Viaduct Replacement: Contracts and Legislation

(Editors Note: WSDOT is hosting a voluntary contracting event to discuss upcoming work for the Alaskan Way Viaduct and Seawall Replacement Program. Thursday April 2 from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m.; Wells Fargo Building 999 Third Ave. Seattle 23rd floor training rooms. Click here for more info.)

While legislation authorizing the tunnel option to replace the Alaskan Way viaduct in Seattle bores its way through the State Legislature AGC members are learning more about the mammoth project and what it will mean to the industry. At a recent AGC Seattle District membership meeting Ron Paananen Director of the Urban Corridors Office at Washington State Department of Transportation described the $2.8 billion tunnel project and the rationale for its selection.

Among the matters raised at the meeting was contracts and how elements of the overall project will be bid. Paananen said DOT is and will continue to work with the industry on contract issues. Bob Adams Vice President for Guy F. Atkinson Construction and Chair of the AGC/WSDOT Committee met with Paananen to discuss those issues.

We made recommendations to DOT regarding how to package the contracts said Adams. We want the project contracted in ways that make sense for the industry and provide reasonable assurance that the tunnel seawall replacement and waterfront development projects can be built within budget and on schedule. Every type of contract is still on the table. DOT will soon release a report of its intentions and its important for the construction industry to take the opportunity to comment on the report.

AGC will let members know when the report is available.

Meanwhile DOT is working on bids for ancillary projects. DOT has posted its call for bids for the S. Holgate Street to S. King Street Stage 1 contract. For more information on this and other viaduct-related activities visit DOTs Alaskan Way Viaduct and Seawall Replacement website.

Although DOT is moving forward on tunnel-related matters the overall project still requires approval from the Legislature. That legislation ESSB 5768:

• Declares that the state will replace the viaduct with a deep bore tunnel which must include four general purpose lanes in a stacked formation.
• Establishes that state funding for the viaduct will not exceed $2.4 billion and at least $400 million in tunnel toll revenue.
• Directs DOT to prepare a traffic and revenue study for the purpose of determining the bore tunnels potential to generate toll revenue and to provide a final report by January 2010 to the Governor and Legislature.

Duke Schaub lobbying on behalf of AGC says that its important to note that the states $2.4 billion share of the cost has long been set aside for the viaduct replacement. This is money that has been reserved from gas tax revenues and authorized for whatever viaduct replacement option was ultimately chosen Schaub said.

ESSB 5768 keeps the states end of a bargain among the state King County and the City of Seattle. The three jurisdictions signed a letter of agreement in January that expresses consensus on the tunnel option and delineates the division of labor:

• State: Responsibilities include taking down the viaduct and building a bored tunnel at an estimated cost of $2.82 billion.

• King County: Responsible for improved and additional bus service including street improvements related to these operations as well as simplified downtown trolley service. The estimated cost of the countys portion is $190 million in capital and $15 million in annual operating expenses. The countys intention was to pay for this through a countywide 1 percent increase in the MVET. However legislation allowing the county to do this failed in the Legislature but other funding options are available to the county.

• City of Seattle: Responsible for replacement of the seawall utility relocation a promenade along the central waterfront other city street improvements and a First Avenue streetcar. The citys share is estimated at $937 million. Local authority to develop a local infrastructure financing tool will be sought.

In addition the Port of Seattle is being asked to contribute $300 million to portions of the project that benefit their operations and $88 million in federal stimulus funds will be sought.

ESSB 5768 passed the State Senate by a vote of 43-6 on March 4. It is in the House Transportation Committee now and is expected to be voted out soon. Its path to ultimate enactment just got a lot easier according to an article in the Seattle Times. House Speaker Frank Chopp who has been publicly skeptical of the tunnel option is apparently warming to the idea. In the Times article he is quoted as saying that the bill has decent odds of passage.

AGC is working with the Seattle Chamber of Commerce on a broad coalition of businesses labor groups and policymakers in support of the tunnel option.

AGC remains strongly supportive of the tunnel option and this legislation Schaub said. To avoid further delays it is important to include the set-aside funds in this biennial budget so environmental review and design can move forward.

For further information contact Duke Schaub.