Governor Gregoire has delayed making a decision on the Alaskan Way Viaduct until the end of January. She had previously promised to announce a decision on which option would be used by the end of the year. The news was announced in a joint statement with Mayor Nickels and Ron Sims. Apparently, the tunnel option, along with Frank Chopp’s bizarre megaduct, are still on the table. The news makes this Seattle Times editorial look ridiculous.

Both of these would cost more than a surface-transit option, which I support, despite concerns that it could make Western Avenue less friendly for pedestrians. But with the state out of money, I wonder how the extra cost for these more ambitious options would get paid for.

10 Replies to “Viaduct Decision Delayed”

  1. Andy, can I ask you: exactly what is the cost of surface & transit, compared to the other options?

    In the PI a few days ago, they had an online poll asking which option voters would prefer…the surface option was listed as costing $3.3bn, while the highway was $3.5bn.

    That got me confused…how are they that close? Was I embarrasingly off in how much it would cost…or is there a behind-the-scenes effort to make surface appear not to be a money saver…what gives?

  2. If you look here, you can see the costs of the road portions of the options. These aren’t the entire costs, they don’t include transit or the portions north and south of the main freeway, but those costs are the same regardless of the option. The surface option is much cheaper, especially compared to the tunnel or the megaduct.

    I don’t know how the P-I came to their number, but I assume they are including some transit building in the surface option price.

    1. As for the question, what exactly is he cost?

      It depends on what transit is built, there could be as much as $600 million worth of rapid ride and streetcar improvements.

  3. Chopp’s option really isn’t on the table as far as I’ve heard. The elevated option on the table is not enclosed in a box. It is the cheapest option outside of the surface/transit. That’s the primary reason it has endured thus far.
    With respect to Zach’s comment, remember that there is already $1 billion towards replacing the viaduct’s southern end included in those totals. And then the surface and transit has morphed into surface/transit/I-5 so there is a lot of money ($400 m +) going towards highways. And then there is the cost of pulling down the viaduct and rebuilding the seawall. If you take out all that, the surface and transit components shrink to be a minority of the costs.
    Yes, too many have tried to frame the surface and transit as the “cheapest upfront cost.” And now it is becoming clear that it is too close in cost to an elevated to use that as the main selling point.
    I prefer to think of it as more like a down payment on a future transportation system and urban form for the 21st Century; one that is less auto-oriented and auto-dominated. It is not only desirable, it is absolutely critical that we begin now to change how we travel in order to have this city thrive in the portending changes that will be wrought by climate change, energy depletion and global economic shifts.
    It’s a down payment because it establishes some good policy and investments that can be built up more later. RapidRide is fairly cheap and not perfect BRT; nevertheless, it will help foster ridership in corridors where rail might be viable in 15-20 years. The surface and transit option has a strategic expansion and robust revitalization of the city’s trolleybus network, putting frequent (10 minutes or less) headways out on the street connecting most of the urban villages of the city 18 hours a day, seven days a week. This network could grow late next decade even further to take in more routes, removing diesel buses from our urban neighborhoods, particularly those that because of lack of more Paul Allens or the presence of sizable hills, would likely never see streetcars.
    The streetcar investment on 1st avenue as proposed could make the First Hill streetcar more useful. I’m one that thinks that a line to Ballard via Fremont would be more useful in terms of a new transit service. But no matter, streetcars have been used throughout this country to foster walkable neighborhoods. We need to facilitate more walking in this city.
    What is getting lost in this discussion of deep bored tunnel is that the so-called “Grand Compromise” proposed by the Stakeholders was premised on the implementation of the surface and transit. I now fear that the state will decide that the bored tunnel will be the solution and will be so alone. And then we are back to mid 20th century transportation planning, just with fancier digging technology. Sigh.

    1. I actually like the deep bore option. It could be built without taking the current viaduct down, and the new tunnels could emerge onto 99 somewhere to the north of where the current Battery Street tunnel emerges, which would allow the city to reconnect the street grid north of Denny, which would have major impacts on traffic flow.

  4. MultiModal – Exactly what I wrote to the stakeholders, more or less, from a West Seattle perspective. Dedicated lanes, transit that is faster, easier and more efficient than a SOV is what will be a “successful” trasition. Nothing less.

  5. The money’s not there for any of the current proposals, and frankly the viaduct is neither shovel-ready nor high-priority compared to other projects.

    This is what we should do: tear down the viaduct and leave the current streets intact with no expansions. Make surface adjustments that do not require major construction or capital investment, such as transit lanes on other downtown streets. Begin redeveloping the area that was underneath the viaduct, complete with bike lanes and surface transit in the form of a renewed waterfront streetcar. Reserve an area of open space as a temporary park that is sufficient to allow for future tunneling if that becomes necessary and the money becomes available.

    Fix the surface and add transit, and then see what happens with traffic. If we need a tunnel later, then do it later. All options currently on the table including the steroidal “surface” option are horrible.

    1. And I should add, any future tunnel should prioritize transit equally with roads. So one deck of roads and another for trains as a west-side transit tunnel that can be the middle portion of a light rail expansion between West Seattle and Ballard. The tunnel staging area left open during the initial phase must be sufficient to allow for digging the tunnel further east of Alaskan Way if necessary, preferably in such a way that transferring from a west-side platform to a central tunnel platform would be quick and easy. I don’t know the geology of the area well but it seems like 1st or 2nd would be an appropriate location.

  6. “I wonder how the extra cost for these more ambitious options would get paid for.”

    Regardless of what routing method we decide to pull the trigger on one funding option could be the same method we are using for the Tacoma Narrows Bridge:

    Tax the users not the whole state!

    Of course educated rebuttal still begs the question of where we get the startup capital to get the project in motion.
    After exhausting DC grant options we are left with lean financing resources in our state.

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