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If Nothing Else, Maybe We Can All Agree On This: The Viaduct Is Ridiculous

2011 April 21
by dan bertolet

Just when you thought the saga of Seattle’s deep-bore tunnel couldn’t possibly get any more dysfunctional, it does. Yesterday we learned (1) that a new report commissioned by the Mayor’s office shows that the tunnel would perform worse than widely believed compared to the I-5/Surface/Transit option, and (2) that the Washington State Department of Transportation is no longer interested in collaborating on the tunnel project with the Seattle Department of Transportation.

Nelson Nygaard’s new report puts the lie to the claim that the I-5/Surface/Transit option would cause gridlock, just like the 2008 study before that, and the 2006 study before that. Those who make the gridlock claim have no credibility. Where is the data that backs up their argument?

The new report also shoots down the claim that the I-5/Surface/Transit option couldn’t handle freight traffic, and predicts that severe congestion would occur at the tunnel portals.

Meanwhile, more and more we hear about the rejection of freeways in cities all across the country, including Baltimore, Louisville, New Haven, Buffalo, Cleveland, New Orleans, and Charleston, SC.

And meanwhile, larger grows the data pile showing a trend of car travel leveling off or decreasing.

And meanwhile, more revealed become the details on the ugly truth about how the tunnel portals will degrade Seattle’s urban fabric.

And meanwhile, more are more people want an alternative to car-dependence.

And the State budget implodes. And gas prices rise. And climate change accelerates.

Ah well. Too late. Shux.

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Okay. So if you’re weary of thinking about all that (and who isn’t?), here’s something I think we all can agree on: The Viaduct is one crazy-monumental piece of work. Check it:

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More Viaduct pictures after the jump…

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10 Responses leave one →
  1. biliruben permalink
    April 21, 2011

    Charleston, SC.

    Publicola reported that the report was commissioned by the Council not the Mayor, though I don’t know which is correct.

    Nice pics, BTW.

  2. Matt the Engineer permalink
    April 21, 2011

    Ugly. And loud. Walking down the waterfront at lunch you almost have to yell to have a conversation. Good riddance.

  3. Matt the Engineer permalink
    April 21, 2011

    (did you catch this story today? WSDOT’s models are broken enough that they predict tolling the tunnel will induce people to drive.)

  4. Grahm permalink
    April 21, 2011

    Having moved from Seattle to San Francisco a little over a year ago, these pictures make me think how little time I would spend on the Embarcadero if the freeway were still there today. A lot of folks like to point out the differences between Seattle and anywhere else that removed a freeway. It is true that the AWV is unique, but so was the Embarcadero and so is basically every urban freeway. The only thing that is common in freeway removal projects is that the predicted gridlock and permanent economic devastation rarely comes to fruition.

  5. Wells permalink
    April 21, 2011

    Nice collection, Dan. I find the AWV ridiculous is through Lowur Belltowne. The ramps are basicly 2nd rate. Entering southbound is ‘uphill’ and ‘blind’; exit northbound is ‘downhill’ faster onto surface streets, faster than what sensible engineers recommend. Ridiculous, also ugly overhead Hwy through the tight urban setting. Ridiculous. The cut/cover recommends SR99 routed ‘beneath’ Elliott/Western AND the recommendation must date back to the 50’s. Dan, the photos are spot on. The AWV is also Rong entering onto 1st Ave, encouraging motoristas to use the hillclimbs and equally preposterous downhill runs to 1st AND those SR99 access ramps.

    • Wells permalink
      April 21, 2011

      And to make myself perfectly clear, dan, the Nielsen/Nygaard report is a huge blow to the pro-bored tunnel whizbang-erino cheerz-leedurs wutz like ther dum idear a wutz otta be dun.

  6. Cary permalink
    April 22, 2011

    Nice collection of analysis showing the arguments for the tunnel are pretty hollow.

    And here is one more you could add. A few recent analyses of performance of 21st century new toll roads show that usage is significantly over-predicted, and revenues (surprise) lower than needed to repay bonds.
    http://www.transyt.upm.es/eiburs/txt/Inaccuracy_Traffic_Estimation_empirical_analysis.pdf
    So by punting its tolling decision another year, calling for a fourth round of study since they didn’t like the answer from the first three, it’s likely that WSDOT will conclude that it won’t toll the facility after all. After they’ve started construction. Whoops now they’re short $400 million. Are they going to demand Seattle come up with that too — on top of all the other costs they’ve passed on already?

    • Wells permalink
      April 25, 2011

      The stark surface street photos make a good case against a replacement viaduct. Sensible engineering condemns the bored tunnel more than that alternative. Surface/Transit plus fixes for I-5 is BETTER than both. The only sensible tunnel is undeniably a cut/cover. Wsdot incompetence on this project is inexcusable.

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