State Sen. Bill Finkbeiner, R-Kirkland, and leader of the Republicans in the Democratic-controlled Senate, met part of the editorial board today. Among all the things, most interesting was his comment on the Viaduct.
On highways, Finkbeiner, who represents northeastern King County, would widen I-405 but believes the money spent on rebuilding the Alaskan Way Viaduct is a waste. They should just take it down and make it a surface street, he said, like San Francisco did with the Embarcadero.
It got me thinking. I’m not for the proposed tunnel, which comes in a $4 billion now and very well might come in a double that, as Finkbeiner predicts, if it were really done. Anyway, Seattle can’t afford it, though Mayor Nickels still doggedly supports it.
The only alternative to the tunnel being seriously considered by the Washington Department of Transportation is the “Rebuild Option.” But there are others, if we thought about them.
I once wrote a column, here, on a proposal to shore up the Viaduct and keep using it. I still think that would be the best solution if it were technically feasible, which the two retired engineers I quoted said it was, the state says it isn’t. I am no engineer, and leave that question open.
A group in Seattle, the People’s Waterfront Coalition, proposes to replace the Viaduct with a simple city street—and not a very wide one, either. The state once issued a report on the Viaduct and listed a surface-street option which had two more lanes than the Coalition's plan. The state's option would have 12 stop lights, reduce northbound traffic speed to an average of 8 miles per hour, cause the worst congestion of any of the alternatives and create the most air pollution.
Here was my thought: What if the city built a surface option with no stoplights? Have a set of flyovers around Safeco Field, so that cars and trucks could get to the Colman Dock, and have a vehicle underpass at the north end, where the road would have to rise to the Battery Street tunnel—and otherwise have pedestrian crossings only.
That way traffic is accommodated, the Viaduct comes down, and money is saved in huge amounts.
My proposal would make it harder to drive from downtown to Alaskan Way, but there is not a lot of traffic that way. The waterfront would be noisy and not quite the pleasant waterfront stroll as some of the other options. But the Viaduct would be down, and views unblocked. The road would also take more land than the Viaduct, because the (six) lanes would be side-by-side, but not a whole lot more land. Think of Aurora Avenue cutting through Woodland Park: no exits, no on-ramps, just a straight shot, with pedestrian overpasses only. Add a median divider, replace sidewalks with shoulders, and you have it.
Respond to Bruce.