Jim Veseley makes the Alaskan-Way Viaduct-Embarcadero connection. I made the same point in a letter in the P-I a couple of years ago, back when I lived in San Francisco. The Embarcadero Freeway ran on the San Francisco waterfront, carried exactly the same number of cars as the Alaskan Way viaduct and was replaced by a surface-transit option (sound familiar?). Here’s what I wrote then:
In 1989, the Loma Prieta Quake damaged San Francisco’s waterfront Embarcadero Freeway. Most politicians wanted a rebuild of the two-level structure, and the mayor at the time, Art Agnos, proposed a boulevard and a tunnel option. Twenty thousand signatures were collected to stop the demolition and the state refused to finance the tunnel option. Agnos scrapped the tunnel but went forward with the demolition anyway, and the unexpected happened.
San Franciscans found other ways to get to where they needed to go, and everyone now loves their highway-less waterfront. The Embarcadero has become a grand boulevard with beautiful squares and plazas, lined with trees and public art, and has had its historic streetcar brought back. The neighborhood has been massively revitalized.
No one misses the Embarcadero Freeway, even though it was the only freeway between the Golden Gate bridge and the Bay Bridge to the rest of the city. Before it was a concrete eyesore, and now it’s a beautiful grand bouvelvard, with parks and plazas, bike trails, and human activity. Think that won’t work in Seattle? Look at the picture above and tell me that isn’t the Alaskan Way Viaduct.