(This post is part of a series.)

Noted in passing, a Seattle Times article with a mildly galling headline: Rebuild or replace the viaduct?  So, what then, are those the only two options on the table?  Obviously, no.  But it’s hard to know that from the Times’ coverage.

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  • The article highlights the musings of a retired structural engineer and I-912 supporter who claims that the Viaduct could be patched up for the low, low cost of $200 to $300 million (perhaps using Viaduct tape), as opposed to a minimum of $2.5 billion for a whole new structure.  His reasoning:  only one section of the Viaduct needs to be replaced. “We think the rest is simply OK.”  (One hopes that “I think it’s ok” doesn’t become the default health and safety standard for highway projects.)

    Meanwhile, engineers who’ve actually…you know…studied the issue say that this is bunk, and the whole thing could come down in a big quake.  Repairing the Viaduct to meet reasonable safety standards is nearly as expensive as building a whole new one, and would extend the structure’s working life by only a few decades—which makes the high cost hard to justify.

    Now, I don’t personally know whether this retired engineer guy is onto something, or just a crank.  I suspect the latter.  But, quite clearly, the Times thought that the thoughts of a rogue engineer (I didn’t know there was such a thing) were worth front-page coverage. So when do they start covering the rest of the debate—including the people who think that replacing the Viaduct’s capacity is still too expensive at $2.5 billion, let alone $4 billion for a tunnel?

    Update:  It’s a good idea to read the comments here—seems like I was pretty unfair to suggest that the retired engineer, Neil Twelker, might be a crank.  Apparently, he’s quite a renowned figure, and an exceptionally well qualified engineer.

    And, just to be clear, I intended the title “They’ve got a bridge to sell you” to refer to the Times’ coverage—which seemed to assume that the two poles of the Viaduct debate were “repair” or “rebuild”—and not to the engineers themselves.  Sorry if that seemed like a swipe at the engineers.