Big Dig West May Be Stuck in the Muck

Sam Newberg - Joe Urban's picture

It is time for WSDOT to reconsider the $3.1 billion bored hole tunnel that is slated to replace the Alaskan Way Viaduct.  


Here’s why: 


According to the recent information by the Seattle DOT, car trips have declined by 6% from 2000 to 2009, while at the same time the population increased by nearly 10%. That equates to 14% fewer trips by car per capita.


Also in that time the city has started light rail service and improved bus and commuter rail service and created better bicycle facilities. All of this is good news for a city that has set a goal of being carbon neutral by 2030.


So why are we spending excessively to build a tunnel to bypass downtown Seattle? Why build a tunnel that encourages more driving? Why build a tunnel that will clog city streets near its entrances? And why build a tunnel that may sacrifice the integrity of historic buildings?


Apparently for a population that wants to drive less and live in a better urban environment. It’s crazy.


Equally galling is WSDOT’s justification for the $3.1 billion bored tunnel is predicated on forecast increased travel demand, when the evidence is indicating otherwise.


Furthermore, these updated traffic statistics vindicate the report prepared by Smart Mobility in 2006 regarding viaduct replacement, commissioned by the Center for Neighborhood Technology (CNT) and the Congress for the New Urbanism (CNU). This analysis found that strategies which reconnect street networks, particularly in the presence of incentives, would result in "disappearing" traffic, a finding that researchers from around the US and around the world have duplicated.


The justification for building the bored tunnel is based in information that is being proven to be way off. It is increasingly clear that the Seattle region doesn’t need, and shouldn’t have to pay for, a $3.1 billion tunnels for cars bypassing the urban core. CNU and our partner at CNT support the efforts of People's Waterfront Coalition to encourage the no-tunnel option, in lieu of a waterfront boulevard, improvements to I-5 and the downtown network of streets, bicycle and transit improvements. 

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