Even Environmentalists Support the Highway 99 Tunnel Project

Perhaps Mayor Mike McGinn's most well-known positions are that he supports bicycles and opposes the Highway 99 tunnel project.

So when a large and influential group of environmentalists come out and say that not building the tunnel will actually be detrimental to bicycling in Seattle, it sort of takes the wind out of some of the mayor's argument.

That's exactly what happened on Thursday when a coalition of environmentalists, members of groups like Earthjustice, American Rivers, and the Cascade Land Conservancy, came to a press conference organized by the tunnel-advocacy group Let's Move Forward and officially joined the pro-tunnel fight.

We missed the conference in person, but we talked to Russ Daggat at Earthjustice, who explained his position.

"From my own experience, the thing that stands in the way of me spending more time on my bicycle is trucks and cars speeding by six inches away," says Daggat, a board member of Earth Justice and American Rivers (though he notes he's only speaking for himself). "If you want to get more people on bicycles and on their feet, you need to make streets more friendly to bicycles. You're not going to do that by forcing tens of thousands of cars and buses onto city streets and turning the waterfront into Aurora Avenue North."

Protect Seattle Now, a group on the opposite side of the argument and the ones leading the effort to put the tunnel decision to voters via referendum, is still claiming that building the tunnel will be bad for bikes because when it's tolled at $4, most cars will avoid the tunnel and head to the surface streets.

Daggat says the option of not building the tunnel would force even more cars onto city streets. He also points out that the $2.4 billion committed by the state of Washington can't simply be shifted to another project.

We put a call in to Mayor McGinn's office for a comment on whether environmentalist support of the tunnel at all impacts his own opinion on the project. His staff has yet to call back. Maybe he's still mad at us.

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