Alaskan Way Viaduct: Have your say as the decision nears

viaductphoto.jpgWe haven’t yet heard of any plans for a big-splash formal announcement, but it had been promised time and time again that the decision on a replacement for the Alaskan Way Viaduct‘s “mile in the middle” Central Waterfront section would be made by year’s end. That’s a little over 37 hours away. Still enough time to put yourself on the record, suggests Le’a Kent – she’s the West Seattleite who spoke most loudly on behalf of the peninsula at the public forum two weeks ago (as we reported here). She e-mailed WSB this morning to suggest sharing decisionmakers’ e-mail addresses one more time — saying, “I realize there is not complete agreement from all West Seattleites about what the decision should be, but I think we need to get our voices out there” — so here are some contact methods/addresses for starters (let us know if you have one to add):

Governor Gregoire, it’s a web form:

King County Executive Ron Sims
(If you have a Twitter account, you can send him a 140-characters-or-less note at @ronsims)

Seattle Mayor Greg Nickels

Click ahead to read what Le’a sent. If you cc us on yours (, we’ll add it too. (1:11 pm, just added one, but first thing after the “jump” is from Le’a)

Executive Sims and Mayor Nickels:

Both viaduct choices currently on the table are bad. Neither solves the
problems the stakeholders set out to solve, which is: how do we transport
people and goods in the region while not degrading Seattle’s waterfront
further. The option preferred by the stakeholders, who actually engaged with
these problems for about a year, was an option with a tunnel as well as
surface and transit improvements and changes to I-5. I don’t see why this
isn’t the preferred option now.

The elevated option fails to take advantage of this opportunity to improve
downtown and the waterfront.

The current surface/transit option is not acceptable because it cannot
maintain capacity for the movement of people and goods. Although transit
times through downtown are said to increase by “only” 15 minutes, the
upstream impacts in Seattle’s westside neighborhoods (Ballard, Magnolia,
Fremont, West Seattle) are likely to increase commute times much more for
residents of those areas. When we are trying to encourage city density and
infill development, it makes no sense to strangle these neighborhoods by
forcing traffic through the bottleneck of downtown Seattle. Doing so is the
transportation equivalent of suddenly transforming half of Seattle’s
neighborhoods into exurbs. Those of us who live here do so because we wanted
to live in a city. If I wanted to live an hour from Seattle’s neighborhoods,
I’d live in the sprawl on the Sammamish plateau. I don’t.

The surface/transit option is also inadequate in terms of transit
improvements and cost planning–to avoid a situation where buses are stuck
in gridlock traffic, extensive bus lanes and other improvements in the
neighborhoods will be necessary, and those are not included in current
budgeting, artificially reducing the cost of this option. From a review of
the materials on the viaduct website, it also appears that the
surface/transit option only increases long-term transit use in the SR 99
corridor by about 1% over the elevated option. “Transit” is not much more
than a marketing term here.

I want to emphasize that it is not acceptable to adopt the surface/transit
option and then “wait and see” if a tunnel is necessary. That will mean
years of bottlenecks and doubled and tripled commute times for many Seattle
neighborhoods, resulting in loss of businesses and residents, and degraded

The current choice of options is particularly dismaying because it pits
Seattleites against each other in a completely unnecessary way: either the
neighborhoods and the port suffer (surface/transit option), or downtown
suffers (elevated option). When the stakeholders’ committee went to work, I
assumed that the point was to hash these things out and come up with a
win/win. The committee did that in recommending the hybrid tunnel options.
You should adopt those now.

–Le’a Kent

Added 1:11 pm (thanks for the cc):

Mayor Nickels:

As a resident of West Seattle, I do not belive the current options being considered
are adequate for moving traffic from West Seattle to the rest of the city. I favor
the hybrid option–a tunnel as well as surface and transit improvements and changes
to I-5.

Getting through downtown on I-5 bottleneck right now is miserable, and I hate to
imagine what it would be like without the Hwy 99 option to bypass downtown. The best
solution is one that both bypasses downtown (tunnel) and allows access to the
downtown waterfront (surface and I-5).

Also the snow response here in West Seattle was a disaster and I would certainly
give you a D- as a grade, not a B as you gave yourself. You should have seen my
elderly neighbor in tears, literally, when we brought her a quart of milk and bread
(we had walked a mile through the snow carrying heavy groceries because we couldn’t
move our cars). She had not had fresh food for 5 days because no one could get to
her. You should be embarrassed. My trash is still piled up in my alley too. You are
seriously out of touch with reality if you think the city’s snow response deserves a
“good” grade.

Cindy Burke
West Seattle

6 Replies to "Alaskan Way Viaduct: Have your say as the decision nears"

  • Cash December 30, 2008 (11:25 am)

    Couldn’t agree more. We have the opportunity to redefine the waterfront of this great city without a viaduct and why on earth would someone in office intentionally chose to make our city less efficient by increasing travel time throughout. The hybrid option is a win-win and would draw great attention and admiration the world over.

  • Scott (no, the other Scott) December 30, 2008 (12:58 pm)

    For such a vital decision which has already been delayed far too long, I hate to say “Wait a bit longer” but I can’t help but feel that’s the right thing to do right now. If the tunnel options were rejected primarily on account of the cost (I’m sure there were other objections, but I believe that was the one that loomed largest) then it may sound crazy to put that back on the table now with the way the economy has tanked, but strangely enough, it may be easier to find funding for the same reason.

    If the Obama administration is serious about attempting to reverse the economic downturn with increased infrastructure development spending, the idea of obtaining federal funding to underwrite a tunnel project may receive a much more sympathetic hearing in the next several months. Think of the job engine a project like that would be! And the decreased shipping activity already occasioned by the recession should diminish the impact of construction on commercial interests, at least for the first 18 months or so.

    With so little consensus for any option now, I’d rather see us go back to the feds with the new administration in office and see if there has been a change of heart over the funding issue. Waiting to do this of course carries a cost of its own, but we may look back on this moment as a golden opportunity to fix our problems on the waterfront without paying nearly the price we will otherwise be faced with.

  • Le'a December 30, 2008 (1:00 pm)

    Thanks–but be sure and say it to the guv, if you haven’t already!

  • Colleen December 30, 2008 (1:39 pm)

    Did anyone else get the bounce back on greg’s email, that gave the link to the comment from and said to put your response there and that they weren’t responding to the e-mail address anymore?

    you for writing to Mayor Greg Nickels. To better serve you, we have created a web page to receive your comments and are no longer receiving emails on this account. Your comments are important to Mayor Nickels, and we ask that you send them directly to the Mayor at:

    We apologize for any inconvenience and we hope to hear from you soon.


    Mayor Nickels’ constituent team
    Office of the Mayor
    City of Seattle

  • WSB December 30, 2008 (1:45 pm)

    Sorry to hear that. Will add a note above. The e-mail address was still listed in the city directory … more likely he has some supersecret direct address.

  • WSMom December 30, 2008 (4:14 pm)

    Here’s what I wrote to the Mayor, Gov & etc:

    The City of Seattle deserves an investment in our infrastructure which makes sense, not only for today but for decades. We need a visionary plan which includes bike/jogging paths, a tunnel to move traffic through the city (the I-5 bottle-neck through downtown is ridiculous) and an improvement of our waterfront district. We need leadership to guide us through this expensive, but vital to our quality of life, process. The two options on the table are not visionary and they do not make sense in the long run. I believe a tunnel in place of the failing viaduct is our best possible solution.

Sorry, comment time is over.