Skip to Content
Streetsblog USA home
Streetsblog USA home
Log In
Highway Expansion

Washington Republicans: Put Seattle’s Highway-Borer Out of Its Misery

If nothing else, the politics of Seattle's deep-bore highway tunnel fiasco keep getting more interesting. With Bertha the tunnel-boring machine stuck underground and "rescue" efforts literally destabilizing city neighborhoods, a pair of Republicans in the Washington State Senate introduced a bill to scrap the project before any more money is wasted.

After Seattle has spent billions and more than a year and all it has to show for it is a hole in the ground. Photo: Washington Department of Transportation
Washington Democrats won't back off their support for a risky deep-bore highway tunnel in Seattle. Photo: Washington Department of Transportation
After Seattle has spent billions and more than a year and all it has to show for it is a hole in the ground. Photo: Washington Department of Transportation

While putting a halt to the underground highway would limit Seattle's exposure to enormous cost overruns and open the door to more city-friendly transportation options, this effort to bury Bertha comes from outside the city. The Democratic establishment in the Seattle region isn't rallying around the idea.

Republicans Doug Ericksen of Ferndale and Michael Baumgartner of Spokane co-sponsored legislation to cease spending on the stalled tunnel project and use the remaining money to study alternatives. The text of their bill [PDF] is probably the most sensible thing any politician has said about this project in quite some time:

The legislature finds that the state route number 99 Alaskan Way viaduct replacement project has failed. The legislature also finds that the project as it is currently designed cannot be justified financially and is not in the best interest of the public.

The knock against the bill is that it's pure theater -- a political maneuver to place the blame for Bertha squarely at the feet of Democrats.

If that's the case, some Democrats are playing right into their hands. Democrat Judy Clibborn, who represents Mercer Island (directly east of Seattle) in the Washington House of Representatives, said of the bill: "It won’t help grow our economy or reduce gridlock, which means it doesn’t have any support."

Of course, taking a huge risk on a deep-bore tunnel that would only serve to generate more traffic even if it's completed isn't exactly resolving congestion or producing real economic benefits either.

Allegiance to the underground highway project cuts across party lines, however. The State Senate transportation committee, led by Republican Curtis King of Yakima, refused to bring the bill to a vote, according to the Seattle Post-Intelligencer.

Still, if scoring political points was the purpose of this bill, this point goes to the Republicans.

Stay in touch

Sign up for our free newsletter

More from Streetsblog USA

The Paris Plan for Olympic Traffic? Build More Bike Lanes

A push to make Paris fully bikable for the Olympics is already paying dividends long before the opening ceremonies.

July 25, 2024

Thursday’s Headlines Face Our Fears

What happens if Republicans win the trifecta in November? Judging by the GOP-controlled House budget, a lot less money for transit, Smart Cities Dive reports.

July 25, 2024

Wednesday’s Headlines Are in a Good Place

How should we react to public indifference about the danger cars pose to society? Perhaps a sitcom has something to teach us.

July 24, 2024

Opinion: Is Kamala Harris ‘The Climate President We’ve Been Waiting For’?

Kamala Harris fought hard for a better transportation plan in the San Diego region despite big political risks. If elected president, will she do the same for the country?

July 24, 2024

America is Setting Micromobility Records — But That Boom Could Go Bust Without Public Funding

Shared bike and scooter trips soared 20 percent in a single year. So why are so many U.S. systems shutting down — and what will it take to keep the revolution rolling?

July 24, 2024
See all posts