Two Alaskan Way Viaduct “hybrid scenarios” made public

(meeting now concluded at 5:35 pm- to recap, the two “finalist” scenarios just made public are “surface/transit hybrid” and “elevated bypass hybrid” – 6:54 pm update, all the materials presented today/tonight are now posted online – here are graphics of the two options)

(above photo added 3:45 pm, just after Executive Sims, Gov. Gregoire, and Mayor Nickels sat down)
ORIGINAL 3:23 PM POST: We’re at City Hall, where state, county, and city leaders are about to be officially briefed on the final scenarios for the Alaskan Way Viaduct Central Waterfront replacement. We’ll post first word of what they are, as soon as we get it – we’ve all just been allowed into the briefing room, where the officials (elected and otherwise) are gathering. The mayor, governor, and county executive haven’t come in yet – city council Transportation Committee chair Jan Drago is here, though, as are the officials who’ve led this project for the three agencies, including SDOT director Grace Crunican, WSDOT’s Ron Paananen, and Metro’s Ron Posthuma. (There’s a name card for West Seattle’s King County Councilmember Dow Constantine, too, so we’re expecting to see him.) They say they’re not handing this out in print ahead of time – so we’ll type and post as announcements are made. For reference, here are the 8 scenarios that have been under consideration to date. A spokesperson is telling reporters that TWO scenarios will be unveiled here momentarily. 3:37 PM UPDATE: Still awaiting the briefing. Councilmember Constantine’s here now; he notes this is actually a regular monthly meeting that the leaders from the state, county and city have been having for quite some time – he and City Councilmember Drago participate as chairs of their respective councils’ Transportation Committees.

BULLETIN: The final scenarios are L, “surface/transit hybrid” – with two roads along the waterfront – and M, “elevated bypass hybrid” – with two elevated bridge structures side by side. More details to come.

3:45 PM UPDATE: The governor, county executive and mayor are here now. It appears there is no TUNNEL of any type involved in either of the scenarios.

3:52 PM UPDATE: They have finished background review and are now moving on to explain more about these scenarios. Reminder, these are new HYBRIDS with elements of the original 8 – they had said, and we had reported, all along, that they would not choose 2 of the 8, but take elements of some of them and make “hybrids” for final review.

3:57 PM UPDATE: A few more details on Scenario L – Alaskan Way would become one way southbound with three lanes and a bike lane; Western would (starting near Yesler) be one way northbound with three lanes and a bike lane, connecting to Battery Street Tunnel.

4:03 PM UPDATE: Turns out they’re STILL in background. More on the “elevated bypass” scenario – two independent bridge structures side by side, two lanes in each direction, connecting to B-Street Tunnel at north, new south end project at King Street. Also noted, a Delridge RapidRide bus route would be part of this. Also noticing – the INTRO copy on this page says “further analysis will be done on investigating a bored bypass tunnel.” (added) Just got more printouts. The explanation on the tunnel is, “The bored tunnel was not carried forward due to its high cost. However, it does have advantages associated with avoiding some of the construction on the central waterfront. The agencies will continue to investigate the costs of the bored tunnel as a future project that could be constructed if the I-5/surface/transit hybrid alternative is agreed upon.”

4:16 PM UPDATE: In response to Mayor Nickels’ question, WSDOT’s David Dye explains the two elevated structures would be somewhat separated and slightly different elevation – one could be built alongside the existing structure, so it would be ready to take on some of the traffic when the existing viaduct comes down, then the other structure would be built after the existing viaduct is demolished. As for whether they would be taller than the current one – WSDOT’s Ron Paananen says that could be determined in the design process. As we’ve mentioned on partner site White Center Now in the past few minutes, both scenarios also mention “expanded park and rides” in White Center and Burien (as well as Shoreline).


4:29 PM UPDATE: Dye is explaining why the so-called Chopp scenario (the “integrated elevated” favored by House Speaker Frank Chopp, with a park on top of an enclosed viaduct, and commercial development below) was thrown out – safety concerns, among other things, he says. And too expensive. Here’s the official news release just sent by WSDOT about the two “finalist” scenarios (will substitute a LINK for this long copy as soon as it’s available online):

WSDOT, King County , and the City of Seattle announced they are down to two options for replacing the central section of the Alaskan Way Viaduct and Seawall: an “I-5/surface/transit” hybrid alternative and an “SR 99 elevated bypass” hybrid alternative. These were developed from the previous eight scenarios. They are called “hybrids” because they package together the best elements from the previous eight, including improvements to I-5, surface streets, transit, and demand management.

The I-5/surface/transit hybrid alternative is primarily a combination of the three previous surface boulevard options based on what performed well in the evaluation:

* Includes two one-way boulevards on Alaskan Way and Western Avenue each with three lanes of traffic.
* Increases open space on the waterfront for pedestrians, and offers urban design benefits.
* Accommodates a similar number of trips as other options when additional improvements are made to the transportation system, such as adding transit service hours and improving I-5 through downtown.
* Moves the same amount of people and goods but with some of the trips made differently.

The other hybrid alternative chosen, known as the SR 99 elevated bypass, is the most similar to the existing viaduct:

* Includes two independent bridge structures with two lanes in each direction.
* Preserves mobility on the SR 99 corridor as a bypass of downtown, and maintains Elliott/Western connections.
* Maintains travel times for freight and vehicle trips within the city of Seattle .
* Offers the lowest cost of the bypass scenarios.

Cost is not a distinguishing factor between the hybrid scenarios. The surface and transit hybrid alternative and the independent elevated structure are estimated to cost up to $3.5 billion. The cost estimates are higher than earlier estimates as they include improvements to I-5, transit, surface streets and demand management.

Robust transit service was added in both alternatives, although there are more service enhancements included in the surface alternative. Analysis showed the people will use transit when additional service is provided. Examples of transit improvements include more RapidRide service to Ballard and West Seattle, new RapidRide routes on Delridge and Lake City Way, an expanded electric bus network, new park-and-rides, and more express bus service.

A bored tunnel was not formally carried forward as a hybrid alternative at this time due to high cost, but the agencies acknowledged that it does have advantages associated with avoiding some of the construction on the central waterfront. It could be built in the future as a stand-alone project with the surface and transit alternative being advanced. More discussions about this option, including cost, will be discussed over the next week.

WSDOT, King County , and the City of Seattle will spend the next few weeks gathering input from the public and the Stakeholder Advisory Committee that has been meeting monthly since December of last year.

A public forum will be held on Monday, Dec. 15 at Seattle Town Hall to give the public an opportunity to learn more about the two hybrid alternatives and get questions answered by representatives from the three agencies. The meeting is from 5 to 7:30 p.m.

The last Stakeholder Advisory Committee meeting of the year is on Dec. 18, where committee members will give feedback on the hybrid alternatives. Governor Gregoire, King County Executive Ron Sims, and Seattle Mayor Greg Nickels are expected to make a recommendation on a preferred option by the end of the year.

4:52 PM UPDATE: They are finally getting to describing the two hybrids. First, the surface option. Access coming to downtown from West Seattle, they say, will still need to be analyzed, since the Seneca offramp will no longer exist, just the south end ramp at King Street. It would create a 104-foot-wide “promenade” along the waterfront.

5:11 PM UPDATE: Lot of discussion now about whether the surface/transit hybrid really would work independent of the concept of maybe adding a “bored” tunnel in the future. David Dye says, “depends on what you mean by ‘work’.” Some people do have longer travel times, especially through downtown, rather than those driving TO downtown.

5:17 PM UPDATE: Now they’re discussing the elevated scenario. The difference, staffers say, is that some transit’s been added. Access from West Seattle still an issue that has to be studied, they note. “In both of your scenarios, who’s gonna pay?” asks Governor Gregoire, noting that both are over the $2.8 billion that’s allotted. “Us does not include the state,” she states flatly, after Dye said “all of us.” Gregoire: “I started with 2.8 – that’s all I got, I got no more. If you all are saying to us, these two options, surely you must have discussed who’s paying for the rest. So which of you two are paying for it.” Nervous laughter in room. The time frame is 2015, staffers reply – we don’t need to nail that down immediately. (The costs are listed on the documents as follows: $3.1 billion-$3.5 billion for surface/transit, $3.2 billion-$3.8 billion for elevated bypass. Crunican says, these are among the cheapest, but you’re making it clear the state doesn’t want to pay, so we’ll figure it out. Seattle Deputy Mayor Tim Ceis interjects, “Governor, you do have an option – there are some things in each of these options then there are some things you can choose not to do.” “Then give us those scenarios,” says the governor, “so we can go shopping.” She says, “How soon do you get those?” Next week, says Dye — a full menu of costs for each improvement. Governor frowns mightily. Mayor clarifies, “But this is all part and parcel of the decision we’ll be making by the end of the year.”)

5:30 PM UPDATE: Meeting wrapping up. (Stakeholders’ meeting already has begun, elsewhere in City Hall.) County’s Harold Taniguchi reveals he prefers surface/transit. City’s Grace Crunican and WSDOT’s David Dye, elevated. State House Rep. Judy Clibborn says she’s glad elevated is one of the proposals under consideration. Councilmember Drago says she’d like to see a decision and will work toward support. Councilmember Constantine says: “I’m heartened to hear that I-5 works under both scenarios, something we’ve been worried about and now we can move past it – for the perspective to West Seattle, I’m glad you’re going on the south end work because it will demonstrate to folks we can improve mobility – and folks need to realize, none of these scenarios have a midtown offramp – I guess I have to say on looking at these and listening to the discussion of the future years, I don’t want our generation’s legacy to be a new 80-foot wide elevated freeway through the city, though the elevated freeway is something I grew up with, I can see a world without it, if we can make it work.”

6:56 PM UPDATE: All the handouts are now posted online; see them here.

27 Replies to "Two Alaskan Way Viaduct "hybrid scenarios" made public"

  • Al December 11, 2008 (3:50 pm)

    “L” and “M”…? The scenarios are only lettered up to “H.” Do these letters correspond to “B” and “D?”

  • WSB December 11, 2008 (3:58 pm)

    they’d been saying all along (i just added to copy above to clarify) they would take elements from some or all of the 8 and craft “hybrids” for the final two or three (and now we know there are two) …

  • Stephen December 11, 2008 (4:30 pm)

    Does the surface option still include traffic signals??

  • WSB December 11, 2008 (4:37 pm)

    The handout is not clear on that – I’m reading other material now. Signalized intersections are mentioned at Battery Street, for example. There is an image on the handout (I haven’t found it online yet but will link as soon as I do) that does not SEEM to show signals. There appears to be a major pedestrian promenade along the waterfront.

  • CB December 11, 2008 (6:09 pm)

    I’ll take the elevated roadway. Not the best solution, but we’ll still get those amazing views of the Sound and Olympics.

    The surface street option would be a disaster for the city and West Seattle. If they pick that option, you will the the mother of all law suits filed to stop it.

  • John Jensen December 11, 2008 (6:47 pm)

    Do you have any word about streetcars along 1st ave, the waterfront, or more?

  • el_grego December 11, 2008 (6:47 pm)

    Too bad. I was hoping for the deep bore tunnel.

  • WSB December 11, 2008 (6:53 pm)

    JJ – you’ve probably seen this by now, all the materials have been posted online in the hour that we’ve been offline:

  • PSPS December 11, 2008 (6:53 pm)

    The idea of building half to handle traffic through the corridor while the other half gets built (Option “M”) is the first sign of sanity I’ve seen in all of this. The killer, though, is that it would be only two lanes in each direction, reducing capacity by at least a third over the existing viaduct. Anything less than three lanes is a waste as anyone who travels north on I-5 through downtown when the express lanes are closed will tell you. A two-lane viaduct would mean 30 MPH all the time.

    Anything that puts traffic onto surface streets is ridiculous, no matter how many sunny traffic-free “atrists’ renderings” they hand out. But I’ll bet the city is drooling over all the revenue they can gouge out of its citizens with a bunch of new short-timed traffic signals.

  • John Jensen December 11, 2008 (6:57 pm)

    Thanks WSB!

  • Herman December 11, 2008 (7:59 pm)

    These options stink. The 2-lane elevated bypass is a non-option – it’s only there to give the appearance of choice. They selected the surface option tonight.

    30 MPH, with 8 traffic lights through downtown.

    Big win for downtown developers who will reap the rewards from the new views. Big loss for West Seattle, who will be cut off from North Seattle.

  • phil on qa December 11, 2008 (8:02 pm)

    There are only 2 thru lanes on the current northbound waterfront section of the Viaduct, and the Battery Tunnel only has 2 lanes each direction.

  • Dunno December 11, 2008 (8:15 pm)

    Bring down the Viaduct and make bike lanes. Lets not only make Fauntleroy bike lanes, but why stop there. Lets do the same with 35th and Admiral.

    But why stop there, lets take out a lane each way on the West Seattle Bridge and put a bike lane each way. Then for sure add a bike lane to I-5 in the downtown core.

    The surface option will choke up all traffic and leave all of downtown choking in bus, truck, and car fumes. But at least we will be free of the Viaduct!!!

  • Martha Carrier December 11, 2008 (8:55 pm)

    I too am amazed that the majority of the users of the Alaskan Way viaduct will be ignored for the moneyed downtown interests. If the surface street option is selected, it will result in total gridlock throuout the area. There needs to be an accomodation for west side through traffic which by passes downtown. I hope the governor will not let the downtown interests prevail at the expense of the current 100,000 daily users who need to go from the southwest part of the city to the north end. I do not think we can even begin to estimate the frightening size of grid lock that will result from the surface street option.

  • ivan December 11, 2008 (9:18 pm)

    Crunican is for the elevated option? Can this be true?

  • WSB December 11, 2008 (9:53 pm)

    Perhaps it would be more accurately characterized as skeptical of whether surface/transit can get it all done. These relatively candid remarks were late in the meeting when a fair amount of the rest of the media contingent had departed – a few went to the stakeholders meeting downstairs, TV people went out to do their live shots for 5 and 6 pm. They were describing the surface-couplet as “C,” which is what it was in the first 8 scenarios, and Taniguchi said he thought it would work fine, while the other two didn’t. But keep in mind, this meeting was headed by the elected executives, and they’re the only ones whose opinions ultimately matter … The matter of building one of the elevated bridges BEFORE knocking down the Viaduct seemed to have a lot of attention, to prevent gridlock.

  • Martha Carrier December 11, 2008 (9:53 pm)

    Consider the effect on property values in West Seattle if the surface street option is adopted. Who will want to purchase a home in an area in which access is extremely difficult? Will our property taxes reflect that change? If you think you might sell your home in West Seattle in the next 35 years…. you probably will want to email our governor and ask her to do the right thing by making sure the entire southwest side of the county has some type of reasonable regional accesss.

  • Jeffro December 11, 2008 (10:10 pm)

    It boggles the mind that the surface option is even an option? How does that even make a friendlier environment for pedestrians. What’s the point of having a pedestrian friendly zone if the equivalent of Aurora Ave north of Greenlake runs right next to it?

    As someone who bikes often along Alaska Way I think the last place I want fast-moving cars is along side of me. Having lived a block off of Aurora for five years, going for a stroll along Aurora was never my idea of a good time. Putting the highway along the waterfront will totally kill the waterfront.

  • WTF December 11, 2008 (10:22 pm)

    Let’s all just hope our employers will endorse tele-commuting during construction or we will all be pulling in 16-18 hour days, with only 10 of them at work and the rest sitting in traffic! I have yet to read / hear of the traffic flow construction contingency plan. Can anyone point my nose in the right direction?

  • Gwen Williams December 11, 2008 (11:53 pm)

    Seattle’s most precious resource is its stunning natural setting on the waterfront, with epic views of mountains and skies.

    This situation marks a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for us to re-envision our city to truly take advantage of that setting. Yes, that involves removing the giant concrete barriers and constant loud traffic noise that currently separates our city’s heart, physically and energetically, from the water.

    Yes, that means being willing to accept some change. But we will get used to it…

    I’d rather choose the potential of a truly phenomenal downtown experience, and the significant cultural and energetic ramifications of that, than be selfish and short-sighted and think to make such a huge and profound urban-planning decision based on concern over my property values, commute time, or views while driving.

    Sooo many other world-class cities have made the same choice… to remove old waterfront highways and develop surface alternatives such that their waterfronts can shine. And they have adjusted. We will too…

    Design and Feng Shui for Harmonious Living

  • Jeffro December 12, 2008 (1:43 am)

    I fail to see how bring the highway to surface-level reunites downtown with the waterfront. If anything it drives a bigger wedge between the two. And “surface/transit” is a joke. Where’s the transit part of the equation? Those buses will be stuck on the same roads that everyone else is on.

  • Gwen Williams December 12, 2008 (7:59 am)

    Well… the surface-level option, compared to the elevated structures, reunites downtown with the waterfront because it doesn’t involve a barrier of towering concrete structures and overhead roadway (which blocks the light and views and physical connection). Everyone knows that the current existence of the Viaduct leaves downtown feeling wholly separate from the water. Next time you’re down there, pause for a moment and imagine it gone… The surface-level option would be more of a boulevard feel… slower traffic, more integrated into the neighborhood, views, light, space. It would make an enormous difference.

  • CMP December 12, 2008 (8:18 am)

    WSB, thanks for sitting through what must have been a boring meeting to bring us this info. I normally skip reading these things but figure it was time to learn more about the new options. I basically don’t trust any of these people to make a thoughtful decision on this major project. None of them probably have an engineering background, nor do they seem to have the common sense to make an educated decision. I’d like to see someone have the balls to say the viaduct rocks and to just rebuild it b/c it’s a great roadway, except for that Western off-ramp. No matter what is done to make the waterfront more pedestrian friendly, it’s still going to be a dumpy tourist trap with the Aquarium being the only redeeming quality about the place. For the “ecofriendly” folks who want green space, we have this weird place called Alki in your backyard with unobstructed views for miles. Go take advantage of it. Leave our lifeline to north Seattle alone!

    Another boondoggle that I’d love to see worked into this is the brilliant addition of the streetcar from the waterfront up to 23rd that’s been proposed. With no funding, but that’s beside the point. Also, ferry traffic. Alaska Way isn’t much fun when ferry drivers are added to the mix…does anyone EVER factor this in to that lame surface street option? The point made above about this becoming like Aurora north of Queen Anne is brilliant b/c it’s so true. KEEP THE VIADUCT!

  • ivan December 12, 2008 (9:03 am)

    To Gwen Williams:

    I am not independently wealthy, and therefore I cannot afford the luxury of your feng shui experience. My time is precious to me, and I need to get from place to place in some reasonable amnount of time.

    The Viaduct, as it is presently configured, allows me to do that. Pray tell me what the effect on feng shui would be of thousands of cars, idled at stoplights along the “surface option,” spewing carbon monoxide into the air?

    To Pete Spalding:

    What is a “world class city” and who is to decide? What is a “world class waterfront” and who is to decide? People are just trying to make it from day to day here. What does it do for West Seattle residents if people’s mobility is curtailed because of somebody’s pie in the sky notion of what a “world class city” is supposed to be?

  • DuPree December 12, 2008 (12:23 pm)

    “Everyone knows that the current existence of the Viaduct leaves downtown feeling wholly separate from the water.” — G. Wms.

    Not so fast. I, for one, don’t know that. What I know is that the viaduct has always been one significant part of what I consider to be an excellent and unique American city. Coming in from the airport on my first visit to Seattle many years ago, it was the viaduct that gave me my first close glimpse of the waterfront, the market, downtown, Puget Sound . . . and I fell in love with all of it. I’ll go for the elevated lanes for aesthetic reasons, for aiding commuters, for preserving the easy and open access that downtowners currently have to the waterfront, and for a passel of other reasons. In a nod to feng shui, however, I’d be willing to paint one of the highway pillars red and hang an octagonal mirror from it.

  • Dunno December 12, 2008 (6:11 pm)

    Feng Shui, thats what I meant for all Seattle roads.

    Cheesse, I could have had a V-8!


  • Aaron Cooke December 13, 2008 (9:56 am)

    Yeah. Uhh. The viaduct is such a monumental barrier between the city and the waterfront that you can walk right under it.

    The real barrier between downtown and the waterfront is the STEEP ASS HILL that you have to traverse in order to get between one and the other. My hunch is that most folks don’t even realize that hill exists since they never have to deal with it.

Sorry, comment time is over.