Today, the Seattle Times has something of a landmark op-ed on the eternal viaduct debate. It’s jointly signed by Governor Gregoire, King County Executive Sims, and Seattle Mayor Nickels.
It seems to say some good things:
In the year 2008—not 1950—we need a viaduct solution that not only moves traffic but addresses these larger issues so our children and grandchildren don’t have to wrestle with the legacy of shortsightedness.
By pulling together transportation, climate pollution and environmental health, many voices and interests are shaping a path to success. A joint recommendation for the future of the central portion of the viaduct will be presented at the end of this year.
That sounds right to me. The viaduct clearly has implications beyond just moving cars. But as is often the way with joint statements, the article seems so hashed and rehashed that it’s hard to make any sense of some parts.
Today, we are looking at the existing transportation system as an integrated whole and determining how to make better use of what we have. We are looking at improvements to I-5, downtown streets, transit service and the existing Highway 99 corridor. We’re also contemplating policy changes. We believe a combination of solutions will bring us more bang for the buck.
The 10 options referenced in a recent Seattle Times article [“Viaduct alternatives have expanded to 10,” Local News, April 30] are just one dimension of the challenge. We have multiple options for what could replace the viaduct on the central waterfront. However, equally important are other considerations that will influence the future of this vital waterfront travel corridor.
What are the “other considerations”? What are these “policy changes” they’re contemplating? And what does “bang for the buck” even mean in this context?
Somebody help: I’m not being facetious, I’m just confused. (And I’m not the only one, apparently.) Is this statement supposed to be telegraphing something?
If anybody finds my secret op-ed decoder ring, please return it.
“we need a viaduct solution that not only moves traffic”Not exactly. They need a viaduct solution that moves goods and people.
optimistic reading: “we need to make WSDOT’s official policy one of supporting the movement of goods and people rather than vehicles” … “we’re finally going to try and prepare public opinion for a solution that provides real public transport improvements instead of those 6 lanes of highway”pessimistic reading: these “outside considerations” will be a justification for forcing a rebuild on Seattle.I present both because I don’t know which to believe myself.
I do not believe WsDOT has any intention other than to replace the viaduct with another, larger viaduct. My evidence for this belief is the proposed ‘upgrading’ of the Battery Street tunnel ventilators, lighting and such. If WsDOT were seriously considering the waterfront tunnel and surface boulevard options, the Battery Street Tunnel has to be ‘lowered’ some 25′ at the west portal, and SR99 rebuilt beneath Western and Elliot Avenues. But WsDOT is not considering this ‘lowering’ necessary to reduce SR99 grade of incline between the Waterfront and Battery Street tunnel. WsDOT is lying, IMO. Whether or not Gregoire, Sims and Nickles are aware of the lie is another question. I challenge the Right-leaning Siteline to PROVE this claim false.
Anyone who reads these posts and sees that my challenge has been ignored should think twice about donating to Sightline. I’ve made challenges like this before, and Sightline’s response was to shoot the messenger.
Eric de Place
Sigh. I don’t normally spend my weekends in blog comments, but I’ll bite. Art, you say you want “Siteline” (sic) to prove a claim false. But what claim would that be? You made a number of claims in your first comment.
The important claim, Eric, is that WashDOT knows that in order to engineer surface and tunnel options, the Battery Street Tunnel must be ‘lowered’ about 25′ and rebuilt beneath Elliot and Western Avenues. The grade of incline between Battery Street Tunnel and the Waterfront must be reduced. Also, the entrance to SR99 south from Elliot currently is a climb and a blind merge. And the exit from SR99 to Western is a speed inducing downhill. Rebuilding SR99 under Elliot and Western would make that entrance and exit safer. Not all readers take Sightline’s word as impeccable, Eric. Blogs get more readers by being attentive to their needs, rather than the needs of the columnists. Thanks for replying. Now we’ll all see whether you take the claim seriously. If WashDOT only intends to rebuild the viaduct, no matter the options they only claim to take seriously, I say stick it to ’em. What if I’m right? Oh… yeah… right.
Eric de Place
Art, I don’t know enough about the engineering specifics to make an informed judgment about those claims. Is WsDOT sincerely trying to create a surface-transit option? I think probably so. Gov Gregoire has recently been pretty strongly and publicly supportive of doing so (see this article). But the op-ed was cryptic enough to make me wonder what’s going on.Couple of questions for you. “The grade of incline between Battery Street Tunnel and the Waterfront must be reduced.” How so? The hill is somewhat steep, but under the current configuration cars do navigate the grade on surface streets. “Also, the entrance to SR99 south from Elliot currently is a climb and a blind merge.” Agreed, it’s hair-raising. But my understanding is that merge wouldn’t exist any long under a surface-transit option.
Eric, you may not know enough of the engineering specifics to make an informed judgment, but Sightline surely must. I’m asking Sightline to do dome diligent follow up on this. Please. I don’t see how SR99 can eliminate the connections to Elliot and Western Avenues with the surface boulevard option, Eric. WashDOT plans to reinforce the viaduct through that area, basicly leaving it and its entrances and exits in place. It may be possible to construct stoplight intersections with SR99 at Elliot and Western, thus eliminating the southbound hillclimb entrance and merge from Elliot to SR99 and the other merge lanes. But there’s a safety concern about motorists coming upon those intersections at speed as they emerge westbound from the tunnel. Such intersections may not be able to handle the traffic volume, resulting in traffic backups in the tunnel, etc. The incline is between Lenora and Pike, only about 600′ to rise some 70′ to the elevated viaduct. That’s more than a 6 degree grade. Not impossible for a surface street, but unacceptable for a main thoroughfare. Because WashDOT is planning to leave the viaduct in place, WashDOT is NOT planning for the surface boulevard nor tunnel options. I’m very concerned about WashDOT disengenuousness on this point. All Seattlers should be concerned. Their alarm bells should be going off. If Sightline decides to ignore this, I’ll be around later to say I told you so.
Eric de Place
These are great issues to raise, Art.I wish Sightline had the resources to bird-dog this project, as well as many other public policy decisions around the Northwest. Unfortunately, we can’t do everything we want to, and that includes getting down into the nitty-gritty (but important) engineering decisions that surround the replacement. We simply don’t have the bandwidth to adequately research and address these questions.I’d encourage you to get in contact with WsDOT’s public process. There are some terrific and smart people working closely on this stuff. Also, the People’s Waterfront Coalition is an outstanding resource.