Viaduct briefing: Live updates on 8 options just unveiled

(3:13 pm note, the briefing is now over – all notes below – we will write into a summary later.)


We’re downtown, 24th floor of the Wells Fargo Building (view above is from the briefing room), headquarters of the Alaskan Way Viaduct and Seawall Replacement Program, for the briefing on the Alaskan Way Viaduct progress so far – will post notes here as it goes. NOTES: 8 possible scenarios identified so far … A-C surface, D-E above ground solutions, F-H are below ground “SR 99 components.” No longer any 6 lane replacements in the solutions they are considering. All are 4-lane, either elevated or below-ground. Retrofit is “one of the solutions we are not considering any further.” Scenario A highlights: this solution is a 4-lane surface street on surface Alaskan Way, combined with a lot of improvements to downtown, I-5, increased transit … Ron Paananen was laying out the previous … Bob Powers: these are systems approaches … government leaders directed us to go back and look at those … that’s why Ron said six lanes no longer being considered … we have assembled the building blocks, these are the system approaches to the solutions … Paananen: We think we’ve learned all we need to know about 6-lane solutions through previous efforts … the 2 we boiled it down to a little over a year ago, couldn’t advance any further .. looking at the problem differently … looking at it in a way we don’t NEED A FULL CAPACITY SOLUTION … because of improvements on streets, transit … Powers: A is “low capital solution” … looking at trying to add a transit lane from Olive to 520 northbound on 5 … changes in HOV lanes southbound … (We note, the Scenario A map takes into account a Delridge Rapid Ride bus route as well as the other one already on the drawing board) … Powers: 2 lanes in each direction along the waterfront on Alaskan Way, with signalized intersections up to the Battery Street Tunnel going northbound, you’d go through tunnel, there would be signalized intersections north of there … “intent is to reconnect the grid system E-W north of the Battery St Tunnel” … NOTE: This will be long so we are breaking it off to its own page. Click the post headline and keep refreshing if you want to follow the notes.

Each circle on the map is a signalized intersection on the waterfront. Paananen: These scenarios will be tested over the next 4 to 5 months … (2:11 pm now) Powers: Signals will be synchronized so you can’t necessarily call it “slow” … six guiding principles the scenarios need to reflect … extra transit lanes on 2nd and 4th in downtown, better east-west transit connections, improving transit connections from south into Central Business District in several ways … “looking at giving people alternatives as they make choices for getting in and out of city” … Paananen: Could mean some modifications in the off- and on-ramp systems on I-5 through downtown … Powers: No price tag on these scenarios so far, “just our draft scenarios we have put together so far .. have not done any cost analysis … probably (will do that) in the fall time frame” … Paananen: Goal is to pare these down to 3 or so in the fall so that by December we have ONE solution …

2:16 PM, SCENARIO B — Similar to A, Powers says two or three major differences … more surface street improvements and transit improvements, less transportation demand management strategies … this one also converts HOV lane southbound Mercer to Spokane to “managed” lane (could be HOT lane like 167 in South County) … lots of questions about how they’re going to add lanes on I-5 … Paananen: Several pinch points, such as Seneca, bridge columns just past Convention Center, lanes will be “a little bit narrower” so we can add a lane … Powers: We looked at open space along waterfront too … first two options, somewhere between 70 and 80 feet of open space available to be programmed … the open space would be along the water side … the street would be moved to under where The Viaduct is now … Option B map shows “increased direct service to SODO” …

Powers: SCENARIO C – 2:20 pm: “Alaskan Way/Western Couplet” — northbound along the waterfront would be on Western Avenue and would be three lanes with a bike lane … south bound would be on alaskan way, three lanes with a bike lane .. this would allow for an open space upward of 110 feet (wide) on the waterfront to be programmable … (yes, technically, this is a six-lane solution, but arterial) … definitely no parking on Western during peak hours but will look at it during offpeak … that’s in the next step of evaluation …

SCENARIO D/E are similar, 2:25 pm: D above ground, less surface and transit because we are capturing a lot of what the Viaduct provides today but this is a side-by-side four-lane … height not known yet … could be 40, 50, 60 feet … “by definition, this is a viaduct” says Paananen … we still suggest there are improvements possible to I-5 to make the whole system work better, improved transit service too .. RapidRide would allow us to get by with 4 lanes instead of 6 among other things ..

SCENARIO E: a couple of differences, signalized intersections on the north end at top of hill behind market … elliott and western and battery st. tunnel area … this elevated is designed in such a way that it would allow infill development to occur underneath it, says Ron P, would be enclosed by development with greenspace on top … buildings could be constructed under the roadway … when we look at this we will look at this block by block, some streets would be able to pass through … “one way of integrating the roadway with downtown in a way that makes it less visible as a transportation corridor” … possibly 25-foot, 40-foot buildings underneath it …

SCENARIO F IS A “BORED, BYPASS TUNNEL” .. starts near Qwest Field and emerges just north of Battery Street tunnel … would have to modify Aurora … two side by side tunnel spaces, each two lanes wide … “it’s a true bypass,” says Paananen, between Harrison and Royal Brougham, no way to get out of it … … Paananen, don’t want to speculate on how long any of this would take (Cascadia likes Bored tunnel better, they say, it would be deep enough to go under existing burlington northern tunnel, maybe 100 feet .. about 2 miles long … each of these tunnel “bores” is about 43 feet wide …

SCENARIO G: 4-lane cut and cover tunnel, narrower version of the waterfront tunnel (that voters rejected, the unsaid phrase, WSB note) … 2 lanes in each direction, reconnects to existing Battery Street Tunnel … “tunnel lite” says one reporter, “some similarities” acknowledges Paananen … little bit narrower, says Powers, and didn’t operate quite like the old proposal … which was built on a corridor solution … this one is not … would also have some I-5, transit, surface street improvements …

SCENARIO H: “lidded trench” below ground 2 lanes each direction, says Paananen, but openings in the cover of this trench so it can be ventilated naturally instead of with fans … a little shorter than the other two … lidded section would be along central waterfront … comes up at Union and then goes like Scenario A surface solution … 2:39 PM … finishing basic briefing about the eight scenarios … all scenarios will keep 3rd Avenue as transit only, it’s clarified … they will be evaluating everything to figure out how they are going to get another lane onto I-5 … Ron P “we believe these are reasonable solutions to carry forward and to do our traffic modeling on” … we will go through cost estimating to see if there is a fatal flaw somewhere in terms of financing … we will develop a finance plan as we make the cost estimates … we know the amount of STATE money we have now … but there could be other sources … Ron: we have up to 2.8 billion in state funding allocated to the project … but other things in play could bring more funding … we’re spending up to 900 million already on the corridor, spent money on right of way and environmental work … so what’s available to work with from here forward is “definitely less than 2 billion …. about 1.5 billion or so …” “the money in our budget spread out from now till 2016 or 2017 …” Powers: there will be a cost estimate and implementation plan for each one, then we will come back and look at ‘performance measures’ we have shared with committee members, we will demonstrate how each one plays against it … Powers: next thing to get to here, the ones that are NOT going to be considered … 2:45 PM … based on their failure to meet one or more guiding principles from state county city leaders …

WHY RETROFIT IS NOT BEING CONSIDERED … four guiding principles it doesn’t meet, quake standard, little or no changes to the waterfront as a place for people, cost approaches 80 percent of the cost of a new structure, little or no environmental improvements … we had an independent review says Paananen and they came to the same conclusion … “to properly retrofit it you essentially rebuild the new structure” … everything from under the ground up would have to be rebuild, new foundations for all columns, every column would have to be wrapped, every crossbeam would have to be wrapped or encased by the time you are done doing that you have essentially built a new structure around the old one … says Ron P … why reevaluate at all, reporter asks? well, we were told to have ALL OPTIONS ON THE TABLE as we relooked at this problem, that included the retrofit …

WHY SURFACE EXPRESSWAY NO LONGER BEING CONSIDERED (we’re jumping ahead in printed stuff) – doesn’t meet two guiding principles, limited possibilities for providing public open space … likely negative impacts to the environment … Powers explains .. cars would be going too fast for people to have good access on waterfront …

WHY ELLIOTT BAY CROSSING (BRIDGE) NO LONGER BEING CONSIDERED … we don’t think it’s feasible … would have to be one of biggest bridges ever built with one of deepest foundations … three guidng principles it doesn’t meet … doesn’t support local economy, would negatively impact the port … because of the massive foundations that ships would have to navigate around … towers would protrude into Boeing Field flight path, says Paananen … haven’t figured out how to keep height down … we believe this would be a VERY EXPENSIVE BRIDGE TO BUILD, given depth of water, long spans, depth of foundations … also endangered species in Elliott Bay, very difficult to build anything in the bridge right now, permitting agencies we work with would be disinclined because they know there are projects on land … 2:56 PM – Paananen says the retrofit being off the table is likely going to be the one that is most controversial when stakeholders meet this afternoon … “when you do the detail work to analyze it i think you come to the same conclusion that we have” … Reporter question: Does this all meet the capacity regardless of which scenario? Posthuma (from Metro) answer is yes but we have to PRECISELY calculate it … we think we have laid this all out … Posthuma: These all assume we will get somewhat better pathways into downtown .. our existing buses are traveling faster if this happens, we will attract more riders … one level of this we are fairly sure we can do … after that, it gets more challenging, we have to figure out where the money’s coming from … Powers: next steps are going to be to take the scenarios, do the transportation demand modeling … prelim engineering … these are draft scenarios … if we happen to see a piece that’s in a scenario and working well and not in another scenario, we could move it, so the … we’re going to look at effect of tolling as it works off to the side … it works the best with A … demand management is one way to make this work, and that could involve pricing access … we are trying to make these work without having to have tolling, don’t HAVE to have it for B thru H, says Posthuma .. we KNOW we will have tolling on 520, we have it on 167 … some pathways into downtown will be tolled already so we have to look at these … Powers adds, PSRC is starting their fairly detailed tolling look, we’re going to use their results and work closely with them, to see what results they are finding re: pricing and tolling, and see how that crosswalks over to our scenarios, and how that might affect our scenarios … Paananen: It doesn’t really work to toll one road unless it’s limited access, so the PSRC is looking at some of the other ideas that are going on nationally for pricing … (have you talked to feds about expanding I-5, someone asks) … Paananen: We briefed them today on what we’re doing (10 am briefing! Powers says) … “The days of a lot of federal money are probably behind us,” he says … “last federal transportation act earmarked 220 million for viaduct, more than any other project in the country so the federal government recognizes importance of viaduct and I-5” … Posthuma – some of these, we have to figure out where the money is coming from … we are now carrying a lot more people than we thought we were going to … “lot of capacity in rail” … Posthuma we’re looking at preserving all the Transit NOW service we promised (somebody asks about RapidRide?) END OF BRIEFING … stakeholders’ committee meets at 4 pm.

18 Replies to "Viaduct briefing: Live updates on 8 options just unveiled"

  • RobertSeattle June 26, 2008 (2:10 pm)

    There’s a sign about a half mile north of the spokane/99 junction on northbound 99 that has a url for a website about the south section of the viaduct work – I keep seeing it but not remembering the url (something .org I believe). Anyone recall it?

  • WSB June 26, 2008 (2:53 pm)

    go to and you’ll find out all the details on that work

  • Michael June 26, 2008 (3:17 pm)

    So basically the favored scenarios essentially either add one lane to Alaskan Way and then toss it to other agencies to beef up transit, or build a 1/3 reduced capacity replacement? Well, this does meet the three criteria we seem to have around here:
    1) Cheap
    2) Fast
    3) Allows people to continue to complain/argue about traffic mess for decades to come
    Hey, but many of them will “open up” the waterfront to business interests, er, people!
    Good job everyone!

  • elgrego June 26, 2008 (4:02 pm)

    Four lanes? Seriously? That isn’t enough.

  • CEO June 26, 2008 (4:39 pm)

    It’s coming down, so enjoy the best view the common folk will ever have!

  • chas redmond June 26, 2008 (6:10 pm)

    None of the scenarios, by the way, produces an unimpeded path for West Seattleites (or anyone). All of them add traffic lights to SR99/Aurora somewhere on the route. Presently, as we all know, the next traffic light after the Fauntleroy Way on-ramp light is the light at Winona. So, all these scenarios basically remove what is a limited access highway and replace it with a “surface” street containing one or more traffic lights.

    I wouldn’t actually call that an improvement in point-to-point travel. I suspect whatever we do five years from now we will seriously regret it.

    You will notice, also, that there is no fixed rail for West Seattle in any of the scenarios. Ballard, Fremont and others get fixed rail (streetcar) in one or more scenarios. Is this equity?

  • CB June 26, 2008 (6:16 pm)

  • WSB June 26, 2008 (6:31 pm)

    As mentioned above, the bridge is now off the table. Still working on the viaduct summary but the wireless signal here at the jail forum is a little spotty! My second post pointing to the briefing materials, now posted online, has good info too, so you don’t have to wait for our summary later :)

  • PSPS June 26, 2008 (7:50 pm)

    Yes, just what we need. Dump all the 99 traffic onto a reduced capacity surface street (complete with pot holes, no doubt,) and add a bunch of traffic signals! Can’t Seattle afford engineers that, you know, actually have a real degree and stuff? This has become an employment agency for the slipshod and the second-rate.
    Where’s the “artist’s rendering” showing three or four cars blissfully speeding along a wide empty boulevard, where the lights are always green and the sun is always shining?
    You’ll notice in their casual dismassal of the only reasonable solution — the retrofit — is the omission of one very important fact that all the other alternatives fail to address: the loss of use of the viaduct for many years. That’s worth something and, alone, it makes the other options non-starters. Their list of reasons against the retrofit reveal the true motivation here: A big windfall to real estate developers and other cronies of City Hall.

  • elgrego June 26, 2008 (8:34 pm)

    I saw one of the plans had a Park and Ride each for White Center and Burien. Was that for busses or light rail?

    My issue is that I work in the Interbay area, will be attending school in Ballard, and volunteer at Woodland Park. Right now, thanks to 99, it takes me about 15 minutes to get to each of them door to door from my place just north of White Center. None of the realistic plans (let’s face it, we’re not going to get a tunnel or covered trench) are going to give me the same transit times, probably, in fact, doubling it in most cases.

    Now I realize that down the line I won’t be in school anymore, I will have another job and I might not be volunteering, but I’d like to stay in West Seattle. If my commute time starts to suck, especially assuming gas prices in 10-ish years will be higher than they are now, and I’ve got no realistic alternatives (no, the bus is not practical for me now), I’ll have to assume that I’ll be leaving West Seattle.

  • Pete June 26, 2008 (8:42 pm)

    2 points to comment on from these comments….Delridge Rapid Ride is included in all 8 of the scenarios presented today.

    Also, in several of the scenarios the thought is to divert traffice from the SR99 corridor. This will be done either by shifiting some of it to I-5 (will be land shifts and other improvements on this corridor to accomplish this) and to push more of the traffice that has a downtown destination off of SR99 sooner and onto the surface street grid. You need to look at the entire grip to get a better idea of how this might work.

    On September 3rd the SW District Council and the Delridge Neighborhoods District Council will hold a joint meeting on the progress of the viaduct buidling block process. We have committments from the senior folks at SDOT, KCDOT and WADOT that they will be there to make a presentation and to answer questions.

  • WSB June 26, 2008 (8:45 pm)

    Elgrego, re: park and ride, we asked Ron Posthuma of Metro afterward whether a West Seattle Park and Ride could be possible – there are Burien and White Center park n rides mentioned in the briefing materials if you take a look at what we linked to in the second post about this. He said Metro is trying to get the others to “look at it” though the city is apparently a potential stumbling block, and he added they are well aware that there is a great interest in West Seattle Park n Rides.

  • Rick June 26, 2008 (9:26 pm)

    CB – The bridge is the most asthetic and least disruptive solution but as usual it won’t benefit the usual criminals. In the long run, we all pay, question is to who? Thanks for the visuals.

  • miws June 26, 2008 (9:36 pm)

    Okay Mayor and Council, if either, or both of you are the “stumbling block” to getting a decent Park & Ride/Transit Center in West Seattle, WAKE UP and snag at least one of the Huling Properties, that’s still available, before it’s too late.


    That way, it’s done relatively simply, and hopefully at a somewhat reasonable cost, instead of waiting until when it might be absolutely neccesary, and would involve the added expense, and hassle of imposing Eminant Domain on one or more properties.



  • Anne Huey June 27, 2008 (9:31 am)

    PLEASE consider a LID PARK. That ground space without the viaduct would NOT be “waterfront”. It would be a dark trough between the pier buildings and the hill. The best thing about the current viaduct is THE VIEW of the harbor. LID whatever is built and Seattle will have the BEST PARK EVER.
    —Footbridges from 1st Avenue.
    —Steps/Elevators from Alaska Way.
    —Footbridges from Condos and Office buildings.
    —Stunning harbor views.
    —Delicious evening sun sets.

    Notice how busy Victor Steinbrueck Park
    is in the market … because of the view. We need more VIEW park space in that area.

  • WSMom June 27, 2008 (12:23 pm)

    I agree with Mike. It would make sense (IMO) for the city to purchase one of the Huling properties for a Park & Ride.

    We’re any cost comparisons given for the 8 different options? What exactly is the difference between the “boulevard” option and the “surface street” option, they look about the same to me.

    My initial opinion is I’d like to see the cut and cover option more fully analyzed. Correct me if I’m wrong, but is this what was done with I-90 through Mercer Island?

  • WSB June 27, 2008 (12:29 pm)

    See the summary article I posted late last night – which includes images of all 8 options.

    As noted there and here, there are no cost estimates available. That’s part of the next round of work. Re: Mercer Island, not sure but will look up later if somebody else doesn’t reply here first.

  • Pete June 27, 2008 (2:11 pm)

    Cost estimates and that sort of information will be avaialble in some form at the August and September Viaduct Stakeholders meetings.

Sorry, comment time is over.