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January 25, 2009 6:00 AM

Putting the viaduct in a tunnel

Posted by Letters editor


Washington State Department of Transportation

This viaduct-replacement schematic shows stacked two-lane tunnels, which would run mainly under First Avenue to bypass downtown Seattle.

Ready for nature's "rock and rolling"

Editor, The Times:

Stand and deliver. That's what Gov. Christine Gregoire, King County Executive Ron Sims and Seattle Mayor Greg Nickels did when they chose a deep-bore tunnel to replace the Alaskan Way Viaduct.

The Highway 99 regional-transportation corridor is a vital north-south route with more than 110,000 vehicles daily, and more than half want to get from point A to point B without stopping in Seattle. This volume will continue to grow proportionally as Southwest and Southeast King County attract new residents and businesses.

Three categories of solutions were considered: surface, elevated and trenched- or bored-tunnel options. A surface option would have put these 110,000 vehicles onto Seattle streets daily. The elevated option would have continued to sever downtown Seattle and the waterfront. It was resolutely opposed by business, civic and environmental interests for good cause. The trenched option would have been dug in existing fill dirt along Seattle's waterfront, which is seismically risky and more costly to maintain and operate.

A tunnel for bypass drivers, goods and services will have a 100-year life span. It will be built through solid ground, proven worldwide to withstand Mother Nature's "rock and rolling." It will be constructed while leaving the current viaduct in place, to accommodate transportation during a five- to seven-year construction cycle. It will create roughly 10,000 jobs.

The deep-bore tunnel is an efficient and cost-effective, long-term regional transportation solution. Now, let's get it done.

-- Don Newby, Burien

Too much too soon

At last we may have a workable plan for replacing the Alaskan Way Viaduct. There is only one catch: the price tag.

After looking at all the plans there is one way we could make this project affordable now: Forget about the waterfront. Seattle Mayor Greg Nickels needs to cool it on completely redoing Alaskan Way right now. The promenade is a grand idea, but do we need to complete this part of the plan right now? At a cost of almost $1 billion?

We are willing to wait a bit longer for this part of the project. Western Avenue and Alaskan Way can function for some time with only a few improvements, including a new connection to the Battery Street tunnel as planed.

Local property values around the former viaduct will increase enough in the next few years to warrant a local-improvement district at a later date. The seawall does not have to be replaced right now, as the viaduct that it threatens will be gone.

We know that a billion dollars is no big deal for this mayor to spend downtown. But, some of us are steamed that we went along with his billion-dollar, city-road plan (bridging the gap) and haven't seen any resulting improvements in our neighborhoods. The lions' share of that money is being spent downtown.

Downtown Seattle does not have to have it all, all of the time. Let's make some realistic concessions or this plan is doomed to fail like all of the others. Families have to make long-range plans and keep to a budget. So, too, should our government.

Get real, Mr. Mayor, or risk getting nothing done at all.

-- Tom Dunning, Seattle

Enjoy the viaduct while it lasts

While the political community pats itself on the back for a bold step toward the beautification of our city, the thousands of people who use the viaduct should enjoy this beauty while it lasts.

Sure, the city will look better from a blimp or a boat or a waterfront condo, but all those Seattleites who regard this as one of the most scenic drives or bus rides in town will have only memories. I guess their views don't count. Nor do the votes of a plurality of voters who said they preferred an elevated highway.

I hope the waterfront will be nicer, considering we are all paying a lot to make it so.

Still, we can expect more street and Interstate 5 traffic in the area, since two lanes of traffic have been eliminated from the state highway.

But at least we'll be safer, right? Yikes, I just googled "tunnel fires."

-- Paul Bleakney, Seattle

Commuters left out of the discussion

Someone asked me today whether people who drive over the existing viaduct really look at the view and whether it would really matter to them if we replaced the viaduct with a tunnel. The answer is a resounding yes.

The thousands of people who work, play and literally drive our economy don't have to wait for a tunnel to enjoy the waterfront. We enjoy it now, and have for years.

Similar to the stadium measures, downtown developers prefer that a high-priced tunnel replace the viaduct because it will increase their property values, but they don't want to have to singularly pay for it. The problem is that people will move and their tax dollars will move with them. In the meantime, downtown will remain a mess.

Wouldn't it be more fiscally responsible to consider a spectacular, elevated option that would service developers, tourists and commuters alike? It saddens me to see that the leaders of our geographically stunning city don't have the vision to choose an elevated alternative that will draw new tourists while considering the taxpayers and commuters who serve the city.

-- Teresa Mosteller, Seattle

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