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Seattle writes back to State’s EIS

WSDOT recently released their Supplemental Draft Environmental Impact Statement (SDEIS). Strangely, even though WSDOT is in the EIS process, the state has already signed contracts with a tunneling contractor. Is that even legal? Write us if you know.

Even if the state is treating the environmental review process as a joke, Seattle businesses, government, nonprofits, and citizens have taken it seriously. Below, we post a number of formal comment letters to the SDEIS. Getting this paper-trail on record is a key step for future stages of this ludicrous process.

The letters are a treasure-trove of good information and argument, outlining the current known issues with the tunnel proposal. We are posting them to further conversation and shared knowledge.

There are some common themes to many of them:

  1. It’s not acceptable to change the statement of purpose and need, tailoring it to one alternative (moving cars vs. moving people & goods)
  2. It is disingenuous – and impractical – to ignore the I-5/Surface/Transit alternative. This option was recommended by the officials leading the 2008 exhaustive stakeholder process as a practical, effective, low-cost solution. (WSDOT pretends that a “do-nothing option” is the same. Clearly, it’s not.)
  3. Study impacts to Pioneer Square more comprehensively; the issues are interrelated and complicated and we need to know more about what might happen and how the project will prevent / protect from / mitigate harm.
  4. Measure the greenhouse gas (GHG) effects of the various alternatives, especially the tunnel which serves cars only, given the state’s commitment to reduce vehicle miles traveled (VMT) and thereby GHG emissions.
  5. Include tolling effects in the whole analysis, since the traffic effects of tolling change everything, especially impacts to mobility in Seattle and the experienced quality of streets.
  6. Include more thorough analysis of how this project affects access to downtown and mobility on city streets. Include transit as part of the solution; the tunnel itself does not provide adequate access without the promised transit.
  7. Ensure there is a complete funding plan lined up with a complete project budget, where all needs and funding sources are explained. This is necessary and prudent given the firm budget cap, confusion about what is funded and what is not, and contention about responsibility for any cost escalation.

Eight of these letters are from some of Seattle’s leading civic and professional organizations. One is from the Director of Seattle Department of Transportation, representing the collective concerns of City government. One is from the federal government. These issues are serious. City and State decision-makers should use the thorough analysis of the DEIS review process to identify and negotiate adequate solutions before environmental review is complete.

The letters:

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Tunnel quotes

“It's coming down in 2012. I'm taking it down--the middle. That's the timeline. I'm not going to fudge on it. And if we don't have some alternative by then, boy are we going to have a mess on our hands because it's coming down.”
said Governor Christine Gregoire [who now plans to leave the viaduct in place until 2015] (in Seattle Post-Inelligencer)