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Northwest Voices

Seattle Times letters to the editor

January 14, 2009 at 4:01 PM

Alaskan Way Viaduct replacement: a tunnel

Mike Siegel / The Seattle Times

Gov. Christine Gregoire announces the Alaskan Way Viaduct will be replaced with a deep-bore tunnel during a news conference at the World Trade Center in Seattle Tuesday morning. At left is Seattle Mayor Greg Nickels; at right is King County Executive Ron Sims.

Not enough lanes

Editor, The Times:

I believe the decision to build a tunnel to replace the Alaskan Way Viaduct [“Tunnel: A deal, but how to pay?” Times, page one, Jan. 13] is not the best decision for the Seattle area’s future. There are only two lanes in each direction, which aren’t enough to handle today’s traffic and accommodate future increases.

If there is a stalled vehicle or accident, there will be horrendous backups, as experienced by the Evergreen Point floating ridge and Highway 520.

More lanes are needed. It is ignorant for our government leaders to say this is the solution for our future. Heck, it isn’t a good solution now.

— Gary Hamm, Seattle

Dream big, dig big

I am an older New Englander and remember when the Maurice J. Tobin Memorial Bridge (formerly called the Mystic River Bridge) was built. I also remember when its fantastic replacement, Boston’s “Big Dig,” was conceived, constructed and made operational. There are parallels to Seattle: old bridge, new replacement.

To some, the Big Dig took too long and exceeded its budget. I disagree. I supported the bridge because of a better civilized concept: more sports facilities, less war; more museums, less war; more parks, less war; more libraries, less war; more schools, less war and more Big Digs, less war. It’s about how we choose to spend our money.

So, here is my advice, Seattle: Look at the waterfront as a very big Big Dig, do it right, cut no corners, create peacetime jobs, solve all the problems, and draw out the potential of beauty that the unique waterfront holds.

Make Boston’s Big Dig seem like playing with sand at the beach.

Move Pike Place Market right down along the waterfront, tie in all the transportation systems, put more living space up on the emptied hill, and get ready for Sodo to become another amazing section of the city in the next 10 years.

Run the tunnel from Myrtle Edwards Park through the new Pike Place Market Square, down to the ballparks and Sodo, one block back uphill through Pioneer Square past the museums and performance halls, then over to Belltown and all the way to The Seattle Center. That’s only about a half mile from the waterfront.

Seattle can become even more of a world-class city than what it is now. I remember Quincy Market, Scollay Square and the dregs of Boston before the city became what it is today. Maybe Seattleites can’t see the tunnel as I do. Perhaps they haven’t backed away far enough to see it up close in imagined detail and vision.

Seattle is awesome, but current thinking seems to be “sorta big, kinda not.”

I strongly suggest that Washingtonians come to think, “Big, big Big Dig,” and hopefully come to appreciate this amazing opportunity for what it is.

— Robin Hordon, Kingston

I-5 fix instead

I have just a few observations about the new tunnel because I don’t want to research it longer than five minutes.

It will supposedly cost $4.25 billion. Nobody believes that, certainly not the politicians supporting it. They just hope it doesn’t expand to “Big Dig” proportions.

It will carry less traffic than the current road. Considering current viaduct and Aurora traffic, a majority of those cars don’t want to be there; they want to go north or south and avoid Interstate 5.

Has anyone considered taking that $4-10 billion and improving I-5? I moved here 30 years ago and was amazed to see that the main freeway in the state reduces to two lanes at its most critical point, where it joins Interstate 90. If we fix I-5, we won’t have to build a tunnel.

— Jeff Hubner, Bellevue

Most competitive option

I support everything stated in the guest commentary you published Sunday, Jan. 11 by King County Councilmember Larry Phillips [“Putting the viaduct in a tunnel lets city, neighborhoods thrive”]. In it, he supports the decision to replace the Alaskan Way Viaduct with a deep-bored tunnel that bypasses the current structure and runs under the city of Seattle.

I suggest two more reasons why this option is best.

First, if compared with the “true cost” of the other options, it may be much more competitive. The true cost must include the following economic disruptions that will occur during the two-year construction project:

— Businesses in the immediate vicinity that will probably see a dramatic drop off in business — some most likely going out of business — as tourists avoid the area;

— Disruptions to traffic flow through the city, which will probably cause massive traffic jams during rush hours, resulting in lost work hours, employees showing up late for work, and delayed arrival of goods and services.

Although, I expect economists will come up with some very imperfect figures for these disruptions, it would be far more imperfect not to account for them at all.

Second, funding could perhaps be obtained as part of the next federal economic-stimulus plan. This is clearly not a pork-barrel project. If we can get several of our elected officials, namely the governor, senators and representatives, to promote a deep-bored tunnel, it might be possible to get federal support. The iron is hot. Now is the time to get a move on this funding.

— Roger Douglas, Bellevue

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