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Monday, March 3, 2008

Viaduct Retrofit Delayed

posted by on March 3 at 17:26 PM

After voters rejected both freeway options for replacing the Alaskan Way Viaduct in March 2007, the state and city departments of transportation (WSDOT and SDOT) came up with a list of “consensus” projects that could move forward while stakeholders debated what to do with the central waterfront portion of the viaduct. At the time, proponents of the surface/transit option worried about two particular projects—one that would replace the viaduct on the south end from South Holgate to Royal Brougham, and one that would strengthen the existing viaduct from Lenora to the Battery Street Tunnel. Surface/transit backers opposed the former project because it assumed a six-lane freeway on the waterfront, and the latter because it would effectively preclude any non-freeway option.

Well, the first project has reportedly been redesigned beyond recognition, and the second is effectively off the table. The south-end viaduct replacement has, according to People’s Waterfront Coalition co-chair Cary Moon (the earliest advocate for the surface/transit option), been redesigned in a way that could feed into a four-lane urban street, instead of the six-lane freeway the design previously presumed. (The images in WSDOT’s presentation still show six lanes, though.) Even more significantly, state transportation planners have indefinitely postponed the Lenora-to-Battery viaduct retrofit—because, as a WSDOT representative told the council’s viaduct committee this afternoon, “it became obvious that as we were looking at potential solutions for the central waterfront … that a significant portion of this could have to be reworked” if the city and state choose a surface-transit option. “We’re going to wait until we see what the central waterfront solution is before we pull it back off the shelf.”

The PWC’s Moon says WSDOT’s turnaround is “amazing. It’s just great, because that was the one squirrely [project] that forced there to be a highway in the central portion.” Moon notes that at least 15 different organizations wrote letters several months ago asking WSDOT to delay the project, including the PWC, which wrote, “Until the long-term solution is understood and traffic routings and volumes are known, this segment of high-volume, high-speed elevated highway should not be rebuilt.” By delaying the project, Moon says, “they basically said, ‘We heard you.’”

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They heard WHO, exactly? Cary Moon? Who appointed her Master of the Waterfront?

They need to reinforce the thing NOW. There is no mandate for a surface option; quite the contrary.

Posted by Fnarf | March 3, 2008 5:37 PM

Well why did I see a drill rig down there a week or so ago installing what appeared to augercast piles? For those that do not know, augercast piles are used to support foundations.

And I agree with Fnarf. Who did make Cary Moon the "Master of the Waterfront"?

Posted by JD | March 3, 2008 5:40 PM

It's going to be a massive, tricky project. The southern portion of the Viaduct and the rise up and over at the W Seattle exit avoid criss crossing at-grade, very busy rail and semi traffic.

Posted by Lloyd Clydesdale | March 3, 2008 5:43 PM

Erica. Who else?

Posted by ivan | March 3, 2008 5:43 PM
Posted by JD | March 3, 2008 5:52 PM

People have been calling for removing the viaduct from before it was built, which would be before the young CM was born. How come no picture ala Josh and the lobbyist?

Posted by ouch | March 3, 2008 6:15 PM

In the last few months, WSDOT has suddenly turned into an agency much more responsive to the public, community concerns, cost issues, and environmental issues (including climate change). They've taken much more reasonable positions on the Viaduct and SR 520 projects, hired new staff to work on climate issues, and been much more active (constructively) in working with Sound Transit staff and board members on ST2 planning.

What's changed? The most obvious answer is the replacement of autocratic Secretary of DOT Doug McDonald with Paula Hammond. No one knew much about her before Gregoire selected Hammond last fall - she was unknown so she was uncontroversial. But Hammond seems to have dramatically turned around the culture of the agency in just a short period of time.

Posted by Bill LaBorde | March 3, 2008 6:15 PM

The only option still on the table is waiting for the 8.0 earthquake to knock the sucker down. At that point, it'll be rebuilt quickly without debate.

Anyone thinking that surface/transit is an "option" also believes the earth is flat and jeebus is coming. Gravel trucks won't disappear into thin air, and neither will the port if you know what's good for the local economy.

Posted by wbrproductions | March 3, 2008 6:50 PM

It's coming down. The economy will be fine. Thanks for trying.

Posted by Cale | March 3, 2008 6:59 PM

Anyone who thinks that the future will bring us the rebuilding of a massive multi-level highway on the the most prized-possession of this City is clueless.

Posted by Timothy | March 3, 2008 7:20 PM

@7 Bill:
don't know Paula Hammond so can't disagree. But the new WSDOT attitude surely could be a result of the defeat of Roads 'n' Transit last Fall.
That was a huge loss for WSDOT -- they didn't get funding for roads projects. It underscores that WSDOT has to serve the public in all ways -- and not just be a highway building agency -- or else the public will not necessarily support any roads projects at the polls.

Elections make government more responsive.

Posted by Cleve | March 3, 2008 8:10 PM

The downtown waterfront is the city's most prized possession? Seriously?

Posted by joykiller | March 3, 2008 8:18 PM

You know, if we just let an earthquake knock it down, we can use the federal money to rebuild 520 while doing Surface Plus Transit ...

Posted by Will in Seattle | March 3, 2008 8:47 PM

Yeah it's way more prized than the Arboretum, Green Lake, Seward Park, Alki, Golden Gardens, Volunteer Park, yup that one mile is really developable beautiful.

Posted by ouch | March 3, 2008 9:03 PM

You need to totally rewrite this. it's all transpo jargon.

Posted by Savage, get Erica a rewrite man | March 3, 2008 9:35 PM


Posted by Greg | March 3, 2008 9:59 PM

Voting down the tunnel cured the seawall.

Posted by ouch | March 3, 2008 11:03 PM

The surface/transit "option" is the dumbest of all dumb transit ideas in Seattle.

As someone who lives near the viaduct and walks frequently on Alaskan Way between the ferry terminal and Myrtle Edwards park I frequently wonder whether the genius who thought of this idea ever actually came down to take a look at the viaduct and Alaskan Way.

The surface/transit "option" is one of those ideas that sounds great when you live in some other part of town and can just spout off about "what we should do", without looking at the hard facts. (I'd call it an "Obama" solution. Ha ha.)

Has anyone lobbying for that effort even seriously thought about what we would do with the pedestrians that need to cross Alaskan Way? What are we going to do, build big pedestrian overpasses every few hundred yards? That won't be ugly. No.

And people attempting to cross Alaskan Way already have to dodge cars to cross at a crosswalk - I shudder to think what it will be like if we up the speed limit to allow a "surface transportation corridor" through that part of town.

But "Oh no!" you say. "We're going to re-route traffic down 3rd Avenue!" Really? You want more traffic on the street that has the most low-income housing in all of downtown? You want those people to deal with the pollution from the slowly moving cars re-routed from HWY99?

On top of that, cross traffic heading to the ferry terminal would have to be addressed with another overpass of some sort. Brilliant!

Oh yeah, the sea wall has to be replaced too, so I guess while we're turning Alaskan Way into a psuedo highway with pedestrian overpasses we can do that at the same time.

But I just don't get it, you say. "We're going to encourage people to use transit!"

Let's think about that. Despite what some whiners say, we actually have one of the better bus transportation systems in the nation. Many people are already using them on their regular commute.

But here's the thing -- most of the people who live outside the city in the outer suburbs and rural areas don't think like you, and they don't give a damn about what you want. The blue-collar "Walmart Nation" types and the self-entitled inner suburbanites are still going to drive their pickups and SUVs to every appointment or event in town. Every joker with a pickup truck thinks he's the exception to the rule.

And no one has even mentioned the delivery trucks and semis that drive between South Seattle and places like Ballard and further north. Where are they going to go?

This surface/transit idea is pointless, and you're really kidding yourselves if you think that's the best option for the future of Seattle. A tunnel is still clearly the best option.

Posted by Mike in Pioneer Square | March 4, 2008 12:58 AM

You can always tell the rebuild advocates from a mile away, can't you.

Posted by monkey | March 4, 2008 7:51 AM


you assume that gasoline is an infinitely renewable resource. it is most definitely not.

people drive on the viaduct BECAUSE THEY CAN.

Fnarf, Cary Moon made herself Master of the Waterfront through intelligence, advocacy & hard work, just like Ms. Justice made herself the hottest lobbyist in Oly.

Posted by max solomon | March 4, 2008 10:02 AM

@20 you assume that gasoline is an infinitely renewable resource. it is most definitely not.

Wow, that's pretty naive. We're going to run out of gas? Not any time soon. And even if we do (*gasp*) all of those electic or hybrid vehicles are going to need a route from South and West Seattle through downtown.

Posted by Mike in Pioneer Square | March 4, 2008 11:28 AM

Oh lord, because we REALLY needed to revive the viaduct bitching again.

Main entry and Cary Moon quote aside (which are both actually somewhat level for a change), the comments feature the same assholes saying the same lines. I'll pass.

Posted by Gomez | March 4, 2008 4:48 PM

Well, except for Mike in Pioneer Square, though he has no idea what he's getting into.

Smart comments, Mike, but save your energy: the zealots aren't gonna listen. It's like talking to Christian missionaries, except dumber.

Posted by Gomez | March 4, 2008 4:50 PM

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