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Monday, November 20, 2006

“To Start With, I Felt Very Alone.”

posted by on November 20 at 16:28 PM

Tear down a massive elevated freeway and perpetually gridlocked commuter route without building another freeway to replace it?

Insanity! Mayor Nickels says.

Madness! the state Department of Transportation chimes.

Folly! the City Council insists.

But they did it in Seoul, where a six-lane elevated freeway that carried 160,000 cars a day was demolished, reversing “one of the most comprehensive obliterations of the natural environment ever perpetrated” and replacing it with a five-mile long, 800-yard wide lateral park along the route of the river the freeway had displaced.

Kee Yeon Hwang, the urban planner who masterminded the demise of the freeway, called the Cheonggyecheon after the river it replaced, got the idea in 1999, when one of the three tunnels through the city had to be shut down. “Bizarrely,” he told the Guardian, “we found that that car volumes dropped. I thought this was odd. We discovered it was a case of ‘Braess paradox’, which says that by taking away space in an urban area you can actually increase the flow of traffic, and, by implication, by adding extra capacity to a road network you can reduce overall performance.”

The idea initially met with fierce and widespread opposition; people simply couldn’t believe the city could survive without the freeway. “To start with,” Hwang said, “I felt very alone. […] Ordinary people were a bit sceptical to start with, but then when they saw the river reappear, they got very excited.

The city didn’t just tear down the roadway; they improved bus service and gave people other options to avoid the city’s freeways, with surprising results:

As soon as we destroyed the road, the cars just disappeared and drivers changed their habits. A lot of people just gave up their cars. Others found a different way of driving. In some cases, they kept using their cars but changed their routes.”

The Cheonggyecheon before:



And after:



Here in Seattle, the naysayers continue to have sway over the debate about how to replace the Alaskan Way Viaduct, with their endless chorus of “It could never work here.” Everywhere else, meanwhile, it does.

RSS icon Comments


I never say it could never work here.

What I say is that the politicians don't want to do it.

Which is true.

Surface Plus Transit is as viable (with the southern elevated segment intact) as the Rebuilt Viaduct option.

It's just the non-funded $2billion-extra-in-Seattle-only-tax option for the underwater tunnel that's not viable.

Posted by Will in Seattle | November 20, 2006 4:56 PM

If you mean by "work", having a shit-ugly sewage ditch like that, then sure. It could work. A barren, windswept homeless encampment where the waterfront used to be? Sure, let's go for it.

I'm sure Seoul is laid out just like Seattle, after all.

Erica, how come you never bring up any examples of cities where viaducts ADD to the cities they are in, like Sydney, Australia?

Posted by Fnarf | November 20, 2006 5:00 PM

Nice park. Did someone forget to post the 'shoot on sight' signs?

Posted by Lloyd Clydesdale | November 20, 2006 5:03 PM

Perhaps we could learn from South Korea about crowd control, too.

Posted by Mr. X | November 20, 2006 5:18 PM

FNARF: I am asking you this sincerely: please tell me how the Cahill Expressway adds to Sydney. You could argue that Sydney has become a world-class city DESPITE the Cahill, but to say it ADDS to the city? Most Americans don't even know Sydney has an elevated freeway and that is because, naturally, nobody takes pictures of it. It's not exactly the Opera House. I quote, from wikipedia: "While being a vital link in the Sydney road system, it is generally not well loved by Sydneysiders, who dislike its ugly appearance and its division of the city from its waterfront."

Posted by cite | November 20, 2006 5:24 PM

My guess is Seoul doesn't look much like Seattle if you look at density, where people live vs. where they work, and availability of public transit.

The no-build option is faith-based transportation policy. It asks us to believe that removing the viaduct somehow won't cause the same gridlock that viaduct closures have in the past.

Posted by Orv | November 20, 2006 5:24 PM

This is the unfortunate difference between Seattle and Seoul:

Posted by cite | November 20, 2006 5:34 PM

yeah, ECB, this is a very unfair comparison. Seoul is not ungodly hilly like Seattle. face it, without a viaduct, every side-street alternate route takes so much longer because of the terrain.

also, seoul is very transportation oriented, with lots of car alternatives. and a shit ton of people live right in the heart of the city.

i call bullshit!

Posted by socialarsonist | November 20, 2006 5:45 PM

There are much better pictures of it in the Wikipedia entry for Cheonggyecheon.

Posted by shuichi | November 20, 2006 5:54 PM

The Cahill doesn't divide Sydney from its waterfront. Sydney has the most vibrant waterfront I've ever seen, and the massive block of the viaduct doesn't block anything any more than a building would. You can easily stroll through it, and it has numerous shops built right into it. And of course, it's a train station.

People who say things like "cuts the city off from the waterfront" don't know what they're talking about. They think that having a bunch of open space is a GOOD thing. But open space in a downtown is WASTED space. Life takes place in and around buildings. A viaduct, properly constructed, is just a long building. If you replace it with nothing, you've killed the life of the city; if you replace it with streets, you've cut the city off far more than before. What they should do is infill the viaduct, and make IT ITSELF a place that people want to go to.

Posted by Fnarf | November 20, 2006 5:55 PM

Ha-cha-cha-cha-cha, Cite. Good one. The drivers all disappeared down these dark holes interspersed throughout the city.

In another subway/commuter (exurb) rail-oriented city, Boston replaced the Central Artery with the Central Artery....Tunnel.

Posted by Lloyd Clydesdale | November 20, 2006 5:55 PM

...Boston replaced the Central Artery with the Central Artery....Tunnel.

Also known as "The Big Dig," or "one of the biggest civil engineering boondoggles of all time." They're still trying to decide if the thing is safe.

Posted by Orv | November 20, 2006 6:15 PM

Fnarf, you make me laugh. Nobody in Sydney likes the Cahill. They regret not tearing it down when they had the chance. Here is a blog from the Sydney Herald ranking it as the 9th biggest mistake in the history of Australia! (
But you, from the other side of the planet, tell them they don't know what they are talking about.

You know, Fnarf, it's not like a waterfront can only be open space or a freeway. There are a lot of other, great things that can be done with the space.

Posted by cite | November 20, 2006 6:54 PM

The sky will fall...the sky will fall...

But, then, I live on the East side of the city, and I don't get a snazzy elevated freeway to whisk me into the city. Hmmm...and nobody seems to be clamoring for my rights to get into and through the city in less time.

Riddle me this viaduct supporters...what will you turn to when the current capacity of our current freeway system in Seattle is completely filled? At some point, rationally, you'll have to begin to look for a support alternatives to single-occupancy vehicles, no? What then?

Posted by Timothy | November 20, 2006 6:57 PM

I call bullshit on Cite for phony sincerity (#5). Next time just ask the freakin' question. Cut the "so-sincere really want to find out" crap.

Posted by No Cite | November 20, 2006 7:08 PM

I visited Seoul last year, and that "shit-ugly sewage ditch" was clean, green, and full of families and couples walking alongside it, kids hopping across the stones laid in the middle, and lit up brilliantly at night. There are walls on either side with city history, and it was just a great place to be. I didn't even know it used to be a freeway. However, the subway system in Seoul is user-friendly, comprehensive, and thoroughly utilized by the city's residents - plus cabs are cheap. Without a good public transportation system, and a populace that would use it, Seattle will have to settle for giant concrete freeways instead.

Posted by iheartseoul | November 20, 2006 7:25 PM

"Life takes place in and around buildings. A viaduct, properly constructed, is just a long building."

That's a load of crock Fnarf. Buildings are vibrant because they have inhabitants, stores, and residents. People visit buildings for what is in side of them.

What's in the viaduct? Nothing. What's under it? From what I recall, mostly sketchy car parking. People don't go under the viaduct to hang out next to a pillar. They are either going to/from their car, or they are heading to/from the waterfront.

The only thing the viaduct has in common with a building is that it blocks sunlight. Other than that, it is huge, ugly, loud, and creates a blight on the city.

I say tear the fucker down and never look back!

Posted by Andrew Hitchcock | November 20, 2006 7:28 PM

The next person who dismisses a good idea by saying, Seattle isn´t New York, Paris, Seoul, Amsterdam, Barcelona, Madison Wisconsin, Chattanooga, Savannah, Scheveningen, Rio, Davis California or New Orleans should be made to pack their things and go live in Atlanta.

Posted by Grant Cogswell | November 20, 2006 7:59 PM

Grant in 18: I won't go live in Atlanta and not replacing a significant throughfare is a terrible idea, be it tunnel or viaduct replacement. You can go live in Atlanta and ride their fine train system that should have been Seattle's except for the process politicians and the inability for people to come together and do something the right way back in the 70's. Enjoy the heat.

The Cahill serves a completely different purpose than our viaduct (and it's quite a bit shorter). Yeah it's ugly, and yes people don't care for it, but it interconnects a couple of different motorway routes now (which prior to the Olympics didn't exist). It also balances stress between the Sydney Harbour Bridge and the Tunnel under the Harbour (which was built because the Bridge was clogged and Sydneysiders are now trying to decide whether it needs to be expanded).

An even bigger point is that all of these cities that are being discussed have a SUBSTANTIAL train system within them. Sydney, Seoul, Boston all have alternate ways to get around other than streets. As a former resident of Sydney I can tell you that even with the train system, it took building roads infrastructure to keep traffic moving.

Cite, as you noted in post 5 the Cahill is a VITAL part of the system. One doesn't have to love it. Sydney has many of the same difficulties we have because of a waterfront, and luckily they have recognized that not only do they have to further improve their rail system, they need to build roads to keep traffic moving.

Until there's a reasonable rapid transit system that doesn't involve buses, I'm against doing away with one of the two primary routes through the city.

Alternatively, I'm willing to move into the Stranger's offices as my new residence. Maybe my partner and I can throw a bed in ECB's work space.

Posted by Dave Coffman | November 20, 2006 8:16 PM

Fnarf, you know I adore you (a la distance, and in the abstract, because we've never met in person) but I really don't understand you aversion to the idea of just letting the viaduct go.

Seattle is not some shithole burg like Omaha, where you need ugly to keep people there and move them around. This is a beautiful town, beautifully situatated. People want to live here and people will adapt if the viaduct goes away.

As I have said before, we're eventually going to find out what life is like without the viaduct. Whether we do it under our control or mother nature's is the big decision facing us.

Posted by Catalina Vel-DuRay | November 20, 2006 8:18 PM

Andrew Hitchcock: You lack imagination. The reason there's nothing under the viaduct is because no one has put anything there. As I pointed out above, the viaduct in Sydney is CHOCK FULL OF STUFF.

Catalina: the reason I don't want to just do away with it is because it is essential for me. I routinely visit friends in the Rainier Valley and Beacon Hill. I also go to West Seattle and the airport periodically. None of these trips are serviced by usable public transportation. All of these trips will become four to five times as long without the viaduct. Downtown itself becomes an almost untenable proposition. Losing the viaduct means dividing the city permanently in half, with the south and north halves permanently unable to communicate. That will economically and culturally cripple this city.

On this question I speak for about three-fourths of the residents of this city. The fact that the debate here on the Slog is dominated by people who live on Capitol Hill and cannot conceive of any reason why they would ever want to travel off of Capitol Hill does not mean that those voices are typical. They are not.

Posted by Fnarf | November 20, 2006 8:31 PM

As I commented in the last viaduct flame fest, why not just build the wide and short side-by-side viaduct WSDOT proposed with a park and streetcar on top? It'd have a hell of a view, which is more than can be said for the Seoul ditch.

With redevelopment of the aquarium, piers and park to connect with the park deck, you'd have just as vibrant a waterfront as with the tunnel plan, and a right-of-way to connect the South Lake Union, Waterfront and First Hill streetcar lines.

Posted by Some Jerk | November 20, 2006 8:59 PM

First San Francisco, then Milwaukee, then NYC (like people drive there) and now SEOUL, KOREA? What next, ECB, the capital of Madagascar ripping out the central arterial?

I shouldn't be surprised at how much you left out. Did Seoul have a transit system? What is their street grid like? Go figure we see nothing more than vague anecdotal evidence that serves only to further the narrative of the post. And this completely discounts any economic, commuting, working lifestyle and cultural differences that Korea has from the US.

But never mind you that. You now have another example to preach about. Preach on, sister.

Posted by Gomez | November 20, 2006 9:56 PM

Maybe we should set some ground rules for what constitutes an analogous situation that would be convincing to the omg-without-the-viaduct-we'd-all-starve-to-death crowd. Or they could find some examples of their own, where cities removed viaduct-like-structures and ended up collapsing into neoneolithic savagery. I'd be a lot more convinced if they could just find an example of a modern city being improved by the addition of extra traffic capacity. Or even if they could just show that adding capacity reduces traffic at all. Until you can prove that, the conclusion that removing capacity will be this big horrible thing is just silly.

Posted by gfish | November 20, 2006 10:09 PM

Hey Fnarf, it could be even more convenient if we had a whole network of freeways criss-crossing the city -- maybe an off-ramp right by your house. Why should you have to take surface streets to get somewhere? Fuck those Capitol Hill types who never leave home. The city exists to make it convenient for drivers to get around -- that's the whole point of a city, right?

Posted by cite | November 20, 2006 10:20 PM

Modern cities improved by adding capacity:

1) Sydney.
2) Melbourne.
3) Auckland.
4) San Francisco (capacity added to rapid transit)
5) Portland (capacity added by rapid transit)
6) Vancouver (capacity added by rapid transit

The list could continue... and like I've said I'm all for looking at converting the viaduct to the lovely, parky, open blight that will come to be... if there is proper rapid transit. I figure at Sound Transit's rate, we might get closer around 2050. We'll have to be because Nickels et al want a bunch more people in the city by then.

Posted by Dave Coffman | November 20, 2006 10:23 PM

Fnarf: I'm sure Seoul is laid out just like Seattle, after all.

I agree, Fnarf. The viaduct is a unique and special highway, unlike any other highway in the world. Why? Because Seattle is a unique and special city, unlike any other city in the world.

San Francisco, Portland, New York, Milwaukee, etc., and now we hear about Seoul. Just because these cities had success with tearing down elevated highways is no proof that tearing down the viaduct will work here. Likewise, just because no human being has lived beyond 120 years is no proof that I myself will not live forever. But hey, I believe that I am unique and special just like Seattle is. I'm a Seattlist, and I believe in Seattlism because I believe in Seattle.

More Fnarf: Erica, how come you never bring up any examples of cities where viaducts ADD to the cities they are in, like Sydney, Australia?

Um, the Cahill Expressway was built even before the viaduct was built, and all the Australians I've talked to have described it as an anachronism that no one would dream of doing today.

Posted by cressona | November 20, 2006 10:53 PM

Fnarf: People who say things like "cuts the city off from the waterfront" don't know what they're talking about. They think that having a bunch of open space is a GOOD thing. But open space in a downtown is WASTED space.

Fnarf is right. Open space in downtowns is evil. The worst mistake New York City's socialist/elitist planners ever made was creating Central Park in Manhattan and Prospect Park in Brooklyn. They're just hundreds of acres of blight. Hopefully, someday New Yorkers will get some sense and tear down all those stinkin' trees and put that land to some actual practical use. Hey, how about parking lots?

Fnarf continued: Life takes place in and around buildings. A viaduct, properly constructed, is just a long building.

Again, Fnarf is right. Elevated highways are the fabric of our lives. They are monuments to the way of life God has blessed America with. And if we really want to fulfill our city's aesthetic potential, we should focus on building more.

Posted by cressona | November 20, 2006 11:12 PM

The problem is that Seattle's mobility is not a theoretical construct, it is our own reality. For those fortunate enough to live in Belltown, Capitol Hill and neighborhoods on the north and east sides of the city it is easy to imagine life without a viaduct. After all, you never use it for personal trips. And after all, the majority of folks posting here have no kids or senior parents to care for and ferry around so you don't use it either.

So you have convinced yourself that we don't need the viaduct. Even though the viaduct is packed daily with UPS, DHL, and Airborne trucks delivering the latest orders from Amazon. Even though the viaduct carries the trucks with beans and pastries to Vivace and the liquor for all your favorite watering holes. But hey, it is easy to compartmentalize one's life.

I am an environmentalist, transit user, and someone who doesn't believe in more freeways to solve traffic problems. At the same time I think Seattle is not Seoul, or SF, or Portland, or Milwaukee, or Brazil, or Vancouver.

We have our own unique set of circumstances including:
* an amazing lack of transit
* a city with a very narrow waist, a big ass, and an enormous bust
* a relatively unique mix of heavy industry, port activity, and a healthy high-tech and service economy.

Cary, Erica and Josh want us all to accept their faith based transportation planning. (nice, Orv) But I don't think that they talk to a wide variety of average people in Seattle and this region who use the viaduct daily. West Seattle is almost 20% of the city's population and is poised to handle more density. I live here now and West Seattle rocks! There are another 100,000 people along the 509 corridor to the south. I lived for years in Ballard until I wanted to buy and was forced to move south. The Aurora--SR 99 corridor becomes a necessity to travel anywhere south of downtown without a tortuous journey to I-5. Drive the viaduct any day and you will see the amount of freight it carries. Not the big container freight that gets measured, but countless delivery trucks, small businesses, sales people, etc.

So what do Cary, Erica, and Josh propose to replace the viaduct? Well, a busy six-lane surface Aurora on the waterfront for one? Any transit? don't really have a plan for that or any likely funding sources...We are supposed to get some street improvements to make all of that new surface traffic move better. But we have absolutely no funding for that either. It is essentially the do nothing option. Quite the leap of faith.

We aren't going to be able to physically or financially build much transit in this city and region until ten or twenty years have passed. We are way behind and giving up a tunnel won't make it happen a day faster. I won't stand for a bigger version of the elevated viaduct. Seattle needs and deserves a tunnel AND transit. The surface option is only acceptable if the state and region try to shove an elevated Viaduct down our throats. Then this West Seattle resident will fight to have an incredibly frustrating daily commute and less time with my kids. The word 'slog' will come to have a much richer meaning for us.

Posted by i prefer a reality-based commute | November 20, 2006 11:14 PM

BTW--Grant, when you move somewhere else you don't really get to say pack your bags to people who disagree with you.

Posted by i prefer a reality-based commute | November 20, 2006 11:18 PM

Yet more Fnarf: On this question I speak for about three-fourths of the residents of this city. The fact that the debate here on the Slog is dominated by people who live on Capitol Hill and cannot conceive of any reason why they would ever want to travel off of Capitol Hill does not mean that those voices are typical. They are not.

Interesting that Fnarf should bring up this three-fourths figure. And Capitol Hill.

Consider the 46th legislative district, which covers Greenwood, North Seattle, Lake City, and the northern parts of Green Lake and Phinney Ridge. Capitol Hill? Not even close. At the last meeting of the 46th District Democrats, State Senator Ken Jacobsen stopped by and introduced the following resolution:

NOW THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED that The 46th District Democrats believe that it makes no sense to replace the Viaduct with an elevated highway fifty percent larger than the existing structure. That we are concerned that the traffic noise, exhaust smell, and tons of concrete will foul an area designed for people not cars. That it would be a tragedy to apply 1950's logic and a poor solution to solve the problems of the 21st Century. Given the foregoing we are strongly opposed to any alternative that would replace the Viaduct with another elevated structure.

A motion to adopt that resolution was approved 30-10. If I recall my elementary-school math correctly, 30/40 is three-fourths.

But hey, in Fnarf's defense these are probably just liberal elitist Democratic activists who only own second homes in northern Seattle but spend most of their time in Capitol Hill. I am not about to doubt Fnarf's claim that he is the voice of the people. Or make that three-fourths of the people.

Posted by cressona | November 20, 2006 11:27 PM

Wow Cressona, what a blistering attack. Before going off tho, I'd check facts:

1) The Cahill Expressway opened in 1955, two years after our viaduct.

2) The 46th Dems appear to have voted in favor of not having another elevated structure. This does not = surface street option...

3) To my knowledge, Portland hasn't torn down a viaduct- they just didn't go through with their freeway plans- much like Seattle. Milwaukee (where I'll be from tomorrow night) is one giant construction zone and it remains to be seen if doing away with their small freeway spur improves downtown. Downtown Milwaukee doesn't have much going for it with regards to night life (compared to Chicago or Seattle) and probably never will. I'll admit that the tear down of the Embarcadero Freeway has been successful in SF, but in my opinion a very large part of that has to do with the significantly heightened public transport available. I still don't think Seoul or NY are comparable- density issues mean that public transport is very likely much more convenient than driving anywhere.

Posted by Dave Coffman | November 21, 2006 12:07 AM

What a lovely set of straw men you bring up, Cressona and Cite.

Central Park, Prospect Park: not downtown, not at the port, not in the way of critical arteries. They are much more similar to our Volunteer Park, in more ways than one. I am not suggesting we build a freeway through Volunteer Park, nor is anyone else. I am in fact not advocating building a new freeway anywhere at all, let alone one to my doorstop.

Surely you are not suggesting that what happens at precinct meetings in the 46th reflects the opinions of anyone aside from the handful of wonks and operatives who attend those meetings? I know it's fun to attack me for wanting door-to-door service and a criss-cross of expressways every ten feet, but get real: I'm not talking about me. I'm talking about the vast majority of people in large sections of the city. Do you have any real or even bullshitty evidence that more than 25%, 10% even, of the city supports Cary Moon's pipe dream?

It's also fun to make me out to be an anti-urban fat-ass who wants convenient driving routes at the expense of everything else. But that's also a lie. In addition to having hundreds of thousands of neighbors, I have always been a loud advocate for the monorail, all five times we voted on it (and no, it wouldn't have gone anywhere near my house). I have always supported transit options that work. The bus system in this city DOESN'T WORK and cannot work. The more buses you add, the slower traffic gets and the slower the buses get. And the monorail is GONE. I am aware of that fact; are you? You keep talking like transit's the answer, but THERE IS NO TRANSIT.

Your arguments are not helped by these straw men. Nor are they helped by the efforts of dim bulbs like the People's Waterfront Coalition, whose web site embodies every failed cliche of architectural bullshit. Are you really expecting to persuade people with bald-faced lies like "it'll bring back the salmon, they'll spawn on the waterfront" (salmon are riverine, they do not spawn in salt water).

Their plan does not address the port, and would drive away that economic engine. It does not address the largest ferry terminal on the west coast. It postulates an empty boulevard, with some popular catchphrases like "urban core" and "human connections" and "win-win", but is relying on the oldest and lamest architecture-school assumption: that a pretty watercolor is the same as reality. It's not reality; it's a lie.

The PWC option, as pictured, would cost ten times as much as the fanciest tunnel: do you see the wall of new buildings there? Do you see the hundreds of existing buildings that would have to be vacated, at market rates? Do you see any transit? I don't. I see a kid skateboarding and another kid with a ball. Whoo hoo.

Let's get back to Sydney for a second. You can stroll under their viaduct in a minute, past crowds of people enjoying the waterfront (ten times prettier than hours). There's a not-very-busy street on the city side, because all the traffic is overhead. Crossing is a breeze. And it's full of life; there are shops in it. People are all around it; and not just tourists; Circular Quay is a main train station and the center of their extensive ferry system (dozens of lines leave from there). Take all that away and what do you have? Views? I don't think so; there's still a solid wall of buildings there. Access to the waterfront? No, because now all that traffic is on the street. It's a major approach to the Sydney Harbour Bridge. You would have to walk through that traffic to get to the waterfront. How clever would that be?

Seattle is in a similar situation. You currently have a structure which elevates traffic overhead, allowing for easy access to the waterfront. You say it's unattractive? Well, that would require some investment to fix, but far less than the much larger wasteland surface is designed to create. Why, oh, why, does the argument that elevating it overhead instead of running it at grade, work only for the monorail and not for other, proven situations?

Because it doesn't accord with the half-understood cliches of the anti-car movement.

You all get exasperated when I criticize your analogies for being unrealistic. "Oh, right, Fnarf, Seattle is totally unique." But what I am criticizing is UNTHINKING analogies; you can't just throw up San Francisco, Seoul, Milwaukee, but you never seem to really examine those cities. Seattle IS unique, and any plan that doesn't take into account what the area is actually like is going to fail. San Francisco's Embarcadero is a MISERABLE TRAGEDY there, and would be much, much worse if we replicated it here -- completely leaving aside the viaduct and traffic issue. Seoul? Did you not notice their subway system? Did you really look at that sewage ditch and think "Christ, if we could get one of those, we're really be happening"?

I've been a transit and urbanism advocate for twenty years in my own small way. But get real. I hear all the cliches that I've been hearing for all that time, but they have filtered out of the urban-planning schools and New Urbanism practicums into ordinary discourse, but they STILL HAVE TO CONNECT TO SOMETHING ON THE GROUND. They aren't here. You're throwing away an absolutely critical artery for a pipe dream that's going to achieve the EXACT OPPOSITE of all the urban fantasies you have.

I can't help but notice also that the attempts at serious discussion are coming from surface-option skeptics, while all the personal attacks and dismissive sneering is directed at me. Hey, bring it on.

Posted by Fnarf | November 21, 2006 8:42 AM

You're trying to will away traffic with no back-up plan for the impact of the Beautiful Speed Bump (duh, Surface Option). In a long city that already has east/west traffic issues, you can't dismantle one of the two main north/south arteries.

There is no transit/subway to suck up the auto-rubble. No, Light Rail is not sufficient. Buses? Joke.

Orv (12) I believe it was the I-90 Connector tunnel (Boston) that had the ceiling failure. But my point is that they built the tunnel under the viaduct that they tore down. As far as the Big Dig goes, Boston's ace-in-the-hole during the whole shebang: A subway/commuter rail system to help handle the displacement and keep things moving during the construction process, thus avoiding crippling gridlock.

Posted by Lloyd Clydesdale | November 21, 2006 8:55 AM

Wow (jaw drops). Preach on, FNARF, preach on!!!

(Of course, if you disagree with the typical Slog distillation of the worst and most pollyanna-ish elements of New Urbanism, you clearly must be a Republican, but that was a noble effort regardless).

Posted by Mr. X | November 21, 2006 8:55 AM

I am NOT a Republican!

I do however note that the most famous and successful New Urbanist, Peter Calthorpe, has two projects in the Northwest: Issaquah Highlands and Northwest Landing (in Dupont, south of Tacoma on I-5). Is that what you're hoping to see on Seattle's waterfront? Hah haha haha haha hah. Lovely watercolors though.

Bill Virgin in the P-I today called the surface option "T-Shirt-Vendor Boulevard".

Posted by Fnarf | November 21, 2006 9:16 AM

Fnarf -- isn't there some kind of unwritten rule that the length of a comment can't exceed the original post? Well regardless, if you want anyone to read your comment, it would be best to keep it a little shorter.

You can say that point to all these other cities and say "well this one has a subway and this one has ____ , and Seattle is so different." But the thing that all those other cities had in common with Seattle was a huge majority saying that if you tore down their freeway, the city would come to a standstill, etc. Even Seoul with its subway, people still said it would be disaster. But in every case where the freeway was torn down, things worked out fine.

Posted by cite | November 21, 2006 10:33 AM

...yeah, and in all of the cases Cite cites, they had viable mass transit options.

Wish in one hand, shit in the other, and see which one fills up first....

Posted by Mr. X | November 21, 2006 10:51 AM

"West Seattle is almost 20% of the city's population and is poised to handle more density."

Then why can't West Seattle build some offices or have folks work from there? Why do they all have to come downtown or further north?

"We are way behind [on transit] and giving up a tunnel won't make it happen a day faster."

Uhh, are you sure? When the day comes that people propose transit in that corridor (the same corridor that would have been served by the monorail, I believe), people will clamor, "But you have a nice big new road!" Or perhaps they'll say, "Are you kidding me? We barely have enough money to pay off this boondoggle of a tunnel!"

For those of you who constantly dismiss any example of cities tearing down elevated highways by saying "It'd never work here", I'd like you to show some examples of cities that tore down elevated highways and were subsequently crippled, either socially and economically.

"The bus system in this city DOESN'T WORK and cannot work. The more buses you add, the slower traffic gets and the slower the buses get."

Yes, but if those buses didn't exist, then it would be even more packed with SOVs. I think we need more bus/bike only streets, like 3rd. Also, this will be come less of a problem when the bus tunnel comes back online.

Also, what cite (37) just said.

Posted by Andrew Hitchcock | November 21, 2006 11:13 AM

I *heart* FNARF.

Posted by pox | November 21, 2006 11:31 AM

How come nobody in the media or the DOT has responded to Erica's assertion that the Viaduct only handles - was it 75,000 cars? - instead of 110,000 like they've always claimed? It's a pretty big deal if it is true!

Posted by cite | November 21, 2006 11:59 AM


WSDOT has - they demolished her analysis.

From: Emelie East
To: "David Della" , "Jan Drago" , "Jean Godden" , "Nick Licata" , "Peter Steinbrueck FAIA" , "Richard Conlin" , "Richard McIver" , "Sally Clark" , "Tom Rasmussen"
Cc: "Ben Noble" , "Michael Fong" , "Scott MacColl"
Subject: Fwd: FW: Viaduct Misinformation in The Stranger
Sent: Friday, November 17, 2006 12:56 AM
Council Members,

As you may have seen, the Stranger today ran a story on their website regarding the AWV. WSDOT has prepared a response, and I wanted to ensure you had that information should you be asked any questions. (see below)




From: Grotefendt, Amy
Sent: Thu 11/16/2006 1:47 PM
To: Grotefendt, Amy
Subject: Viaduct Misinformation in The Stranger

On The Stranger's Web site today a story was posted that contained incorrect information about traffic counts on the Alaskan Way Viaduct and accusing WSDOT of inflating the numbers. The correct information is below -- please pass this on to anyone who might be interested.

The Stranger: "The 110,000 figure is based on traffic models and hasn't changed since at least 2002, when newspapers first began reporting the figure. A look at WSDOT's actual traffic counts, as measured by a computerized sensor on the roadway itself, however, shows "annual average daily traffic" of only 74,700 vehicles -- just 68 percent of WSDOT's inflated numbers."

The Fact: This is a grossly misleading statement. The traffic count referred to in the story is from just north of Spokane Street. The 110,000 traffic count cited by WSDOT refers to trips along the central waterfront which more accurately represents the trips that use SR 99 to travel through and to downtown Seattle. A map showing the traffic counts and locations is attached.

The Stranger: "A surface street, combined with improvements to the street grid and transit downtown, could easily accommodate 75,000 cars."

The Fact: For a surface street to accommodate 75,000 vehicles, it would need to be grade-separated, intersections and crosswalks would be severely limited, and traffic into and out of Colman Dock would have to be grade-separated.

Please call me if you have any questions or need more information.

Amy Grotefendt
Alaskan Way Viaduct and Seawall Replacement Project

I don't have a URL for the map that came with the email, but it showed all of the ramps/access/egress points and how many cars got on/off/passed through at those points.

WSDOT 1, ECB 0. Don't hold your breath waiting for a retraction.

Posted by Mr. X | November 21, 2006 12:25 PM

thanks for posting that, i hadn't seen it. yeah, erica should at least respond, if not retract.

Posted by cite | November 21, 2006 12:32 PM


Posted by Lloyd Clydesdale | November 21, 2006 12:59 PM

I declare the Anti-Fnarfites victors in this flamefest. Not based on whether the Viaduct or surface street is the best solution, but for the high % of BS Fnarf got called out on.

Posted by him | November 21, 2006 1:43 PM

Actually, we already know what would happen if the Viaduct was torn down, don't we? It was closed after the Nisqually Earthquake, after all. I wasn't around here for that, but I'm told that there was serious gridlock and it was nearly impossible to get out of West Seattle. The no-build option proponents expect us to take it on faith that it'll somehow be different this time.

Posted by Orv | November 21, 2006 2:01 PM

Orv, there was no gridlock when the Viaduct was down. It was easy to get downtown from West Seattle. Sidewalks were a bit crowded, but the walk only took two hours.

Posted by WS | November 21, 2006 2:19 PM

and 15 minutes by bike

Posted by cite | November 21, 2006 2:44 PM

"I'm told that there was serious gridlock and it was nearly impossible to get out of West Seattle."

That's true, but it's not an accurate estimation of what would happen with in an engineered non-viaduct environment. The tall West Seattle Bridge is integrated into the highway that the viaduct runs on. I would imagine that, in removing the viaduct, they would radically redesign - or replace - the Spokane Street viaduct to feed I-5 and West Seattle traffic onto the surface streets more intelligently.

Which is a good thing - that Spokan viaduct is almost as scary as the Alaskan Way viaduct.

Posted by Quake Quake | November 21, 2006 2:50 PM

No gridlock when the Viaduct was down? I call bullshit. Whenever the Viaduct has been shut down (and that has happened multiple times), it has added at least 30 minutes to my husband's normal 45-minute commute on northbound I-5.

Posted by celyn | November 21, 2006 2:51 PM

5 seconds, by astral projection.

Posted by Lloyd Clydesdale | November 21, 2006 2:56 PM

If the Governor is smart, she won’t mandate a rebuild. She’ll simply announce that the decision is up to the City of Seattle, and give them two months to decide: tunnel or rebuild, no other options, with the caveat that if the City chooses a tunnel, they must sign a contract to pay for 1) the cost of the project beyond a rebuild; and 2) any cost overruns. No decision in two months, and it’s rebuild.

That way, she can say she’s done right by the rest of the state, insulating herself against Dino Rossi, and Seattle can have its tunnel if it’s willing to put its money where its mouth is.

An added benefit is that it will snuff out the surface option, as it won’t allow Seattle to squirm into its backup plan, since she’ll give them free reign to pursue their #1 option.

Posted by A | November 21, 2006 4:10 PM

Him: the percentage of bullshit in my post that I was successfully called out on is zero. The bullshit is coming from the other direction. Or did you miss the part where the state official says "Colman Dock would have to be grade-separated".

Andrew Hitchcock: "Then why can't West Seattle build some offices or have folks work from there?" is perilously close to "stay out of my neighborhood". I'm sure you really mean "I myself never leave my neighborhood, thus I cannot imagine why anyone else would want to leave theirs". Still, remarkably opposed to civil society.

Cite: if you can't or won't read, you should just give up.

Posted by Fnarf | November 21, 2006 4:18 PM

Fnarf - If everyone posted 10+ paragraphs in the comments, that would kill the comments. Nobody, including you, would read them. You really have to be pretty self-important to think anyone is going to read 10+ paragraphs of your musings.

Anyway, I don't think there was any reason to read your whole post, Fnarf. As George Bernard Shaw once said, you don't have to eat a whole egg to know it's rotten.

Posted by cite | November 21, 2006 5:09 PM

I beg to differ - those were 10 paragraphs of quality AND quantity.

It's sort of like Salieri (sic) telling Mozart that his piece had too many notes. I just don't see any notes there that needed cutting, myself.

Posted by Mr. X | November 21, 2006 5:53 PM

"the Spokane Street viaduct to feed I-5 and West Seattle traffic onto the surface streets more intelligently."

Sadly, you'd be wrong. I've seen the plans for rebuilding the Spokane Street Viaduct, and they don't address the nightmare that currently is the eastbound merge onto northbound I-5 at all (and the merge to southbound I-5 isn't a lot better). This merge backs traffic up for over a mile on most mornings, and is one of the realities on the ground that make the PWC assertion that you can move AWV traffic to I-5 particularly laughable.

With regard to surface streets, the first two phases of the project actually screw up street access, which won't be addressed until they do a cloverleaf for buses until the third phase (as I recall, and I'll admit it's been awhile since I looked at the plan).

Posted by Mr. X | November 21, 2006 6:00 PM

Cite: as the curate said of the rotten egg, "many parts of it were excellent". Who's winning the dueling egg quotes now?

I use a lot of paragraphs because it makes it easier to read. Would you like it better if I ran it together?

Funny thing: I just watched an episode of Anthony Bourdain's "No Reservations" set in Seoul, Korea. Guess what they've got? Viaducts all over the fucking place. They may have torn down that one in Erica's pictures, but they left all the others, including a honking huge one that runs along the entire waterfront. It's not really clear from the video, but it looks like there might be two or even three of them. And Seoul has not only survived these atrocities, it has somehow developed an astonishing amount of street life -- the kind of street life that Seattle would kill for.

But then reality is always more confusing than preconceived notions.

Posted by Fnarf | November 21, 2006 9:49 PM

Andrew (#39) says,

Then why can't West Seattle build some offices or have folks work from there? Why do they all have to come downtown or further north?

Well, Andrew, West Seattle is Seattle, since 1906. Developers and the city decide where offices are built. But your comment illustrates a peculiar attitude I have noticed in many of the commenters and the Stranger itself.

In this world view you only live in the "city" if you live in QA, Fremont, the U District, Capitol Hill, Downtown, or Belltown. Folks like you consider urban residents like us from West Seattle, Ballard, the Rainier Valley, or Lake City as being from the burbs.

I work where you work and where most people work--downtown. I bike, bus, and drive to get to work. We have two kids and two jobs and we get by with one car.

I would be very interested to see how many of you felt if you had a different set of tradeoffs to make in your personal lives. It is all fine and well to spout platitudes when you are single, childless, live on a great bus line in a rental apt or condo. But we can't all make that choice.

Posted by i prefer a reality-based commute | November 21, 2006 10:06 PM

Spot on, Reality-Based Commute. I once had two Capitol Hill types tell me the suburbs started at Roanoake. They were not joking.

Suburban hicks who live in Ballard and West Seattle already have waterfronts in their part of town. If those who choose to live on Capitol Hill want a nice waterfront, they can just move off the hill, and join the reality-based communities.

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