Boulevard option rising to the surface in Seattle

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Mike Lindblom, from the Seattle Times, reports this week in "Viaduct fight: Could streets be the answer?" on how the surface option is still on the table if not on the March advisory ballot. The struggle with what to do with the aging Alaskan Way Viaduct continues.

The Washington DOT recently stated that a smaller tunnel alternative, put forth by Mayor Nickels and present on the advisory ballot, does not meet safety and capacity requirements. After the tunnel's political meltdown, State Transportation Secretary MacDonald says, "The surface discussion is coming like a freight train."

Governor Gregoire has also rejected the surface plus transit option based on flawed advice flowing from the State DOT. She continues to support an elevated structure, while a number of key Seattle leaders remain resolute against rebuilding another viaduct that will continue to block Seattle from it's waterfront.

The arguments against the surface and transit option remain focused on whether or not it can maintain existing auto capacity through the downtown. King County Executive Ron Sims, a rising champion of a surface alternative, has responded by investigating the traffic impacts of the surface option in more detail. The earlier Washington DOT study was limited in it's scope and contained a series of incorrect assumptions, see Smart Mobility's report Alaskan Way Viaduct: Analysis of No-replacement Option.

Cary Moon, of the People's Waterfront Coalition, continues to point out that this infrastructure decision should be based on the number of people that can move around the downtown, not the number of single occupancy vehicles.

Images courtesy of Dean Rutz and the Seattle Times.

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Two Stupid Ideas, One Smart One for the Alaskan Way Viaduct

Erica Barnett, from Seattle's Stranger, weighs in on what to do about the March 13 advisory vote in "No and Hell No: Just say no to both viaduct measures." Barnett has long been critical of the ideas coming from the Mayor and Governor. In one of her strongest pieces to date, she urges Seattle residents to vote no in order to send a message demanding “a smart, affordable, environmentally responsible solution that takes an optimistic view of Seattle’s future.”

Running through the elevated and tunnel alternatives, Barnett identifies the significant problems with each. In order to meet current safety standards, the rebuilding of an elevated structure will be significantly larger than the existing structure. Barnett points out that supporters of the elevated haven’t paid attention to what this could mean for the waterfront. “The same people who raised hell about the late monorail project’s wider support columns also don’t seem to care that a new viaduct would have to have significantly larger supports and thicker columns to withstand a major earthquake.”

In addition, Barnett observes that there is very little tunnel in the Mayor’s tunnel alternative with only 13 blocks of roadway below the surface and the rest accommodated with an elevated structure. “The tunnel is still just another freeway; it still preserves capacity for 130,000 cars, making it little better, from an environmental standpoint, than the elevated viaduct.”

Barnett understands the connections between adding highway capacity, perpetuating automobile dependency, and greenhouse gas emissions. In Seattle, the majority of greenhouse gas emissions are generated from transportation due to the region’s hydropower sources. “Driving is the human activity most responsible for global warming—so if Seattle intends to cut its contribution to greenhouse gases, we have to become less car dependent.”

The surface option is clearly the better alternative and Barnett drives this point home by imagining how Seattle could spend the estimated $3 billion dollars that would be needed for the elevated and tunnel alternatives. “Imagine how much transit could be built in and around Seattle for $3 billion—how many buses we could buy or miles of light rail we could build for the money we’re going to throw away on a waterfront freeway that will…be gridlocked from downtown to West Seattle the day it opens if we don’t start investing in transit now.”

She ends noting “building any kind of freeway on our waterfront, especially an elevated one, should be unthinkable at this time of rapid climate change and rapidly increasing congestion. There’s nothing visionary about it.”

Image courtesy of the Stranger.


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