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    Best of 2009: What would Jane Jacobs do about the Viaduct?

    The patron saint of livable, walkable cities is being invoked on both sides of the debate over Seattle's Viaduct solution. Would Jacobs be a tunnel supporter, or a surface option fan?
    A story of epic dimensions, still reverberating today.

    A story of epic dimensions, still reverberating today.

    Editor's note: This is another in our Best of 2009 series, a story originally posted on October 1, 2009.

    Roger Sale, retired University of Washington professor and author of one of the city's best urban biographies, Seattle Past to Present, has written about the career of Jane Jacobs. Sale has pointed out that Jacobs was among the ranks of other influential amateurs of the 1960s who turned America on its head. She did for urban planning what Rachel Carson did for the environment, Ralph Nader for consumers, and Betty Friedan for feminism. Her book The Death and Life of Great American Cities (1961) steered urban planning away from cars and the bulldozers of "urban renewal" toward nurturing the walkable, dense, and diverse cities most urbanists covet today.

    Like so much in the '60s, her work helped shake up a values system that had allowed power and authority to over-ride the grassroots. The city, as she saw it, was not a blank slate to be remade but rather a place teeming with life, history, and diversity. She championed the life of the streets. Today, Jacobs is a patron saint for those who want saner urban development, and she has influenced even those who have never read her classic book or the ones that followed.

    A terrific new book, Wrestling with Moses (Random House, $27) by Anthony Flint, is a must-read for anyone interested in cities and their future. It's a short course in a struggle of Biblical proportions and that demands Biblical comparisons. In addition to being a writer, Jacobs was a community activist, some would say a NIMBY, who lived in New York's Greenwich Village and fought several campaigns to stop major highway and "renewal" projects that would have flattened or slashed some of New York's most treasured neighborhoods, including hers. She was the David of the Big Apple's vital orchards.

    Her Goliath was Robert Moses, the man who tried to lead New York to the promised land of modern progress with massive infrastructure projects. In addition to being Moses, he was Pharaoh who could build at will, and on a scale hardly imaginable today, fueled as he was by toll revenues, New Deal spending, and federal highway money. At the time he and Jacobs clashed over the proposed Lower Manhattan Expressway in the 1950s and '60s, Moses had, according to Flint, built "13 bridges, two tunnels, 637 miles of highways, 658 playgrounds, 10 giant public swimming pools, 17 state parks....He had cleared 300 acres of city land and constructed towers that contained 28,400 new apartments. He built Lincoln Center, the United Nations, Shea Stadium, Jones Beach, and the Central Park Zoo." And that's just a partial list.

    Moses was determined to see New York modernize and renewed with expressways and high-rise apartment complexes. He was determined to erase the slums and knock down whole districts, displace thousands of people with little relocation assistance if need be. If folks, like the residents of Greenwich Village or Soho or the Bronx, lost their homes, jobs, businesses, well, so be it. Giant concrete apartment blocks were the best way to create affordable housing, and big road projects were the lifelines for city commerce. Moses loved to remind people that eggs needed to be broken to make an omelette, and he was the master chef.

    Jacobs, on the other hand, was a writer, a housewife, a mom who, with her family, had renovated a home in the Village and she was captivated by the life she found there. She studied and wrote about the remaking of America's cities, and where Moses saw progress, she often saw destruction. To compete with the suburbs, planners wanted to make the city more like them, with highways to accommodate the automobile, and more air and daylight provided by vast plazas and tall towers.

    But what Jacobs saw wasn't a modernist utopia but rather the demolition of an ecosystem where real people lived and worked and played. She saw, before most, that building more roads would create more demand for them, that it would bring more pollution and congestion to neighborhoods now divided by expressways. She and her neighbors engaged in several long wars against Moses' juggernaut, and they won. Wrestling with Moses tells the stories of those battles.

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    Posted Fri, Oct 2, 8:56 a.m. Inappropriate

    Moses brought us project housing to create density - Greg Nickels has proposed the same in SE Seattle and elsewhere. Thank god Seattleites had the foresight to take down Nickels before a funding debacle that would have dwarved the monorail and multiplied gang activity in Seattle.

    McGinn is for urban density as well, but the respect for the individual and the existing fabric makes the endeavor a completely different animal. Mallahan comes from the telcom business world, a corporate culture that is remarkably divorced from customer contact, irregardless of how much is spent on telephone based customer service.

    The decision process that led to the tunnel was flawed by a lack of grounding in fiscal reality - Tayloe Washburn, Greater Seattle President and lead chearleader is from the firm of Foster Pepper, the same folks that led WAMU into the ground and may yet do so with Sound Transit.

    Portland has a professional land use culture that has a connection with reality, a reality based on the human lives of individuals as they make their civic and market choices in a city providing multiple options for both.

    This is Seattle's biggest risk, and, frankly, I don't think you are up for it. When your legal elite all agree that anyone with their feet on their ground is harrassing them and should be treated as a pervert a civic and business cancer is formed.

    That cancer has metatasized, not just in Seattle, but in also in New York City, Washington D.C. and just about every national corporate boardroom in this Country?

    The price of failure is failure, easier to take the sooner it happens, delaying the pain will only make it worse, and create only more victims.


    Posted Fri, Oct 2, 9:01 a.m. Inappropriate

    The tunnel might be good for the waterfront, but it's all bad for Lower Queen Anne and South Lake Union. This is hard to imagine because we already have the Battery St Tunnel, but let's try: streets like Republican and Aloha with lowrise street-retail buildings like Jane Jacobs loved. Dexter is shaping up like this. Aurora could also, unless there's a deep bore tunnel mouth to contend with--early design concepts have a lid over a few blocks, but open north of Harrison.

    Speaking of street retail, several cities including Vancouver and New York have tried adding short podiums to residential towers with some success. We have some in Belltown, and the 1929 Meany Hotel in the U-District is a similar design. Here's a rambling blog post about issues involved:


    Posted Fri, Oct 2, 9:22 a.m. Inappropriate


    I had the greatest of pleasures to have Jane Jacobs as one of my Crits while I was pursuing my Masters in Architecture and Urban Design at Brooklyn's Pratt institute back in the 60's. And I can tell you from direct experience, that she would NOT agree with the Tunnel or the no replacement schemes.

    She was a practical, down to earth, giving and caring peerson who spoke for the little guy who always had little vote in what was done to them in the name of "improving the urban environment". She fought against run-a-way over-spending projects that just made it harder for lower income families to live in the city, near their families, friends and places of work resulting in demolitions of their neighborhoods and replacing them with "higher and Better" uses. They suffered from projects that speculatively raised property values and converting their stable neighborhoods into "Transition zones".

    I live by her practicle knowledge and simple humane solutions. That is why I evolved into a career in Historic Preservation and Urban Conservation. Holding on to character-giving features(her words)was the maintstay of her philosophy. Familiarity vs urban renewal was the flag she waved. And those of us that heard and felt her passion, got the message which was evidenced in our Masters projects and thesis.

    So, what I believe she would do with the Viaduct is.. keep it, fix it and make it a better neighbor to all the communities along it's path. Probably relocate the under-the Viaduct parking and turn it into a covered pedestrial promande full of pedestrian elements to enhance the space.She would let the transportation corridor continue, with it's current volumes and cause the least disruption during the expedited construction phase. And above all, she would advocate for spending as little as posible to create a risk-free improved urban space which would avoid further tax hikes and use the savings to accopmlish things like preserving affordable housing, improving urban education, better healthcare, expanding social services and creating permanent jobs, not transient construction opportunities.
    Preservation is not buildings, it's people. She understood this and always said so. I agree with her! Shouldn't we all.

    Arthur M. Skolnik FAIA

    Posted Fri, Oct 2, 9:52 a.m. Inappropriate

    The writer, as many before him, invokes Portland as a model Seattle might emulate. Given large geographical and topographical differences, meaningful comparisons of roadway systems in the Portland and Seattle metro areas can only be made with the coarsest of measures. Yet Portland and Seattle have some clear distinguishing characteristics, both dissimilarities and similarities.

    For example, Portland unlike Seattle has a freeway system that loops around and provides easy access to its downtown. With 12 bridges in a stretch of about 15 miles, the Willamette River does not present the bottleneck to east-west traffic flow that a much wider Lake Washington does with just two bridges in roughly the same distance. And, whereas I-5 is the main freeway serving downtown Seattle destinations and through traffic, I-5 in Portland skirts the downtown.

    Comparisons also can be made using common transportation and land use metrics: freeway and arterial lane miles per capita, car ownership per capita, vehicle miles traveled per capita, journey-to-work travel mode, mode to downtown jobs, downtown employment conentration, downtown resident population, percent of person trips under congested conditions, cross-county (and state) boundary commutes, population dispersion trends, etc.

    When one looks at the numbers an unescapable conclusion emerges: Seattle and Portland have very similar transportation and land use patterns, and neither has succeeded to any significant degree in using government policies to modify trasportation choices and related consumer behavior.

    Posted Fri, Oct 2, 9:56 a.m. Inappropriate

    I blogged about this on my blog, the Living Sustainably Blog, and pointed out that the best way to find out what would happen if we went with the surface option, would be to close the viaduct down for a month or so. At first it would be difficult as Seattle drivers would have to find new ways to move about town, but by the end of the test period they would be moving just fine around Seattle. We'd find out that we didn't need to replace the Viaduct, just replace it with appropriate offramps and doing something with short tunnel it used. (Hint, a set of shops or something.)



    Posted Fri, Oct 2, 10:33 a.m. Inappropriate

    Two thoughts:

    1. This question adds a whole new dimension to "WWJD."

    2. Damn you, Knute, for mentioning Bakeman's turkey sammiches. It's been 20 years since I worked in downtown Seattle and I still miss them!


    Posted Fri, Oct 2, 11:41 a.m. Inappropriate

    Good work, Knute. In answer to the question of the day, I think Mr. Sale has it right but I think it should be emphasized just how different Seattle's geography is from Manhatten Island. The Lower Manhatten Expressway was an especially useless and destructive proposal. It did nothing for the city; it would have made it easier to drive from New Jersey to Long Island. The deep-bore tunnel offers (sort of) the same bypass function but eliminates the blight of an elevated roadway that we already have. I like kedamono's idea but it would just piss people off.


    Posted Fri, Oct 2, 12:36 p.m. Inappropriate

    I suspect Jacobs would see 99 in a nuanced way. On the plus side for the tunnel, she'd be nervous of the tyranny of a Downtown dominated by through-traffic (including a lot of trucks), with the road widenings and "highwayization" of surface streets that would entail.

    joshuadf, I disagree about LQA and SLU. The tunnel project anticipates re-knitting the first three blocks north of Denny via a lid over the tunnel. The Mercer II project would create the multi-use, multi-direction underpass that's been needed for generations. Instead of the "great wall of Aurora" these neighborhoods would be together again. As for traffic headed to these areas, say from West Seattle, they'd have a similar direct route with easy exits.


    Posted Fri, Oct 2, 12:44 p.m. Inappropriate

    At risk of branding myself as an old timer, I don't have to imagine what it would be like without the viaduct, I remember it well. We lived in West Seattle, our relatives lived in the old man's old stomping grounds--the North End. He worked on the waterfront all his life at various trades. Other than his back yard, it was his favorite place. We spent a lot of time there and the other side of the family from farther away came to know it well too.

    I remember car pooling over Beacon Hill to the U.W. just before the viaduct opened full length. After that Seattle had something to measure it's ordinary life, traffic calming ways against and would not rest until the new name for it: "congestion" was put to rest. Good Luck!

    Hence, I too am indifferent, as well as uneasy that we will wind up with neither of neither--if not the worst of both worlds, then more lost potential. However, now that we have advanced back as far as Slow Food....


    Posted Fri, Oct 2, 1:32 p.m. Inappropriate

    Jane Jacobs would not support the Deep-bore. She'd look at the rush hour commute, trace it back to where those commuters live and conclude they'd be better off working closer to home. To do this, Jane Jacobs would put up a road block with the surface boulevard option. A lot of environmental restoration is needed along the Duwamish. Who's to say restoration there won't include permanent jobs and occupations and won't hire locally? I'll tell you who -- car salesmen, finance and insurance company directors, media advertizer pundits and talking heads, globalization colonizers, lead foot isolationist surburbanites, cell phones harnessed to their ears dreaming of the weekend and flying cars not crashing from the sky.


    Posted Fri, Oct 2, 3:48 p.m. Inappropriate

    Thanks Knute. Really interest piece and great mental exercise. Sadly, its true that the viaduct and its environs are much different than the neighborhoods of Manhattan. There are reasonable arguments to say that Jacobs would have supported any of the options and no matter what we choose, creating a vibrant, pedestrian-friendly, neighborhood on the waterfront with character and diversity is going to be a challenge.

    But I do want to say that McGinn's past work certainly illustrates his Jacob-like views. His work in Greenwood, being heavily involved with the community and sidewalk improvements. His work for the Parks Levy which was an incredibly well though out, all encompassing package that got small but great benefits for all communities. And how about the Great City Initiative and its "Leadership for Great Neighborhoods" campaign which gave free consulting to anyone trying to improve their neighborhood whether through a park, stop-light, or Business Association. From personal experience I also know that this man has a keen eye to street life and figuring out ways that will enhancing our streets by making them safer, more active, and more beautiful.

    I can't say I know Mallahan's take on this (not sure many of us do since he barely talks to the public). But his record sure doesn't seem to suggest a strong sense of neighborhood improvement.


    Posted Fri, Oct 2, 6:47 p.m. Inappropriate

    Bravo! This may be my favorite of your writings.

    Jane Jacobs would be the perfect umpire in the discussion of the viaduct, and you've done us a service by exploring the different perspectives of how she might have seen the debate over Seattle's waterfront. I think any thoughtful person has to be perplexed by the viaduct replacement issue. On one hand, there is significant risk that a tunnel will be more expensive than initial estimates suggest, and a possibility that building a tunnel misses an opportunity to reduce our auto-dependence. On the other hand, there is also a risk that a no-replacement option will result in businesses relocating to the suburbs, traffic clogging the waterfront, and transit being slowed to a crawl due to traffic diverted to the two or three streets that provide an alternative route through downtown.

    I don't understand how anyone can be confident that their approach to this issue is the right one. Yet leaders need to come down on one side or the other. I would think that Jane Jacobs would try to find a comfortable place to sit on the sidelines of this issue to watch the action unfold, since there are risks and opportunities to Seattle on both sides.

    Posted Fri, Oct 2, 11:15 p.m. Inappropriate

    Which Jane Jacobs are you talking about? The young and fresh Jane Jacobs
    from the 60's or the nutty Jacobs in Toronto before she DIED?

    That's what I love about dead people and their static works, you can quote
    and bend what someone said without rebuttal from the author to fit your agenda. Bravo.

    Posted Fri, Oct 2, 11:26 p.m. Inappropriate

    @ JoshMahar. I rest my case.

    Great. Does he walk on water too? If you knew him on the Greenwood
    community council and NW district council, then you would learn the
    lessons of not listening to others and unable to compromise.
    Ask the SDOT traffic engineers and his neighbors if his sidewalks which
    block half the road push traffic to other streets. Make sure you ask
    the neighbors on the affected streets.

    Posted Sat, Oct 3, 8:40 a.m. Inappropriate

    Jacobs would have said "repair it."

    Then clean it (wash, paint) and civilize it (e.g. shops underneath between thru-streets, 24/7/365 bike patrol etc).


    Both interventions — Tunnel and Surface/Transit — are far too big and with huge unpredictable consequences and she would have been skeptical of both. As will be the voters when the matters come to the voters via initiative. And both will.

    Posted Sat, Oct 3, 8:47 a.m. Inappropriate

    Moreover Jacobs would have shaken her head at our naive sense of urban priorities which proposes to spend BILLIONS on FIFTEEN BLOCKS in one Seattle neighborhood. (Caps are for emphasis.)

    The "bang for the buck" on the Tunnel is extremely low.
    (I dismiss Surface/Transit as politically impossible and far too subtle and difficult for Seattle to do do.)

    Posted Sat, Oct 3, 11:25 a.m. Inappropriate

    Today, Jacobs is a patron saint for those who want saner urban development,..


    More than reasoned debate, positions used as valuing the mental health of somebody with an opposing view.

    Mr Baker

    Posted Sat, Oct 3, 12:25 p.m. Inappropriate

    I have no idea what Jane Jacobs would think, though I suspect she'd be for the lower scale, more nuanced approach rather than the mega-highway tunnel.

    It's interesting though to look at what has happened to the waterfront in her old neighborhood, Greenwich Village. In its heyday it was a commercial waterfront with an elevated highway. The ships are long gone and the decrepit highway was torn down over thirty years ago. In its place was proposed a buried highway tunnel with surface parks and land for real estate development. Led by a latter-day Jacobs, Marcy Benstock, Westway was defeated on environmental grounds.

    After a few years of dithering and planning, another plan was developed, which is now nearing completion. The highway, Route 9A (West Side Highway), has been rebuilt as a surface road, complete with traffic lights, crosswalks and a landscaped median. The water's edge is now a linear park, complete with bikeway, magnificent landscaping, and lots of recreational facilities, including piers, tennis, skateboarding and kayaking. It is spectacularly succesful. Traffic moves, but not too fast. People cross from the Village and other neighborhoods at the lights. And the new north-south bikeway has inspired rapid growth in bike commuting in Manhattan, of all places. It's a miracle of enlightened design and planning.

    Does the success of the Hudson River Park have lessons for Seattle and its waterfront quandry? I think it does. Ditch the multi-billion dollar highway plan. Spend half as much on a surface option, but build it to the highest standard. Have the courage to say "no" to highways as the solution to problems created by highways. Focus on how to build the city, not how to build a better highway. That sounds like Jane Jacobs to me.

    Dale Peterson
    Seattle native, now a twenty-nine year New Yorker


    Posted Sat, Oct 3, 1:38 p.m. Inappropriate

    Seattle does not have an existing subway, the alteratives are all multi modal surface solutions in Seattle.

    After a couple years of holding the surface option as my preference, to the point of seeing the 7 lane wide remake of HW 99 in Shoreline, between 145th and 165-ish, as the likely result. Cutting off people from delivering goods to market, and people to those jobs of bringing goods to market would have broader destructive results for the city.
    The cut an cover tunnel was a not an acceptable answer. Plopping another viaduct in place of the old one was the worst idea to me.

    Being able to sink the traffic and constrain it in size and utility is appealing to me. It is a different tunnel, with different drawbacks, but to me not being as bad as the twin bore or cut and cover.

    I guess I agree with Tim Burgess, having arrived at a similar solution, though through my own realization of the potential impacts. My fear is that the "best" solution for the open space so far look like the surface option in waiting.
    I would just assume leave a few giant piles of viaduct rubble stategicly place it discourage the future citizens from thinking a 7 lane surface option is a desired substitute to a half dozen piles of rubble that can only be avoided by walking or biking.

    Bury the state highway under my city, and make I-5 improvements, and make mass transit improvements. I think you can have it all, just nit all at once, and except a giant street.

    Mr Baker

    Posted Sun, Oct 4, 9:19 a.m. Inappropriate

    It's lovely to think, in one's post-modern urban fantasies, that we'd all just adjust to losing a major arterial. But losing the Viaduct completely would push even more traffic to the badly designed I-5, and make north-south travel even more honerous than it is. But, as usual, the people who live outside of the city -- we don't really matter, do we? As a Bellevue city councilwoman once said, why build light rail into South King County? Nobody lives there. I see that his attitude hasn't disappeared.

    T.M. Sell

    Posted Sun, Oct 4, 9:21 a.m. Inappropriate

    I forgot to add: Jane Jacobs said a lot of interesting and useful things, but she also once faulted Seattle for not having developed "a region," apparently missing the remoteness of our geography because I guess there's some switch you can pull or catalog you can order from to get one. She understood a lot about cities. She didn't necessarily understand as much about economics.

    T.M. Sell

    Posted Sun, Oct 4, 10:52 a.m. Inappropriate

    Seattle's economics, TM Sell, are based upon long-distance travel within the region and long-distance transport around the world. If your understanding of economics downplays the folly of this reality, you have no solutions to offer. Nero fiddled while Rome burned.


    Posted Mon, Oct 5, 9:25 a.m. Inappropriate

    After the Seattle Commons debacle I decided to move out of Seattle. The wisdom of that decision is confirmed by the outcry against the tunnel solution, and the ritual invocation of Saint Jane of Jacobs. How fortunate we are to have a priesthood of Jacobism v. 2.0 (not the Bonnie Prince Charlie variety) to tell us what she would have said, were she immortal and able to visit Seattle after death.

    She would need to make this visit because Seattle today bears no resemblance to the "great" American cities with which she was familiar, which at that time had been bankrupted by urban flight, and existed only as lifeless husks to be exploited by political machines using federal money for "urban renewal" and highway building. Seattle teetered on the brink of this precipice, destroying a prosperous neighborhood west of the University under the lie of "urban renewal", but generally turning back the freeways and other schemes.

    This in turn created a legacy of activism, now inherited by many who weren't even alive when the changes took place, and who now grumble about sinister plots just as though Gordon Vickery were still switch-hitting at City Light and the Fire Department to hold back the sea of change. Nobody who actually dealt with the City of Seattle in 1972 would make that mistake.

    And it's fortunate the problems have been whittled down to size, when we contemplate the modern Champion and Hero who has gained great acclaim for his campaign for wider sidewalks. Shrewdly combining megalomania ("I'll take over the schools!") with achievable excellence ("Recycling efforts for everyone"), this great Leader (as his adherents describe him) faces a candidate who couldn't win a race for dogcatcher in any other circumstances. They seed their chance and took it.

    How this will turn out is hard to say, but one thing seems certain- this is far from the last we will hear about Jane Jacobs.

    Posted Mon, Oct 5, 12:05 p.m. Inappropriate

    Jane Jacobs was against disruption - the kind created by cut and cover tunnels or wholesale demolition for urban renewal. The deep-bore tunnel was selected in large part because it will minimize disruption. McGinn's disingenuous reasoning on the tunnel and his (and his supporters) dismissal of the political work done by so many others is frightening in its separation from reality. See http://lightandair.wordpress.com/ for an analysis of McGinn's position.

    Posted Tue, Oct 6, 8:18 p.m. Inappropriate

    In the long run, the Deep-bore disrupts more. It puts Interbay-bound traffic onto the new Alaskan Way. Today, that's about 40,000 vehicles daily or 2500 per hour. That's a lot of disruption. Some of it will be diverted via Mercer through Lower Queen Anne to the Deep-bore portal on Aurora. More disruption there. Oh, nobody told inplainair that? I wonder why? The Cut-n-cover may disrupt during construction, but it disrupts less than the Deep-bore in the long-run. McGinn is right to oppose the Deep-bore and has the courage to stand up for what's right.


    Posted Wed, Oct 7, 9:57 a.m. Inappropriate

    Folks, there is a political stalemate which will bleed us. The Tunnel has bitter enemies. So does the Surface/Transit option. (You noticed the lawsuit filed yesterday against the Tunnel? The very first of many. Plus voter initiatives, I am sure, if it gets that far.)

    Why don't we get realistic and consider Repairing the Viaduct? If we don't we will spend the next five years and hundreds of millions of dollars more fighting each other and in the end we will end up with the Repair.

    (And don't insult intelligence by patiently explaining me that the Repair was considered. We all know in our political hearts that the fix was in on the initial studies and a Repair was never given a fair shake.)

    Posted Fri, Oct 9, 12:41 p.m. Inappropriate

    David, The rot beneath the viaduct is the mirror image of the rot at SDOT and WsDOT. Six years after the Nisqually, WsDOT good-ol-boys put before voters their original wet dream, a 6-lane elevated monstrosity to inflict upon uppity Seattlers and cash cow car buyers milked too long. WsDOT's early tunnel designs were prohibitively expensive by design, nevermind the years of planning wasted. And SDOT is no better. Grace Crunican left ODOT in disgrace for her indifference to critically important pedestrian elements of inner-city state highway design. The Alaskan Way boulevard redesign is absolutely atrocious. The Mercer Mess has only become a bigger mess. The Deep-bore is NOT the best tunnel option. The old AWV must come down. The DOTs do not act alone. Seattle City Hall needs a clean sweep. Mr Mallahan is the heir apparent and won't do it. Be a part of real change. Vote 4 McGinn.


    Posted Fri, Nov 6, 7:45 a.m. Inappropriate

    Excellent idea, kedamono, to close down the Viaduct for a month as a test to see what happens. A huge hassle for many, no doubt, but we'll learn a lot more quickly and cheaply than by any other means . . . and we'll have time to do something with what we learn.

    Sea Wolf

    Posted Sun, Nov 8, 3:57 p.m. Inappropriate

    Excellent discussion.

    I have read Jacobs and Flynn and Sucher. I have given each incoming Councilmember a copy of Jacob's Death since the mid 90s. Burgess gave me a copy of Flynn's Battling Moses and I read it last week.

    Asking what Jacobs would do is a bit like asking what Jesus would do. My guess is that Moon has it right. Moon is mentioned by Flynn. Moon is visionary. Burgess is correct to be concerned about the street level and about Western Avenue. Last fall, there was a nice op-ed about which of the two surface options should be chosen. The couplet was the riskier one due to its impact on Western Avenue. It would have had three high volume lanes.

    It is not just the waterfront that is at stake in this decision, but all of Seattle and the region. McGinn gets that and Gregoire is too cautious and tied to the status quo definition of vehicular mobility.

    The key choice is how to spend the limited state funds. The tentative choice is on the deep bore. That means that more of the surface improvements must be paid for by Seattle taxpayers and the lane continuity improvements on I-5 will be put off longer. When the WSDOT cost and tolling revenue esimates come in, we will see if the state can still afford it. There are many other transport bills due to the Seattle taxpayer: a new Magnolia bridge, sidewalks on arterials that lack them, the upcoming Metro cuts, LRT, more pavement management.

    The deep bore will attract more pass through traffic. It will provide more capacity than the current Battery Street tunnel due to wider lanes, shoulders, and the lack of friction from downtown and Western, Elliott, and Battery ramps. That will have an negative impact on traffic patterns and land use.

    One of the best acts of Mayor Nickels was to stop a new elevated. Jacobs would clearly have seen that as destructive to the urban fabric. Nickels and Sims probably accepted the deep bore because Gregoire would not go along with the surface, transit, and I-5 option. But the deal has already fallen flat as Olympia did not provide the one percent MVET to Metro as Sims knew of its budget hole.

    In Battling Moses, it is described that the LOMEX highway, like our viaduct replacement was pursused in several profiles: tunnel, surface, low elevated, and even high elevated. It would have had only two access points in Manhattan.

    The deep bore may be less disrutptive than the surface, transit, and I-5 option, but many eggs will be broken and the ugly and dangerous AWV will stand longer. The portals are still under design. It looks like the south portal will reduce 1st Avenue South and SR-99 by one lane in each direction for a year or more. The north portal will be a mess as well.

    A key factor is the Olympia desire for highways is much greater than their willingness to raise taxes to fund them. That dilemna is running in parallel in both the SR-99 and SR-520 crisis. Global climate change is also demanding a new transport paradigm.


    Posted Mon, Aug 29, 8:18 p.m. Inappropriate

    Thanks for this piece, the kind of story that keeps me reading Crosscut. I wasn't here for the Commons debate, but I'm glad it failed. Just what Seattle doesn't need, a 61-acre park that runs out to Lake Union. As it is, I'd like to see an Amazon employee make it to the Lake Union waterfront and back over lunch. Still too much open space! Not suggesting we need deep Manhattan-like canyons, but look at the photo accompanying the article. No danger of that in SLU. Heck, there's grass growing on the garage at Gates Foundation. I welcome the growth of SLU, don't think it's even close to having the density of a true "downtown" (look again at the photo), don't think it would have been better as a big empty park (that's why we have the rest of Washington State, much of it on full view from the city), and do wish it had fewer traffic bottlenecks.

    Sea Wolf

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