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Why Seattle's Viaduct solution is good for Wenatchee

A 'trade mission' by the Port of Seattle makes the case for the deep bore tunnel, which avoids cutting off Eastern Washington trade from the port for years
The Port of Seattle. (Chuck Taylor)

The Port of Seattle. (Chuck Taylor) None

Face it. We in Wenatchee get a lot of satisfaction from complaining about them. Those people over there, the 206ers, divide their time between banning styrofoam cups and inhaling billions in public funds. We know there is a black hole somewhere near Fourth and Westlake where two-thirds of the state’s public funds are locked in a vortex, spiraling, spinning inescapably toward the center, where they will be compressed into an infinitely small space by the power of 206 municipal finance. Then it all disappears, and we have nothing. Or, at best, something really useful, like a waterfront trolley.

We’ve spent recent years reading about the "megaprojects" — the floating bridges and the freeways with widths measured in football fields — and how many hundreds of millions they might inhale and take away from our little two-lane world. And we were bewildered, and complained that those people couldn’t do anything but spend money, and we wondered why our gasoline taxes are flowing toward the 206 vortex. But what if you knew this: Spending $2.8 billion in state funds to dig a tunnel under Seattle might improve profits for an orchardist near Pateros?

It just might. We’re that connected. We’re part of the same system, like it or not. This state’s economy is based on trade with the wider world, and that trade depends in large part on the ports in Seattle and Tacoma and on the big airport in between. The success and efficiency of those facilities depend on how much freight can move in and out, and how much it costs to do that. That impacts plenty of people outside 206, especially in export-dependent industries, like growing fruit.

Considering this, it shouldn’t be unusual for the Port of Seattle to send people to Wenatchee to, you know, kind of scope it out. Yet no one could remember when that happened before — until it happened Monday. Bill Bryant, the president of the Seattle Port Commission; Tay Yoshitani, the Port CEO; and Kurt Beckett, the Port external affairs director, were in Wenatchee to meet with people from industry and government and see about this connectivity. Bryant himself was no stranger — he once lived in Yakima and advised the fruit industry on export issues. Now he’s at Pier 69 thinking about freight mobility.

Talking about freight, it didn’t take long before the tunnel became the topic. Rehabbing the Alaskan Way Viaduct as an elevated freeway would have been a nightmare for the entire state, said Bryant. It would have cut off Seattle’s maritime industries from the rest of us for maybe seven years. The cut-and-cover option — sticking the highway in a trench with a lid — would have been as bad or worse. Tearing down the Viaduct and replacing it with nothing, turning the approaches to the Port into a truckers’ free-for-all, would have been insane.

So, digging a deep tunnel is not extravagance. It’s the cheapest solution. It’s best for everyone, from Pier 69 to Ritzville, because freight can flow in and out of the Port during construction. We here in Wenatchee will chip in for the $2.8 billion state share, and our trucks can get their containers to those ships. With ours and others there are 8,000 trucks going in and out of Seattle’s port on any given day. Traffic jams don’t pay.

There will be other projects where freight mobility is a major issue. The pending rebuild of Snoqualmie Pass, $1.3 billion for 15 miles, is part of it. The double-decking of the Stampede Pass rail tunnel, with a $28 million state contribution, is another. Taxes don’t always get caught in the 206 vortex. In fact, they more often flow the other way, and the vortex is more of a fountain. But whichever way the flow goes, we’re all in it together.

This column is reprinted, with permission, from the Wenatchee 'World.'

Tracy Warner is editor of the editorial page of the Wenatchee World. He can be reached at warner@wenworld.com


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Comments:

Posted Thu, Jun 18, 6:41 a.m. Inappropriate

Tracy, you do know that WSDOT has a plan in place to toll the Snoqualmie Pass...right? Can Stevens be too far behind? I know, it's only $5.00 or so a truck or carload, but somebody still has to pay.

Cameron

Posted Thu, Jun 18, 8:34 a.m. Inappropriate

You must be drinking the same coolade that WSDOT is dishing out, to get to your inaccurate statement about rehabbing the current Viaduct.

The beauty of a Retrofit is that it need not be closed down during construction, except for minimal periods to repave the roadbeds which could take place at night. And it would makeit 50% quieter.

It would maintain the same traffic volumes and access/egress points. The Tunnel proposal does NOT accomplish there two vital factors needed in a responsive soution.
And, it will take 3 years to complete for about $1 billion. A much more affordable solution than the $4+ billion that is estimated to be spent on the Tunnel and paid for by all WashingtonStte residents.

Oh, and by the way, did they tell you that there wouldn't be any disruption while the Tunnel is being built and is useable. Well, wake up!

WSDOT is going to demolish the southern portion of the Viaduct, from King to Holgate, as soon as this year. That WILL create disruption for years waiting for the Tunnel to be useable. It will cause traffic jams on I-5 and I-90 turning them into a parking lot. How does that effect Wenatchee?

So, get real. Don't go with the flow. Wenatchee deserves better. Take the time to get the facts and you will whistle a different tune. The aesthetic conspiracy to bring the Viaduct down is being played out with smoke and mirrors to avoid the true negative impacts of the Tunnel.

We need your help in stopping this lie. That's the best thing you could do for Wenatchee.

Some friendly advice.

Art

Posted Thu, Jun 18, 11:15 a.m. Inappropriate

Cameron, you are wrong. I work in a high-level planning department at DOT and I know exactly which projects are slated for prospective tolling. No pass is on that list. Perhaps you are referring to the (unfounded) idea to toll the I-90 bridge across Lake Washington?

chichiRat

Posted Thu, Jun 18, 11:18 a.m. Inappropriate

As a native Wenatcheeite (Wenatcheeian?) who's now a 360er, formerly a 206er, I think this article speaks well of Wenatchee's need to start looking outside its own boundaries. Tracy Warner's been there a long time and knows the attitudes that prevail. This is one more thing in the whole "east vs. west" divide in this state, and I find it heartening that nearly 30 years after I chose to leave, looking for broader horizons, somebody finally has the nerve to say it.

debbalee

Posted Thu, Jun 18, 11:34 a.m. Inappropriate

Cameron & chichiRat, you are both slightly wrong. Cameron is correct, chichiRat is incorrect; there is a move to toll Snoqualmie - currently in the form of a "study" not "plan." Cameron is wrong, chichiRat is right; it doesn't "belong" to WSDOT! Look up the state tolling study under the state Transportation Commission - see http://wstc.wa.gov/tolling/ (specifically part 2 final study)

debbalee

Posted Thu, Jun 18, 2:48 p.m. Inappropriate

As a transplant native of Yakima (Yakimaniac?) I echo the comments of debbalee. Eastern Washingtonians do not get (or choose not to get) how interconnected the two regions economies and transportation systems are, let alone which way the money flows. I applaude Commissioner Bryant's efforts to make the Port relevant to our brothers and sisters over the mountatins as well as Tracy Warner for writing this piece.

Josue

Posted Thu, Jun 18, 3:18 p.m. Inappropriate

Is it really true that on balance money flows out of eastern washington in taxes and into western washington in public spending?

optic

Posted Thu, Jun 18, 3:31 p.m. Inappropriate

The casual observer (me) would say the big bottleneck for the Port of Seattle is way south of the Viaduct. The jury-rigged system for transferring containers to the long-haul trucks and rail lines (owner-operated elderly diesel tractors) is a civic embarrassment.
Mssrs. Bryant and Yoshitani must have some good data but it is sure hard for me to see how the deep bore tunnel is going to help them. And I favor the idea.

kieth

Posted Thu, Jun 18, 7:43 p.m. Inappropriate

As a Seattleite, never needing the viaduct or its replacement tunnel so far for my life in the 206, I am glad to hear from somebody that will get some utility out of it. No matter what happens, I will not have a view of the water, not now, not after. I do not have product that has to get to port. What I do get is my gas taxes going toward it, and the cost overruns too.

There is no direct upside for me.

Mr Baker

Posted Fri, Jun 19, 7:05 a.m. Inappropriate

Phase 2 of the East I-90 improvement project has no funding sources identified. Call it a study, call it a plan, call it reality. I recieved the same kind of sensitivity to the tolling issue that last time I attended an open house put on by WSDOT on the I-90 project and how to pay for it. Should the State get approval to toll the I-90 bridge that would give them the authorization to toll the passes as well.

Hey ChichiRAT, which WSDOT area are you responsible for planning in and why are you posting at 11:15 AM? My State Representative wants to know.

Cameron

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