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Why we should stick to our consensus for a deep bore tunnel

Key is the economic context, argues a member of the Viaduct stakeholders' committee. Boring an inshore tunnel keeps the Viaduct in place during construction, avoiding years of traffic congestion.
People take the Alaskan Way Viaduct for granted, until it's closed for repairs.

People take the Alaskan Way Viaduct for granted, until it's closed for repairs. Chuck Taylor

Editor's note: There's a reply from Mike O'Brien, about comment 18 in the comment thread that follows this article.

I served on the Alaskan Way Viaduct Stakeholders Committee that studied options to replace the Viaduct. After conducting 16 meetings and hearing from 23 expert witnesses, a large majority of the stakeholders recommended further review of, or outright support for, the deep bore tunnel. The stakeholders also studied the “surface option” favored by City Council candidate Mike O’Brien, and then the group rejected the surface option because it was simply not viable.

In a recent article for Crosscut, O’Brien inaccurately reported the outcome of the stakeholder process. I'd like to set the record straight.

I was asked to participate in the stakeholder process as a representative for freight. Other stakeholders represented a diverse cross section of our community including retailers, neighborhood representatives, civic activists, environmentalists, and organized labor. The deep bore tunnel emerged as the preferred replacement option because it was by far the best choice both for those of us who view the Viaduct primarily in economic terms (such as moving goods, customers, and employees) and for those who prioritize the environmental and urban design benefits of removing the Viaduct from the central waterfront.

The deep bore tunnel best serves the economy because, assuming Mother Nature cooperates, the present Viaduct will remain operational while the deep bore tunnel is designed, bored, and built. This will protect freight and commuter traffic flows on both State 99 and Interstate 5 throughout most of the lifetime of the project. This through capacity is essential for those who depend on retail traffic moving into and throughout the city as well as those of us who work in maritime trades, aerospace, and related industrial sectors that depend on the SR 99-Interstate 5 corridor.

Traffic flows will be disrupted near the end of the project while final road connections are made to the tunnel, but planners say this disruption will last months, not years. Upon completion, planners predict the tunnel will handle about 80,000 vehicles per day compared to the 110,000 that now use the Viaduct. Most of the other traffic will be served by new road improvements and improved transit service.

With most Viaduct traffic absorbed into the tunnel, it will be possible to tear down the Viaduct and open up the city’s central waterfront while also maintaining decent capacity for through traffic in and around the city. The tunnel won’t be cheap, but no Viaduct replacement option would be. The expense of the undertaking also needs to be put into a broader context.

According to city and state tax records, the industrial business sectors that rely on the SR99-Interstate 5 corridor generated more than $60 billion in gross business revenue in 2006. That represented about half the industrial output of the state of Washington. Many say we should view the Viaduct as a 50 or 100-year decision. Multiply $60 billion by 50 or 100 times and the underlying value of the deep bore tunnel option becomes clear because of its unique capacity to keep our regional economy rolling while the Viaduct is replaced, and afterward.

O’Brien’s surface solution failed to gain majority stakeholder support because it could not come close to meeting the economic needs of the people who live and work in our city, region, and state. It would also fall far short of physically accommodating the vehicles that now rely on the Viaduct. The resulting traffic jams of idling buses, cars, and trucks downtown and on I-5 would overwhelm any civic or environmental benefits that might be gained by tearing the Viaduct down. O’Brien’s hope that public transit could handle the overload might be more realistic in cities with robust underground or elevated transit systems, but it is a pipe dream in a city like Seattle that relies on at-grade bus and rail systems.

It has been nearly 10 years since an earthquake forced us to consider what to do about the Viaduct. O’Brien’s attempt to revive the surface option threatens to take us back to the political gridlock that mired this issue until the citizen stakeholders agreed, by a large margin, to put the deep bore option on the table.


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Comments:

Posted Thu, Aug 6, 7:40 a.m. Inappropriate

John,
you too have been drinking the WSDOT lemonade.

How can you overlook the uncoming conflict that will cause the southern portion of the Viaduct to be demolished (King to Holgate), causing the disruption that you say will be avoided.

Assuming the tunnel is eventually completed (with signifcant cost expansion and delay), WSDOT will take years to build a "temporary" Viaduct to replace the demolished section so the traffic can still flow while they complete the Tunnel. But, what if the Tunnel has some fatal flaws and that "Temporary" Viaduct becomes long term, all while the current Viaduct continues to be at risk.
This senario could create the worst condition and liability for our economy.
WSDOT lied to the Stakholders and did not disclose this problem and it's implications.

WSDOT shoud NOT demolish the Southern portion until the Tunnel is useable. That would protect our economy, not the present and eminant plan.

They sould set a date certain to Retrofit the Viaduct in the event the Tunnel project is delayed or stops. Retrofitting the Viaduct will eliminate the risks, protect the public health, safety and welfare, and our sensitive economy.

Art

Posted Thu, Aug 6, 7:52 a.m. Inappropriate

The "consensus" is a joke. The voters rejected the tunnel. The politicos selected the most expensive option, and when our region experiences the inevitable cost overruns and delays that occur with virtually every mega-project, they will be beyond the reach of accountability.

Posted Thu, Aug 6, 7:54 a.m. Inappropriate

It sounds to me like Art if critical of anybody who isn't drinking Art lemonade, which seems to be all about keeping the current ugly, sinking, risky old space wasting Viaduct blocking the downtown from the waterfront forever.

Deep bore or surface? I see merit in both. Just bring the hulking blight down. The sooner - the better. Which leads to the best reason to support the deep bore: it can actually happen.

Jan

Posted Thu, Aug 6, 8 a.m. Inappropriate

Mr. Odland ignores the absence of any mid-point connections to/from the new big-bore tunnel. No mid-town connections at Seneca, and most critically, no connections to Western and Elliott avenues.

The tunnel only serves through traffic, between SODO and Aurora Ave. Local freight movements between Ballard and SODO are left with lengthy trips on neighborhood streets (e.g. 39th St. in Fremont) or detours onto Mercer St. at the Seattle Center -- regularly a major traffic headache -- if they want to use the tunnel.

No, most of that local freight traffic will be on the surface waterfront street, surface Alaskan Way, just as if Cary Moon's surface option had been selected after all.

It's time for the local manufacturing/industrial community to taken another look. When you think it through thoroughly, this big-bore tunnel is not really serving their interests in its current configuration.

Posted Thu, Aug 6, 8:49 a.m. Inappropriate

The tunnel helps the surface streets too...by keeping the through-traffic off them. As for Western and Elliott, Alaskan Way will have a smooth connection to them as shown on the WSDOT site (find the pdf about the Central Waterfront section).

Odland makes a good case from a "don't destroy our economy" perspective. To follow on that, the deep bore can easily be called the cheapest option once side effects are considered.

An equally compelling case can be made from a Downtown quality of life / viability standpoint. It's one good option vs. a bunch that are varying levels of disaster. This is an economic issue as well, but it's really a question of whether we want our downtown to be strangled by cars, or a place for people, with cars out of the way.

mhays

Posted Thu, Aug 6, 9:38 a.m. Inappropriate

Heres the deal, its a proven fact that when dealing with congestion it will only shape and form to the surface taht it is given. LA is the perfect example of this. Its a city of highways, highways built to relieve congestion, and all they created was a greater mess of congestion. If we eliminate the viaduct and use the surface option, believe it or not, people will be forced to shape their commute to their option. They will either have to fight traffic in their car or on transit. Theres no doubt about that. They will have to do that even if we do build a tunnel, simply because of the fact that congestion follows where ever you build roads.

If your numbers are correct and our corridor handled 50% of washingtons industrial output in 2006 than why is Seattle paying for it. Seattle shouldn't be paying for anything. Its a state highway! But not only that, 70% of seattliets said that they DO NOT WANT A TUNNEL! 70%! Thats another fact.

Also, you seem to be content with the fact that Seattle's transit is one of the weakest in the nation. You seem to be settling, not realizing that transit will be the only way in the future. The problem to be dealt with in this century is not that of moving single occupancy vehicles, its that of moving people. We have to give people options. Wouldn't it make more sense to use $900 million (not to mention the extra billion in overruns) to help build transit systems that can really get our region flowing. Why would we bother spending any money on a project that will be irrelevant come 2030. The day of the car is on its way out. We are all finding new life in an urban setting and natural born Seattlites seem to be terrified of it.

Also, isn't the viaduct being torn down in 2012. I remember when i first moved here, the governor threatened the very panel that you sat on with the fact that she was personally going to tear the thing down by 2012. Its not safe. Mother nature doesn't ever cooperate. Aren't you learning anything from current events.

JoeG

Posted Thu, Aug 6, 10:48 a.m. Inappropriate

JoeG, your "facts" have a lot of mistakes and poor context.

The 2007 vote was for a cut and cover tunnel with several years of massive disruption, not for this "arthrosopic surgery" solution. Also, it was only Seattle voters, not suburbanites who tend to like freeways more.

Seattle has decent transit ridership, even if it's mostly buses. Look at Census.gov's 2000 and 2005-2007 stats for commute mode shares, either by city or by county. Either way, we've easily been #2 in the Western US. We can and will get a lot better but it's from an ok base.

Either way, few mainstream prognosticators are predicting a major decline in driving. I suspect that with peak oil and better transit, we might see local miles per capita drop enough to offset population growth.

I agree that traffic will fit itself into whatever road system we have. However, as a Downtown worker and resident, I'm all too familiar with what this looks like. Walking up First Avenue after work, particularly on game days, it's one intersection after another with the crosswalks blocked by cars. Other avenues are variations of the same. The surface option would make those conditions a permanent reality on all avenues.

mhays

Posted Thu, Aug 6, 10:53 a.m. Inappropriate

"We are all finding new life in an urban setting." No, we are not. The project is a state, regional and local project, hence state regional and local finding. It is/will be used by urban, suburban and rural residents and commerce. Sorry Joe, but not everybody conforms to the "get them out of their cars" mentality, nor can or should they. Our "big dig" when completed will be an outrageously expensive and ineffective albatross, provided "mother nature" and the liquefaction of all that human-dumped fill doesn't wreak so much havoc during construction that it has to be abandoned.

Posted Thu, Aug 6, 10:54 a.m. Inappropriate

The "stakeholders committee" was an absolute farce. It was loaded with the mayor's stooges, like John Coney, who pretended to "represent" the Queen Anne area, but repersented nobody but himself, and the mayor, for whom he is a lapdog.

Nobody on the "stakeholders committee" represented neighborhoods or voters. They just pretended to.

The tunnel is insanely expensive, does not replace the capacity of the viaduct, and has no downtown onramps or offramps. It is a terrible waste of money. The public does not support it. And, we don't have the money to pay for it.

The only thing our current mayor -- and this area in general -- is good at is finding stupider and stupider ways to waste more and more enormous amounts of tax revenues. It's a shame the way they are being allowed to ruin this city.

Lincoln

Posted Thu, Aug 6, 11:04 a.m. Inappropriate

I'm tired of people like Richard saying the public voted against the deep bored tunnel. They didn't. They voted against a cut and cover tunnel, against retrofitting the viaduct, and that's it. Apples and oranges. They did not weigh in on the surface street option, so we can't compare their view of this from that time period.

Consensus is tough to reach in Seattle. Now that we have a solid plan, let's move forward with it. Voting in people who's main position in their campaign is to oppose a multilateral agreement is just crazy.

Posted Thu, Aug 6, 11:10 a.m. Inappropriate

I haven't heard a compelling reason why Seattle should have to pay for all of the cost overruns on this 4.24 billion dollar boondoggle. Or how we are going to pay for it. According to Oxford Professor, Brent Flyvbjerg we need to expect 30% cost overruns. That's well over a billion dollars that are not planned for in the tunnel proposal... AND the tunnel is only 1 or 2% engineered at this point so the current estimates are sketchy at best.

Bent Flyvbjerg is BT Professor and Chair of Major Program Management and Director of Oxford University's BT Center for Major Program Management. He is a leading international expert within the field of major program management and planning. http://www.sbs.ox.ac.uk/faculty/Flyvbjerg%2BBent/

LiviaRyan

Posted Thu, Aug 6, 11:25 a.m. Inappropriate

The other options aren't designed either, and would face similar cost risks if they came back.

Flyvbjerg's analysis, if I recall, relies on analysis of past projects. It doesn't factor today's improved estimating methods, which, for example, have allowed Sound Transit to much more accurately project costs since their housecleaning around 2000 or so.

But yeah, Seattle shouldn't be responsible for any outsized share of the cost risk. We're simply trying to accommodate pass-throughs with minimal disruption to them, and with a decent outcome for ourselves.

Someone referenced earthquake risk. That's a big benefit of the tunnel...they don't fall down. As San Francisco how the underwater BART tunnel did compared to their two elevated collapses. Look at how Seattle's various tunnels have done...anyone concerned about how the BN tunnel, or the various I-90 tunnels, or the Transit Tunnel have done in earthquakes?

mhays

Posted Thu, Aug 6, 11:42 a.m. Inappropriate

Thank you Mr. Odland for well thought out article. The fact is that the tunnel solution is about as close to getting consensus as this city will ever achieve, and having funding from the state in place is something we just can't afford to lose.

unter

Posted Thu, Aug 6, noon Inappropriate

Hi Unter,
That's exactly the same thinking that we heard when we were fighting the Roads and Transit ballot measure which tied 182 miles of ugly sprawl highways to light rail. People like you said we had to just suck it up and accept that the decision was the best we could reach or we would never get light rail.

However, the very next year, we passed a light rail prop. that gives us light rail sooner and is a better package with NO polluting sprawl highways.

LiviaRyan

Posted Thu, Aug 6, 12:29 p.m. Inappropriate

LiviaRyan: You could say this is a similar case. We rejected the two problematic options given to us in 2007, and now the bored tunnel came out as a smart "third way".

unter

Posted Thu, Aug 6, 12:37 p.m. Inappropriate

The title of this article should be, "Why we should stick to the most expensive and polluting transportation option even though we do not have a solid estimate of the actual cost and we have no plan to pay for the massive cost overruns"

LiviaRyan

Posted Thu, Aug 6, 12:41 p.m. Inappropriate

The deep bore is a big step farther than that -- it lacks the gravitas and mandate of a public vote, but at this point it's the plan going forward, with funding. (Though yes, as with most public projects, funding for any overruns isn't firmed up.)

Roads and Transit mixed too many issues in one ballot measure.

The 99 issue is too complicated, with so many splintered opinions and none likely to get a majority, that it's great to see leadership vs. another vote.

Let's say there was a two-stage primary and general for viaduct options, and let's say it was more than just Seattle...maybe King County instead. The primary might have five or six options. The route to "top two" would be determined in pretty large part by which of the three major concepts (aerial, surface, tunnel) was the least divided into sub-options. Assuming the voted options were equally distributed among the major categories, the top two would be ones that each had enthusiastic backers, regardless of their negatives.

At least one of the two would be a freeway. The freeway would win the general. It's hardly even a question assuming my county scenario.

mhays

Posted Thu, Aug 6, 1:50 p.m. Inappropriate

Let's look at what was on the table in late 2008 after WSDOT studied 8 variations ranging from 3 seperate surface options, 2 seperate elevated (including Frank Chopp's Box), and 3 options for a below grade option...

Left standing were 2 options...

An elevated 4-lane option (that had no downtown offramps BTW)which bypassed downtown (exactly like the tunnel) for through traffic. This option would provide only a tansportation solution, without environmental or urban design improvements. Total cost...$3.5B. Of that City Streets and Seawall replacement would be close to the 900M Seattle is paying for those items with the tunnel option (thus no savings to Seattle). This option would require the removal of the viaduct for 3-4 years having a huge economic cost to freight and local buisnesses. If you factor in those costs over the period of closure, the elevated doesn't look so cheap if you can call $3.5B cheap.

and

An at-grade option would provide an improved urban environment on the waterfront, but really impact the transportation aspects of downtown, elevating the times of congestion to most of the day. This gridlock, noise, and reduced pedestrian safety and comfort (as documented in the Gehl report) would negate the improvements along the waterfront considerably. Would people drive less? Maybe, but what is their alternative? If we had a transit system that was seperated from our congestion it would be one thing, but busses get stuck in traffic too. Oh, and Metro has a $100M deficit and is looking to cut service. Freight mobility would be crippled by the new congestion, especially in the Ballard - Interbay - Port corridor. Price tag...$3.3B dollars. Of that, $2.2B would fall to Seattle taxpayers (the state will NOT pay for the removal of capacity, we would have to go it alone).

Therefore, the Tunnel - Surface Hybrid compromise was crafted. It combines, the throughput of the elevated option with the improved pedestrian and urban design elements the surface was supposed to provide. The total capital cost was more at $4.2B, but when you factor in the disruption of the 3-4 years of demolition, removal, and rebuilding for the other two options, an extra $700M may have been a bargain vs. the economic impacts otherwise inflicted. For money to value, the tunnel delivers the most with the least impact.

The operations of the tunnel do not reduce capacity when you look at how people use the current viaduct. 70% of trips move through Seattle, only 30% exit or originate in seattle. That's 77,000 vehicles a day moving through the city. The tunnel accomodates 80,000. The rest will enter the city, just differently than they do now. Some lament the loss of direct access on-off-ramps downtown. These still occur, just reconfigured and aligning with Alaskan way near the stadiums. Are we all forgetting what kinds of back ups the on-off-ramps create downtown (especially on game days). This might actually alleviate traffic congestion downtown (admittedly speculative on my part, but I'd like to see a traffic study of this).

Many automatically adhere cost overruns to the tunnel, but not other options...why? All 3 are multi-billion dollar projects, all 3 are amongst the most complicated engineering projects Seattle has ever done, all 3 carry risks. The facts are, economically, right now is the least risky and most advantageous time for a project like this. Bidding for major infrastructure projects are routinely coming in below estimates (some by 20-30%). Is there any guarantee that the tunnel will come in on budget...no, but neither is there a guarantee that any project will.

Lastly, politically, it was extremely difficult to get the tunnel approved in the legislature even with support from Eastern Washington freight interests. Going back to them with our hands out for a tear down of the viaduct w/o replacing it is a non-starter. Who has the political clout and coalition to argue this at the state level, let alone twist the arms to get it approved? Seattle has no clout at the state, even Seattle legislators don't fight for Seattle as strong as they can or should. Get ready to poney up $2+B in new taxes + cost overruns. An elevated on the other hand will be fought by many in Seattle including whatever Mayor / City Council is elected, and the 4 year downtime is unatractive to many in the buisness and freight community. The tunnel option is functionally a compromise that works for most(not all) if you look at the facts...we can debate it for another 10 years, increasing the costs, or we can actually get something done.

If you think anything I've said is from left field, please read the materials here...http://www.wsdot.wa.gov/Projects/Viaduct/solution.htm

Posted Thu, Aug 6, 2:09 p.m. Inappropriate

It's interesting that this is characterized as "consensus" when the description of the process points to majority vote. One is not the other. And while I appreciate the time, effort, and attention a group of stakeholders puts into such a process, no matter how diverse, it does not represent everyone's opinions. As a viaduct user, I think the chosen approach is going to bear out as a major boondoggle and just one more Big Dig.

debbalee

Posted Thu, Aug 6, 2:45 p.m. Inappropriate

This project bears almost no resemblance to the big dig. Estimation and construction methods have changed dramatically since then.

see here...
http://www.wsdot.wa.gov/Projects/Viaduct/BigDigcomparison.htm

or this article from a few years ago here...
http://www.seattlepi.com/opinion/265616_bigdig06.html

There will never be 100% "consensus" on this project...it's mythical. But the stakeholders who supported this option represented a very wide cross section of constituencies from freight, buisness both small and large, environmental, neighborhood groups, arts and urban design organizations amongst others.

As one who followed the process closely, they were very educated on this issue to a depth few in Seattle can claim. Did they represent 100% of their constituency...no. But who does.

Their recomendation was nearly unanimous though which says something.

Posted Thu, Aug 6, 3:13 p.m. Inappropriate

I appreciated reading Mr. Odland’s opinions and thoughts about the deep-bore tunnel. I’d like to address a few of the inaccuracies in his article and point readers to supporting documents so they can judge for themselves what the facts are.

• In paragraph one, Mr. Odland states that my preferred alternative was rejected by the stakeholder committee. This is not true. In fact, the proposal I support – which includes improvements to I-5, significant investments in transit, and funding for surface street maintenance – was one of two alternatives recommended by the stakeholder committee. (http://www.wsdot.wa.gov/NR/rdonlyres/FAF9612A-D0D4-4D0C-824D-8C879E457D0B/0/AWV_I5SurfaceTransitHybrid_FactSheet_Dec08.pdf)

The committee studied and rejected twin deep-bore tunnels because of the cost and risk. The single deep-bore tunnel option was proposed by the Discovery Institute and never studied by the committee, so Mr. Odland's statement in paragraph 11 that the deep-bore tunnel was “put forward by the stakeholders” is also false.

• Safety and the critical need to tear down the viaduct is a major issue. As members of the stakeholder committee, we all agreed on a set of guiding principles that included public safety as an essential priority. Governor Gregoire repeatedly insisted that the viaduct must come down by 2012 for safety reasons. In January of 2008, she was quoted as saying, “It’s coming down in 2012. I’m taking it down. . . . That is the timeline. I am not going to fudge on it.” (http://www.seattlepi.com/transportation/346052_gregoire04.html)

Now Mr. Odland and other tunnel supporters are suggesting that we keep the elevated structure standing for another three to five years, in the blind hope that “Mother Nature cooperates.” He also fails to mention that the deep-bore tunnel requires that we live with the viaduct years longer than if we implement the recommended I-5 and transit improvements. This is neither smart nor safe.

• In paragraph six, Mr. Odland claims that “Most viaduct traffic [will be] absorbed by the tunnel.” This is also false. The state’s own traffic study shows that almost 60 percent of existing traffic uses the viaduct to access downtown. With no onramps or exits, the tunnel does not serve downtown at all, so only 40 percent of the vehicles that use the viaduct today will be likely to use the tunnel.

• In the final paragraph, I do find a statement I can agree with: “Design challenges remain with the deep bore option and some of them are daunting.”

Deep-bore tunnel boosters seem to be falling back on a strategy often used by proponents of a major project that lacks public support and clear financing mechanisms—they make misleading statements, line up a few powerful interests to nod their heads in agreement, and then act as if the decision has already been made. What they are really hoping is that the public doesn't ask any questions.

I saw this two years ago when many of the same people told us that if we wanted to invest in mass transit, the quid pro quo was that we’d have to spend billions of dollars to expand our highways. Together we defeated that package. Now we’re expanding our mass transit system without sinking billions of dollars into new highways.

We can do something similar today. There is an alternative that has already been reviewed and put forward as a recommendation. This recommended approach will save the taxpayers a billion dollars and protect them from the risk of massive cost overruns. It will enable us to tear down the dangerous viaduct in 2012 as promised. And it invests twice as much in the public transit infrastructure that we all know we need as we head into the future.

Posted Thu, Aug 6, 3:22 p.m. Inappropriate

Sure Mike, destroy Downtown and the local economy to "save" money.

Your article was packed with errors, but we already went over that in the other thread.

mhays

Posted Thu, Aug 6, 3:27 p.m. Inappropriate

PS, the safety issue is legitimate. The viaduct should get additional short-term retrofits so it'll function while the tunnel is built.

Imagine that...keeping 99 open while the replacement is built. Wanna guess whether the metro area public likes that idea?

mhays

Posted Thu, Aug 6, 3:48 p.m. Inappropriate

Mike,

The Surface option was put forward by WSDOT, not the stakeholders. In fact it was the utter rejection by the stakeholders of the surface and elevated options that led to the third option of the bored tunnel.

And yes Cascadia along with ARUP (one of the best engineering firms in the world) looked into and proposed the single bore concept, but so what? They challenged the narrow minded thinking that delivered 2 bad options.

Posted Thu, Aug 6, 6:55 p.m. Inappropriate

It is sad that Mike O'Brien continues to harp on a suface "solution" that would dump 110,000 additional cars into our downtown. That would destroy the quality of our city streets and very attraction of a high density urban environment. Precisely the kind of urban environment that we need to be creating in order to prevent the exodus and waste of suburban sprawl. It would appear that O'Brien is an unwitting instrument for the destruction of the same environment he claims to be protecting. He needs to get some training in science and planning, and come back in 4 years and start all over with an educated mind.

unter

Posted Thu, Aug 6, 10:09 p.m. Inappropriate

the deep bore option is now under study. wsdot is to report to Olympia at the end of the calendar year if they estimate it can, in fact, be built for the amount of the early guess. if not, what will happen to the supposed concensus?

the agreement by the three executives already seems void, as the county is broke and Sims is in DC. Olympia said no to the MVET for transit service. the mayor has yet to ask the Council to fund the Seattle share: $930 million. the state funds will be exhausted and will not be available to improve I-5. under the surface, transit, and I-5 option, state funds would have been used for some of the surface improvements. the state funds can only be spent once. is their best use for a deep bore tunnel for bypass traffic only?

the disruption of the deep bore portals will be much more than depicted by Odland. the south portal will cause both 1st Avenue South and the AWV to be narrowed for several years. both portals and the deep bore tunnel itself are still in early design.

O'Brien asked the key question: how should the limited state funds be spent to best serve the interests of Seattle and the region? Folks disagree about the answer. under both the deep bore and the surface option, the Seattle waterfront will eventually be opened up and the viaduct removed.

a parallel between the AWV and the SR-520 process is that the state wants to build a large(r) highway and does not have the fiscal means or the political will to do so. O'Brien is among those questioning the priority of their choices in the face of global warming, under funded transit, underfunded road maintenance, and coming increases in petroleum prices. has a decision really been made if it is not funded?

eddiew

Posted Thu, Aug 6, 10:44 p.m. Inappropriate

odland and unter:
yes, the AWV attracts an average of 110K vehicle trips per weekday, but that is measured south of Seneca Street and many are oriented to and from downtown Seattle. the number of trips in the Battery Street tunnel may be about 50K per weekday; they are the bypass trips served by the deep bore. under surface, transit, and I-5, some of them would shift to I-5, some would shift to improved surface streets, and some would disappear. under the deep bore, more bypass trips will be induced; that may be exactly opposite of the pattern desired by our land use plans. under surface and transit, some of the trips on the AWV oriented to and downtown would have shifted to transit. the vision of Cary Moon was clear and correct, but it is not yet shared by Olympia or many here.

eddiew

Posted Thu, Aug 6, 11:15 p.m. Inappropriate

Thank you eddiew!

"natural born Seattlites seem to be terrified of it?" Good one, JoeG. Missed out on a C-section--an innate characteristic, i.e., a natural-born sailer--or archaic, having a position by birth? Which did you have in mind?

More seriously, in the grand scheme of things it matters little how, where, when, or to whom we all were born, but there will always be big difference between due diligence and demagogy.

afreeman

Posted Thu, Aug 6, 11:36 p.m. Inappropriate

We should do the obvious and retrofit the viaduct with provisions for aesthetics, noise abatement, bikes, pedestrian, etc. We can afford it. Then we should stop pretending that the last minute report from the discovery institute about new tunneling technology makes the current plan feasible. There are many elevated roadway projects in the world incorporating new seismic protections and advanced construction techniques to reduce build-times, and none of this was ever seriously explored. The current plan is a witches brew of political manipulation on behalf of special interests, amateur speculation, and pay-for-play engineering and public relations.

There are tens of thousands of people in Seattle who never go downtown unless they absolutely have to. Many of them who must travel by automobile resent the potential loss of the only effective bypass for the city. It’s ironic that the only north/south arterial that really works in this town must be sacrificed to make a view corridor for a few law firms and town houses.

It's painful to watch all this energy wasted on these two lousy options.

jmrolls

Posted Fri, Aug 7, 8:32 a.m. Inappropriate

Downtown is by far the #1 economic engine of this region, and hundreds of thousands of people come here per day. It can't be written off so easily!

PS, should we apply that standard to Montlake? It has a few thousand residents and workers south of the canal vs. HUNDREDS of thousands Downtown... We shouldn't let 520 destroy Montlake either, and I support a lid there, but this illustrates a point about Downtown.

mhays

Posted Fri, Aug 7, 12:06 p.m. Inappropriate

mhays,

You are absolutely right. These projects (Viaduct, 520, etc.) have a huge impact on the neighborhoods they are routed through, affecting the liveability of those who live and work there.

That is why the tunnel is the right choice, all the benefits of maintaining mobility (especially for freight and through trips), and the improvements to the neighborhoods (yes, downtown is a collection of neighborhoods)that a redesigned waterfront will bring. All this without the impacts of losing the viaduct for 4 years during construction, or permanently. The stakeholders were presented with an economic impact per year of construction that estimated a loss of $3.5B per year for the region in lost productivity, that's an additional $14B impact to the pricetag of the elevated or at grade option.

It's one thing to blindly want a solution that meets our long term goals for sustainability and urban design, it's another to find a solution that doesn't cripple the region's ability to function.

Posted Fri, Aug 7, 1:23 p.m. Inappropriate

loudquack96 actually said that, "This project bears almost no resemblance to the big dig. Estimation and construction methods have changed dramatically since then."

Yeah, let's talk about that and include the two broken down digging machines stuck underground on the Brightwater project. And those machines are tiny compared to the mega-machine that will be needed for Seattle's Big Dig. It will be as large as a car ferry.

No reason to worry about that. Ignore the little man behind the curtain.

LiviaRyan

Posted Fri, Aug 7, 5:47 p.m. Inappropriate

LiviaRyan:

Yes, the Brightwater project has had problems. Does that mean that the tunnel has more or less chance at success...

Answer...it's not applicable, it's a seperate project.

The boring machine will be amongst the largest in the world, that is true. But not by a significant amount, only 1 foot in diameter difference. Which means that several boring machines the size of a ferry have dug or are digging tunnels around the world. The boring machines that dug the light rail tunnel (which didn't get stuck) were as big as a car ferry (albeit a smaller class of ferry).

For some reason we in Seattle fear tunneling, even though we have a history of doing it.

Will it be easy...no. Does that mean automatic failure...no. Does it mean automatic success...no. Should constant fear of the worst case scenario stop us from doing anything...no. But in Seattle we usually do.

Again, this project resembles in no shape or form the Big Dig. Your response did not suggest to me any way that it compares in scope, breadth, complexity (Boston was WAY more complex).

Posted Fri, Aug 7, 7:52 p.m. Inappropriate

I agree, and have been saying this for quite some time.
Tunnels such as this have been used successfully around the world. They last 100 years, not 50 as another viaduct (the latter options should have had their costs multiplied by 2 in all fairness). They involve minimal surface disruption (the other alternatives should have had the costs of disruption for the estimated 3-4 years added to them). Let's learn to accept the decision and move on instead of always second-guessing and paying to do so.

bricsa

Posted Tue, Aug 11, 4:37 p.m. Inappropriate

"With no onramps or exits, the tunnel does not serve downtown at all, so only 40 percent of the vehicles that use the viaduct today will be likely to use the tunnel."

I'm so tired of this ludicrous argument against the tunnel which completely ignores the surface street improvements that are also part of this plan. Scare tactics at their finest.

As for the "only 40 percent" who will use the tunnel: I say "awesome"! I have lived both north of the Aurora bridge and south of the stadiums, and use the viaduct primarily to bypass downtown. If I want surface streets when coming from the south I can take 1st ave to 4th Ave, or Alaskan, or... or...

The point being: imagine if these surface options we already have through downtown were expanded, made more efficient, and yes, attractive. Imagine traffic going from north Seattle to the airport or south end, and vice versa, bypassing downtown while those that have business downtown buzz up above them. The tunnel should not live or die by how it serves the half mile of downtown it currently bisects, but should be viewed in the bigger transportation picture.

Sorry, not everyone is going to suddenly give up their cars for buses and bikes and light rail. It's just, not yet anyway, convenient nor readily available. Tourists will still drive here, trucks will still carry goods to other parts of the state, and people who need to use trucks, vans, and yes even cars for their trade will continue to do so. Cars will not, regardless of how much you High-Density Pushers wish and wish, just disappear. We need to account for that, especially as the region's population grows.

get_real

Posted Tue, Aug 11, 10:46 p.m. Inappropriate

I'm awestruck at mhays and others who suggest, no, come right out and assert that any surface option would just shut down downtown Seattle and lead to chaos. We need to go back and review Cary Moon's thoughtful analysis of what happens when urban freeways come down and are replaced by surface boulevards. That's happened in cities all over the world (not just San Francisco) and not one of them has economically damaged the city.

And as a Seattle voter, I'm still waiting for a tunnel supporter to tell us how the City of Seattle is going to cover its $930 million share of the overall project. What taxes are going to go up, and by how much? What services are not going to be provided? What other public facilities are not going to be built? How much are my utility bills going to go up? all to put money we don't now have into this state project?

Posted Tue, Aug 11, 11:11 p.m. Inappropriate

San Francisco's freeway was like an "offramp", not a freeway.

Portland still has two major north-south freeways.

The surface crowd is full of misunderstanding of basics like this.

mhays

Posted Wed, Aug 12, 3:46 p.m. Inappropriate

R on Beacon

what works in other cities isn't guaranteed to work here no matter how thoughtful Cary's analysis was, she did not do a detailed analysis of what the impacts to Seattle would be. Speculation is just that.

Were all the other cities constrained by the same topographic and geologic challenges of Seattle's natural hourglass pinch point?

Did the other cities already have significant transit systems in place that were not dependant on surface traffic conditions?

Did these other locations have centralized port locations that were dependant on the freeway that was removed?

Simple solutions to complex problems generally are the tools of politicians or advocates who either are blinded by dogma, or do not have the time, ability and/or means to study a problem in detail.

As far as the $930 M, I ask the question right back. For the surface option how will Seattle pay for the $930M. It's not like this 930M is for the tunnel...no, it's for moving the utilities which currently hang under the viaduct, replacing the seawall, and building the surface streets.

And then tell me, once the state retracts it's $2.4B contribution, how will you cover the rest of the $3.5B price tag for the surface option. It's not like it is free.

Let's be honest, Seattle will have to pay a minimum of $930M for whatever option we implement. That will come in the form of taxes, a good portion of which will be levied to the property owners who benefit.

Posted Sat, Aug 15, 11:14 a.m. Inappropriate

Population implosion will take care of "traffic congestion".

Try taking I-5 on a non-game night...it's already a ghost town.

jabailo

Posted Sat, Aug 15, 10:17 p.m. Inappropriate

Yeah, like the Boeing bust, right? King County went from 1,161,000 residents in 1969 to a low annual figure of 1,145,900 in 1973. That drop of 15,100 sure cleared things out!

Surely you know that tranportation infrastructure isn't built for nighttime demand.

Traffic might drop in a peak oil scenario. But oil supply (and use) could drop a percent or two pear year long-term, with continued increases in driving. Local population growth is part of that. Improved gas mileage is another part.

Population "implosion" eh? I haven't heard that as even a fringe theory.

mhays

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