State Sued Over Tunnel Public Records Request

Posted by seattlelaw - May 17, 2011 - News - No Comments

A woman who is leading an effort to block construction of the tunnel replacement for Seattle’s Alaskan Way Viaduct sued the state Transportation Department on Monday, saying the agency has yet to turn over tens of thousands of pages of public records.

Elizabeth A. Campbell filed her lawsuit in King County Superior Court. Campell’s attorney said she requested tunnel-related documents on the Freedom of Information Act in January of 2010. As of May of this year, Campbell had yet to receive the bulk of the 20,000 relevant documents, attorney Kathy George said.

“The law requires a ‘reasonable’ time estimate for producing public records,” George said. “A  year and a half is not reasonable.”

Ron Paananen, WSDOT’s administrator for the viaduct replacement program, told the state had released more 11,267 files to Campbell through March.

“In these files, there were 131,824 pages,” he said. “We think we’re doing a good job of responding.”

While there are outstanding records requests from Campell, Paananen said that comes from the time-consuming process of checking with the approximately 200 people who work on the project when requests are received and determining which material is subject to the disclosure laws.

Earlier this year Campbell and allies filed 27,500 petition signatures to get an initiative on the ballot that aims to prevent state contractors from using the city’s right-of-way for tunnel construction. City Attorney Pete Holmes has sued to block that measure from reaching the ballot.

The state Transportation Department has already signed a $1.4 billion contract with Seattle Tunnel Partners, a joint-venture selected to build the 1.7 mile-long, double-Decker tunnel beneath downtown. The agency expects to release a final Environmental Impact Statement on the project in July. Tunnel construction wouldn’t start until later this year and wouldn’t finish until late 2015 at the earliest.


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