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Friday, March 9, 2007

Viaduct Construction Hassles: Not Just for 99 Anymore

posted by on March 9 at 12:39 PM

By now you’re already aware that building a new elevated viaduct on the waterfront would involve long-term closures of SR-99, the route that uses the Alaskan Way Viaduct—up to up to 81 months of partial closure for the rebuild, according to state Department of Transportation (WSDOT) documents.

What you probably didn’t know is that viaduct closure isn’t the half of it.

Because rebuilding the viaduct would also impact roads north and south of the viaduct proper, the ramps that feed the viaduct from downtown (and give viaduct traffic downtown access) would also be closed for long periods while the larger new elevated viaduct was being built. (Tunnel construction would mean long closures too, but since that option appears DOA, I’ll stick to viaduct construction closures, which are as long or longer anyway.)

First Avenue/SODO off-ramp southbound: closed for 3 months.
Downtown southbound on-ramp: closed for 48 months.
Elliott southbound on-ramp: Closed for 75 (!!!) months.

… which is a combined closure of ten years.

Northbound closures aren’t any shorter:

First Avenue/SODO off-ramp: closed for 27 months.
Downtown off-ramp: Closed 27 months.
Western Off-ramp: closed 63 months.

Meanwhile, Alaskan Way itself would be “restricted” for ten full years. That means access to and from downtown will be drastically restricted for a decade—to the chagrin, no doubt, of all those West Seattleites who apparently believe a new elevated viaduct would emerge in place overnight, no disruption required. Reconnecting the street grid to the waterfront would provide access, and

wouldn’t require a decade of disruptive construction.

WSDOT’s plan for accommodating additional traffic downtown includes re-routing traffic onto First Avenue and I-5: Not exactly a visionary (or practical) solution.

RSS icon Comments


If you build it, they will drive.

Posted by Tony Danza's the Boss | March 9, 2007 12:40 PM

When all that Forward Thrust money went to Atlanta because of our local road-fetish, we ended up with both feet in a hole. If we had a real mass transit system by now we'd be much better prepared for the inevitable disruptions closing that stretch of SR 99 will bring.

Light rail will be running to the airport in '09. It's a start, but we still have one leg in the hole . . ..

Posted by we_need_real_transit | March 9, 2007 1:15 PM

So, exactly what are you saying, Erica? Does it seem that the surface option might not be the panacea it once was?

Here's something worth pursuing. When everyone says that there will be more buses to mitigate the disruption in accessibility for Ballard and WS, you know, of course, that those buses will be coming from the existing pool of Seattle-assigned buses. With the existing area equity rule, there are NO new buses for Seattleites (save the ones Transit Now might pay for).

Which existing bus runs can or should be reduced to provide additional mobility to Ballard and WS residents and what does this do to the overall mobility of Seattle residents? When light rail begins on MLK - do all those buses magically appear on 15th NW and in West Seattle? With 1st Avenue being used as a re-route corridor, how is the city going to prevent Mariners' games from completely disrupting every-other-day's commute?

Pursue these if you're still that keen on the surface transit side of things.

Posted by chas Redmond | March 9, 2007 1:42 PM

Chas @3: The best way to provide more buses is to speed up existing runs -- 30% faster buses = 30% more service, free, assuming you adjust schedules and don't just make longer layovers for drivers. (Rescue MUNI, from San Francisco, has a great document on this.)

So here's what you do: Expand bus lanes downtown, build bus lanes in other places that need them (15th NW through interbay, 15th NE near UW), add hold-the-light-if-I'm-late technologies to existing buses, eliminate underused stops, etc., and plug the extra hours into better service for Ballard and West Seattle.

You don't need new buses to increase bus service.

Posted by Steve | March 9, 2007 1:51 PM

where are the numbers for the no viaduct/no tunnel/street only option? surely there would be a myriad of closures and disruptions in tearing down the viaduct and building new surface streets.

i do support the surface option, but there will still be a lengthy disruption with that option as well.

Posted by ddv | March 9, 2007 2:00 PM

Erica, if we built a beautiful wing-like high-tensile steel skyway high above the existing viaduct using the old viaduct as a scaffold. It would interrupt upper lane traffic only at night about 25 nights. The skyway could be finished in 3 years without significant disruption. This parallel expressway method saves almost $1Billion, partly because concessions to maintain traffic aren't needed.

Posted by Jim Powers | March 9, 2007 2:09 PM

They were already going to rebuild that ramp to the south in the first place.

Posted by Will in Seattle | March 9, 2007 2:22 PM

oh, and @4 - look, if congestion increases, the bus lines run more SLOWLY, not FASTER. Elementary physics.

We need, as I've said, to DOUBLE local transit - everywhere in Seattle.

Posted by Will in Seattle | March 9, 2007 2:24 PM

"Erica, if we built a beautiful wing-like high-tensile steel skyway high above the existing viaduct using the old viaduct as a scaffold. It would interrupt upper lane traffic only at night about 25 nights. The skyway could be finished in 3 years without significant disruptio..."

Jim, what you are suggesand is a cable stayed-like bridge built in place of the current bridge. We have been promoting a cable stayed bridge
built adjacent and into Elliott Bay which accomplishes the same thing without the foreseeable disruption caused by construction and material
placement at ground level in your proposal.


Posted by Jensen Interceptor | March 9, 2007 2:36 PM

Will @8: Not if the buses aren't in with the cars. Elementary physics.

Posted by Steve | March 9, 2007 2:48 PM

@5: absolutely.

What's WSDOT's plan if there's a surface street option used? I suspect it includes rerouting the traffic onto First Street and I-5. Then dumping more cars on Alaskan Way.

I agree with you Erica- not exactly a visionary or practical solution. Only instead of it being for 10 years (which I love your math of adding up the closure time as a linear amount), it will be forever. Which is even less visionary or practical.

Lets have a road that runs through and connects into the Battery Street tunnel. Then we can spend the next 30-40 years building the infrastructure that should have been built in the last 40 years that wasn't for public transit. Barnett's Bomb will kill the economy, cut off one part of the city from the other, and increase smog from cars stuck on I-5. Can't think of too many things less progressive than that.

Posted by Dave Coffman | March 9, 2007 2:48 PM

That's some genuine, George Bush-style "fuzzy numbers" you've got there. First, why do all those numbers run concurrently? Second, if one off- or on-ramp is closed, presumably the others are open, no? Third, I would suspect that the off- and on-ramps would be closed for a lot longer than 10 years under the surface/transit option -- say, forever?

Now, I don't mind the surface/transit option (there must be light rail line to W. Seattle, tho!), but your "drastically restricted" access to downtown does not equal a decade. Nor does it equal "drastically restricted" - that's what surface/transit will do when it completely shuts down AWV and the waterfront (vs. partial closures) for the teardown, albeit for shorter turnaround time than a rebuild.

Posted by him | March 9, 2007 3:15 PM

It's these little propagandist touches which frustrate me in reading your coverage of the viaduct. "A combined closeure of ten years"!?!? What possible defensible reason could there be for adding up the closure times of separate ramps like that? It only gives the impression that you will say anything which makes the rebuild look as bad as possible.

Posted by Ben | March 9, 2007 3:15 PM

Almost for sure both votes will be negative. The anti-rebuild campaign and unearned media may generate a little backlash but probably not enough.

So the time is near to stop bashing and start defining ones' options.

ECB writes - reconnecting the street grid won't take 10 years - ok what does that mean? Please is there a map showing the new grid?

BTW the viaduct was built to connect 99N and 99S because there weren't adequate connections, so what connections were disconnected that we will now reconnect?

Does transit mean more than more buses controlled by Metro? Will S&T advocates support using the work of the SPMA (EIS, public outreach, route etc.) to build a Green Line with some type rail?

Posted by Sherwin | March 9, 2007 3:43 PM

Hey, let's just use Sky Train instead of monorail - then we can call it light rail and everyone's happy.

But we still need DOUBLE local transit - in Bus service, in ferry service, in streetcar service, everything.

Even that will only keep it from getting unbearable.

The time for lower expectations is over. The time for doing is now. It will just keep getting much more expensive, no matter what our excuse is.

Posted by Will in Seattle | March 9, 2007 3:57 PM

We could just coat I-5 in Lipitor.


Posted by Lloyd Clydesdale | March 9, 2007 4:29 PM

Did you know that Jim Powers is crazy? he's suggesting a TALLER viaduct? what is a "wing-like" viaduct? Cantilevered?

Anything to hang onto single driver cars, up to & including fueling them with the blood of Iraqi orphans.

"if we built a beautiful wing-like high-tensile steel skyway high above the existing viaduct using the old viaduct as a scaffold. It would interrupt upper lane traffic only at night about 25 nights. The skyway could be finished in 3 years without significant disruption. This parallel expressway method saves almost $1Billion, partly because concessions to maintain traffic aren't needed."

Posted by Max Solomon | March 9, 2007 5:06 PM

Thanks to Seattle's Vulcan bootlicking city council, about 10% of any funding for expanded bus service has already been committed to more subsidies (not counting the $25 million construction subsidy) of the SLU vanity streetcar that Paul Allen demanded for his new office and condo tenants.

I am disappointed, but not surprised, that surface advocates have chosen to not mention this when imagining the slam dunk of doubling or triple local bus funding.

Posted by Creek | March 9, 2007 5:10 PM

Little tiny babies and kittens will die if we vote to rebuild. Sorry, I just can't buy the hysterics anymore.

Honestly, the Surface/Transit option is looking more and more like "Plan B' for downtown developers who want to build condos and kill manufacturing and maritime jobs, which is the backbone of the Seattle economy and many people's livelihoods.

Posted by georgetown stew | March 9, 2007 6:12 PM

"Anything to hang onto single driver cars, up to & including fueling them with the blood of Iraqi orphans."

Or high occupancy vehicles fueled by Alaska crude...What Jim Powers is suggesting (and I am guesstimating, a wee bit, what he is suggesting) may be entirely feasible.

In fact, based on a potential "No" to tunnel and "Yes" to a viaduct rebuild vote, I have been wondering when someone might float a Power's type proposal. Chopp recently made a reference to an "elegant" design or something to that effect to replace the percieved bulkiness of a replacement viaduct.


Posted by Jensen Interceptor | March 9, 2007 7:30 PM

The ongoing debate about the viaduct drives me absolutely nuts. I lived in San Francisco when a similar decision had to be made about the Embarcadero Freeway. The merchants in Chinatown and North Beach were running around saying that they would be ruined, ruioned, I tell you, if the freeway weren't replaced.

Needless to say, nearly 18 years later, Chinatown and North Beach continue to flourish.

I realize that Seattle's transit isn't as expensive as SF's, but it ain't bad, and how much transit could we buy for the cost of a replacement viaduct, anyway?

Posted by Jaye | March 9, 2007 7:54 PM

If the rebuild vote is a winner, I hope people can get behind a better design. Putting a single deck higher up would really cut down on the waterfront noise. Not to mention the construction benefits of keeping the existing viaduct unchanged during construction.

For anyone with an interest, with my immense photoshop skills I have whipped up a cross-section of my "rebuild remix" , which is I think rather similar to Jim Power's concept.

Posted by Some Jerk | March 9, 2007 9:10 PM

The SEABEE`S during WW2 landed on hostile beaches in the south pacific. Within a week they would clear a jungle and make a base and landing strip, while being shot at!! Closures of up to 75 months at a time? What are you people smoking? I see the govenment and the construction company that will get rich off of this project are content to drag their feet and appropriate more funds and piss away more tax payers dollars.

Posted by pyrofly70 | March 9, 2007 9:34 PM

Hi Jim. You letter i received. Thanks! Photos is GREAT!!!!

Posted by Slim | March 20, 2007 8:23 AM

property appreciation

Posted by HOMEADVANCEGUIDE | March 23, 2007 8:54 PM

property appreciation

Posted by HOMEADVANCEGUIDE | March 23, 2007 8:55 PM

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