Kalama state Rep. Ed Orcutt wants the city of Seattle − and only Seattle − to pay for cost huge overruns on the infamous Alaskan Way Viaduct replacement project.
Orcutt proposed House Bill 2193 on Friday. It would require Seattle to pay for the bloated $3.1 billion project. The bill would authorize Seattle to impose either a sales and use tax of 0.1 percent within the city or a property tax of $0.25 per $1,000 of assessed value.
These funding mechanisms would only take effect if the City of Seattle or the Washington State Department of Transportation were found responsible for cost overruns in a court of law. And the legislative proposal itself will face hard sledding in the Legislature, which is loaded with representatives from the Puget Sound region.
According to the Washington Department of Transportation website, funds for the viaduct project come from a variety of sources. About half comes from the 2005 Transportation Partnership program, which instituted several statewide taxes: a $0.095, four-year gas tax increase, as well as vehicle weight fees, light truck weight fee increases and an annual motor home fee.
Another $326 million comes from the 2003 “Nickel” funding package, which included three gas tax increases over a 10-year period: a $0.05 cent per gallon gas tax increase, a 15 percent increase in gross weight fees on heavy trucks and a 0.3 percent increase in sales tax on motor vehicles.
The rest of the project’s funding comes from a combination of federal, state, local, toll and port revenue sources.
“The enabling legislation authorizing the tunnel back in 2009 had language in there that said cost overruns would be paid for by the beneficiaries of the tunnel project in Seattle,” Orcutt said Friday. “Those landowners and business owners in the area around the viaduct... those are people, businesses and individuals who will benefit from that.”
The project includes a two-mile long tunnel beneath downtown Seattle, a mile-long stretch of new highway connecting the south entrance of the tunnel to Seattle’s stadiums, a new overpass at the south end of downtown, demolition of the viaduct’s downtown waterfront section and a new Alaskan Way surface street connecting State Route 99 with downtown.
State legislation authorized the use of only $2.4 billion of state funds for the project and no more than $400 million in toll revenue.
While use of state funds has not yet reached this point (WSDOT’s website indicates state funding for the project is just short of $2 billion), Orcutt said that there should be a funding mechanism in place for overruns in case Seattle or WSDOT is found responsible.
“There was a promise made when that project was authorized that taxpayers would be protected,” Orcutt said. “I want to make sure that we hold the parties to that.”