Tunnel Vote: 'Approve' Takes Early Lead; Godden and Clark Ahead in Council Races

Initial results announced moments ago give the downtown Seattle tunnel referendum a 60-40 lead in the early 2011 Primary voting this evening, strongly indicating the long-sought waterfront tube was headed for passage and handing Seattle's embattled Mayor Mike McGinn another public relations setback.

As City Council President Richard Conlin put it in a statement, "After years of studying, analyzing and listening to the public, we are moving forward..."

According to King County Elections, 43,410 voters were signaling the city to go ahead with the $2 billion project, the biggest tunnel dig of its kind, while 29,348 were rejecting it. That's a 59.66 percent to 40.34 percent margin. About 75,000 ballots have been counted. It was unclear how many of the city's 380,000 registered voters mailed in their ballots.

In other returns, Seattle City Council incumbent Jean Godden was leading her nearest challenger Bobby Forch with 30,347 to his 15,814 in the Position 1 primary, the two likely heading for a November showdown, while incumbent Sally Clark had more than twice the votes of her three challengers combined.

The tunnel had wide public and financial support, despite McGinn's efforts to delay and derail the dig. The pro-tunnel campaign, Let's Move Forward, which had $37,700 in the bank as of its June accounting, recently reported its treasury was suddenly spilling over with $386,335. That includes $28,140 from the Downtown Seattle Association, $25,000 from Microsoft, and $25,000 each from two of the designated tunnel contractors, Tutor Perini and Dragados USA.

McGinn never laid out a viable alternative other than an unfunded surface street/transit plan to replace the Alaskan Way Viaduct. While tolls on the proposed tunnel would cause thousands of typically viaduct-carried cars to divert onto city streets, his plan would have dumped all 110,000 daily viaduct vehicles onto city streets. For that effort to work, he admitted, 50,000 cars a day would simply have to disappear.

Update: The mayor, who always had so much to say about the tunnel, issued this breathless statement:

City of Seattle

Office of the Mayor

Mayor's statement

For Immediate Release Contact: Aaron Pickus

August 16, 2011 Tel: (206) 233-2650

Mayor's statement

"I worked to give the public a direct vote on the tunnel. The public said move ahead with the tunnel, and that's what we're going to do."

-Mayor Mike McGinn

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