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Dispatches from public radio's correspondent at the Washington Legislature. Austin Jenkins is the Olympia correspondent for the Northwest News Network. You can also see Austin on television as host of TVW's (the C–SPAN of Washington State) weekly public affairs program "Inside Olympia."

On Eve Of Viaduct Closure, Former Governor Vows Tunnel Project Will Succeed

A view of the Alaskan Way Viaduct looking south from Victor Steinbrueck Park just northwest of Pike Place Market.

On the eve of a two-week closure of the Alaskan Way Viaduct, former Washington Governor Chris Gregoire said she’s confident the tunneling project under Seattle’s waterfront will ultimately succeed.

The viaduct is closing to allow the tunnel-boring machine known as Bertha to dig underneath the double-decker structure. Under the original timeline the tunnel was supposed to be open by now and the viaduct long ago torn down.

“I am as frustrated or more than almost anybody on the face of the earth about the delays in this thing,” Gregoire said. “But I also know it was the right decision.”

Gregoire was governor in 2009 when the state and the city of Seattle agreed to replace the viaduct with a tunnel. Back then the plan was to take down the viaduct by 2012 and have the tunnel open by 2015.

But the project has been plagued by delays.

“I have no doubt in my mind that when we’re done it will transform that waterfront, it will transform that city,” Gregoire said. “Is it a little painful or a lot painful getting there? Yes. Do we have to be extraordinarily patient? Yes.”

Gregoire is now running Challenge Seattle, a private sector initiative focused on transportation, education and job creation and led by CEOs from major Seattle-area companies.

Gregoire spoke with Austin Jenkins on TVW’s “Inside Olympia” program.

Since January 2004, Austin Jenkins has been the Olympia-based political reporter for the Northwest News Network. In that position, Austin covers Northwest politics and public policy, as well as the Washington State Legislature. You can also see Austin on television as host of TVW's (the C–SPAN of Washington State) Emmy-nominated public affairs program "Inside Olympia."