Thursday, July 31, 2008

Viaduct Project Boondoggle Just One More Nail in Gregoire's Political Coffin

As if Dino Rossi needed any more ammunition in his quest for the governorship, we now have one more bureaucratic comedy of reckless mismanagement to add to the list of causes for Governor Gregoire's unelection in November.

During Gregoire's tenure, the Washington State Department of Transition has not made a decision about what will replace the viaduct, and will not do so until December of this year. And yet, the Alaskan Way Viaduct budget is more than 33% spent or committed much of those dollars on projects that will only be utilized if the viaduct is replaced with a similar elevated roadway.

Even though some of these projects are on hold until a final plan is chosen, those who have even a limited understanding of how government budgets are utilized know that a lot of the money will be spent even if labor and equipment never initiate work. Planning, legal fees, property acquisition, all occurs early on in the process. So we can assume that a large portion of the $1 billion already tagged is gone. Bye-bye.

There is $540 million allocated or spent for rebuilding the south-end for the Viaduct; the "ramps" that bring traffic up to the fully elevated level along the waterfront portion. Seems like common sense but, no elevated roadway, no ramp required.

By going forward with this project, is the DOT giving a giddy little wink to all of us who would like to see a new elevated roadway along the waterfront?

An additional $119 million is earmarked for the Battery Street Tunnel, a tunnel which would more than likely need to be completely replaced should the final plan be approved for a tunnel. Even though initial work only calls for upgrades to the fire suppression systems and roof beams, it would seem more prudent to wait until the future of the tunnel has been made clear.

The same can be said about the $64.4 million budgeted for relocating utility lines--lines that may have to be re-relocated depending on final plans.

I can only imagine what kind of headaches must arise when DOT officials embark on improvement projects on their own homes:

Mr. DOT Official (speaking to his wife): "Well, Mrs. Official, we're ready to finally put on the second story for the space we've been needing for so long. We can start just as soon as they finish repainting the exterior and replacing the roof."

In a time when state residents are already hot under the collar about Gregoire's broken gas tax pledge, one would think that she would be aware of how closely the voters are scrutinizing how those funds are being used. Even if she is going to be defeated in November, she still has to live among us when she's just a citizen again.

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