[UPDATE 4:16pm: There are some comments that a differently structured poll, or one with more background, would have produced a different result.  I think that is a stronger indication that governance by poll and plebiscite is a shaky proposition, rather than that the public “really” favors a surface option.]

Publicola publishes results from a poll that, looking back, it’s amazing to believe hasn’t been conducted before: a three-way contest between the three viaduct replacement options:

Surface-transit finished a distant third, with only 21 percent support…  The remainder of the Seattle electorate splits almost evenly between the rebuild and the deep bore tunnel, with neither generating anything close to 50 percent support.

The numbers are bad for surface/transit across all demographic groups.

As someone who has drifted from shrugging acceptance to strong opposition to the tunnel project, I could quibble about how the cost overrun provision affects opinion, and so on.  But I’m not really interested in spinning away the apparent fact that my favored policy is unpopular.

Instead, I’d just say that it’s hard to sell “surface/transit” when the “transit” is a combination of buses already stuck in traffic plus some ephemeral promise of better transit in the distant future.

92 Replies to “All Viaduct Options Unpopular, Especially Surface/Transit”

  1. Why is no one posting the actual questions and the margin of error? I’d be skeptical of any conclusions without seeing these.

    1. The whole “pay $5 to see details on our polling” is nonsense.

      I think people need to stop calling it the “deep-bore tunnel.” Call it what it is: the “Downtown bypass tunnel.”

    2. And which surface/transit plan were they polling, because the state version looked terrible.

      The devils always in the details.

      1. What other version is there, really? The PWC “plan” was poorly fleshed out and what they did have lacked any real analysis of impacts and costs. I actually liked the state’s plans.


      At least that’s what “citizen activists” have been telling us.

      In reality, “the people” are demanding nothing. We just want to get around. Let’s get this done already.

      1. Paradoxically, the highway will probably make it harder for you to get around in the long run.

  2. When the idea of rebuilding the viaduct was raised after the Nisqually quake there was an engineering study done. One of the conclusions was that the new viaduct would also be destroyed in the event of a significant earthquake, just not as badly as the current one. So why bother?

    Here’s what we should do–Judging from past events, we should wait for the viaduct to fall, then the feds will appropriate the money to rebuild it on an emergency basis. Worked for I-90 bridge, Hood Canal bridge, and that bridge that collapsed in Minneapolis (?) a couple years ago. Seems like a lousy way to run a government, but it works!

    1. Seems like a lousy way to run a government, but it works!

      “strange women lyin’ in ponds distributin’ swords is no basis for a system of government! Supreme executive power derives from a mandate from the masses, not from some farcical aquatic ceremony!”

      Sorry I couldn’t resist.

  3. It seems that issues like this – matters of life, death, and destruction – shouldn’t be subject to public referenda. I’ve long thought that dismantling the AWV should be an imminent policy priority separate from the planning of its replacement. We can always suffer through a surface-transit-by-default arrangement while waiting to plan what comes next, whether tunnel or otherwise. Traffic jams are better than death by collapse. But just letting it sit there waiting to drop Chile- Haiti-style calamity on us? It’s crazy.

    Saturday’s NYT comes to mind.

    1. No one has ever suggested that removing the current viaduct should be subject to a public referendum. The governor made it very clear that doing nothing is not an option. The structure will be replaced; the question that has take 10 years to answer is how the structure will be replaced, and that is a matter where public opinion should be given a great deal of weight, in light of the fact that it is the public who will be paying for it.

      1. No, delaying the decision is not the same as deciding to do nothing. We are moving forward as we speak with DBT. Certainly, there are many constituents that would prefer to do nothing, but there are many constituents who would prefer an Elliot Bay Bridge and still others that would prefer hovercrafts. These are not on the table, just as doing nothing is not and has not been on the table.

      2. The governor promised to take down the viaduct in 2012, and then decided oh, we should leave it up for four more years…

      3. I really think the first action after the earthquake should have been to tear the viaduct down. The main reason the viaduct is still open is political. Though to be fair there are actually bridges in worse shape elsewhere in the region and state.

    2. Nobody is being forced to drive on the viaduct. If you feel it is unsafe, don’t use it. It was just inspected this past weekend. If there were any serious probelms discovered, it would not have been reopened.

      I just drove the viaduct this morning, as I do a few times every week, and noticed the lane stripes were re-painted on the upper deck, at least, so that is a nice improvement, especially in this morning’s rain storm.

      The reason a poll like this was not done before is that all the powers-that-be knew that a rebuilt viaduct would win, and all the powers-that-be opposed a new viaduct. So, they did not want the public to know that the majoority of voters wanted a rebuilt viaduct. I’m sure polls like this were done before by various groups, but they were just not made public, because those groups did not like the results.

      Of course, now that the tunnel has been officially “selected” using a bogus “stakeholders” committee, etc., they powers-that-be have done a good job of using the talking points that “we’re tired of debating this”, “let’s just do something”, “this has dragged on too long,” etc. So, there are now people who will support the tunnel just because they are tired of the process, even though they supported a rebuild before the decision was made to dig a tunnel.

      We should appreciate Publicola for having this poll done. Too bad it was not conducted several years ago.

      1. Sorry, I in no way want another concrete monstrosity running along the waterfront. The “replacement” viaduct as proposed by WSDOT was much larger and uglier than the current one.

        Anyone who is so hot for an elevated freeway is welcome to propose one through the middle of their neighborhood first. When I see new elevated highways going in elsewhere then I might be willing to say “OK you can have your damn elevated freeway on the waterfront” until then, over my dead body.

      2. No. That isn’t the corridor transit should go in – it’s too far from too much of downtown.

      3. Perhaps, but if the stations are elevated (they’d have to be) that overcomes some of the “up a hill” issue. Also, if the waterfront is truly revitalized then it will be more of an integral part of DT rather than too far from the rest of DT. And of course there is the close connection with the WSF and a possible Streetcar on 1st getting people to the center. And Statium access wouldn’t be too bad.

      4. It doesn’t overcome the “nowhere near where the demand is” issue. Nobody’s going to build 50 story office towers on Western.

  4. My position is simple: as long as we don’t get the viaduct back and we don’t increase the number of lanes, I don’t care. The surface/transit option would be more appealing if there were serious transit provisions made, but the state isn’t interested in that. The tunnel is a compromise and probably the best one we’re going to get.

    1. The tunnel specifically subsidizes crosstown trips – the longest commute trips, and the hardest to coax people out of their cars for. It will, essentially, help decentralize the city (which worsens traffic).

      1. I’m not exactly advocating it. I’m just saying that it’s *better* than an expanded and wasteful viaduct that would only do more than the tunnel. I’m not really sure where those cars are going to go. Perhaps people from Aurora to Sodo. I suppose the two attractive features to me is that it has virtually no downtown exits making it a bypass and that it clears the waterfront for development and public uses. However, I’d probably be happier with HWY99 being eliminated altogether.

      2. Oh, and to your decentralisation claim, I don’t think it makes anything worse off than it is already. It will have two lanes instead of 3, which is something around a 15 to 20% reduction in vehicle capacity. Same or better result.

      3. Same or better result than what? The existing viaduct is coming down. We have a choice to replace it or not replace it. If we choose not to replace it, we have zero lanes instead of 3.

        But there’s another issue there. It’s not really reducing capacity. The smaller number of lanes still overmatches existing crosstown demand – the majority of the current highway’s traffic is to/from downtown, not through it. It will induce crosstown travel.

      4. Ben, I was sort of considering that last night further as I was heading to bed. I think you could be right, are there any traffic projections on that? Without the midtown traffic to back up the auxiliary lane, it would presumably make traffic flow more even in the other lanes and thus induce more demand as you posit. I remember something about speed limits from a while back, probably in the video WSDOT published, are they staying the same or reducing those too? That’d be about the only think to keep capacity and flow at about what it is today aside from tolls (are those coming online too?).

        Anyway, you know as well as me that there is zero chance that a rebuild isn’t going to take place. I’m willing to concede that fact. Like I said, I’d prefer a no-build option for all the positive reasons others have vocalised on here. It would be particularly nice to spend the money on more valuable projects so that city money can be freed up for say a build more streetcars or more sidewalks or more cycleways….However, it is not the politically expedient thing to do and clearly not something the governor, Republicans, Frank Chopp, and our ridiculous transport people like Clibborn and Haugen are willing to do. *If* (and we will) have to spend money on replacing HWY99, I’d rather do it the right way with a tunnel because we only have two options, not three due to the powers that be.

      5. Ben, no, the majority is through downtown, we’re having this discussion further down the page. The handful using it to get downtown via Seneca/Columbia won’t be that inconvenienced by getting off on Alaskan way south of downtown, it’s the people headed for the Elliot/Western corridor/Ballard that are inconvenienced relative to the rebuild (but not relative to a surface plan).

      6. I’m not convinced that “decentalizing” is so bad. If Seattle is to grow it’s going to have to be more that a DT core. Pushing the goal for centralization in Bellevue is fine but Seattle has and I think should be looking at different districts. The viaduct and it’s proposed replacement are much more about the interconnected fabric of the Seattle economy than it is about transit and DT development. Connecting DT Seattle with Ballard is very much like connecting Bellevue with Redmond. Remember Seattle and Ballard used to be different cities.

  5. From the description in the post, it sounds like it just asked which of the three people like best. The conclusion in the title is thus unwarranted; surface/transit may not be most people’s first choice, but that doesn’t mean people don’t like it.

    1. Agreed. The real poll, that still no one has done is to ask this question:

      1.) Of the three options discussed (ST5, DBT, elevated), which do you prefer?
      2.) Of the remaining two, which is your second choice?

      The second choice question is critical. ST5 may be the least popular first choice, but it could be the second choice of an overwhelming majority. These are the salient questions:

      Do DBT fans hate the viaduct more than they love vehicle capacity?
      Do elevated fans hate the cost of DBT more than they love vehicle capacity?

      I suspect that the answer to both of these will be “yes” for a large majority, but until we get some data

      It is also critical that the respondents be given a detailed description of each option including salient details like the construction of a 1st Ave streetcar and revisions to I-5 as part of ST5, the fact that DBT has no downtown exits and the fact that an elevated rebuild would have safety walls so high that they would block out the view while driving on the viaduct. Cost estimates and the financing plan should also be included.

      You would be amazed at how radically different people’s responses would be if they were given those simple facts before expressing their opinion.

      Until someone conducts an “informed voter” poll with rank choice response options, we still have no clear picture of what the public really thinks on this issue.

      In fact, a simple rank-choice ballot with all three options could settle this dispute once and for all.

      1. “the fact that an elevated rebuild would have safety walls so high that they would block out the view while driving on the viaduct.”

        This is false. Nickels’ deputy mayor made that up to try to dampen support for a new viaduct. The “safety walls” would be normal concrete barriers, just like those on the W. Seattle Bridge. You could easily see over them, and have the same great views out over Elliott Bay, and of the city, from the viaduct that hundreds of thousands of people now enjoy on a regular basis.

        In fact, in a few places there are these concrete barriers on the viaduct right now as temporary fixes in places where the original guard rails have been broken. Driving on the viaduct, you can see that the top of these concrete barriers is just about even with the top of the original guard rails. They do not block the view out over the water. And, they certainly do not block the view of the city to the east.

      2. I’m pretty sure it’s not in the interest of public safety to have a major roadway act as a scenic route in the middle of a city.

      3. You feel that the viaduct has been an unsafe roadway for the past 50-plus so years? Certainly, grade-separated roadways are far safer than surface streets.

        How many pedestrians or bicyclists have been injured or killed on the viaduct? How many have been injured or killed on Aurora Ave. N.?

        Which is safer: where SR99 is elevated on the viaduct? Or where it is a surface street, north of the Battery Street Tunnel?

      4. Norman, don’t pigeonhole. Obviously it’s drivers who are at risk on the viaduct.

      5. The viaduct has zero intersections. I would imagine that you will find that most drivers are hurt in accidents occuring at, or caused by, intersections.

        Basically “t-bone” collsions are impossible on the viaduct.

        “Head-on” collisions are basically impossible on the viaduct, because even the two different directions of traffic are separated. A car cannot cross the “center line” into oncoming traffic on the viaduct. Where do you feel safer — on the viaduct, or on the Aurora Bridge, where there is no barrier at all between north- and south-bound traffic? The Aurora Bridge has some pretty nice views, also. There have been horrible head-on collisions on the Aurora Bridge.

        Even rear-end collisions are reduced on the viaduct, because there are no intersections or traffic signals, so vehicles do not have to stop at intersections, where rear-end accidents are likely to occur.

        If you have some data that the viaduct has more accidents of any type than Aurora Ave. N., please share them with us. Otherwise, I will go with the analysis I just described. Do you think my analysis is faulty?

        I will bet you that there have been far fewer accidents, all types combined, on the viaduct than on any 2-mile stretch of Aurora Ave. N.

      6. Ah, so pigeonholing again! Because the accidents that occur on the viaduct today aren’t THESE types of accidents (rather lane drifting), there must not be accidents!

      7. Are you serious? By eliminating many types of accidents, you reduce the overall total.

        For example, just making up some hypothetical numbers:

        If Aurora Ave N., north of Green Lake, in some 2-mile stretch, over a ten-year period, had 10 head-on accidents, 20 t-bone accidents, and 30 rear-end accidents, that would be a total of 60 accidents.

        The viaduct would have zero head-on accidents, zero t-bond accidents, and probably fewer than 30 rear-end accidents. That would be a total of less than 30 accidents of all types.

        So, the viaduct, by eliminating the possibility of some types of accidents, reduces the total number of all accidents.

        Are you saying that eliminating certain types of accidents by being grade-separated, and having no intersections, somehow makes other types of accidents more likely? Would you care to explain why?

        Or, do you agree that the viaduct has far fewer accidents than other stretches of SR99 where it is on the surface, north of the Battery Street Tunnel?

        I’m sure the statistics are available somewhere, if someone knows where to find them.

      8. You are absolutely right: grade-separated limited access roadways are much safer for high speed traffic than surface streets. Therefore Aurora Ave N should be either be restored to a normal arterial street configuration, with stoplights and crosswalks, or it should be expanded through Shoreline into a true highway. The current configuration makes absolutely no sense.

      9. Even if the viaduct is the safest strip of road in the world and goes accident-free for life, its net effect will be more trips overall. And since most (all) trips will include portions driven outside of the viaduct, it will surely result in more total accidents system-wide.
        The safest trip is a trip avoided.

      10. This is false. Nickels’ deputy mayor made that up to try to dampen support for a new viaduct. The “safety walls” would be normal concrete barriers, just like those on the W. Seattle Bridge. You could easily see over them, and have the same great views out over Elliott Bay, and of the city, from the viaduct that hundreds of thousands of people now enjoy on a regular basis.

        You know you might want to go check the current guidelines and standards. I’m pretty sure you’re wrong and that the current rules call for much higher solid barriers than were used in the past. Remember that the West Seattle bridge opened in 1984 and there is a fair chance standards have changed since then.

      11. I am correct. I asked this question in person to the engineers in charge of the project, including Ron Paaninen (spelling?), and they all told me the same thing. I took the “walking tour” of the viaduct at least twice, where these engineers were on the viaduct in person to answer questions. I also attended several open houses on the viaduct replacement where engineers in charge of the project answered this question the same way.

        Look at the barriers on the newest roads in our area. All the same standard concrete barriers. The new overpass from Edgar Martinez Way to I-90 floating bridge, for example. That is exactly what would be on a new viaduct.

        What you are repeating is the Tim Ceis lie.

      12. I do not have a definitive source on that point, I am happy to concede it. The point is that those kind of details need to be provided in order for poll respondents to make an informed decision.

        Your comments also highlight another point I was trying to make, which is that the view from the viaduct is one of the major reasons people support it. I cannot deny that it is a fantastic view and I am sorry it no longer available if/when the viaduct is torn down.

      13. Well Tony, if both elevated and tunnel are at 40%, the second choice votes have to break 3-1 for surface/transit in any runoff between S/T and another option.

        That’s a pretty steep hill to climb.

      14. Agreed. It is possible that the results of a rank-choice ballot would not result in a win for ST5.

        However, I would like to see the results of an actual rank-choice survey so that we could all stop speculating about it and actually have the necessary data. If we took it one step further and put a rank-choice question on the ballot, it would put an end to (or at least substantially quell) all this frustration and anger. Even if DBT won in the end, at least it would be perceived as a legitimate win rather than an underhanded maneuver by special interests.

        You also have to factor in my point about including salient details. A lot of people probably formed their response based insufficient or inaccurate information. ST5 is counter intuitive. As such, it would be expected to lose if voters were basing their response on intuition rather than data.

  6. What we need to present is a light rail plan that uses the between 3 and 4 billion for the viaduct replacement/tunnel project to build light rail. That will be popular.

    The reason the surface transit option is not popular today, is that no one has seen what a good transit option would be. The WSDOT options simply involved a few more bus lanes, streetcars, and more buses stuck in traffic. We need to show people what transit projects can be done with that viaduct money.

    1. In Seattle, it might be popular, but I’m afraid the rest of King County (and yes, even others who don’t live within 100s of miles) wouldn’t see it that way. Everyone wants to put their nose into something that largely only concerns Seattle, but as many would see it as affecting the region and state. Most of these people I’ve found to be very anti-surface/transit/tunnel on the Seattle Times forums. I know, that may be anecdotal, but I think there is something to that. And, largely I think that is what has pushed the debate into the direction that the Governor has adopted as people who have almost zero interest in the legislature have co-opted the situation because state funds are involved. Anyway, I’m not convinced that any light-rail/bus or combination thereof would move the newly displaced persons (at least not on paper) as some sort of rebuild. NOTE: I’m not actually concerned, just articulating the arugument, as most of the people who move closer to work or whatever subsequently. Those trips would disappear or be displaced to the surface or in transit.

      1. The Seattle times forums are not representative of this area.

        We have to show Seattle and the surrounding areas that it is cheaper, in this case, to build light rail than a new tunnel of viaduct.

    2. There is certainly a lot of confusion about the costs of the tunnel. The tunnel is estimated to cost about $1.56 billion with about $460 million held in reserves in case of cost overruns. These are probably not the exact figures you would find today, but they’re not far off. Thus, the tunneling costs can overrun about 30% and still be within the total $2 billion estimate.

      There are some other costs that don’t just go away if you don’t do the tunnel, for example, the seawall.

    3. The viaduct is a state highway — SR99. It is an alternate route to I-5 through Seattle. SR99 is not used just to get into and out of downtown Seattle. Most of the money for the viaduct replacement comes from the state. That money would not be available for light rail in Seattle. It is available for a state highway.

      1. SR99 is not used just to get into and out of downtown Seattle.

        Actually that isn’t what the traffic counts say. A fairly small percentage of all trips on the viaduct are actually through trips.

      2. To clarify this, because I remember a remarkably hackish analysis of this got some press at one point…

        Most viaduct trips are within Seattle trips. Most viaduct trips are not downtown Seattle trips.

      3. I believe the correct figure is 70% of all viaduct trips bypass downtown Seattle.

        Have you ever driven on the viaduct? Going north, there is only one exit to downtown. The majority of venicles pass that exit and go into the Battery Street Tunnel, or exit to Western on their way to Queen Anne, Magnolia, or Ballard.

        Heading south on the viaduct, there is no exit to downtown, and only a fraction of south-bound traffic exits at the stadiums (most of those vehicles keep heading south on 1st Ave. S., or turn east on Edgar martinez Way, heading to I-90 or 4th Ave. S.) Most south-bound viaduct traffic goes past the stadium exit and continues south on SR99. Not that many vehicles use the onramp to southbound SR99 from downtown, either.

        I drive the viaduct in both directions 3 or 4 times a week. This is what I see. And the SDOT studies bear this out.

      4. I’m afraid that document does not clear up anything. It is amusing, though.

        Here is one document from SDOT, on Alaskan Way Viaduct traffic:

        “Is most of the traffic using the viaduct today going to downtown or through downtown?

        The current viaduct carries approximately 110,000 vehicles per day just south of the mid-town ramps. Of this amount, approximately 17,000 vehicles enter or exit downtown at Columbia and Seneca streets, and 33,000 exit or enter at Elliott and Western avenues toward Belltown, Uptown, and neighborhoods along the 15th Avenue and Elliott Avenue corridor. The remaining 60,000 vehicles continue north through the Battery Street Tunnel, either exiting in the South Lake Union/Queen Anne area or continuing north across the Ship Canal.”

        So, in this document, SDOT says that only 17,000 of 110,000 (15.5%) vehicles per day using the AWV are coming to or from downtown.

        I have seen a much more extensive document on this, which I will try to find, and post here.


        Here is another document, prepared for WSDOT. At bottom of page 1:

        AWV No Replacement Concept July 2005

        “Good alternative routes do not exist for most AWV users, including
        freight trips. A majority of trips on the AWV – about 70% – are passing
        through the downtown area. The downtown street grid is designed and
        intended to accommodate local access, not longer distance trips through
        the city. I-5 and connecting streets do not have sufficient capacity to
        effectively accommodate AWV traffic, which is a limitation that cannot be
        solved by the improvements identified in this study.”

        This is one of the studies which says that 70% of AWV traffic is by-passing the downtown area.

      6. Zed, that is exactly the hackish study I was talking about, thanks for the link! You have to see exactly what numbers they’re adding and dividing to get their percentages to truly appreciate how bad it is. For example, if you drive from Ballard to West Seattle, you are in the numerator (because they consider those getting on at Elliot to be “downtown” traffic) but you’re not in the denominator! (They can’t even do math!) And they don’t know which streets go through downtown. Or where the viaduct is (If you exit 99 at Denny and never get on the viaduct, you’re one of the people using the viaduct to get to downtown!)

        It’s really that bad.

      7. And there are well over $4 billion worth of unfunded state highway projects in Seattle that that money could be repurposed for including Seattle’s preferred (and more expensive) 520 solution as well as a number of improvements to I5 and SR509 and SR522. As a direct result of this tunnel, the citizens of Seattle will have to forgo or postpone major improvements to these other corridors.

        Meanwhile, outside of Seattle, hundreds of people die each year on our rural highways because they don not meet anything close the safety standards of modern interstates. As a Seattlite, I would rather see my own tax dollars go to saving lives in rural Washington than building an unnecessary bypass of downtown. Not all Seattlites are myopically self-centered, though the majority certainly appears to be.

      8. WSDOT was willing to pay for more rapidride and streetcar routes, why can’t it pay for light rail?

    4. It would be unconstitutional to use the $1.9 billion in gas tax money on transit.

      1. It would not, however, be unconstitutional to use that money for Mercer or Spokane Streets (look it up), nor would it be unconstitutional to use that money to plug the massive budget hole in the Ferry system. If these alternative projects were to be paid for with state money, it would free up local resources (property taxes, not subject to the 18th amendment) that could be used for transit (or schools, parks, police, economic development, etc.)

      2. Norman, what does that have to do with anything? The viaduct is primarily funded with gas taxes.

      3. Look at Tony’s comment. He wrote that “it would free up local resources (property taxes….)”. I am saying it would not free up property taxes, because there is little or no property tax being used on Mercer or Spokane Streets — the two projects he refers to.

        That is what it has to do with.

      4. Citation, Norman? At the very least I would be stunned if a project so focused on pedestrian and bicycle improvements draws on “no” property taxes via Bridging the Gap funds.

  7. It’s not that all options are unpopular; the public is split.

    The headline “Few voters support…” is deceptive; 21% is a pretty big number.

    I suspect that if real public debate with real public involvement was held on the issue, instead of this weird muddle of backroom dealing and public polling we’ve seen, we might find those percentages shifting.


    1. That’s what we said when the stakeholder group (assembled by the state to choose an option) chose surface/transit. Remember, the surface option was chosen – then Gregoire said “I don’t want to do that”.

      So yeah, we chose. Now listen to us.

      1. Yes because new tunnelling techniques came along. She is entitled to lead you know and she hasn’t done it that often during her time as governor so give her some credit when she does. I’d like to see her doing this more often in fact. The actions of the Republican’s attorney general seem to be the only other time she has gotten riled up about something. She is right on both.

  8. It would be interesting to see what people’s second choices were. I’m guessing most rebuild supports would choose the tunnel second, but a significant amount of tunnel supports would choose surface over rebuilding.

    Anyway, it is not at all surprising that the surface option would come in third. Pretty much everyone believes that more freeway lanes equals less traffic. They cannot conceive of removing freeway capacity, downtown would surely become and impassible nightmare. It’s only those few of us eccentrics that have ideas like “induced demand.”

    That said, it hasn’t helped that people have been given the idea repeatedly from the press and politicians that surface is not a serious option to be considered. It was left off the referendum in 2007, and most of our leaders (from Nickels to Gregoire to Constantine) have dismissed it as impossible. Even though McGinn has been a surface guy, he only ran his campaign as anti-tunnel and not pro-surface.

    Basically, once people accept the notion that you need to have two freeways through downtown, they are left with two terrible options: rebuild the Viaduct with another horrible (even worse) monstrosity that continues to cut off the Waterfront from Downtown, or build an incredibly expensive tunnel which bypasses Downtown and thus accomplishes nothing and pretty much makes no sense whatsoever. I would wonder how popular the tunnel would be if the poll specifically mentioned that there are no downtown exits.

    1. No, drivers don’t want congestion or travel times to increase. They perceive that decreased capacity will increase congestion. To the degree that this perceived causality is true, you can infer a preference for more traffic lanes, but the connection breaks down if the perceived relationship between congestion and capacity is inaccurate.

  9. Once again, the chain of obfuscation begins.

    “Publicola publishes a study”.

    No, publicola runs a post on a study published by someone else!

    And who and why this study was conducted is ill described.

    But seriously, a rolling stone does seem to gather moss of validity with the number people that continue to reprint bad, unfounded data over and over again.

  10. You tell me…I don’t see any primary sources, methodology, source of funding…

    For a guy who’s real stringent on deleting comments that don’t meet the high standards of STB, I’m amazed you would let this pass unverified!

  11. Just get rid of the darn thing, and don’t build another freeway period.

    Build a subway line instead.

  12. Here’s the latest simulation of how the tunnel will interact/stay away from everything else under Seattle:

  13. The problem with the “surface/transit” option is, first and foremost, branding. When people hear surface/transit, especially over teevee or the phone, they hear “surface transit”. In essence, the popularity of running a surface rail line or just a lot more bus routes is being polled. The poll doesn’t measure the popularity of, say, building a second transit tunnel through downtown. But I would predict, without any data, that building yet another tunnel downtown, for whatever mode, is highly unpopular without a really good sales job.

    We keep voting for transit and against more roads. That still means more than a poll does.

    I think this is bad news for a First Ave streetcar, for starters. But I think it should also be a message to Metro and Sound Transit that people think the buses have taken over too much of downtown already, even before we can have a 24/7 3rd Ave Transit Mall. That may be part of why they are trying to keep as many buses as possible in the tunnel, for the time being.

    As we know, Metro and ST haven’t made full use of the light rail’s ability to substitute for downtown express routes. I can foresee the 594 and 577 being combined into one route on weekends if they don’t both regularly fill up within a year.

    Beyond that, ST ought to allow the 574/Link to carry more of the burden on these routes by increasing weekend frequency, and making use of the excess capacity on Link.

    And then there’s my usual prayer to have the 132 and 122 serve TIBS, enabling Link to serve as the express portion of the 122 and giving riders of the southern portion of the 132 a faster ride downtown. It’s my route. I want Metro to listen to the beseechings of a poor 132 bus rider. The 132 routing is practically designed to drive people to driving. :~(

    But enough pathos.

    I fully expect any option the mayor puts forward to get polled by him, at least on the cheap or by Chris what’s-his-name. I fully expect recalcitrance from the city council, which has developed a Pavlov’s Attack Dog response to even the most common-sensical of the mayor’s proposals. Maybe we have to use some reverse psychology with the council?

    Oh, isn’t it fun trying to engineer a workable transit system for Seattle’s future, and then having to reverse engineer the politics of getting it to the ballot?

    1. When people claim that buses are better than rail because it is easier to change the route, they have clearly never gone through the process of trying to fix a bus route. See Newton’s First Law of Motion.

  14. “Tunnelite” offers a beautifully wide landscaped pathway from the waterfront to Steinbrueck Park with NO CARS visible below its ‘raised’ north portal and simple capped covering to Lenora where the pedestrian bridge is raised above SR99.

    “Deep-Boor” imposes 4 lanes of stalled, bumper-to-bumper traffic between sidewalks and bike lanes there generating twice as much air pollution and 5x as much noise as Tunnelite.

    Any environmentalist worth their salt will consider some version of cut/cover Tunnelite. Hey! A 6-lane ‘stacked’ cut/cover is possible while leaving the AWV in place for most of the construction. A cut/cover also builds the strongest seawall and the most stable Alaskan Way surface and none of the incredibly dangerous risks and unbelievable shortcomings of Deep-Boor. Wow. Seattlers. When are they going to learn?

  15. Here how it will go down.

    Nothing will happen, EVER.

    It will stay there doing its thing, every 6-12 months a new plan or study will come out, people will get mad, the Seattle Weekly will post pretty renderings one week and then trash the same renderings the next week. This will go on until next week/century until the damn thing finally falls down, killing a bunch a people.

    Then they will do the surface/transit option because it is the cheapest, quickest to build and after the disaster no one will want a tunnel or another raised structure.

    Save time, money and lives and just do the surface/ transit option and be done with it.

    1. The seawall must be rebuilt. A Cut/cover tunnel would make the strongest seawall. A Cut/cover creates a gardened parkspace from the waterfront to Steinbrueck Park with NO CARS visible below the raised portal and lid to Lenora; cars moving at higher speeds emit less air pollution than cars stalled surface traffic. The planners that be are certainly stalling, more than likely looking for ways to commit highway robbery.

  16. Unless this poll was conducted as a ranked-choice question, it’s not meaningful. What we need to know is, would people choose:

    surface/transit over elevated, and elevated over tunnel?
    tunnel over elevated, but elevated over surface/transit?


    This is exactly the situation where ranked-choice is needed.

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