Last week I wrote about how the mammoth cost overruns in Boston’s Big Dig project, among other things, continue to resonate when government proposes large scale public works projects. This has been particularly true in Seattle, where a $4.2 billion tunnel replacement for its 50-year-old double deck waterfront highway has become a major campaign issue in next week’s election.

Well, cue the spooky violin music and find an older mom voice actor with an exceptionally concerned timbre, as this new campaign ad summarizes the point aptly.


If the ad’s scenario came to pass, it’s true that an amount equal to $15,000 for every Seattle family would have to be found whether through toll revenue, some sort of tax, or from the legislature in Olympia. It’s unlikely, however, that families would get that bill along with their monthly Comcast charges.

Coincidently, or not so coincidentally just before Election Day, the Washington State Department of Transportation released their own video simulation of what would happen to the Alaskan Way Viaduct if a major earthquake were to hit.  It’s pretty frightening, showing a pancaked highway and a failed seawall allowing Elliot Bay to rush inland.

But like Tuesday’s incident on San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge reminds us, our infrastructure is old, particularly in the metropolitan areas that drive our economy. Despite past miscues, we need to find a way to ensure that roads and rails of super-regional and national significance get treated as such--key contributors to our prosperity. The upcoming surface transportation reauthorization pending in Congress looms large in taking those necessary steps.