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Monday, September 11, 2006

If the News Team Gave Out Genius Awards…

Posted by on September 11 at 18:22 PM

(…and we just might this year…for Group, Activist, and a Sitting Politician), a lead candidate for genius Group would be The Congress for the New Urbanism.

CNU just released a report that challenges WSDOT’s and the Seattle City Council’s studies of the no replacement option (the streets and transit option, actually) for the Alaskan Way Viaduct.

I just got my hands on it. Lots of graphs and fun reading tonight.

Quickly, it looks like the study takes on some of the myths that skewed WSDOT’s findings against the People’s Waterfront Coalition’s “no rebuild option.”

Here’s what CNU says:
Myth #1: Most Alaskan Way Viaduct trips are long distance trips through the city. Nope! 58% of the trips are under five miles.

Myth #2: AWV is critical for freight. Nope! Only 4,000 “medium and heavy-duty trucks” per day on the AWV out of total traffic of 103,000.

Myth #3: The downtown street grid lacks capacity to move additional traffic. Nope. The street grid to the west of I-5 is about twice the capacity of AWV.

I’m going to give it serious read tonight, and I’ll report back tomorrow.

Shout Out to ECB in Germany: Aren’t you jealous?!?!

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If Numbers 2 and 3 are not myths, why did we have serious backups coming out of west seattle when the viaduct was temporarily closed in 2001 due to the earthquake?

Unless there are serious mass transit options put up for the no replacement option, that option would be potentially disasterous.

Why is "New Urbanism" in the Stranger anti-urban and "Regionalism" in the Seattle Times editorial pages anti-Seattle?

Maybe because there's no exit off of 99 to downtown anywhere between Spokane Street and Seneca? I think any "no-rebuild" option actually would have to include building off-ramps somewhere around Safeco Field.

For that matter, I believe any of the other proposed replacement options are going to close the current Seneca St. off-ramp and force W. Seattle people to exit at Safeco and drive into downtown via the street grid.

Genius awards? For such manifest bullshit? Whatever.

The street grid to the west of I-5 has twice the capacity of the Viaduct? Oh, cool-i-o! You know what else it has?

It has TRAFFIC LIGHTS, you nimrods!

This keeps coming up, but traffic problems experienced after the earthquake are more than likely due to drivers' confusion.

Want is relevant is not the relative capacity but AWV use compared to excess downtown capacity, particularly during rush hour

Nice try, Congress.

3. This is a stat trick. That 'double capacity' currently, as things stand, is near capacity WITH the viaduct. Without said viaduct, the grid becomes a waking nightmare.
2. ONLY 4000 trucks! Not that these trucks are carrying anything important....
1. The viaduct itself is less than two miles long. Five miles still makes it a thoroughfare en route to West Seattle, Ballard, Wallingford, Belltown, SODO and of course, Downtown.

As an engineer, I thought these things were extremely complicated, and required extensive study and simulation to even make predictions of reasonably likely scenarios. Who knew you could just ask Slog readers, who know everything with certainty? Gee, the world is grand.

The Stranger news crew only understands these things mildly better than you do. However, their support of at least investigating the no-rebuild option, and their more-extensive coverage of that option, is responsible because the idea of eliminating a highway is so non-mainstream as to be easily and unfairly dismissed, which it seems the relevant city and state agencies may be doing.

I feel compelled to respond to specific points as well. Eliminating the viaduct doesn't mean that everyone who would otherwise travel through downtown on the viaduct would instead have to go through the downtown street grid; it means that some of them would choose to, and most of them would take I-5 instead, which apparently is also in need of repair. I'd be willing to bet that most of those 4000 trucks use the viaduct at off-peak hours, when I-5 is not at capacity. The question really seems to be whether we need more than one uninterrupted north-south highway through the city's 2.5-mile-wide waistline. Manhattan, about the same width, has two, but on its outer edges, and the density there is many times Seattle's. And, there are good arguments both for reducing the convenience of driving in the city (heresy, as I mentioned above), and saving money at a time when it seems that every piece of transportation infrastructure around is in need of serious attention.

SO jealous! That, plus the news that Transportation Choices has released its recommendations for RTID and Sound Transit (, has me ready to come running home from Prague immediately!

NOINK: Manhattan? Wow, that's the worst comparable I've heard yet. Not only are the highway situations completely different, and the size, but so is the shape of the city. 99 is a THROUGH ROUTE; there is stuff on both ends of it.

It's a moot point, though, because as a state highway the city doesn't get a say in what happens to it, and the state legislature isn't going to put up with any "no viaduct" nonsense.

JF -- Your initial remarks don't make a whole lot of sense to me. First, many through trips (going through downtown without exiting) aren ot more then 5 miles, but they still count as "through trips". And I don't know what the hell you are saying with point number 3.

Why do people in Seattle turn into such pathetic cheapskates when it comes to investing in their city? No commons, no monorail, no baseball stadium, no basketball arena, no viaduct. Oh no, I might have to pay an extra couple of hundred dollars in taxes!! Talk about short-sighted.

They should build the biggest, deapest, grandest, most expensive, diamond-encrusted tunnel in the world, and line it with the skulls of all the hypocrites who attend Mariner's games even though they voted no on the stadium.

What Sean said.

This would have all been so much easier had we been willing to build the Monorail (and had their board not been populated by morons) and had Sound Transit been willing to ask for more funds at the beginning of this decade to finish light rail to Northgate by 2009.

A completed Monorail and light rail to Northgate would have taken a great deal of traffic off of the AWV. Commuters to downtown from West Seattle, south Seattle, Northgate and Ballard - all the folks who would likely use the AWV for these short trips - would have had another option, and the surface solution to the AWV corridor would easily be viable.

I'm not sure a tunnel is necessarily a good idea - as Boston showed, the cost will be much higher than we anticipate - but, Sean is right, Seattle needs to stop whining and start building.

Sean, go to hell.


Do Seattle journalism a favor and stay in Prague!

Honestly, ECB, I'm curious as to what else you saw in your trip to Germany. Can't wait to read about it when you get back!

'If Numbers 2 and 3 are not (sic) myths, why did we have serious backups coming out of west seattle when the viaduct was temporarily closed in 2001 due to the earthquake?'

Uh, cause it was a surprise?

Um, how about because I-5 and downtown streets are already congested for most of the day - even before you dump an additional 110,000 vehicle trips on them?

(BTW - 4000 heavy truck trips per day is a lot of travel - we're talking serious noise and wear and tear, as well)

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