January 15, 2014
Vol: 21 No: 3

Dr. Wes

It’s so boring to talk about tunnels, but when you get right down to it, they’re actually very deep

By Dr. Wes Browning

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Wouldn’t you know it? It turns out a 57.5-foot monster cutting machine can slice through rocks the size of Buicks, but put a measly steel pipe in its way and it breaks a tooth and cries and pouts.

I’m so disappointed that what’s holding up Bertha the Tunnel Boring Lady Thing is not a giant glacial rock but a forest of eight inch steel pipes the state happened to put in its own way. I can’t possibly say, “I told you so” now, because I said it was going to be a rock. Oops. Was I ever wrong.

Still, there might be a possible told-you-so remaining in the situation. There’s this little passage in paragraph 6(b) of RCW 47.01.402 (the state law passed in 2009 authorizing the tunnel) that says, “Any costs in excess of [some piddling amount of] dollars shall be borne by property owners in the Seattle area who benefit from replacement of the existing viaduct with the deep bore tunnel.”

Now, of course, the city of Seattle says, hold on, we also have a Memorandum of Agreement. We have an MOA! An MOA is what we have! And, yes, they do. The MOA says very, very, clearly that “The STATE shall fund or procure funding for, if, and to the extent that the Washington State Legislature appropriates funds for these purposes.” It also goes on to say, “If the state eggplants, then Seattle may horseradish, camel and salad fork, but if the state chooses not to eggplant, and for, if, to the extent cow, then in that case, potato chip, frying pan.”

So last week the Senate Republican leader Marky Mark Schoesler of nowhere-near-Seattle expressed his civic opinion that Seattle should have to pay any cost overruns due to the state’s own mistakes, and Judy Clibborn, Democrat of not-from-Seattle-either-but-close-enough-to-shop-here said, “Uh-uh.”

As the city was debating whether or not to give final approval to the tunnel project back in 2011, I wrote about it at least three times in which I suggested that we would be paying for the thing forever. Ha, ha, what was I smoking?

Seriously, people, what part of 6(b) don’t you understand? “... shall be borne by property owners in the Seattle area who benefit…” Did you think, “That’s not me, I rent.” Did you think, “Benefit? Tunnels aggravate my hay fever.” Or did you think, as Judy Clibborn apparently thought, “[That] amendment has no legal standing because it’s too vague,” which she said right after voting for the bill with that amendment intact, in 2009?

Ever get presented with a contract with a clause that says if anything goes wrong it’s your fault, and sign it anyway, because, “That clause is too vague?”

The question isn’t how vague 6(b) is. The question is, how much do you need to pay lawyers to prove that 6(b) is unenforceably vague? From where I sit, I’d say that 6(b) is about as unenforceably vague as the well-regulated militia bit in the Bill of Rights. Vague enough to cost billions in lawyers to deflect it from here to the Supreme Court. Vague costs money.

Here’s the good news. If the tunnel is never completed, Seattle is off the hook permanently. Because you can’t benefit from something that doesn’t exist.

Questions to beat a dead horse deader: Will this affect my cable reception in any way?

A: Not unless you were paying for cable with money that the state will now take away from you for having had idiot elected officials. If, for example, you grow money out your ears, your cable is safe.

Is all this part of a Native American curse?

A: Yes. You should probably give them the land back right now and step away slowly. Pretend you had no idea what was going to happen. “Not my tunnel boring machine.” Laugh hysterically; they might think your insanity makes you sacred. It works in the movies.



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