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“Shovel ready”? Not Washington’s monster megaprojects

Post by Patrick O'Callahan on Dec. 18, 2008 at 4:38 pm |
December 18, 2008 4:38 pm

Brace yourself for the onslaught of a new wonkword: “shovel ready.”

With the incoming Barack Obama administration preparing to spend hundreds of billions of dollars on infrastructure projects, states – including Washington – are jostling for a place in line. Obama says any potential project must be “shovel ready” – in other words, ready to employ people almost immediately.

Gov. Chris Gregoire, who’s counting on quite a bit of largess from the Obama administration, told us today that shovel-worthy means a project must be launchable within 90 to 120 days, with “all permits, everything, done.”

This sudden opportunity is catching Washington with its pants down on its two biggest megaprojects: the multi-billion-dollar replacements for the Alaskan Way Viaduct in Seattle and the Evergreen Point Floating Bridge over Lake Washington.

Both have been considered at high risk of failure since the February 2001 Nisqually earthquake. Both have been the subject of seemingly endless arguments over design. After nearly eight years, neither is close to being shovel ready.

What this state could really use is a bailout for indecision.

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