Two Mega Projects Advancing in WA State

Last week saw developments that advanced two mega-projects in WA state:  The Columbia River Crossing Project (“CRC”) in SW Washington, and the 520 Bridge Replacement & HOV (“520”) in Seattle.

The final design for the CRC bridge – the main component of a larger project – was announced on Monday April 25 by the WA and OR Governors. The design is the least costly, easiest to build and will attract the most competitive bids, the Governors noted.  USDOT Secretary LaHood has repeatedly described the CRC as a model multi-modal project. Read the Governor’s press release or the Columbian’s article, “Governors: Build a truss bridge to replace I-5 span.”

In Seattle a panel of 32 local and regional leaders voted to advance the 520 project, which also features a bridge (project details), over the Seattle Mayor’s objection.

Seattle Mayor McGinn was the lone “no” vote on moving forward with construction of the 520 replacement bridge.  He argues “the state is proceeding without a completed environmental impact statement.”  But another local big city Mayor notes that his city approved design and construction plans for an I-5 project while environmental reviews were concurrently underway.  The result was a project completed four years early and under budget. (“McGinn is lone dissenter as panel OKs new 520 bridge,” Seattle Times)

A majority of the Seattle City Council wants the projects to proceed, although it’s probably fair to say that some members have concerns and wish to see some modifications.  The business community, generally speaking, supports both projects moving forward. McMinn’s actions led to sharper criticism last week of McGinn by political and business leaders:

1. Executives of Seattle’s two largest business groups told Seattle Mayor McGinn to stop stalling the AWV project.  After “700 public meetings and 17,000 public comments” it’s time to move on and replace the viaduct.  (“Chagrin over Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn,” Puget Sound Business Journal)

2. The county Executive offered thinly-disguised criticism of McGinn, saying “a small faction” in Seattle believes “that the key to the future lies in forcing traffic gridlock so that people abandon their cars.” (Constantine: Seattle Tunnel Opponents Want to Force People to “Abandon Their Cars”, Publicola)

3.  Mayor McGinn responded to critics, denying he wants to force people out of cars and onto transit in an interview with a local cable TV show, “Ask the Mayor.”

Seattle PI reporter Scot Gutierrez also has a good roundup of the week’s events:  McGinn on the tunnel: ‘I don’t care how people get around’, Seattle PI