First there were eight, then there were two. Since we first saw the two “scenarios” to which the Alaskan Way Viaduct Central Waterfront options list has been narrowed, and relayed them to you in as-it-happened coverage from City Hall late yesterday, we also have been glad to facilitate the sharing of opinions as well. You’ve heard from West Seattle’s representatives on the Viaduct Stakeholders Advisory Committee, Pete Spalding (his reaction here) and Vlad Oustimovitch (his, here). You’ve heard from dozens of WSBers in comments on our Viaduct reports (all archived here). Now another West Seattleite’s voice — that of the veteran journalist who wrote editorials for the West Seattle Herald for years, until his position as editor of the WSH and Ballard News-Tribune was cut last week. Jack Mayne contacted us this week and asked if we would be interested in editorial contributions. WSB itself has not taken official editorial-style positions on issues since our first year, before evolving into a news site. But this is certainly a place for voices to be heard, and read. Here is what Jack Mayne has written about the latest turn in the road to the Viaduct’s future (followed by a personal note from him):
BOTH VIADUCT OPTIONS DOOM WEST SEATTLE
Editorial by Jack Mayne
Special to West Seattle Blog
Yesterday, transportation officials chose two preferred options to replace the Alaskan Way Viaduct. Both of them would shaft West Seattle, dooming commuters to long, slow traffic-snarled slogs to downtown, and even dooming promised added bus routes by enmeshing them in the traffic mess either option would create.
We strongly urge anyone who commutes to downtown daily, or who travels north of downtown to Ballard and beyond: Attend and make your concerns known at a public forum this Monday, December 15th, beginning at 5 pm at Town Hall.
The first option chosen is a new elevated viaduct, starting at Safeco Field and connecting to the Battery Street Tunnel. At first blush, this sounds as though it would be a good replacement for the viaduct the governor has said she will tear down in 2012.
But it is not.
Gone would be the Seneca Street offramp that allows people working downtown to move directly into the central city.
There would still be an offramp onto Western Avenue just before the roadway enters the tunnel, as is the case now. This arrangement would mean a commuter would either have to drive north of the city center and backtrack on surface streets, or would have to exit State Route 99 at King Street and then negotiate numerous traffic signals and downtown city traffic to their destinations.
But the real stake through the heart of this proposal â which would have an end cost of well over $3 billion â is that Mayor Greg Nickels has vowed again and again to never allow an elevated roadway along the waterfront. Nickels, Metropolitan King County Executive Ron Sims, and Governor Chris Gregoire are the three who will make the final decision. Further, the Seattle Downtown Association, the Metropolitan Seattle Chamber of Commerce, and numerous politicians have opposed the construction of another elevated roadway to replace the viaduct.
That option appears to be only a stalking horse for the politicians who want it their way or no way.
The second choice by the transportation agencies is the real disaster for West Seattle. It needs a stake driven so deeply into its heart that it never, ever comes up again. That is the so-called surface and transit option.
A two-street surface esplanade has magical music for many downtown romanticists — but West Seattleites, think what it would mean to you.
Pigeon Point resident Pete Spalding said this on West Seattle Blog last night:
âIf you leave West Seattle and drive through downtown going to north Seattle you will encounter 28 stop lights, a 90 degree turn to proceed through the Battery Street tunnel and a 30 mile per hour speed limit. On top of this there is no mention of how the ferry traffic (entering or exiting Colman dock) will be figured into the traffic flow.â
Remember, buses will travel many portions of this route, too, so taking the bus may not save commuters any time.
Besides Nickels and Sims, we are told that West Seattle resident and City Councilmember Tom Rasmussen is in favor of not replacing the viaduct with anything but city streets, thus making downtown streets into clogged transportation corridors.
Not only will this option cost almost as much as the elevated option, more than $3 billion, but it will doom West Seattle resident to an estimated two hour commute each way. Traffic will mean buses will be caught in the gridlock.
You can forget going downtown for anything but the most important of missions, considering the traffic snarls on the way, then the exorbitant cost of parking once you get there.
Shoppers will find it is faster, cheaper and easier to journey to newly renovated Southcenter, with relatively easy access via Highway 509 and free parking once there.
The 20 percent of Seattleâs population that lives here seems to mean nothing to the politicians who are making this choice. The only question on final judgment now is Gov. Gregoire, who does have a wider constituency to answer to.
We urge West Seattle residents to crowd Town Hall next Monday night and demand that we have a say in this. Old-timers remember the bleak days when the West Seattle Bridge was down and being replaced. Many businesses went under, others barely survived. Getting to the job center downtown was a daily nightmare.
The one good thing out of this is the decision to keep the deep-bored tunnel option on the table for the future. That is a best answer to moving traffic through the city. It would not permit direct access to Ballard, but it would to the north. The tunnel as now conceived would start at Qwest Field and come out a couple of blocks north of the current mouth on Aurora, allowing connection of some surface streets around Seattle Center.
We need to kill the surface and transit option once and for all — or else maybe we should take up the old cause of leaving Seattle and becoming the City of West Seattle (again).
Note from WSB editor/co-publisher Tracy Record: We are checking with Councilmember Rasmussen re: his current official stance on Viaduct replacement; in 2006, this link reminds us, he voted with a majority of Council colleagues to support the cut-and-cover tunnel option, and clearly voiced opposition to an elevated replacement.
Now, one more note. After Jack met with co-publisher Patrick Sand and me earlier this week, we also offered him the opportunity to publish a personal note regarding his change in status, as so far as we can tell from the newspaper’s website and current print edition, it has not posted anything aside from changing the name on the masthead. Read on for Jack’s message:
Goodbye West Seattle Herald, hello West Seattle Blog
So, why am I writing this here instead of on Page Six of the West Seattle Herald?
Turns out I was declared redundant last week. The Robinson family owns the Herald, and they decided with no notice, and with no severance package, to end my six and a half years as editor âat this exact moment.â
The paper is strong and growing, something the downtown metros would like to be able to say.
Considering the financial disaster we are all suffering through, advertising is strong.
We had built a staff of three excellent young reporters to work for the Herald (and sister paper, The Ballard News-Tribune).
Now Ken Robinson, who lives in Snohomish County and who will have his office in Burien, is running the paper.
The immediate shock and sadness of the change has passed and we are now happy that their actions propelled this long-time editor from the yesteryear of print journalism to the reality of the future of on-line journalism. It is a new and exciting media, one that has many problems and one that has to continually learn as it grows. Many news sites, or blogs if you will, will prosper and many will shrivel and die once the bloom wears off.
But, we are lucky in West Seattle, because we have the West Seattle Blog, which, in many ways, is ahead of this national wave. This writer is pleased to join with the Sands on an occasional basis.
Nevertheless, I will miss my loyal and involved readers of the Herald, the people who make this part of the city a very special place.
â Jack Mayne