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Tunnel Referendum Passing In Initial Primary Results

Derek Wang

According to the first primary results released Tuesday night, Seattle voters are overwhelmingly approving the referendum about the deep–bore tunnel. Initial returns show that Referendum 1 is passing with about 60 percent of the vote. KUOW's Derek Wang reports.


Referendum 1 is widely seen as a gauge of public opinion about replacing the Alaskan Way Viaduct with the tunnel, even though it wouldn't necessarily stop the tunnel. It's passing by more than 20 points. That's surprised some tunnel supporters, like Seattle City Councilman Nick Licata.

He spoke to us last night at the party with the campaign in favor of the referendum.

Licata: "Every single poll before today showed that the population was pretty much divided, and there was not a majority in favor of any alternative. And for the public to come out, apparently very strongly in favor of the tunnel, to me that means they want to really get going with it. They're tired of debating this issue. I think there's a bit of exhaustion out there."

Licata says he still has some major concerns about the project. He says Seattle drivers will need to lobby state lawmakers to fine tune the tolling plan in order to keep drivers in the tunnel and not spill out onto city streets.

Tunnel opponents were clearly disappointed by the early results. Speaking outside the party for the campaign against referendum, Seattle City Councilman Mike O'Brien said he thinks people will come to regret this moment.

O'Brien: "I don't think that my kids and my grandkids will look back and say, Boy, I'm really glad we built that freeway. But, you know, we make decisions and we move on and we live with them and we make the best out of them."

Still, O'Brien did try to take the high road. He said he'd work to make sure the tunnel project includes additional funding for transit.

More results will be released later this afternoon.

I'm Derek Wang, KUOW News.

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