Via Crosscut, State House Speaker Frank Chopp has gone public with his high-concept viaduct replacement: an enclosed highway with shops underneath and a park on top.  No cost figures yet, but I’m sure hundreds of millions would be conservative.

I’m not prepared to comment on the merits of this project, were it free.  But, I really have to ask the residents of the 43rd district: is this who you want to represent you in the House?  Is this really the biggest problem the city has?  The biggest transportation problem, even?

If you’re a light rail fan, with this kind of money you could massively accelerate opening day.  Or, you could get a pretty good start on Ballard/West Seattle.  Even if ST2 goes down, you could probably get to Northgate with this cash.

If you don’t like trains, you could pretty much solve Metro’s operating and funding problems in the city for a decade or so.  But instead, Frank Chopp is using his limited ability to push for his district’s interests by pushing a pet road project.

14 Replies to “The “Megaduct””

      1. Not this year. There will be a point when that’s necessary – after light rail is online and loved, we can chronicle all the work he did to try to kill it.

  1. Yep, it’s sad. We’ll probably have to wait for him to retire because the party wants to keep him as Speaker.

  2. Which reminds me. The main reason CA passed term limits was to get rid of the Speaker, Willie Brown. Maybe we need to do the same thing here?

  3. The worst part is not just that it’s an awful roads project, is that it’s a completely kooky and ridiculous awful roads project.

  4. If they’re gonna rebuild it, this would be my choice. It looks good, and stimulates high density that is good for transit. It would not cost as much because developers would probably pay for part of it, it preserves the view from the viaduct for the people who are obsessed with that, it provides a new park with a great view up top, and it almost completely closes the waterfront itself to traffic. And the fact that it would probably have bus lanes is another bonus.

    1. We’re not going to rebuild it. We don’t have half the money, and the city voters said no.

      I think it’s unlikely we could get through all the planning necessary to build a structure with state money and sell/rent to private businesses.

  5. I was originally for the tunnel, until I heard the main argument of the pro-boulevard group. That argument says: any tear-down of the existing viaduct (and subsequent replacement with–) will take almost a decade of construction. In that time, people who currently use that route will switch their commute patterns by either 1)changing where they work, or 2)changing where they live (either of these changes is something people do anyway on average of every six(?) years). Therefore, replacing the viaduct with — only recreates new demand, after it had already dissipated.

    Now, I suppose you can take that logic too far, but it seems reasonable in regards to the Viaduct. Unless I hear something different, I’m still supporting the boulevard, as long as it also includes extensive streetcar expansion, or a lite rail extension north through the Regrade, under Seattle Center, and on to Ballard/Crown Hill. (They are going to do that some day, although a streetcar line would be much cheaper and faster to construct, at this point).

    The only thing that doesn’t specifically address is the significant amount of freight that moves back and forth to the industrial district, although I suppose they could use the boulevard?

  6. Specifically re. alexjonlin’s statement, I can agree that the pictures make it look nice. I was in a meeting yesterday where they showed more visualizations, always with sun and lots of happy pedestrians. The reality is, though, that the structure would be 55 feet high and would only leave 40 feet of open space between it and the waterfront. Just 40 feet. It would turn the waterfront into a narrow, long mall, completely walled off from the rest of the city. Moreover, the structure would be twice as wide as the viaduct currently is, and all pedestrians trying to reach the waterfront from the city would be walking through tunnels for that entire length. Maybe I’m too pessimistic, but I’m expecting that in the long-term those would turn into smelly, alleyway-type tunnels that would be at best uninviting and at worst actively frightening to walk through, which would turn the waterfront into a dead zone.

    Bus lanes are also not particularly useful in this proposal. People would have to be able to get off the bus in at least a couple places along the waterfront (presumably at Colman Dock and the Pike Place Market area), but in order to stop safely, buses on the structure would need pullouts, so the structure would have to be at least, what, 50 feet wider to accommodate two bus lanes, barriers between traffic, pedestrian platforms, elevators to the ground level, and what have you. This would the make the open space to the west of the structure just 15 feet wide, which is completely insupportable, and I don’t know if there would even be enough space to add the width to the east.

    I actually like the idea of using the space under elevated freeways, but let’s do it in other places (for instance, into hillsides) where it won’t wall off such a narrow swath of our city. What about under I-5 along Capitol Hill? They’ve already built the bike park under part of it; let’s just move to the next step there instead of doing our best to make the waterfront more inaccessible and unfriendly.

    1. At 55 feet, it will be one of the shortest buildings in downtown. In many other places in downtown, we have very tall buildings, and they don’t “wall off” anything. 40 feet is the perfect width for a waterfront promenade, as anything wider would just become wasted space. The viaduct currently walls off downtown because it is a large, dank, dark place that makes people feel uneasy and can’t have any retail. This will be completely office and retail, connecting to the other retail and tourist attractions on the other side of the promenade. and will be very open. And let me know next time you see an artist’s perspective that’s dark and empty…

  7. It’s just complete insanity. He doesn’t live in West Seattle/Ballard does he? Most definitely he doesn’t use the waterfront/viaduct at any time. I am looking forward to a useful transit oriented open roadway and looking at how, say San Fransisco, didn’t come to a grinding halt…

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