viaduct_joe mabel_wikimedia commonsSeattle Mayor Mike McGinn told the governor that Seattle shouldn’t be on the hook for cost overruns in the state’s construction of a deep-bore tunnel. But the state’s response appears to be, “contingency plan? We don’t need no stinkin’ contingency plan.”

Check it out:

…while acknowledging McGinn’s concerns about overruns, and who pays for them, the governor’s office said the issue is a nonstarter because “we intend to bring the project in on time and on budget,” Shelton said.

Super-duper! The state intends to bring it in on time and on budget.

That’s wonderful news. I mean, it’s certainly better than intending to bring the project in late and over-budget!

But here’s the thing: what if something doesn’t go as planned?

I hate to be all gloom-and-doom here, but it does seem like we might want to have some idea of who pays for the costs. It’s a well-established fact that big infrastructure projects very often do not go as planned. Perhaps you’ve heard of some local examples—Sound Transit’s Beacon Hill Tunnel, King County’s Brightwater sewage tunnels, and the downtown Seattle bus tunnel — each of them went over budget.

In fact—wait for it—the deep-bore tunnel already has a cost overrun, of sorts. We’re nowhere near beginning construction, yet the deep-bore tunnel’s budget has been bumped up by $60 million, a figure that is roughly equivalent to Seattle’s entire current budget shortfall. Right now, Seattle appears to be on the hook for cost overruns, but the state refuses to even clarify the issue.

Fortunately, there’s an easy way out. State officials can demonstrate their confidence in the deep-bore tunnel by volunteering to pay for the cost overruns out of their personal bank accounts. Just a quick contract will do. Step right up!

Because if they don’t volunteer to pay themselves, then it almost seems like the state is embarking on a massive—and inherently risky—project with somebody else’s money on the line.


Photo by Joe Mabel from Wikimedia Commons, and used under a GNU Free Documentation License.