Rep. Ed Orcutt introduces bill to hold Seattle responsible for Alaskan Way Viaduct cost overruns

The taxpayers of Washington should not bear the ongoing additional costs of the Alaskan Way Viaduct. That’s according to Rep. Ed Orcutt, R-Kalama, who serves as ranking minority member of the House Transportation CommitteeOrcutt introduced legislation yesterday that would require the City of Seattle to pay for prolonged cost overruns in construction of the project, rather than the state of Washington.

Originally proposed in 2009 by then-Senator Ed Murray, the project was a partnership between the state and City of Seattle to improve and replace the existing  Alaskan Way Viaduct after it sustained damage from the 2001 Nisqually earthquake. The project was expected to be completed by November 2015, but substantial cost overruns have resulted from tunneling problems and it still remains unfinished.

According to the original language of the project, any costs that exceed the state’s original contribution were to be paid for by, “property owners in the Seattle area who benefit from replacement of the existing viaduct…”

“The City of Seattle should uphold their part of the deal that was made in 2009,” said Orcutt. “The taxpayers of Washington state, many of which live nowhere near Seattle and may never benefit from this project, are paying plenty for this project already. It’s time for Seattle keep its end of the bargain.”

Since the beginning of the project, Washington state has allocated approximately $2.8 billion of the $2.4 billion it originally agreed to contribute. Additionally, the proposed 2017-19 House transportation budget includes an additional $60 million to the state Department of Transportation (WSDOT) to cover added costs due to the delays caused when the tunnel boring machine, Bertha, malfunctioned. It also spends another $15 million on transit mitigation due to the delay. WSDOT expects future additional costs of as much as $89 million.

According to the bill presented by Orcutt, Seattle would be required to pay for cost overruns or face the withholding of some state-shared revenue streams if Seattle is determined responsible for the additional costs.

House Bill 2193 would authorize Seattle to impose one of two district taxes to pay for cost overruns related to the project, including 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. Seattle would have the discretion to apply the property tax city wide or create a special taxing district within city limits to apply to those property owners benefiting from the replacement project.

If Seattle does not impose one of the tax proposals outlined in the bill, the state would begin withholding some state-shared revenue streams, including revenue collected from the liquor excise tax, liquor profits sharing, fuel tax sharing and some funds for City Criminal Justice Assistance.

“A promise was made to taxpayers of this state, and that promise must be kept,” said Orcutt.

The 2017 regular session is scheduled to end April 23.


Washington State House Republican Communications