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Jon Talton

Analysis and commentary on economic news, trends and issues, with an emphasis on Seattle and the Northwest.

August 17, 2011 at 9:45 AM

Tunnel should be only start of focus on infrastructure

Beyond its political implications, the overwhelming voter approval for building the Highway 99 tunnel will boost the Seattle economy. It will mean $2 billion in infrastructure spending and the attendant jobs here at a time when most of America is falling apart with no hope in sight. It is also the least invasive of the options for the Port of Seattle, no small thing when the seaport is facing intense new competition from Prince Rupert, B.C., a widened Panama Canal and soon-to-be-widened Suez Canal.

For all its risks, the deep-bore tunnel is the kind of infrastructure that will also boost productivity in the long-term by the safe movement of people and goods, replacing the quake-unsafe viaduct. Opening up the waterfront will present one of the West Coast’s best opportunities for new private-sector development.

For all that, Mayor Mike McGinn’s emphasis on enhanced transit shouldn’t be lost. Although most Americans will have to be lured, not forced, out of their cars, higher energy prices will produce a future far less based on single-occupancy car trips. The metropolitan area and city needs more trains, light rail, streetcars and buses. This is infrastructure, too, and we’re behind. Nationally, it may be a victim of the right’s strange anti-transit-and-rail fetish. Seattle should continue its new robust decisiveness into this arena and accelerate light-rail and streetcar construction.

It’s not either/or. It’s both.

Today’s Econ Haiku:

France and Germany

In the trenches together

The enemy: Debt

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