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State Senator: We Will Not Pay Seattle’s Cost Overruns

Despite repeated assertions from some corners that Seattle will not be stuck with cost overruns, State Senator Jim Kastama has drawn a line in the sand. If he and other legislators get their way, no further State money will be available to cover the massive risk of overruns on Seattle’s deep bore tunnel project.

Yesterday morning on Dave Ross’s radio show on KIRO, Senator Judy Clibborn of Mercer Island, Chair of the Senate Transportation Committee, was asked about the legality of the infamous cost overrun provision, which provides that Seattle taxpayers would be responsible for all cost overruns on the deep bore tunnel project.

Clibborn tried to reassure Seattle listeners that the provision was illegal and could not force Seattle to pick up the tab on what could be billions of dollars of cost overruns. She argued that the provision was inserted simply to pick up the necessary votes for the bill, and that Seattle would never actually have to live up to the commitment. Implied, of course, was that when push comes to shove, the state will pick up the tab on any overruns.

Clibborn and Kastama, a member of her committee, appear not to be on the same page.

Senator Kastama of Puyallup proclaimed in no uncertain terms that it did not matter to him whether or not the provision was illegal, because any additional funds for the project would have to be approved by the legislature. He all but threatened to cut off funding for the tunnel project if overruns occurred, since there is no room in the budget for many real transportation projects all over the state, let alone cost overruns on any one of them. If that funding were withheld, the tunnel project would grind to a halt, and the City would have no choice but to assume all responsibility for tunnel overruns.

Listen: Kastama on Dave Ross

Chris Grygiel of the PI has more on the story here.

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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)