say yes to $1.9-billion waterfront tunnel

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In a sharp blow to Mayor Mike McGinn -- whose opposition to a tunnel through downtown became a centerpiece of his administration -- Seattle voters gave a resounding ‘yes’ to building the biggest deep-bore tunnel ever constructed to carry cars swiftly past the central city.

The nearly 60% yes vote on a referendum clears the way for groundbreaking on the $1.9-billion tunnel, part of a $3.1-billion project to get rid of the earthquake-prone, two-level viaduct that many see as an eyesore along the scenic waterfront.

‘The public said move ahead with the tunnel, and that’s what we’re going to do,’ McGinn said in a brief statement.

“Seattle voters sent a message loud and clear with this vote –- enough is enough. After 10 years of debate, hundreds of public meetings and technical studies, and thousands of public comments, it is time to move forward without delay,’ said Gov. Chris Gregoire.


Tuesday’s vote means a decade of dithering over what to do about one of the city’s most intractable dilemmas is over, and there was a palpable sense of celebration -- not necessarily that the tunnel was going to get built, but that nobody would have to talk about it anymore.

‘Well, how about that. Seattle finally made up its mind about something,’ Seattle Times columnist Danny Westneat wrote.

‘Enough! We’ve seen and heard enough in 10 years since the Nisqually (or Ash Wednesday to some believers) Earthquake nearly brought down the Alaskan Way Viaduct, and brought on a full decade of process known as ‘the Seattle way,’ ' wrote columnist Joel Connelly.

‘The voters of Seattle ... have delivered to Mayor McGinn a message coined during a 1960s’ Civil Rights protest,’ he added. ‘Move on over or we’ll move on over you.’

The tunnel will stack cars on two levels through a 57.4-foot-diameter cylinder running 1.7 miles underneath downtown, opening the waterfront for a park, new restaurants -- anything, tunnel proponents say, but a big gray freeway.


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-- Kim Murphy in Seattle