Up in Alaska, state and a lot of local governments have a great deal of oil-based money to play with. Seattle, which has about as many residents as the state of Alaska, does not: For big projects, it needs state and even federal bucks.
Therein lies the catch with the otherwise clearcut Alaskan Way project. Akaskan Way is a limited access roadway rising above downtown hugging the shoreline of the Puget Sound, allowing traffic from north or south of downtown a direct route to the other side (along with exits and entry to downtown), at - surprisingly often - good speed and efficiency. There are two significant issues. One is that quite a few people think it damages the view along the downtown Seattle shoreline (which to a degree it probably does). But much the larger is this: The old road, built back in the 50s, is unsound, is cracking and could collapse when another earthquake hits.
There are three solutions: One is to route the Way along ground level, but that gets little support, since although inexpensive it would mean subjecting the through traffic to the downtown grid, defeating the purpose. Another, supported by Mayor Greg Nickels and a majority on the city council, is to build a tunnel, route the traffic underground, a fine approach from the driver's standpoint but also extremely expensive (about $4.6 billion, and rising). The middle path, supported - we now know - by Governor Chris Gregoire, would rebuild the current elevated road, more or less, at a somewhat matter price tag (about $2.8 billion, and rising).
That latter position went public on Friday, along with indications from the governor that she and the city were in gridlock over the difference. She also suggested a way to broak the gridlock: An advsory vote by the voters of Seattle.