By the time you’re reading this, the question “Will Seattle have an hours tax on employees, no hours tax or half an hours tax?” may be settled. As usual I’m writing before I can possibly know how it will turn out. Rather than make up a wild guess about what will happen in five days, I’d rather speculate on what will happen in five months or more.
The latest word is the tunnel replacing the viaduct might be opened in October. Some of you may remember that it was supposed to be opened almost three years earlier than that, near the end of 2015. You might also remember that it was supposed to cost $2.8 billion. Instead the total cost is supposed to now be about $4.25 billion.
That’s a cost overrun of $1.45 billion, which is nearly 20 times the amount of money the full employee hours tax would raise in a year, almost 40 times what a half an employee hours tax would raise per year, and it would break mathematics for me to tell you how many more times that is than what “the no hours tax at all” would raise. But all that’s just apples to giraffes, as they say in the online shopping business.
As in, “We’re going to stop construction on this building if you pass a tax we don’t like, even though it’s all just apples to giraffes. Ha ha.”
I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again. If you live in Seattle and you have a car, you should not use the tunnel when it’s opened. That’s because the bill passed to fund the tunnel says Seattle residents who use the tunnel have to pay the cost overruns. If nobody uses it, nobody pays anything. If exactly one person drives the tunnel, and no one else, that person will owe $1.45 billion. Don’t be that person.
I’m personally scared out of my wits about what’s going to happen after the tunnel opens. I don’t have a car, not since that little agreement I made with the state in 1987, the one that said I promise not to crash cars anymore by just not driving them. But I do happen to work less than one block from the still-standing Alaskan Way Viaduct. A structure that will be demolished. Right next door to me while I work in a building that is 128 years old that already shakes when I sneeze. I’m expecting they’ll dynamite the viaduct, just for the fun of it.
Then, the buses that have been using the viaduct to get into downtown from West Seattle are going to have to use surface streets. But the surface streets around here are all torn up to build a streetcar line where there used to be buses. Metro thought it would be way cooler if we could all ride streetcars.
Speaking of way cool, one of the “features” of the new SR tunnel we are paying for is “no mid-tunnel exits or entrances.” So if you do use the tunnel, it won’t be either to travel to downtown or to leave downtown. It will only be to bypass downtown. Increasing traffic on downtown streets.
Another feature that was designed into this thing way back when I was saying “don’t build it” is that it will have exactly two-thirds the traffic capacity of the old viaduct, on account of having two-thirds the lanes.
So maybe it’s a good thing if no one going downtown will use it. Somehow a third of the traffic has to go away, right? See? All the planning is working out for the best.
Meanwhile the plans to expand the Washington State Convention Center into and over the north end of the existing bus tunnel are going forward and now the Seattle P-I is telling me that at some point next Spring all the buses currently using the tunnel may have to be put out onto the streets instead, and there isn’t room for them. We don’t have enough street space for them.
So just when we’re getting used to a third of the former viaduct traffic flooding downtown streets, hundreds of buses will start being parked all day along the avenues.
Here’s a philosophical question. If traffic can’t move can you still call it traffic?
Or, if your car can’t move at all forever anymore because of apocalyptic gridlock (Mad Max level), are you really camping in your car? Wouldn’t we have to make it legal then?
Dr. Wes Browning is a one time math professor who has experienced homelessness several times. He supplied the art for the first cover of Real Change in November of 1994 and has been involved with the organization ever since. This is his weekly column, Adventures in Irony, a dry verbal romp of the absurd.
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