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Wednesday, February 1, 2006


Posted by on February 1 at 17:21 PM

If we can live without the Alaskan Way Viaduct for four years during construction, a scenario that now appears increasingly likely, why can’t we shut it down permanently?

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If you didn't get laid for four years, does that mean you should do w/o sex forever???

just askin'...

Probably. Especially if your plan to get laid more involves 4 years' celabicy.

"If you didn't get laid for four years, does that mean you should do w/o sex forever???"

What's the motorized transportation equivalent of jacking off?

Erica, that is indeed the question of the day.

Shut down a state highway because Allied Arts wants to put in a fake river through Alaskan Way?

Is the Stranger, on the whole, so soured on the Monorail's demise that you want no transit options for the City at all?

I'm really glad you guys aren't urban planners.

Along the lines of the silly first comment... if you spent four years going to college, why not just not work and go to college for the rest of your life?

Ad Nauseum seems to be the persuasion method of choice. Spew the same party line 7400 times and eventually everyone will believe it.

ONCE AGAIN... Downtown can survive a four year slowdown in business and cargo transport (from the decreased highway capacity; you still seem to think people will magically ditch their cars if they have to sit in traffic for hours) and still come away strong once the viaduct is rebuilt. To make that a permanent change would likely stunt Downtown Seattle's growth and commerce for life, whether or not you got around to building a monorail in 25 years.

The main function of the viaduct is really the commercial traffic: trucks of Class 6 and above. I don't know that the city really can survive it being shut down for more than a few months. No one REALLY does. A study is just that. Reality is something oftentimes quit different.
So Erica: when ARE you going to revisit the topic of THIRD PARTY BILLING (which you wrote about so well in Auugst 2001)? The renters of this city need another article on it. The company which is doing the billing where I live is Sagewater. You said you would, back in December at the Rosebud. I am still waiting (as are those many who suffer with this bullshit). PLEASE just do it!

Napoleon: Since when does a highway qualify as "transit"?

Here's the analogy to demonstrate just how silly Erica's comment is: If we can live without 520 for x number of years while it's being replaced, why do we need it at all? (I myself will probably start looking for another job by the time the state gets around to replacing 520. The commute is miserable enough as it is.)

The sad thing about Erica's comment, and about much of the discussion on transportation issues in this region, is that it could just as well be applied to "good" infrastructure projects (whoever defines "good") as "bad" infrastructure projects. Construction of the new light rail tunnel is going to be incredibly disruptive, and Erica is not sticking that in its face. Nor should she.

When freeways and roads are taken out of commission, people find other ways to work, switch to transit, alternate transportation, or move closer to work. Once people have made those adjustments, they can live with them—obviating the need to bring the road back.

Increased capacity always fills right back up. Gridlock is forever. We need to reclaim the city from cars.

tran·sit ( P ) Pronunciation Key (trnst, -zt)
The act of passing over, across, or through; passage.

Conveyance of people or goods from one place to another, especially on a local public transportation system.
The system or vehicles used for such conveyance.

What is it about "State Highway" that's not clear?

This really is a Lesser Seattle Movement in disguise. "If you tear it down, they will leave." Make the city hell on earth, and everyone with their SUVs will go away, leaving a Green Utopia for those willing to stick it out.

Everyone leaves, and then the local economy disappears, because the people that just left helped drive it. Stores and businesses close. The city becomes a ghost town.

Is that what you want, Napoleon?

And Dan, the ONLY way you get people to switch is to do what Seattle never does when they take passive-aggressive actions like this: you have to get on the TV/radio/newspaper and actively encourage people to take the bus instead, encourage people on the Link line to use it, encourage the people in South King County and Pierce County to use the Sounder (expanding its service would help too).

Even then, it's dubious that pie-in-the-sky theory holds any water. People aren't gonna just say, "OH, I'm sitting in traffic for three hours each way! I should take the Metro bus instead!" Obsevration alone here and in other cities will show that people just don't do that. Plus, people drive not because they love their cars so much as they hate the idea of riding the scummy bus with all those poor, stinky people (their words, not mine). You have to change that perception before you can get people to think the way you want them to.

But since no one's gonna bother to try, the status quo remains. And thus, if you rip out the viaduct, you will effectively destroy this city's economy.

As I've said before--I'm pro-tunnel, with foundations for a viaduct on top of it. ;)

Dan Savage wrote: "When freeways and roads are taken out of commission, people find other ways to work, switch to transit, alternate transportation, or move closer to work. Once people have made those adjustments, they can live with them—obviating the need to bring the road back."

Dan, on the face of it, you're absolutely right on this. But there's the difference between being right and being effective. The surface route is just not supported by politicians or the public.

Either a tunnel or a surface route opens up the waterfront and promotes dense development and public spaces in a prime location. For me, the more promising approach is to try to convince the tunnel advocates to downsize the proposal in some ways, such as capacity.

But here's what's so misleading about the "we can live without it" argument. This debate still comes down to the vision we have for the city. You could just as well argue: Hey, the city has managed this long without monorail or light rail, ergo I guess we don't really need those things either.

There is a logical fallacy at work here.

Generally speaking, yes, adding new highway capacity fails to relieve congestion, because it will fill back to capacity.

This has been a commonplace in urbanist circles since the Long Island Expressway was built some sixty years ago (actually the theory only dates from Jane Jacobs).

That however is not the same thing as saying that REMOVING capacity will not result in congestion there.

Removing an old freeway > preventing a new freeway. There isn't any evidence for it at all.

Everyone likes to point at the Embarcadero Freeway in San Francisco, but the cases are not comparable at all -- the Embarcadero Freeway didn't go anywhere. And you would be hard pressed to find an example anywhere in the world of an urban feature that would be more unwelcome in downtown Seattle than the current state of the Embarcadero. Ugh.

But that's what you're going to get -- only with more traffic, because the route is still critical. Six lanes of SURFACE traffic. Oh, goodie. One of the selling points of the monorail was that it was ELEVATED, and thus lifted the trains above the city pattern. The viaduct is the same way -- that's one of its major functions. It doesn't block the cross streets. All of a sudden, that's not important?

The other function, of course, is knitting the the two halves of the city together with the center. Seattle's geography (narrow-waisted, cut in half there by water) demands this major N-S route.

And, Dan, we've already decided, via the monorail vote, that "reclaiming the city from cars" isn't going to happen. I strongly supported the monorail, FIVE TIMES. (Four city-wide yes votes, and we have LESS monorail than we started with; how'd that happen?). But it's gone now. Not happening. The light rail doesn't serve, will never serve, the side of the city that the viaduct does (and the monorail would have). The examples are clear; ALL of the cities that have built surface-level light rail systems in recent decades have even sorrier results than the cities that stupidly built freeways instead.

So what's the alternative? I'm not hearing anything. "Ignore it and it will go away" is no way to run a city.

And there's still the matter of the effing seawall.

BTW, the People's Waterfront website is full of more BS than George Bush. Salmon habitat (nevermind that salmon spawn in streams, not bayshores) A new Aquarium (with what money?) Healthy shores (in a major downtown?) Working waterfront (which none of these airbrush artists have ever been near). Traffic will disappear! (because the city will go away).

Just because you can draw a picture of a pretty park in Photoshop doesn't mean you can make one on the ground.

The problems with Elliot Bay can't be addressed downtown. The concentration of bad environmental effects in cities is a GOOD thing, because the alternative is sprawl, which is where Elliot Bay and the Sound's problems need to be addressed. The people behind this may be "experts" but they certainly don't have any experience in creating seashore utopias in downtowns -- because that's never been done. The goals are incompatible -- working city downtowns vs. "ecological processes".

Their vision is essentially suburban. It's got nothing to do with a city. It's a nice piece of marketing work but it's not REAL. What they're creating isn't a "lively urban space"; it's an urban death zone.

"Seattle's geography (narrow-waisted, cut in half there by water) demands this major N-S route."

I'd say just the opposite, FNARF: Seattle's narrow waist means *two* major N-S routes are one too many.

I-5 is enough of a scar on the city. Make it double decker, put a lid on it, and link the western parts of the city to it via expressways.

But I agree with you - those Allied Arts visions of downtown are mainly just Green Party pie in the sky.

What's key is making downtown someplace people want to live - and not just work.

- or drive through.

Listen you snip-snarky pseudo-pragmatic, free-blogging pseudo-pundits, when gas is eight motherfucking dollars a motherfucking gallon (2012?) you're going to wish there was some goddamned for sensible way for moving people and shit around then in these bullshit fake armored personnel carriers your nation has been subsidizing. In fact, why the fuck should we subsidize suburban sprawl when we could make the current urban centers chic, vibrant, and rocking in bucks? Why the fuck do I have to get out of the way and pay your fucking middle east security bills so you can plow your humvee to issaquah and back twice a day? The private gasoline powered vehicle is killing America you dumbasses. We need to think differently then the 'conventional wisdom' of the last 50 years or we're fucked you dimfucks!

If we can really do without the viaduct then why spend the money tearing it down? Why not just reinforce or rebuild it? It'd be a lot cheaper than a tunnel.

The viaduct is key for people who live down here in SW Seattle. For those who say, "just move downtown and you won't have to deal with it." We'd love to live in the city as long as we could afford a freakin house and not have to live in some crap ass condo or apt. Hey shit while we're at why don't we just move to Manhattan and we can get all the benefits of living in the greatest city in the world. Come on people please get moderately realistic here.

It's easy to spout Urban Hipster Howl, Mr. Jensen--have you ponied up the $750,000 for a one-bedroom, downtown condominium yet?

False premise Napoleon. I don't have to, as long as there's some other capitalist who see's fit to do so and keeps stoking the perceived value of the town. Me, I'd love to find a more carbon efficient way to make my daily four mile schlepp from Leschi to SoDo. Ten minutes by indigent Nissan, 1 hour twenty minutes by concatenation of bus routes.

Re: West Seattle. I am so sorry the town got bambozzled again by Joel Horn and ilk. But elevated rapid transit is the right solution. We should get over our sense of being trounced (by absurdly tragic leadership - not by logic) and get another elevated solution under discussion. And this time, let's compare to the private cost of operating private vehicles when gas is 300% - 500% greater than present.

I would love to see eight-buck gas. That's the only thing that will give mass transit a serious chance.

But last time I checked, the viaduct doesn't go to Issaquah.

I am a former driver who spent several years as an apartment renter on Capitol Hill, then Queen Anne Hill, but now live in West Seattle. I lack patience with the morons who demand that the viaduct be torn down to discourage driving and promote mass transit alternatives.

How many of them have a clue that each and every commuter express bus between West Seattle (which makes up one-fifth of the city) and downtown runs on the viaduct?

Ugly the viaduct is, not unlike the prison block design of 1950s school buildings, but its current form is a more effective mass transit corridor than any road in the city. Screw the people who want it torn down permanently so the working waterfront can be supplanted by an amusement mall for those few dozen bicyclists and tourists that show up in utopian renderings of the downtown waterfront without an elevated traffic bypass, without a line of ferry traffic at street level, and without a freight train in sight.

By the way, people who warn the viaduct would be destroyed in a 7.0 magnitude quake ought to learn something about the Richter scale. It's based on a geometric scale where a 7.0 quake is close to eight times the magnitude of the 6.2 Nisqually quake that--to the dismay of viaduct haters--did only moderate damage to the current structure.

The vitriol here seems fueled by misinformation. The PWC is proposing fixes to the larger system so that roughly 70 - 80% of the trips currently on the viaduct will be accommodated in the grid, on an improved I-5, and on new transit. This includes more/better access from Spokane St for West Seattleites. You won't be stranded.
It's only 20% to 30% of the trips that are expected to stop happening altogether. This is typical of what has happened in other cities the many many times highway capacity has been reduced. And what happened in the months post-Nisqually quake, when 30,000 viaduct trips a day went away because this many people had a stronger desire to avoid the safety risk than they did for that particular trip.

This broad brush proposal is a first draft for what the fixes might be. It needs to be refined, costed, refined again. It was developed by blending a proposal by a former PRSC transportation planner and the info coming from SDOT on the Central City Access Strategy. Professionals. Very knowledgeable professionals. Whose job it is to care about mobility for both people and freight. And the numbers PWC estimates were blessed by senior staff at SDOT, who basically said "If the EIS didn't prevent study of a systemic multi-modal solution, a proposal just like this would be on the table."


None of the "fixes" the PWC proposes deals with the real problem - getting through downtown from Denny Way to Atlantic Street.

Been on a bus through downtown between 3 and 7PM lately (or, for that matter, I-5 between 6am and 2pm, and from 3pm to 7 or 8)? Wishful thinking is not a transportation strategy.

CARY Wrote:

"If the EIS didn't prevent study of a systemic multi-modal solution, a proposal just like this would be on the table."

Out of curiosity ---

Why did the EIS present a study?
Some indivisual had to make that
call when crafting the EIS.



"Why did the EIS present a study?
Some indivisual had to make that
call when crafting the EIS."

Whoops! It should be "Why did the
EIS PREVENT a study?....... "

Sorry about that.


Of course, ask WSDOT if you want the official answer. I've heard several hypotheses. One is that there are two basic kinds of projects; simple replacement of a facility, and more complex improvement / expansion of a facility. The former is a narrower EIS, easier to control and finish. The latter requires more exploration of broader set of solutions. They scoped this so it would fit the former because they already knew they wanted to replace the highway, and they wanted to do it fast so they can remove the safety risk asap. (And so the process would be less vulnerable to anti-highway wackos suggesting a multi-modal or non-highway type solution.) I've heard people at the County, at UW, at PSRC, and at the City concede that this was probably a bad call.

Another issue is the legislature put a limitation on state funds so they could only be used for a new highway of equal or greater capacity. Not sure if this was their own initiative, or their highway building friends or the state DOT encouraged them to do it.

Cary, the PWC has no concrete plan for developing mass transit in this city. In fact, I have yet to see a concrete plan of any sort, based on any concrete evidence, probably because you don't know where to begin researching, probably because you don't know the first thing about city economy, transportation corridors and their effect on said economy, and how a city works. You scoff at the civil engineers of the city and the DOT, but they understand how a city works a hell of a lot better than you and Cogswell do.

Thank you, Cary. So at this point, all we have is broad speculation whether or not removing the viaduct and doing
a multi-modal or non-highway is a
viable solution.

It would certainly seem reasonable since the Nickel tunnel option is
currently underfunded (and reported by
some as severly undercosted) that
an EIS study be completed on a multi-modal and/or non-highway solution.

Being a state highway, it is the state's responsibility and liability to replace or not replace the structure. From the state's standpoint, I believe the liability issue is the prevailing concern.

I think the state would want to look at cheaper alternatives, however anything that would impact city streets beyond what would be a direct replacement of the existing highway would require further city and state study and agreement.

I still am unsure just how much input the city ultimately has on the project. This has never been fully discussed. If push comes to shove, the state will start the project without further consideration of the city's wishes. I suspect this won't be more than a year due to the anti-gas tax inititive being rejected and that pesky liability issue.

Times a wastin'


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