(This post is part of a series.)

Apropos of this post, it looks like the Seattle city council has authorized a look at using transit and street grid improvements to replace the waterfront Alaskan Way Viaduct through downtown.

Press release excerpts follow:

  • “We’re on the verge of committing billions of public dollars and enduring years of disruption,” says Councilmember Richard Conlin. “This is not by any means an endorsement of any option. Regardless of politics, we simply must provide the taxpayers with a convincing argument on whether a surface and transit intensive option is viable or not.”

    The Council will hire a consultant to initially identify and develop a scope of work to analyze whether the capacity of the street grid and a reconfiguration with the deployment of additional transit services could sustain mobility given the loss of the Alaskan Way Viaduct. This initial scoping study is expected to be complete in 5-6 weeks and will cost $15,000. Once it is received, the Council will determine whether it will fund a more intensive analysis.

    “The future of Seattle hinges on the transportation decisions we make today. Let’s be certain to fully examine the benefits of each option and how they affect the character of the waterfront,” says Councilmember Peter Steinbrueck.

    “One of my highest priorities is to promote and accelerate transit,” says Transportation Committee Chair, Councilmember Jan Drago. “We need to be aggressive in planning for our future transit needs and make sure we’re spending public money in the most cost-effective way.”

    This initial scoping study would rely on existing studies and previous analyses such as the Seattle Transit Plan, The Green Line Corridor Study, SDOT and WSDOT’s planning work and Puget Sound Regional Council (PSRC) data.  It will also look to what other cities have already learned.

    “The decision on the Alaskan Way Viaduct will affect a generation,” states Councilmember Richard Conlin. “We don’t want to be second guessing or wondering ‘what if.’  When we decide, we need to do so absolutely confident of our approach.”

    This sounds encouraging to me.  Of course, $15,000 is just a drop in the bucket, compared with what the city and state are/were planning to spend on the Viaduct.

    But if the study is done well, it should make it clear whether a more comprehensive look is worthwhile.  And in the meantime, the council members quoted above are all saying the right words—about the need to take a look at a no-highway scenario without prejudging the results, about promoting transit, and about demanding cost-effective transportation decisions.