Viaduct decision day is here

Here's an early look at what might be the final two or three options for the Viaduct. The key meeting is 4:30 pm today at City Hall.
Here's an early look at what might be the final two or three options for the Viaduct. The key meeting is 4:30 pm today at City Hall.

The numbers crunching and backstage deal-making must be something to behold as the three area transportation departments and their consultants try to come up with their final recommendations on the Viaduct. Deadline is 4:30 this afternoon, at a meeting at Seattle City Hall.

UPDATE: Late this afternoon the state narrowed the options to two: a four lane new elevated Viaduct or the surface-and-transit option, with no tunnel.

Which options will make the cut? Mike O'Brien, head of the local Sierra Club and a member of the Waterfront Stakeholders advisory committee, speculates that one option will be the one he favors, a surface plus transit plan with enhanced capacity on I-5, more transit demand management to direct traffic through downtown, and perhaps a promise to look at a deep-bore tunnel in the future. The second option, O'Brien predicts, will be a "cheap elevated" plan, not the Frank Chopp version. The third option, if there is one, would be the "grand compromise" being put forward by mostly business interests. O'Brien is not impressed by this compromise, thinking the deep-bore tunnel is too expensive and too car-encouraging.

O'Brien argues that the state transportation department is under marching orders to come up with options that are affordable and can square with the governor's vow to tear down the unsafe current Viaduct by 2012. If the choice is between the surface plan favored by greens and the cheap viaduct favored by business and truckers, local politicians would clearly favor the former. Greens would be happy, but the plan would likely face "death with dignity" in the Legislature, since business interests, led by Boeing, would lobby strongly against it.

Meanwhile, there might also be some last-minute adjustments by advocates of the deep-bored tunnel option, making it more transit friendly. In this post from the tunnel advocates at Discovery's Cascadia Institute, Matt Rosenberg writes: "The Viaduct decision needs to be part of a broader regional plan for time-variable tolling. To boost transit use, the tunnel could be routed under Third Avenue downtown and a transit station could connect by escalator to the existing downtown transit tunnel which serves buses, and starting next year, Sound Transit light rail."


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