Video: Alaskan Way Viaduct replacement tunnel, and reaction

Thanks to MJ for posting the link to that video in comments on our first report from today’s official announcement that a “deep-bored” tunnel will replace the Alaskan Way Viaduct‘s “mile in the middle” Central Waterfront section. We’ll be adding more video to this report but the clip doesn’t seem to have gotten much play yet, so we’re posting it here and will be adding to this as we go, including West Seattle reaction from the announcement event. ADDED 2 PM: Our clip of the governor’s opening remarks – including the first quip, which drew laughter:

ADDED 2:47 PM: Among the many people on hand for the announcement were West Seattle’s two Stakeholders Advisory Committee members, Pete Spalding – with whom we’ll be talking later – and Vlad Oustimovitch, who spoke with WSB afterward. We asked if, when the committee meetings began last year, he could have imagined it would turn out this way:

ADDED 3:02 PM: And one more clip (pardon the surrounding din, this was right after the briefing broke up and the room was jammed) – we asked County Council Chair Dow Constantine whether he thinks the state might find a way to keep the existing Viaduct open till the tunnel is done, even though the governor had said she wants the AWV down in 2012, and now the timeline for tunnel completion is 2015:

Here’s a few other notes: Many are discussing the logistics of how the tunnel will connect to the rest of Highway 99. Remember, there are other AWV projects already under way – including the utility-relocation project that started last fall, and the South End Replacement work that starts this year. That part of the project takes down 40 percent of the existing AWV and is to be done in two years; read all about it here. It includes the new on- and off-ramps “near South King Street” that were scheduled to become the new downtown-access points under most alternatives. Meant to complement that is the forthcoming widening of the Spokane Street Viaduct (the West Seattle Bridge stretch between 99 and I-5) that will include a new 4th Avenue offramp, which transportation planners hope will handle more of the downtown-bound traffic.

43 Replies to "Video: Alaskan Way Viaduct replacement tunnel, and reaction"

  • Belvidere January 13, 2009 (1:22 pm)

    I have claustrophobia already.

  • RobertSeattle January 13, 2009 (1:24 pm)

    OooooooH Ahhhhhhhhh.

    Where’s the Bike Lane? :-)

  • 34th and Thistle January 13, 2009 (1:32 pm)

    WS transit riders – if we’re going to get light rail in our lifetimes, this is our chance.

    As long as you’re digging a tunnel, it’s not that much more money relatively to make it bigger, to accomodate light rail in a third deck on top of two decks of SR 99.

    This new line – call it Sound Transit 3 – could approximate the dead monorail, except from WS to Ballard via Westlake Ave and Fremont instead of Interbay.

    You’d connect it to the existing tunnel and ST Link at or near University Street, via an underground transfer station.

  • Robert2715 January 13, 2009 (2:04 pm)

    34th and Thistle,

    Or a similar idea would for there to be some kind of linking tunnel from the new 99 tunnel to the Metro bus tunnel for buses.

  • fiz January 13, 2009 (2:13 pm)

    Claustrophobia. I’d have nightmares about passing under the train tunnel.

    So it’s a ‘through’ tunnel with no access into or out of downtown.

  • Michael January 13, 2009 (2:14 pm)

    Looks good!
    Not sure how anyone could have a problem with this – although I still think waterfront-view landowners should pitch in the City’s portion.

  • curious January 13, 2009 (2:30 pm)

    Will there be a shoulder for accidents?
    Where will the ferry traffic be in that pedestrian utopia?

  • carraig na splinkeen January 13, 2009 (2:32 pm)

    fiz–this is what I just read in the P-I since I also wondered if it was a through tunnel or had DT access:
    “Drivers will bypass downtown by entering the tunnel near the sports stadiums in the south and connect to SR 99 north of the existing Battery Street Tunnel.”

  • WSB January 13, 2009 (2:34 pm)

    The South End Replacement Project, for which work is about to begin, includes downtown access via King Street, and always has. Even if they had replaced this with an elevated, it would not have had downtown offramps where they are now.

  • Al January 13, 2009 (2:39 pm)

    It “looks” like the exit before the northbound tunnel entry is not King Street, but Royal Brougham in the example. That’s a pretty big difference from King, or what people are used to, Seneca.

  • WSB January 13, 2009 (2:46 pm)

    South End project info is all on the
    Here’s a direct link to some explanation boards. Page three on this one explains the King Street ramps.
    There’s also a map of the south end that explains some of the surface streets in the area.

  • GenHillOne January 13, 2009 (2:52 pm)

    Aaaack…so just as I’m thinking, “I hope they can do a better job with the lighting so the strobe effect doesn’t make me pass out,” the video all but CRASHES me into the wall of the tunnel (@ :42) – would like to avoid that during actual use if at all possible :)

    Is there supposed to be sound on the video?

  • Jayson January 13, 2009 (2:55 pm)

    It will be interesting to see what the traffic in the CBD will look like when the Mariners are playing. Everyone getting on 99 at King St or Royal Brougham, sitting in line on 1st or 2nd trying to get to the only interchange. Hmmm

  • WSB January 13, 2009 (2:58 pm)

    It’s embedded just as it is on YouTube, where the state uploaded it. There isn’t usually audio on such things, sometimes music. And for a real video blast from the past, anyone remember the classic clip from the pro-tunnel campaign in the 2007 election?

  • I gave up hope and it worked January 13, 2009 (3:19 pm)

    I don’t care anymore. Just pick SOMETHING! Seattle is incapable of making a damn decision. No matter WHAT we chose, 33.3% of the public will HATE it. So just flip a damn coin and be done with it. Does anyone even remember how many ‘deadlines’ have come and gone and been extended trying to decide what to do!

  • I gave up hope and it worked January 13, 2009 (3:21 pm)

    Maybe we can have (another) vote! Or another commission to study our options? Of course we’ll need a vote AND a committee to select the commission members. Sometimes I think this town invented mobius politics…it looks like you’re busy doing something, but you always end up right back where you started.

  • Vlad January 13, 2009 (3:25 pm)

    The tunnel will have two lanes in each direction, but with very large breakdown lanes on both sides. In total, it might actually be a little wider than the existing viaduct that has three lanes. I’ve been asked if it could accommodate three lanes and the answer is probably yes from a dimension perspective, but the best way to keep traffic moving is with the two lanes and breakdown lanes – according to traffic engineers (and I believe them).

  • WSB January 13, 2009 (3:36 pm)

    Re: the “what’s different between this one and the one voted down two years ago” – if you want to compare animations, here’s the one from that campaign
    (not embeddable so far as I can tell or I’d add it to the post)
    And again, as stated elsewhere, that was to be a “cut and cover” tunnel – dug from the surface – this one is to be a “deep-bored” tunnel, with little or no surface work between its entrance and exit.

  • JunctionMonkey January 13, 2009 (3:50 pm)

    “It will be interesting to see what the traffic in the CBD will look like when the Mariners are playing”


  • PDieter January 13, 2009 (3:51 pm)

    How much for naming rights?

  • ptr January 13, 2009 (4:20 pm)

    I’m breathing a sigh of relief. Kudos to the powers that be for what is, in my opinion, a great compromise for all the divergent perspectives.

  • quiz January 13, 2009 (4:54 pm)

    I’m in favor of the tunnel, but I’m curious…does anyone have enough info to paint a picture of a downtown commute? With no downtown exit/on ramp, it appears that the tunnel will be pretty much useless for said commute.

    Anyone care to shed light?

  • the_bridge_to_somewhere January 13, 2009 (5:51 pm)

    GenHillOne: hilarious!

  • Just Thinking January 13, 2009 (6:34 pm)

    The Big Dig in Boston was planned to cost $2.8 billion. The final cost (including interest) will be $22 billion. Anyone care to guess what the final cost of out tunnel will be, considering our state’s propensity for bad cost estimating? Check out the cost of Seattle Light Rail.

  • hank January 13, 2009 (6:39 pm)

    Worst idea ever. Build a tunnel under sea level in fill? Astoundingly stupid. I cannot even fathom the idiocy of this plan. not to mention that it is a through way without exits, dumping all of the off traffic into sodo, and its only 2 lanes each way. Just so incredibly stupid. Now Seattle will have a world class failure trench like the big dig in Boston. Just so STUPID!

  • Vlad January 13, 2009 (6:49 pm)

    The bored tunnel will not be on the landfill along the waterfront (it will be mostly in native soil uphill under 1st Ave), and not a “Big Dig” cut-and-cover tunnel like the one proposed in 2006. I voted against that proposal along with a large majority, but I support this new bored tunnel because it keeps the existing viaduct open during construction, and will have virtually no construction impact on the downtown (the work will be mostly deep underground, out of sight and out of mind).

  • b'smomma January 13, 2009 (7:03 pm)

    Being as this is another one of Nickels’ pet projects that most uf us said NO to…….again, I wonder if there’ll be a special exit for people wanting to ride the S.L.U.T.?

  • Babs January 13, 2009 (7:07 pm)

    Yuk, I know we had to do something – there is no entry or exit points MIDWAY with this tunnel?? So is the goal to just get traffic past the city? Don’t many people take it to work DT? So there will be a cluster F at the entry and exit to get back around into town?
    Also as ugly as the viaduct was – it gives us (and our visitors) this stunning and beautiful long tease of a drive that showcases our urban skyline that speaks, “Come check me out.” Bye Bye to that with the funnel. Opps I meant tunnel. Nope its a funnel.

  • Larry January 13, 2009 (8:11 pm)

    How nice. An expensive tunnel with less access to downtown, less capacity (Ron Sims likes this part), more taxes, and you guessed it a toll so now the poor will not be able to use it. That should help with the capcity problem. Is there no end to the amount of money the government wants to take from us? Will the toll ever go away? (not a chance).

  • Larry January 13, 2009 (8:20 pm)

    One other thing. Get ready for tolls everywhere. They are coming to stay!!

  • austin January 13, 2009 (9:35 pm)

    re: tolls
    I grew up in a town with not only a toll road, but a toll road named after George Bush.
    Imagine how well that’d go over in this town.

  • Elisabeth January 13, 2009 (9:35 pm)

    Got a robocall from Dennis Bounds of I forget which TV station asking me to participate in a one-minute survey, which I did… Do you support the tunnel? I answered yes, because I’d noted that it was some distance from the waterfront. Plus the viaduct IS gonna come down one way or another, jeopardizing our property values. Should it be put to a vote? Answered no, because voting would send the tunnel the way of the dodo bird and the monorail. The other 80% of Seattle would kill it (like they did the monorail), because why should they care?

  • dcagen January 13, 2009 (10:34 pm)

    This is great news for Seattle as a city and West Seattle as one of its burgs. Kudos to the heads who came up with it. Let’s try not to bog it down with illogical twists and work as a community with the decision makers to make it work.

    Has it sunk in yet on West Seattlites how good this decision is for us? Think about it. Everyone should be stoked.

  • Herman January 13, 2009 (11:47 pm)

    If you work downtown you can take the bus, really. If you need to drive then the 30 mph boulevard could be not too bad – assuming they synch the lights at rush hour. You can get through downtown really fast on 3rd ave because of the synched lights.

    Also there’s another route that you don’t even know about yet. A new offramp from the WS freeway onto 4th Ave is being built (with a bus-only lane). 4th Ave is wide and fast, and is also a good alternative to get onto I-90E if the one lane to I-5N doesn’t suit you.

    And the water taxi.

    WS is looking good. We went from chumps to champs with this tunnel. If it weren’t for the monstrous development, townhomes, and McMansions WS would be paradise.

  • WSB January 13, 2009 (11:49 pm)

    Yes, we know about it. It’s featured in the last section of the story above. Also the subject of copious previous coverage:

  • Yikes January 14, 2009 (12:24 am)

    That tunnel is going to be a tomb when The Big One hits. Those who aren’t crushed will drown or suffocate. There’s no way I’m ever going to use that tunnel.

  • Ken January 14, 2009 (6:25 am)

    So far it looks like the best we can hope for. Deep bore will actually be safer in an earthquake than the cut n cover would have been.

    The lack of a way to bypass stadium traffic to get downtown will mean mounted shotguns and hydraulic rams will become standard equipment for business district commuters.

    The bicycle only lobby will have their surface streets option and those of us who mostly use 99 to get to the north end will be ok except for the inevitable mess to be added near Mercer street.

    We will have to find the cash to rebuild the seawall and it damn well better be a surtax on downtown landowners west of 2nd ave.

    The tunnel should be paid for entirely with ticket taxes from the stadiums it was apparently designed for.

  • GenHillOne January 14, 2009 (8:30 am)

    Herman – don’t forget southbound on 2nd – same thing, really very quick! Synching the lights will be key.

  • Jim January 14, 2009 (9:21 am)

    The tunnel sounds fine but when I see Gregoire, Sims, and Nickels standing together to announce it I get the feeling that it will:

    1. take twice as long as planned
    2. cost twice as much as planned
    3. eventually become a surface street plan, then a viaduct plan, then a tunnel plan again
    4. probably never happen

  • Scott January 14, 2009 (12:04 pm)

    With this option there will be no more express bus service to West Seattle. How does this help bus riders?

  • Kathleen January 14, 2009 (1:01 pm)

    Towns that were bypassed by freeways are withering and dying. If downtown and the Seattle Center are bypassed by the new throughway, how long before they begin to wither and starve for customers?

  • Molly January 14, 2009 (1:07 pm)

    Hip-hip-hooray for the tunnel. I’m glad Seattle finally made this decision and moved the tunnel idea from the lower fill area to 1st avenue. Now if we can just move forward and get it built…

  • homesweethome January 14, 2009 (1:33 pm)

    Property values here soared despite having the viaduct as a main throughway for the city, so I don’t get the logic that says a tunnel will sustain/increase property values – this is a lot of money to spend and still leave Seattle with no transit options but the bus. Give me a rail stop and I will cheer hooray but for now Seattle is still a joke. And what about 520?

Sorry, comment time is over.