Seattle's leading growth industry — cooking up new schemes for the Alaskan Way Viaduct replacement — has a new product, courtesy of a retired fireman in Miami named Jim Powers. This one would be 70 feet in the air (the present Viaduct is about 55 feet high), leaving a covered park down below. So far, the idea has been given the brushoff.
Powers may be from faraway Florida, but he's often visited his sisters in Seattle over the years. He says he got the idea for the soaring Seattle Skyway from France's Millau Viaduct, which puts six lanes as high as 885 feet in the air and was built for a mere $400 million, according to Powers. Powers figures he could build the Seattle Skyway for less than $1 billion, with 6-8 lanes of traffic, bike lanes, and some sound protection.
A chief advantage would be keeping the existing Alaskan Way Viaduct in place while the foundation columns are placed outside the old structure, 430 feet apart, and then 18 mammoth roadbed trusses of steel would be lifted into place. Result: little disruption of traffic, just three years of construction, and lots of highway capacity. Presumably the park underneath would have some rain protection, as well as room for surface Alaskan Way.
Powers says he is getting nowhere with the joint planning process being run by the state, Seattle, and King County, which is trying to practice birth control on all these schemes. It probably doesn't help Powers that his background is fighting fires, running a dredging business, and being a general contractor with a patent pending on his construction technique. His phone calls are not returned, he says, but he'll be in Seattle next week making a presentation to some businesses interested in preserving traffic flow and freight mobility. Hope springs eternal.