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Politics Northwest

The Seattle Times political team explores national, state and local politics.

January 7, 2015 at 10:53 AM

Rasmussen says Seattle fears over Bertha tunnel are premature

Seattle City Councilmember Tom Rasmussen (Credit: Bettina Hansen / The Seattle Times)

Seattle City Councilmember Tom Rasmussen (Credit: Bettina Hansen / The Seattle Times)

Seattle City Councilmember Tom Rasmussen, who chairs the council’s transportation committee and was a key supporter of the plan to dig an Alaskan Way Viaduct replacement tunnel under downtown, was out of town on vacation when The Seattle Times recently sought his perspective on the current state of the project.

With the world’s largest tunnel boring machine stuck underground and the Washington State Department of Transportation-run job now a year and a half behind schedule, some local politicians are eyeing Plan B possibilities.

Not Rasmussen.

“It’s prudent to plan for emergencies and we’re doing that,” he said in an interview Monday.

“But it’s premature to say, ‘Let’s find another way of replacing the viaduct. Let’s forget the tunnel.’ That’s a call the state will have to make. People saying that now are basing that on speculation.”

Though Seattle Mayor Ed Murray declined a request by The Times for an interview about the project, he told a KING-TV reporter that not completing the tunnel could make the construction of a new downtown transit tunnel for a Ballard-West Seattle light-rail line a harder sell.

Rasmussen downplayed that concern.

“I think that Sound Transit has shown that they can build transit tunnels successfully,” he said. “They’ve had their hiccups along the way but they’ve developed the ability to do that. These are different tunnels by different entities.”

“Light-rail tunnels are generally smaller and they use more standard equipment,” Rasmussen noted.

“Do I tie these two tunnels together?” he went on. “Do I think that we have to do this one so voters approve a Sound Transit tunnel? I think voters understand that they would be making a decision independent of whatever happens with regard to this tunnel.”

Comments | More in Politics Northwest | Topics: Highway 99 tunnel, Tom Rasmussen

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