Saturday, February 10, 2007

Waterfront Tunnel Maybe The Real Compromise To Surface Transit Option Or Viaduct

As the important March 13 mail ballot on whether to replace the Alaskan Way viaduct with a tunnel nears, a third option is becoming popular. Basically don’t build either. This third option, for some reason unfortunately, is not even on the ballot. This was pointed out competently by the Stranger in an article calling for the so-called No and No vote rejecting both the tunnel and viaduct on the election ballot.

This third choice has been referred to as the “surface transit option”. It does not mean that nothing would be done of course. To quote:

“The sad thing is, there is another option—an option that doesn't block the waterfront, doesn't include a giant trench through Belltown, and doesn't serve cars at the expense of the environment. It's the same solution that other cities around the country—from New York to San Francisco to freaking Chattanooga, Tennessee—have implemented, to literally universal success: Tear down the wall, improve surface-street connections downtown, and spend our tax dollars putting transit, not pouring concrete, in the Alaskan Way corridor.”
Unfortunately, I feel that the surface transit option is not widely understood by the electorate. I would strongly lean in support of the surface transit option over building any viaduct ever period if those were the two choices.

But I also realize that the voters are probably not as up to speed on all the alternatives as they should be at this point in time. Most, according to the surveys seem to just want to blindly replace the viaduct with another new monstrosity elevated roadway. It maybe condescending to say that about such a large group of people, but time is short and I think we need to be realistic about the attention levels of the average voter on this subject.

Even key politicians in Olympia, namely the Speaker of the House Frank Chopp, who controls the agenda and financing to a major degree and the Governor, have thoughtlessly taken the expedient and easy political road calling for rebuilding some form of elevated viaduct. These are tough foes to overcome if Seattle is to do the right thing and stop the viaduct from being simply replaced with another piece of shit, environmental, aesthetic, and architectural disaster of an elevated roadway in any form.

So I offer the compromise. The Tunnel. This would require a Yes (tunnel) and No (elevated road) vote on the advisory ballot.

The main reason I offer this position is I believe that most voters, especially those who live or have business in West Seattle an South Seattle, cannot imagine not having a major highway available to them for their daily commute or commerce. Those of us who lived through the Nisqually earthquake of 2001 and had to work around not having a viaduct or having to rely on surface streets or I-5 remember what it was like. It was unadulterated gridlock hell getting anywhere. Having to commute without the viaduct must be a paramount memory to many who suffered through it. To offer them nothing but new imporved surface streets and transit is not enough. I'm afraid it just won't fly.

I will also argue we need for homeland security and reasons of commerce a major highway corridor to handle, for the next fifty years, the personal, business, metro bus and government vehicle traffic.

The surface transit option, although high minded, will not answer these real concerns. It is a noble goal to get everyone riding mass transit, biking or walking to work someday but unrealistic given the history of accomplishments here so far in that area. Mostly the idea of intercity intellectuals.

It also is a major sacrifice for vehicle commuters, who would be forced onto surface streets by construction for a number of years, to be willing to support a tunnel if they had no hope that a shinny new highway would be worth all the suffering in the end.

So no one in his or her right mind should be for an elevated viaduct type structure. The surface transit option is noble but not practical.

I have also argued in a previous post that funding for the project can and should be worked out no matter how much it ends up being based on what option we end up with be it tunnel on surface transit. This is due to the historical, colossal and the once in a life time decision nature of the undertaking.

It’s also time to say no to meddling by politicians who lack leadership or understanding in Olympia.

This is a once in a lifetime civic project that we must get right at any cost. Therefore, the tunnel, in some form, is the proper compromise.

I urge Seattle's citizens to vote Yes and No on their ballots.

1 comment:

  1. One thing tunnel aficionados consistently overlook is that we can't engineer against everything. When the big shake comes, a tunnel through our waterfront liquefaction zone will turn into a multilane tomb.