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Thursday, February 1, 2007

Allied Arts Lobbies Surface/Transit Supporters

posted by on February 1 at 12:15 PM

Laine Ross, president of Allied Arts, the once-progressive-arts-organization-turned-campaign-arm-of-the-mayor’s-office, sent out a letter yesterday urging supporters of the surface/transit option (which would tear down the viaduct and replace its capacity with transit and fixes to surface streets downtown) to vote no on a larger new viaduct and yes on the mayor’s four-lane tunnel and surface roadway. Ross claims that surface/transit supporters like the People’s Waterfront Coalition and the Sierra Club “have been inspired” by the mayor’s proposal.

As PWC founder Cary Moon told me in an e-mail, Ross’s condescending claim is absolutely untrue. “PWC is not ‘inspired by’ the mayor’s tunnel lite proposal. We do not support it. We did not help develop it. We are for no highway on the shore. Their plea to co-opt Transit + Streets supporters is based in misinformation.”

The letter continues:

The good news for Surface & Transit advocates is that the new Surface-Tunnel Hybrid incorporates many of their suggestions. The People’s Waterfront Coalition should be congratulated for its work of getting new transit and better roadway connections incorporated into the Surface-Tunnel Hybrid.

There will be a temptation for some environmentalists to vote no on both ballot questions - against a new viaduct and against the Surface-Hybrid Tunnel - “to send a message” to a car-dominated Olympia. We advise against this ‘Ralph Nader’ approach.

Again, Allied Arts gets it absolutely wrong. Surface/transit supporters aren’t opposing the tunnel and the rebuild because they want to “send a message” to Olympia, a la a vote for Ralph Nader They’re opposing the tunnel because it’s only 13 blocks long; does not (as Allied Arts falsely claims) include funding for a “lid” between Pike Place Market and the Battery Street tunnel (instead, the roadway will be in an uncovered trench); and only includes transit (bus capacity for 21,000 new riders daily) for the length of construction, with no commitment to continue enhanced transit service after the tunnel is open.

Moreover, they oppose both options because they have a better way—one that doesn’t involve building a massive, dirty, ugly new freeway on our waterfront: Tear down the wall, improve surface-street connections downtown, and spend our tax dollars putting transit, not pouring concrete, in the Alaskan Way corridor. If voters check NO and NO on their ballots March 13, as the PWC has urged, both of Gregoire’s false choices will fail. And the surface/transit option will emerge as the only sensible, affordable alternative.

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alllied arts for the '00's burning bridges and building tunnels. assinine.

Posted by breech-a | February 1, 2007 12:22 PM

I am for the surface/transit option for one reason, and that's money. We don't need the tunnel, we don't have the money to waste on a pet project of the mayor's when we're closing schools because of a shrinking budget. Get away from the dominance of the car. If you choose to drive, you deserve to sit in traffic.


Posted by Enigma | February 1, 2007 12:33 PM


"Ross claims that surface/transit supporters...have been inspired by the ‘Surface & Transit’ proposal"

meant to type "inspired by the Tunnel Lite proposal"?

Posted by brandon | February 1, 2007 12:38 PM

The PWC deserved to be taken to task for denying the Ralph Nader effect last year when they were demanding that the surface proposal appear as one of three choices. But now Allied Arts deserves to be taken to task for accusing surface supporters and tunnel foes of having a Ralph Nader effect.

There's a real failure here (obviously deliberate) to apply basic logic. I mean, the rebuild and tunnel measures are two separate votes.

Okay, Allied Arts geniuses, explain your contorted Nader logic. The more you stoop to this kind of fearmongering, the more it's going to backfire on you.

Posted by cressona | February 1, 2007 12:44 PM

Idiots lecturing idiots.

Posted by Gomez | February 1, 2007 1:09 PM

"And the surface/transit option will emerge as the only sensible, affordable alternative."

Utter Nonsense. The cable-stayed bridge proposal is the only reasonable alternative that addresses the needs of access to the waterfront, future transit considerations, dismantling of the current Viaduct and business and housing growth in the area. Lastly it can be accomplished with a minimum of disruption to current stake holders on the waterfront and businesses dependent on the corridor.

Prof. Earl Bell of the U of W spelled it out nicely in the following letter to the Seattle Times early last summer:

Posted by Princess Caroline | February 1, 2007 1:24 PM

"spend our tax dollars putting transit, not pouring concrete, in the Alaskan Way corridor."

What's "transit" mean? And we won't be pouring concrete to make a street-level 'viaduct' with street lights and a slower speed limit?

Posted by Lloyd Clydesdale | February 1, 2007 1:32 PM

Erica, what do you say to this argument: if people follow your advice and vote "no" on both, the outcome will be low favorability for the aerial rebuild, and slightly lower favorability for the tunnel. The legislature will look at this, and conclude that the rebuild, while unpopular, will be the path of least resistance, and make it so. What is about two "no" votes that's going to make them put the Surface/Transit option on the table?

Posted by Jugdish | February 1, 2007 1:46 PM

Hmmm. Let me see. vote for a tunnel-lite that means more state highway funds don't get spent but city taxes have to cover the inevitable cost overruns (Greg N had a 40 to 400 percent overrun track record on projects on his watch).

Or an elevated viaduct that the state pays the whole freight for - except for the seawall and utility relocation we end up paying for anyway - and have them pay the cost overruns.

Or a Surface Plus Transit they won't even let us vote on that is even cheaper.

I can see why most enviro groups are endorsing a Just Say No To Both position.

Posted by Will in Seattle | February 1, 2007 2:00 PM

"Most enviro groups", Will? To my knowledge, the Conservation Voters have not yet taken a position on the ballot questions, and they're the enviro group with the most pull in Olympia.

Posted by Roger | February 1, 2007 2:09 PM

Wow, you're gone from analyzing the Viaduct discussion to taking on the role of speaking for the critics. That's the sort of flakery that damaged the Stranger's journalistic credibility in 2005. Step back from the Kool-Aid, ECB. Get back to journalism.

Posted by Erica, thy name is unpaid flak | February 1, 2007 2:21 PM

I must agree with Princess Caroline. The cable stayed bridge option should be seriously vetted as it is the only proposal that adequately addresses the needs of the state and the city. It is amazing that The Stranger has failed to study it merits or potential pitfall, and has slaved itself to a surface/ transit option which will potentially increase congestion and reduce options in the corridor.


Posted by Jensen Interceptor | February 1, 2007 2:24 PM

I'll third the sentiments on the cable stay bridge idea.

Last WSDOT looked at it:
* the cost estimate was at or slightly below a rebuild.

* It would allow for less disruption to the waterfront during construction

* An international design competition could be held to pick a really beautiful bridge.

* It could be more easily tolled than either the tunnel or rebuild.

The bad was:

* Vague concerns about the effect on port operations. This was back when Southwest wanted Boeing field. WSDOT could not state anything specific that would actually hurt the port, just a blanket "could make things more difficult."

* The bridge would have a big footprint on the waterfront. So what, I say. It could be a beautiful addition to our city, towers and all.

As it has become obvious, no choice is perfect. I think even from WSDOT's own propoganda it's clear that the bridge's concerns are fair less troubling that either the tunnel or rebuild choices.

Posted by golob | February 1, 2007 2:54 PM

Jugdish: Erica, what do you say to this argument: if people follow your advice and vote "no" on both, the outcome will be low favorability for the aerial rebuild, and slightly lower favorability for the tunnel. The legislature will look at this, and conclude that the rebuild, while unpopular, will be the path of least resistance, and make it so. What is about two "no" votes that's going to make them put the Surface/Transit option on the table?

The likelier scenario, if both measures go down to "no's," is for the state to shift the gas-tax funds to 520. That's what Gregoire has already threatened. And she needs to show some kind of progress on these highway projects. Why let 520 get sucked into the political vortex that is the viaduct?

Now when that happens, what happens next with the viaduct? I have to think the debate shifts to retrofit-vs.-teardown, keeping in mind that there's a continuum between the two where you phase things.

Posted by cressona | February 1, 2007 2:57 PM

Even if moving cars were the only consideration, would a new viaduct - which might not even be completed until 2020 - be the best way to spend $2.8 billion? Probably not. The viaduct is essentially a gold-plated short cut around downtown. We'd be much better off - and drivers would be a lot happier - if we invested in basic road fixes and tools such as congestion pricing, carpools, vanpools, and bus rapid transit (assuming support for Sound Transit Phase Two light rail is already a given). Expensive urban highways should not be part of this toolkit. And, of course, transportation isn't the only consideration here. A decade-long construction project along the waterfront would seriously harm the city core, and the resulting concrete monster would scar the city forever.

Posted by FoS | February 1, 2007 3:09 PM

That is to say, vote "HELL NO" on the rebuild. That's the only message that Olympia will hear. State legislators aren't going to say, "Gee, the voters want a tunnel, let's do it!" But they - and the governor - might understand the potential pitfalls of ramming a Viaduct down the city's throat if the voters reject it. Keep up the good work, Erica.

Posted by FoS | February 1, 2007 3:12 PM

FoS: Even if moving cars were the only consideration, would a new viaduct - which might not even be completed until 2020 - be the best way to spend $2.8 billion?

Y'know, $2.8 billion is only the capital costs. What are the actual costs, including financing? I'd love to see someone dig up that number.

Posted by cressona | February 1, 2007 3:51 PM

Why stop at financing? Let's add in ongoing maintainance and operation costs as well.

That's the standard to which transit project have been held. The "unafforable" monorail was about $2bn counting everything but financing.

Or are we supposed to wait like fools for another "emergency" road repair tax in two decades.

Posted by golob | February 1, 2007 4:01 PM

@ 17 "Only the Capital cost." Of course its only the capital cost - and its the capital cost that's been escalate out to 2009-2014 (year of expenditure) dollars no less. Just like when you buy a house that costs $400,000. Its not a $720,000 house that include the interest payments for the next 30 years...

@15/16 - I like how you hit every urban planning buzzword, but without an actual through corridor its really hard to have bus rapid transit or charge tolls needed for congestion pricing. don't mention the London case - that will be a cold day before we have that in Seattle. We can't even get tolls on the L. Washington bridges....

the through corridor provided by a tunnel is critically important to seattle's mobility and I'd love to hear an argument to the contrary. The city has a very incomplete street grid. There are only a hadnful of arterial streets that cross both I-5 and the SR99 corridor between downtown (denny) and Ballard. So dispersing traffic, namely truck traffic, across the grid is very difficult.

I'm a huge transit advocate, but with the massive growth projected in the region, we need all lthe arterial capacity we can get (which transit can run on) downtown in order to keep growth in the city and not shunt it to Issaquah or Maple Valley.

S+T backers might succeed in shutting down the viaduct, but you will also piss off a lot of execs who commute downtown, decide to tell seattle to piss off, move their operations closer to home, and thus enourage more residential growth in more rural locations.

Posted by flotown | February 1, 2007 4:17 PM

@10 - you need to keep up with the times. And @17 - wonder what the interest is on the even more expensive underwater tunnel - my guess is it's a heck of a lot more, since it's even less advanced in the planning process.

Posted by Will in Seattle | February 1, 2007 4:17 PM

oh, and @19 - the execs should live downtown, not commute.

Posted by Will in Seattle | February 1, 2007 4:19 PM

Golob, The size of the "footprints" WSDOT reported are most likely well in excess of current engineering methods and practices, and when this was brought to their attention, WSDOT conveniently found a hole to stick their head into. WSDOT has a different political agenda, and I think they are way out of their league when discussing cable-stayed bridge projects. They have absolutely no experience. Lastly the environmental concerns they posed are simply anecdotal at best.


Posted by Jensen Interceptor | February 1, 2007 4:27 PM

I'm with you Jensen. The whole report had a heavy handed pro-tunnel slant to it.

Even with all that slant, they really couldn't come up with any valid reason for taking it off the table, beyond "wouldn't a tunnel be nifty."

Posted by golob | February 1, 2007 4:32 PM

@ 21 - sure execs could all live here, but most don't - thankfully- as downtown is 2 square miles and the region is 3.5 million people, so it would be pretty flippin hard for everyone to live downtown now wouldn't it, will?

And knock it off with the "underwater tunnel" crap already. You learned from Bush 43 how to frame your opponents in a negative light with misleading names. congrats and move on.

Just for your enlightenment, an excerpt from a rival publication (sorry, its a good quote, though)

"it is absurd to compare Seattle's proposed cut-and-cover tunnel to Boston's Big Dig. The Boston project, writes Dan McNichol, its former deputy director of public affairs, in his book The Big Dig, "is the largest and most complex urban infrastructure project ever undertaken in the modern world. It is bigger in scale than the Panama Canal or Hoover Dam and more complex in its planning, engineering, and construction than the two combined." Boston's project consisted of three tunnels—a three-mile tunnel under saltwater Boston Harbor, a 1.5-mile tunnel under Boston's commercial district, and a 1,100-foot, 11-lane tunnel connecting downtown and South Boston. Oh, they also built the world's widest cable-stayed bridge. Seattle's tunnel would be just over a mile long, would be under a street with no structures above—much less water—and would have six lane"

(back when were at 6 - now just four proposed). I think using the state money - gas tax $ dedicated for roads - is better used here instead of elsewhere on more concrete lanes in the burbs. Providing this $ to 520 just give less incentive for tolling or using RTID funds that might otherwise to go concrete in Puyallup or Kent

Posted by flotown | February 1, 2007 4:35 PM

"....the through corridor provided by a tunnel is critically important to seattle's mobility and I'd love to hear an argument to the contrary."

A cable stayed bridge can that with less disruption to the central waterfront while
being constructed and probably at significantly lower costs than your tunnel, Flotown.

It will also allow for the eventual dismantling of the current viaduct; provide a corridor for future north-south transit and greater oportunities for open space, business and housing.


Posted by Jensen Interceptor | February 1, 2007 4:40 PM


Except they're *already* calling for enormous tolls on 520 as is. $800 million out of RTID didn't go to 520 (mostly), but even if you took that $2.8 billion and gave it all to 520, they're still short, and would still have to implement significant tolls.

In addition, that 3.5 million regional population can't all work in downtown Seattle, anyway. Regional employment centers are a smart way to get people living closer to where they work, and remember that's supposed to be Sound Transit's mission, anyway? Connecting regional employment centers? Sure you have to deal with poor land use in the 'burbs, but you (where you is we as a state) need to deal with that regardless. Tearing down the Viaduct != sprawl.

Posted by John | February 1, 2007 4:46 PM

Flo -- Well spoken @ 19 & 24.

Thanks for the specific debunk of the turdlike comparisons to the Big Dig. Indeed, it's not anywhere near comparable in scale, which really only shows how scared (or should I say 'lack-of-willing') this city is to build *something* big and necessary.

Someone, please: Give me a hydrogen-powered mini mobile.

A basic point to behold is that if you hobble north/south movement in Seattle, you also screw the fuck out of the east/west.

Posted by Lloyd Clydesdale | February 1, 2007 5:05 PM

Well put about the regional centers, Lloyd. In my enthusiam (*or rage, depending upon perspective), I missed points that are stronger than the seattle employment argument -

1) Truck access from BINMIC
- a) business folds there because viable alternatives through the city are not available b/c the grid sucks
- b) More trucks rolling through Belltown/downtown/waterfront at grade, undercutting livability (I don't live there, but I work downtown)

2) Through trips that can't be accomodated by transit well and that people would be willing to pay for occassionally. I live in LQA and find the viaduct very helpful if I'm in a rush to west Seattle, airport or any points south, although I wish it were tunneled every time I see it so we could do right on the waterfront

Posted by flotown | February 1, 2007 6:05 PM

Amen Erica.
Be cool my brothers.

Posted by Josh Feit | February 1, 2007 9:01 PM

Will--(#9)--City doesn’t pay utility costs for an elevated, or pay for the seawall replacement. It's all part of the state/federal package, fyi.

And by the way, the Gov's supposed "caving" on studying the mini-tunnel was really the death knell for the mini tunnel. The questions she asked WSDOT are set up to show that the mini tunnel won't be permitted by the Feds.

No federal permits = no federal or state money = no tunnel. When that info comes out February 13, it'll be game over for the mini tunnel.

Posted by BB | February 1, 2007 9:18 PM

@24 - is your widdle feeewings hoit?

@30 - nope, we - Seattle - pay for the seawall - ask Josh. And I have more info as to exactly how much we pay - yes, us - for the utility relocation.

It's all going to come out of our Seattle-only pockets.

But you're right as to the actual vote result. Even if I'm not "playing fair".

Tried that. Five votes and zero monorail built. Now you learn what hardball is.

And the Big Dig was mostly federal money, some state, little Boston dollars - this is (tunnel) mostly Seattle money, no federal, some state, and no cap on total costs that isn't paid by Seattle taxpayers. Learn history before you quote it.

Posted by Will in Seattle | February 2, 2007 12:22 AM

One necessary thing to add: The Big Dig involved a Federal interstate highway. The viaduct is a state highway. If this was just a local expressway, the state would have no say. Because it's a state highway, their word matters most.

Posted by Gomez | February 3, 2007 9:24 AM

Surface/Transit supporters:

I'm looking for a "surface/transit option for dummies" guide that outlines all aspects of the issue extensively, going over each of the other alternatives. Is there such a thing? Might I find it on The Stranger's website?

Basically, I'm looking for the "go-to" link to send to friends and family.

Posted by John | February 3, 2007 10:58 AM

I wish Erica would spend her time working on REAL public transportation instead of trying so hard to make sure everyone in Seattle who drives becomes imprisoned in their gridlocked cars.

Posted by montex | February 3, 2007 4:52 PM

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