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Monday, January 8, 2007

Damn You, Westneat!

posted by on January 8 at 11:54 AM

A week or two ago I was in a bar, ranting away at Josh Feit—an odd occurrence, I know—about the Alaskan Way Viaduct. Odder still, huh?

Right now there are three options on the table: rebuild, tunnel, or the surface option. (And, yes, the surface option is barely on the table.) The rebuild is favored by the governor, faux-populists, and idiots that tell us they enjoy the view from the viaduct (aren’t you supposed to be driving?). The tunnel is favored by the mayor and his staff. The third option—the surface option—is favored by, well, The Stranger, the People’s Waterfront Coalition, and all sensible people everywhere. (Okay, there’s a fourth: retrofit. But that’s only favored by batshitcrazies.)

Our leaders insist that we can’t replace the current viaduct with “nothing,” their word for the PWC’s proposal for a wide surface street coupled with transit and traffic improvements throughout the downtown core. We are told again and again that we have to maintain the viaduct’s current capacity at all costs—even if those costs run into the billions of dollars, even if maintaining capacity flies in the face of the other stated goals like, oh, cutting greenhouse gas emissions.

So certain are our elected officials that the PWC’s plan is a non-starter that they refuse to seriously study it, much less consider it. We simply can’t live without the viaduct, they insist, and all the cars it carries to and through the heart of the city every day. If the hippies and bike huggers who favor the surface get their way we’ll see gridlock.

But get this: Whether we go with a pricey tunnel or criminally stupid rebuild, we’re going to have to live without the viaduct anyway. For years. Whether the mayor is pouring money into the ground or the governor is building a brand new elevated freeway through the middle of the city (at the same time other cities are ripping them out), we gonna be without the viaduct for a long, long time.

So… since we’re going to have to live without the viaduct for years anyway… why not run a little experiment? The structure is unsafe—shut it down yesterday. Make transit and traffic improvements throughout the city core. And then wait. It seems to me that we’ll find out pretty quick if we can, in fact, live without the viaduct.

I was gonna write about all of this… but that damn Danny Westneat at the Seattle Times beat me to it. Worse still, he had a real-world example to back up his policy suggestion. From Westneat’s Sunday column:

When the downtown Seattle bus tunnel closed for two years of construction, transit bosses were braced for gridlock.

“There was a lot of concern it was going to be a disaster, with buses jamming the streets and traffic backed up all over the place,” says Jim Jacobson, deputy manager of Metro, which runs the buses. People were so worried buses would be at a standstill that the city chose to ban cars from Third Avenue, the street above the tunnel, during rush hours.

Then people fretted that cars would hopelessly clog the other streets. So Jacobson says they did “a thousand little things” to compensate—such as moving bus stops farther apart and eliminating some parking to aid traffic flow.

Fifteen months ago, the tunnel closed. A funny thing happened: Most commuters have been getting through downtown faster than ever.

That’s right: faster. Buses are traversing almost every downtown street quicker without the tunnel. In some cases, dramatically so…

Who knew? We could live without the bus tunnel! Hey, doesn’t that mean that maybe we could live without…

[The] tale of the bus tunnel has me wondering again about our other tunnel, the one not yet built. What to do with the Alaskan Way Viaduct is down to two choices: build a new elevated one or a tunnel. It’s the big ugly or the big costly.

Do we really need either one? What if we did a thousand little things instead?

This idea is not mine. It’s been talked about for years: Tear down the viaduct, reduce Highway 99 to a small boulevard through Seattle and then try to make up for the loss of the freeway with busways, freightways, beefed-up arterials and so forth.

I have no idea if it would work. I could quote experts saying it’d be smooth sailing. And experts saying it would paralyze the city. You know, it would sound a lot like the debate about the bus tunnel.

So here’s my modest proposal: Let’s just try it. Close the viaduct. It’s unsafe anyway, remember? Let’s come up with a thousand-point plan like they did for the bus tunnel and shut down the viaduct for a month or two. Then see what happens.

Yes, yes, yes to Westneat’s proposal. Which is actually my proposal, only Westneat beat me to making it, and made a better case for it than I could. Damn you, Westneat. Anyways…

Rebuild or no rebuild, tunnel or no tunnel, we’re going to have to live without the viaduct for five-to-seven years anyway. So… it seems to me that it might be a good idea to see what life without a viaduct is like before we commit to spending billions of dollars to replace it. Since we’re going to have enact everything surface option backers are proposing during the construction of a tunnel or a rebuilt viaduct, why not enact the surface option now and see if the doomsday predictions come true? Because it’s going to be a tragedy—a fucking crime—if we find out we can live without the viaduct only after we’ve started to build a tunnel or a new elevated structure.

RSS icon Comments


I think it's a great idea, Dan. I say that as a surface/transit supporter.

But you still have to deal with traffic volumes in the future: 2030, 2050. The question is not just can we deal with no viaduct in 2007, it's what happens when the region adds another million or so residents in the next 30 - 50 years.

Again, i'm saying this as a transit nut who'd rather we spend the money on a gold-plated monorail for the 99 corridor. I'm just trying to predict WSDOT's objections.

Posted by Frank Bruno | January 8, 2007 12:07 PM

Finally, unanimity. 2 out of 2 Seattle-by-way-of-Chicago editors named Dan agree: Close down the Viaduct.

Posted by MvB | January 8, 2007 12:08 PM

This is absolutely the best idea I've heard in regard to this issue.

Posted by Baxter | January 8, 2007 12:09 PM

When the Viaduct was closed a few months ago for the weekend (repairs and safety checks) it took me 50 mintues, FIFTY, to get from West Seattle to Greenwood on a Saturday afternoon.

I know you all think West Seattlites are losers, but guess what, that's where we live and we have to go somewhere. Please tell me where you will funnel all of the traffic that normally takes 99. And I-5 is not an answer.

And for all the public transport fran - I would be happy, overjoyed, to take public transit. But the current infrastructure cannot handle my, nor the average West Seattlites', transportation needs.

Posted by WSP | January 8, 2007 12:09 PM

I'm all for the freightways in particular. Freight shipping is the one thing that can't be made up for with other transit options, and it's vital as a port city. Really, we should say fuck the carpoolers and turn those all into transit and freight only lanes. All those carpoolers can go one step further and do vanpool, and we can get an edge on LA and other competing ports.

Posted by Gitai | January 8, 2007 12:11 PM

RE: #4. I don't go to West Seattle often because it CURRENTLY takes me forever to get there and back. Granted, I'm a Metro rider. But one of the reasons I don't own a car is because I've found it would take me only SLIGHTLY less time to get most places in the city I want to go (and then find and/or pay for parking) than it would if I took the bus.

Posted by Baxter | January 8, 2007 12:12 PM

Let's take this (pretty enlightened) thinking a little further . ...

One thing we can't live without much longer is the current 520 floating bridge. It is a key part of our state's infrastructure. There is an enormous, multi-billion dollar revenue gap. So, the legislature should impose taxes and tolls to pay for it FIRST.

At the same time, do the "thousand little things" to see if we can live without the viaduct. Let the benefits of the Transit Now and Bridging the Gap tax packages begin impacting the city and region. THEN decide if we can live with 1) surface + transit for the 99 viaduct, and 2) something other than ST2. ST2 is really, really expensive. Given our other transit investments, it may be prudent to wait on ST2 for a couple of years, and then see if a scaled-back version is more appropriate to submit to the voters.

No one has put forward any convincing argument (that I know of, anyway) why we need to be presented with all of these multi-decade tax and spend packages NOW, when it will not make any difference thirty years from now whether they get voted on in 2007 or 2010 . . . .

Posted by B. Schnecker | January 8, 2007 12:12 PM

Consider for a moment that your situation with a short-notice weekend closure is quite different from what it would be with those thousand little fixes made months in advance and known to all?

Posted by Grant Cogswell | January 8, 2007 12:13 PM


Your proposal is well thought out, sensible and logical; that’s why there’s no way in hell it will ever be implemented. The WSDOT don’t roll like that. We're not going to try it before we buy it.

It’s also worth mentioning that the surface transit option is also by far the least expensive and the only one that we can actually afford.


I'm a West Seattleite as well, and we're going to have to live without the viaduct for 5 to 7 years no matter what happens.

Frank Bruno,

As far as I know, no city has ever built themselves out of traffic congestion. If that were possible, LA would have the nation's best traffic instead of the worst. History has shown over and over that the more roads you build, the more congestion increases (see also Atlanta).

Posted by Original Andrew | January 8, 2007 12:17 PM

Ok, first, let's just tackle this one issue.

Currently, to get out of WS, you take the bridge. You could also take the lower bridge, but because that can get tied up with all the freight from Harbor Island, let's just disregard it for now.

So, to get out of WS you take the bridge. It has 3 main lanes: I-5 North, I-5 South/Beacon Hill, and 99 North. Now, if you remove the 99 North exit, you have just doubled(?) all the traffic into one lane, 2 lanes become 1 lane, heading to I-5 North.

You could take the 1st Ave S exit. But, the transition from Bus Lane to multi use lane is a 500 stretch before it exits off the bridge. You also have to contend with freight trucks coming onto the bridge that want to merge and get over into either the I-5 North or South lane. So you have a nice little bottleneck there. Combined with the length of the stoplight at 1st ave, you can have traffic backed pretty far up on the bridge.

But 1st Ave S presents a problem during a football game, or a baseball game, or an exhibition or morning rush hour, when it is backed up with fans, morning commuters, freight trucks and 100 car trains cutting off the side roads.

So let's explore Spokane Street. It's one lane, the lower bridge could go up at any time, there are hundreds of freight trucks entering and exiting Harbor Island, and you can't go left on 1st Ave S. You can turn up Alaskan Way, but that can't handle any amount of traffic - you need to exit off of it before you hit all the piers and ferry traffic, but if you hit a train, you're fucked.

Look, I'm not complaining (much). But give me one solution for this problem - where could you possible expect to funnel everyone? And don't just say "surface streets" because that is also not an answer. Surface streets in this town on the south side are insanely poor.

And to Baxter - when I factor in what my time is worth, it costs less for me to operate and maintain my car to get around with my job then use the bus. If I lived on Capitol Hill, it would be much much different.

If the WS ferry was year round (and had better hours) I could be persuaded....

Posted by wsP | January 8, 2007 12:35 PM

i, like wsp, also live in west seattle. so do lots of other folks. bus options from w. seattle are pretty limited, particularly at night. the water taxi, one of the loveliest ways to get downtown, only operates during summer months and, again, has a limited schedule.

you ever try getting across the bridge during rush hour? my 10 minute trip from the admiral district to the showbox will take as long as 30 to 40 minutes.

remember the big earthquake a few years back? the viaduct was closed then. after being stuck in traffic for over an hour and not even getting NEAR the bridge, i turned around and went home.

not that it mattered too much, since i worked at seattle weekly at the time.

i understand that the earthquake was a special circumstance and traffic was bonkers everywhere but wsp raises a valid point -- ANYTIME the viaduct is closed, even with advance notice, it is a commuters nightmare.

the alternative routes that wsp points out are not suitable for handling the amount of traffic coming from the westside.

i'm not surprised by the stand taken by the stranger regarding the viaduct (which seems to be, in a nutshell, fuck it). i am, however, curious as to whether or not anyone that writes for the paper lives anywhere other than capitol hill.

here's a proposal for you dan: come live in west seattle for two weeks and then let us know what you think about the viaduct. travel every day, to and from the hill. and, not just at times when traffic is light.

i wanna see an opinion from someone that has to go from west seattle to, say, bellevue every day and get to work by 9 a.m. sharp. i would love to hear the opinion of someone working on queen anne that needs to get home to white center. let me know how easy it is to get a bus to the west side from fremont at last call.


Posted by kerri harrop | January 8, 2007 12:58 PM

Actually, I prefer the rebuild, with Surface Plus Transit as a second choice, but if we do it, it's not totally shut down for 4-7 years. With the tunnel, yeah, that's true, but not with the rebuild.

Do the research, Dan.

Posted by Will in Seattle | January 8, 2007 1:04 PM

Sorry, West Seattle people, the Stranger staff only acknowledges the transportation needs of Capitol Hill and Belltown residents.

Posted by J.R. | January 8, 2007 1:04 PM

#7 states:
Let's take this (pretty enlightened) thinking a little further...

I agree... let's take this thinking a little further.

How about if the STRANGER ceases publication for one year...let's see if anyone really misses it.

I would bet big money that besides a few pimply wanna-be hipsters - no one...and I mean no one... would miss this rag and its sophomoric rantings.

C'mon Dan - pull the plug...let's see what happens :-)

Posted by see ya | January 8, 2007 1:09 PM

If the surface option tied into the Battery Street tunnel, then it might be doable. But there isn't a plan for that. What route do the surface proponents have laid out for Highway 99? Up Broad Street?

As for the "transit" aspects- I still say there's no real transit being proposed. Just a "thousand little fixes". Savage, if you want people in West Seattle and Ballard to take you seriously, you better outline what some of those fixes are... or join the fools chair with Westneat.

Posted by Dave Coffman | January 8, 2007 1:15 PM

No one objecting to the Dans' idea has yet addressed the central point that no matter what happens, you're going to have to live without the viaduct for anywhere from 4 years to who knows how long; please do so.

Posted by Noink | January 8, 2007 1:20 PM

This would be the perfect way for West Seattle viaduct huggers to prove us surface option folks wrong—dead wrong. So why not do it? You'll have bragging rights for all eternity. And the idea, of course, is that if it doesn't work -- going with the surface option -- we rebuild or tunnel.

Posted by Dan Savage | January 8, 2007 1:22 PM

WSP...first off, shutting down the viaduct wouldn't necessarily eliminate your current exit onto 99 North; there's a good stretch of road there before the highway becomes elevated, and I'd expect that more or less, that will remain intact, and then feed into a surface route.

So, by leaving that exit in place, and increasing accesss to the other wide, 4 lane roads that go through SODO (1st, 4th, 6th, Airport Way), I don't think your trip will be affected as dramatically as you want to claim.

At the very least, with those fixes, once you're on the bridge, you have a much easier route into and through the city than we who live east of the City have (Madison Valley). I'll bet you that you can get to Greenwood faster than I can with or without the Viaduct. Why should I pay for you to have an elevated highway to get you there even faster? Are you wanting to pay for an elevated highway running down Madison into the City so that my access is as quick as yours?

As for future traffic many times does it need to be said, highways and freeways do not alleviate congestion. Building more freeways for 2030 or 2050 or 2080 will only make things worse, not better. The only real solution for future growth is increasing transit options. For those of you who disagree, then let's just shift this discussion forward 20 years; imagine a viaduct that is packed with cars. What will you propose, then, to fix congestion?

Posted by Timothy | January 8, 2007 1:47 PM

WSP makes some good points: the connection btwn Seattle and West Seattle sucks. Not to mention the insane bottleneck on I-5 N as it crosses past Jackson St. and drops down from 4 lanes to two, while accepting new merging traffic.

Perhaps a solution is to create freight-specific corridors that eventually merge onto 99 S further down. Or make Sound Transit build grade-seperated light-rail to W.Seattle a.s.a.p.

What are the $$$ numbers "saved" if we do a surface option w/ the "thousand little things"? Perhaps there'd be enough to build a light-rail bridge to W.Seattle.

Admittedly, Seattle has unique and difficult geography to deal with, unlike many other cities (canals, lakes, hills, peninsulas). We're no Paris or Chicago.

Posted by treacle | January 8, 2007 1:56 PM

To WSP@10.

The "ramps" for the West Seattle Bridge(s) are currently awful. As bad as some of the roadway design is in Seattle (think the Mercer weave) nothing is as bad as the bridge.

Still, couldn't you imagine changing the Eastern edge of the bridge to be much MUCH better than it is, with proper merge lanes, more exits to the roadway grid (Airport way south for example), and so on.

What about sinking the railbed below the roads, or putting it up. Do like all East coast cities have done, and systematically eliminate all at-grade crossings in SODO.

I'd imagine all these accumulated changes, and many others, would be both cheaper than any Viaduct replacement plan AND far more effective at helping West Seattlites get about.

Posted by golob | January 8, 2007 1:59 PM

For a the West Seattle complainers: there is a reason why it is cheaper to live in west seattle. You are the Staten Island of Seattle. If you don't want to deal with the awful traffic, move back to the main part of seattle.

Posted by doink | January 8, 2007 2:15 PM

I'm accustomed to be sitting in the fool's chair, but I now find it very uncomfortable to be sharing my chair with the likes of Savage. The last time I shared my chair with him it was on the monorail. We all know how that turned out.

Posted by Danny Westneat | January 8, 2007 2:36 PM

Dan, you might be able to get me and others like me to come along if there were a plan for transit. But there isn't, and without some specifics that deal specifically with people west of 99, you're not going to get people like me on board. The existing transit plans already factor in the fact that the viaduct or something to replace its trips will be around. So a transit plan needs to be beefed up if those trips are to be sent via another route.

Before giving us shit about how we'll be able to say "I told you so" if we're right why don't you tell us your plan. Not just glossy pictures but a true surface option, transit oriented plan. It doesn't need to be too detailed but needs to have some specifics. I don't even know what "surface option" means. Will it tie into Highway 99 (ie Battery Street tunnel), or not? Will it tie into side streets through downtown or not? What real transit options are going to alleviate the number of people on SOV's? Put out a plan Savage if your gonna put the reputation of you and your paper up with this thing. Sell me on your idea. Don't berate me as a retard if I don't agree with you.

Posted by Dave Coffman | January 8, 2007 2:38 PM

Where's Cressona? I've got some questions about RTID for that twit.

Posted by Archimedes | January 8, 2007 2:40 PM

That makes so much sense that it's nearly impossible to imagine it actually happening. Seriously. How utterly fantastic and improbable a concept. Bravo.

Posted by Violet_DaGrinder | January 8, 2007 2:41 PM

We didn't share a chair, Danny. You sat on my lap.

Posted by Dan Savage | January 8, 2007 2:48 PM

Why do West Seattlites get a special highway? Why can't they use everybody elses highway? Who do they think they are? Mercer Island?

Posted by Mattro2.0 | January 8, 2007 2:55 PM

First, I'm for a viaduct rebuild. However, I do like the Dan/ny proposal.

Living without the viaduct for 2 to 4 to 7 to who knows many years during a rebuild or big dig will be different than a viable surface option. Construction will tear up the streets during that entire time and basically inhibit much traffic from flowing through. Trying out a surface option, as proposed, may mess up traffic for 6 months as stuff is torn down and new streets are added, but then would accomodate much more traffic. But people who are against the surface transit cannot legitimately claim to be correct when traffic is gummed up during the rebuild, since it's just not comparable to the surface option.

Posted by him | January 8, 2007 2:58 PM

Timothy - you still need to come up with a solution for us to "jump the tracks" as it were.

99 runs parallel to the train tracks - you need to get us up and over the tracks for that to be a viable option. Otherwise we are stuck behind trains at all hours of the day (you know - those trains that seem to be chugging along then start to slow then suddenly stop. Then back up...) You do that, then we have the beginings of a discussion, but how do you proposed to get us back onto 99 after being diverted East?

As far as paying for it - shit, I pay for someone else's welfare checks, artist grants, pothole fixes, fireman's is all part of our great society.

I understand it is a really hard solution, and I never once said I was pro or con Viaduct - it's just not as easy as Option 1, 2 or 3. And Seattle is really going to have to grapple with these transit issues to make a city that works. We do need better public transit options, but do you see anyone actually trying to make that happen. Light Rail? Bring it on, motherfuckers. But the infrastructure is just simply not there.

Posted by wsp | January 8, 2007 3:05 PM

I just got a call from a friend who went home to Milwaukee for the holidays where they are RAZING THE DOWNTOWN FREEWAY. That's right, they are tearing down the elevated freeway to restore the blighted downtown, restoring 28 traditional city blocks. Removal of the freeway is expected to foster development of offices, shops, and houseing, and NO ONE IS COMPLAINING ABOUT TRANSPORTATION.

I come from San Francisco, where, after the 1989 earthquake damaged the elevated Embarcadero Freeway through downtown, city planners chose to rebuild with a grand boulevard which emphasizes access to the waterfront and provides people with transportation options like walking, mass transit, and bicycling instead of an emphasis on just personal vehicle use.

c'mon Seattle!

Posted by SVW | January 8, 2007 3:19 PM

As a Alki resident, I could totally get behind the do-nothing plan as well, with one condition: vastly expanded Water Taxi service.

Posted by C Ro | January 8, 2007 3:32 PM

3... 2... 1...


Prepare yourself for the shouters, SVW. Seattle is a magical, urban alternate universe. Things done successfully in other cities can't be done here. 'Cuz we're special. It's not a city. It's the short bus.

Posted by Dan Savage | January 8, 2007 3:34 PM

I am so with you Dan on the surface option IF AND ONLY IF it is enhanced by RAPID(not mass) transit. As a long time West Seattle-ite, I was furious when the voters trashed the monorail(and at the same time I applaud their common sense at a bad financing package)but to have thousands of cars idling at stop lights on the new surface option does absolutely nothing to curb pollution, and so close to Puget Sound I might add. Tear the fucking thing down, build a nice waterfront WITH A RAPID TRANSIT SYSTEM to "replace" the viaduct. No RAPID transit, no deal!!!

Posted by Matthew | January 8, 2007 3:57 PM

The thousand little fixes will help alleviate traffic from West Seattle to Ballard. What the S + T option would like to do is get the funding to actually STUDY the affects of their proposed changes. The idea was studied by SDOT, but the report is unavailable.

Meanwhile WSDOT has already committed 200 people to the Parson's Brinkerhoff/WSDOT team working on the tunnel option. Perhaps there is some conflict of interest there, since they were the folks who originally proposed the two options, and stand to benefit greatly from the construction.

Anyhow, the S +T option wants "fixes" such as yes, funding to increase ferry service for those in West Seattle, adding a connection from the waterfront to the Battery Street tunnel, (to avoid the the trains), prioritizing frieght, and fixing the currently insane entrance and exit configuration on I5...

Limited access boulevards in San Francisco for example (see Octavia Blvd) have been successful at moving + 40,000 vehicles daily.)

The smart aspect of the S + T approach is to spend money on current problems through out the network, with out concentrating on one specific corridor which is bound to be congested in the future.

By the way, those of you who are interested in the rebuild should also consider that the new viaduct is going to be a heavy wieght. i.e. much bigger and badder than the current version, with safety measures that will annihilate your view and obscure the waterfront.

Posted by KT | January 8, 2007 4:07 PM

you ever try getting across the bridge during rush hour? my 10 minute trip from the admiral district to the showbox will take as long as 30 to 40 minutes.

Anyone who doesn't live on Capitol Hill or in Belltown has any right expecting to get downtown in ten minutes.

This brings to mind the many drivers who'd rather try to run me down than (gasp) stop for a pedestrian. When you live in-city, expect traffic, expect pedestrians, expect to get nowhere fast. If you're too impatient to deal with it, move to the fucking suburbs.

Posted by keshmeshi | January 8, 2007 4:09 PM

Excuse me. Anyone who doesn't live on Capitol Hill or in Belltown, has no right expecting to get downtown in ten minutes.

Posted by keshmeshi | January 8, 2007 4:10 PM

RE: BUS TUNNEL -- For the record I would like to say that my partner takes the bus everyday from Alki to the University District. The Bus Tunnel closure HAS significantly impacted her commute. Often times it has taken her an additional hour on what used to be a 10 minute commute (in the 'udistrict to and from downtown' corridor) when the tunnel was open. It is tough and she deals with it by bringing reading and homework.

We know that in the long run the pain she is dealing with now will bring far greater benefits in the way of Light Rail which we very much support. But it can be frustrating and she is very much looking forward to the day when the tunnel reopens.

Her bus commute is about 2.5 - 3 hours roundtrip now depending on catching those connections and buses running on time. Adding an extra hour really makes it hard.

We love our neighborhood and don't want to move. When we bought or house we both worked downtown.

My point is only that the closed bus tunnel DOES have a pretty big impact at times. Most the time she gets stuck it's in places where the tunnel would alleviate the crunch...

so anyway, just saying...

Posted by Bus Tunnel | January 8, 2007 4:17 PM

for the cost of the tunnel (using the higher more likely 5.5 billion) -- you could have 25 new ferry docks. 25 @ $ 225 million.

or 11,000 new busses. !

and alot alot of dedicated bike lanes.

Posted by KT | January 8, 2007 4:19 PM

What will you support if the test results in something approaching gridlock?

BTW this was suggested to the PWC over a year ago as well as to your transit reporter. Curious that PWC hasn't commented on this - or has it?

I support the viaduct upgrade (fix and enhance) - and just like with generals I only believe engineers after they retire so I'm not buying the cost numbers on fixing that the WashDOT consultants are putting out - let's save billions (from tunnel costs) and put that money into transit and get ready to bring the viaduct down - giving all fair warning that it's coming.

Posted by Kush | January 8, 2007 4:21 PM

Hate to break it to ya, scoop, but David Sucher wrote about this back in May of 2006.

Oh, and the statement that the Viaduct is "unsafe" is fearmongering BS. WSDOT (you know, the people who could actually be sued if it does fail) assess the risk as being a 1 in 20 chance that an earthquake could occur that would render the Viaduct unusable. As in, ya can't drive on it anymore, not as in, it will collapse (and only one of dozens of independent segments was significantly damaged in the 2001 Nisqually Quake).

BTW, drive down the existing surface section of the Viaduct and try to visualize a flyover ramp that crosses the tracks and puts traffic down by either Lander or the Stadia. It would take a whole lot of concrete (and the cooperation of the railroads) to pull it off (not to mention taking out the Bemis building and god knows what else).

Posted by Mr. X | January 8, 2007 4:31 PM

Mr. X, it might be a lot of concrete, but a serious effort to tackle those railroad tracks, by building overpasses, or putting *them* into a cut-and-cover tunnel would do far more to help the city's transit and freight problems than any of the proposed viaduct plans.

And there is huge precedence for this. The entire Northeast rail corridor, from Northern Virginia to Boston no longer has at-grade crossings. This would be a comparatively tiny project.

These are the sorts of "thousands of little things" that could be done with a surface+transit option. Can you honestly tell me a rebuild or car tunnel would do as much for the city as getting rid of at-grade rail crossings in town?

Posted by golob | January 8, 2007 5:05 PM

Instead of hyperbole, lets have a list of the little things- maybe 25 to start out with. At least if some of those things are out there we can discuss them...

Posted by Dave Coffman | January 8, 2007 5:28 PM

as bus tunnel #37 points out, the Westneat column neglected to point out that bus routes shifted to surface streets from the tunnel were significantly slower. bus routes that were already on the surface were successfully prevented from slowing much.

Posted by doryman | January 8, 2007 5:43 PM

as bus tunnel #37 points out, the Westneat column neglected to point out that bus routes shifted to surface streets from the tunnel were significantly slower. bus routes that were already on the surface were successfully prevented from slowing much.

Posted by doryman | January 8, 2007 5:44 PM

The solution has to work around the Port and associated rail and trucking while also not hurting the heavily industrialized triangle that runs south from the Ferry Terminal.

The Viaduct is a large overpass. If the Viaduct is a problem and is torn down, the problems it alleviates are 800 of your 1000 fixes. The other 200? Surprise me with something nice.

Posted by Lloyd Clydesdale | January 8, 2007 5:53 PM

That'd be lovely Golob (well, aside from turning 1st Ave S into an utter clusterfuck).

Now tell me how to get from south of Royal Brougham to north of Denny Way. Vague PWC terminology will not suffice.

Posted by Mr. X | January 8, 2007 6:07 PM

Mr. X -- On a Pedestrian Lane.

Posted by Lloyd Clydesdale | January 8, 2007 6:15 PM

The PWC has been saying this all for a long time. Westneat acknowledged in his column that he wasn't the author of the idea.

Mr. Coffman...sink all of your money into a tunnel or rebuild, and you won't have any left to do any of these style fixes.

Frustrated that there's not a specific list? Aim your frustration at WSDOT who haven't 1) done a serious & realistic analysis of the S&T plan, and 2) haven't released their own construction mitigation plan, which they've developed, for when the viaduct will be shut down.

As the PWC often states, incrementalism is a big plus when building big projects. By doing the little things first, before committing to spend the big dollars on the big projects, you can get a better sense of what is actually needed, and you don't commit yourself to building bigger than you need.

And, as has been said over and over again, if doing the 1000 things still doesn't "work" then there's always room to do more. In the meantime, we've improved the overall street grid, giving a distributed benefit to the entirety of the city.

Posted by Timothy | January 8, 2007 6:37 PM

One thing that I find incredibly frustrating is that there is a huge area that pretty much everyone is in agreement on, and nothing significant is happening in that area. Everyone I talk to about this or any other transportation issue facing Seattle desperately wants comprehensive real mass transit to serve this city.

People keep asking what the transit part of the S + T plan is and I think that is not only a good question, but also indicates how people on all sides of this issue would love real transit solutions to be forthcoming.

The monorail is a perfect example of this. People voted for this repeatedly, even after being taxed by a hefty car tab fee - and even knowing that the city, county and sound transit leadership were not really behind it. The monorail was also an unusual and in some ways riskier technology than light rail, but people still voted for it!

There is a huge demand for timely action on the transit front, we are willing to vote for the transit and we are willing to pay for it. Forget the viaduct for a minute - How do we harness this demand into a comprehensive transit system (without making the mistakes that were made with the monorail?) Come one, Denver (and portland, and salt lake and dallas and many others) are doing it. An initiative directing Sound transit to develop a city wide plan and a funding package that can be voted on and implemented (now, not 20 years from now) ?

Any other thoughts on how we make a city wide transit plan a top priority?

Posted by Lanik | January 8, 2007 7:52 PM

I agree with Lanik's previous post @49 - why are we not even talking about real mass transit to West Seattle in the next few years, and how can we start building momentum?

But on the viaduct front, one thing jumps out at me (and I write this from NYC with no strong devotion to any of the plans): The critics of the surface option seem to think that all questions can be answered in the Slog - i.e., Dave asks sloggers to name at least 25 small changes - if they don't, that means its a bad idea. If sloggers can't answer every question about how this could be done ("What do we do about the trains; the trucks; etc.?") then there is no evidence that it would work.

It seems to me that those people are being unreasonable because a) We are not all transportation planners; and b) it would be kind of a waste of time to sit here listing 25 changes, since no one is going to read that and turn it into a cohesive plan.

Meanwhile, surface option nay-sayers are not addressing very simple issues like:

- If the viaduct is absolutely indispensable, why can we live without a viaduct for several years during a rebuild?
- Wouldn't a serious, unbiased study by professionals, funded by the state, be in order? If a good study says it's a terrible idea, then I as a layperson will not argue and consider the issue resolved.
- What is wrong with the plan for a short-term test closure?

If you can respond to these issues, it would be helpful.

Posted by Jude Fawley | January 8, 2007 8:55 PM

So now all of a sudden Seattle public policy, not to mention the city's crown jewel of a waterfront, is going to be held hostage to the 15,000 or so eejits who decided to live in West Seattle (precisely because it wasn't really Seattle)? What pandering, what contemptible pandering!

If the viaduct didn't exist, we'd NEVER in a million years build it, pave over our golden-egg-laying (whoops, almost mistyped Godden-egg-laying) gooose. Have we lost our fucking minds?

Posted by Ronald | January 8, 2007 10:04 PM

Closing the bus tunnels has made it easier to get through downtown?

BULLLSHIT! That experiment has failed miserably.

Posted by Sean | January 8, 2007 10:21 PM

@48: So there isn't money to put to these fixes if the viaduct is replaced or repaired, but at the same time you claim lets try it first then see if the viaduct needs replacing or repair? That doesn't make any sense.

@50: We can live without the viaduct for a short period of time because we have to. There's no choice. It doesn't mean we shouldn't go permanently without that corridor. With expected growth of several hundred thousand over the next decade (and at least 100,000 in the city alone) it's crazy in my opinion to do away with one of two north south corridors. Contrary to what the PWC supporters in here think, this thing has been analyzed, turned upside down and all around. Options have been narrowed from 76 to 5 to 2. Variants of the "surface" option have been looked at by WSDOT, the City and outside consultants, all of whom state that it will make the problems much worse. You can believe it or not believe it, I don't care. But the analysis has been done.

A short term test closure does nothing to mitigate the growth that will be forthcoming. The only thing that will mitigate that is rapid transit, the development of which must occur or this region will become further strangled. But it is a fallacy to think that taking away one of two north-south corridors will be helpful. It might *look nice* and be pretty but in the end transportation will be further strangled on I-5 and commerce will turn away from Seattle because the cost of getting goods in and out of the area will be too great. That is what I believe the reality of the situation to be.

I do agree with 49. Transit has to be a priority. It needs to be done in conjunction with a proper roads plan. If the viaduct or its through replacement is gone, that leaves I-5 as the only north-south corridor. It will make that corridor one of the worst in the country, 24/7, choking the upper part of downtown with smog and slow moving vehicles. There is no way to further expand I-5 without extreme cost. And it will cost our economy even further.

@51: West Seattle is part of Seattle. So is Ballard, Fremont and Highland Park. We're not all *blessed* to live on The Hill Ronald.

Posted by Dave Coffman | January 9, 2007 12:09 AM

Yo Ron,

There are actually over 80,000 of us in West Seattle, and tens of thousands more in White Center, North Highline, Tukwila and such on the SW side of town along with a similar number in NW and environs who rely on SR 99 as a through corridor.

Thanks for playing, though, Ron.

Posted by Westside | January 9, 2007 12:14 AM

I made the suggestion about an experimental closing of the Viaduct last May:

Posted by David Sucher | January 9, 2007 7:34 AM

And, Savage, what do you fear about the Retrofit which prevents you from acknowledging it?

Is it possible that you know it would win running-away should the voters ever be offered it as a choice, thus killing your beloved s-called "Surface"option?

Posted by David Sucher | January 9, 2007 7:49 AM

As Westside pointed out, 80,000 people liv e in West Seattle, part of the city since 1906. That is 16% of the city population for the mathematically challenged.

David, props to you for your suggestion last May. You are truly a visionary. Except you like the dumbest option of all, the retrofit. Spend billions now on an unsafe, too narrow, no shoulder, dilapidated structure so the region can struggle with the decision again in 20 years. Not much vision there...

Posted by another westsider | January 9, 2007 10:43 AM

The retrofit as currently being studied by WSDOT was deliberately planned using a fatally flawed assumption - that it should remain usable after the next sizeable quake. Take that spec down to simply having it remain standing after a major quake (ie - it may be unusable after, but no threat to life/property/etc), and the multi-billion price WSDOT now cites as a reason not to do it goes down by orders of magnitude.

Of course, since WSDOT has had a hard-on to make the AWV a toll tunnel since the early 1990's, I'm not holding my breath waiting for an honest analysis of Retrofitting it from them or Parsons-Brinkerhoff, who stand to profit handsomely from either the rebuild or the tunnel (well, at least until the City threatens permits for a rebuild, the cost of steel and concrete rises, and then suddenly WSDOT will probably change their tune).

Posted by Mr. X | January 9, 2007 11:03 AM

Of course, the 'surface' option WSDOT studied had numerous fatal flaws as well.

I lived in West Seattle before I lived in Wallingford. Now I live on the 'east side' - the Central District. Everyone in Seattle needs better transit solutions, and Link is a drop in the bucket. The Sierra Club transportation folks came up with an awesome list of bus route frequency updates and new lines, etc. that would make up some of the City's traffic mitigation plan, or so it would seem. Unfortunately, we have yet to see the real traffic mitigation plan; without that, it's awfully difficult to tell anyone exactly what the transit component(s) of the surface solution would be. And nobody's ever spent the money to actually do that study.

Posted by johnnycakes | January 9, 2007 7:59 PM

Here's a handy bit of information. How much space does it take to move 15,000 people per hour, by different transport modes.
Handy">">Handy Transport Mode Chart.

Posted by treacle | January 10, 2007 10:47 AM

As Dan has shown us here, tell a lie enough times and you'll begin to believe it.

The surface option is not a serious consideration and right now shouldn't be.

Posted by Gomez | January 16, 2007 11:03 AM

Ugh, finally something rational. I don't understand all the resistance to a surface solution and the terror that "a wall of traffic" is creating. At least you would be able to see over the traffic. Has no one ever seen the west side highway in Manhattan? San Francisco did a similar thing with one of their elevated highways and made is a surface boulevard.

All of that parking under the viaduct is wasted space. It encourages tourists to clog up the market with cars and if you add that to Alaskan Way, plenty of room for a 6 lane boulevard. What's the problem? Put sky bridges every half block for pedestrians. Much safer than it is at the waterfront now anyway. And the rail line that goes through now could be the lane divider.

Posted by diad | January 22, 2007 6:57 PM

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