Bad Transportation News, Part 1
A proposal in the state legislature that would allow the city council or voters to decide between two alternatives for replacing the Alaskan Way Viaduct is bad news for those, like the People’s Waterfront Coalition (currently getting good press in the Times), who want the city and state to at least study a third, no-highway alternative. (The viaduct will be shut down for at least four years during construction anyway: Proof, the PWC argues, that we can live without it permanently.)
Narrowing the choice to two alternatives—the mayor’s $4 billion-plus Big Dig-style tunnel and a rebuilt, 50-percent-wider elevated viaduct—effectively eliminates the no-highway alternative from the debate.
A public vote on the viaduct is a bad idea anyway. The debate about how to replace the crumbling viaduct is complex, and misinformation about the alternatives is rampant. How many people know, for example, that the mayor’s “tunnel” would dump six lanes of elevated traffic straight into the north end of Pike Place Market, ruining one of Seattle’s most beloved landmarks? Or that a rebuilt viaduct would actually be 25 feet wider than the current structure, and include eight-foot-wide columns and taller guard rails, eliminating West Seattle commuters’ beloved views? Giving ill-informed voters the choice between two bad alternatives, and spending billions based on that choice, is lousy public policy.