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May 23, 2006

State legislators screwed Seattle on replacing the Viaduct

State legislators by only allowing a choice between a tunnel that has the same “capacity” as the current viaduct, or a horrifying elevated highway have screwed Seattle.  As a progressive, pro-transit city, Seattle must be allowed to work towards a solution that uses state funding to replace the viaduct with a reduced capacity tunnel, while focusing local dollars on transit.

The Mayor and City Council in Seattle should have lobbied the state for an option that allowed for reduced capacity, rather than blindly advocating for an expensive tunnel.  They made that mistake prior to the 2006 legislative session, and should try to reverse it now.  Politically, the city should get behind the same capacity tunnel as the only reasonable option, line up the money, and then lobby the state for the less expensive reduced capacity tunnel and free up the remaining local dollars for transit.

Meanwhile, the no-replacement option, advocated by the Peoples Waterfront Coalition is gaining appeal as the solution to create funding for transit and as a way to reconnect the street grid.   Yet, the political support for removing the viaduct and replacing it with a street level option is tenuous at best, and it doesn’t allow for a beautiful waterfront.  We must also examine the “bigger picture” and acknowledge the way transportation spending works at the state level.

The gas tax must be spent on state highway projects (until we change the state constitution).  If 2 Billion is shifted away from the viaduct replacement, the first place it goes is into expanding other local highways, such as I-405, worsening congestion in the region.

North of downtown, Aurora Avenue North should be reduced from its existing six-lane highway to a tree planted boulevard, with bike lanes, and bus rapid transit.  The street grid could be reconnected at many blocks, from Greenlake to Downtown, removing not only a dangerous ugly roadway, but also making Aurora less of a highway and more of a transit and people corridor. 

Under the waterfront, a tunnel, with  “congestion pricing,” should be built.  Not just as a replacement for the existing viaduct, but also designed to help alleviate congestion on I-5.  The Urban Environmental Stakeholders position should be seriously considered as solution to a complex problem.

With a tunnel under the waterfront Seattle can begin a long-term plan to create a vibrant downtown of increased density, with a focus on new affordable housing and serving as Seattle’s primary transit hub.

Cross Posted on Urban Transit

Posted by EzraBasom on May 23, 2006 at 01:43 PM in Policy, Washington Culture | Permalink

Comments

"...and it doesn’t allow for a beautiful waterfront."

Woah, hold on. That's just complete garbage. How does the Transit + Streets plan not allow for a beautiful waterfront? You do realize that the current tunnel plan the mayor is fighting for includes 4 lanes of surface traffic right on top of the partial tunnel, right? And the tunnel only goes from King to Pike, so at Pike you have tons of traffic coming out of the ground right next to the market and down at King you have a concrete nightmare and a ditch.

The Transit + Streets plan has, drumroll please, 4 lanes of surface traffic, but without a tunnel you actually have the money to create a real waterfront (because trying to connect and clean Elliott Bay is not exactly going to be easy or cheap.)

So, explain to me how the Mayor's partial tunnel and beautiful while the Transit + Streets plan is not.

Posted by: Christian Gloddy | May 23, 2006 2:12:49 PM

The state shouldn't have a say in how the viaduct is replaced? Not only are we talking about state gas tax money, which the constitution requires be spent only on highways, but this is a state highway after all, State Highway 99. It is not a city street. And Highway 99 moves a lot of traffic, as anyone from, say, West Seattle knows. The idea that this traffic will just disappear, rather than congest everything else around here, if we provide some transit, is just as preposterous as the idea of "affordable housing" downtown. The main advantage Democrats have over Republicans these days is a better grasp of reality (as Colbert said, "reality has a liberal bias"). This kind of ideological opposition to motor vehicles is just as bad as the Republicans' distorted view of the world. As Seattle's population grows, it will need more of everything that moves people, whether it is rail cars, or buses or more efficient roads on which those buses, and trucks and cars, can move.

Posted by: Steve | May 23, 2006 6:09:22 PM

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