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Friday, September 23, 2005

Initiative 912 would derail seawall replacement

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KOMO has a great story on another one of the negative effects of Initiative 912: the jeopardization of the planned seawall replacement. Here's an excerpt for some background:
The top man at the State Department of Transportation is warning it will be back to step one on the Alaskan Way Viaduct and Seattle seawall replacement if voters turn thumbs down on a gas tax increase.

Doug MacDonald says technically, the project would not be dead, but the gas tax increase challenged by Initiative 912 provided the majority of funding for the project.


[T]here is a significant water threat from an earthquake -- particularly given the level of deterioration in the Seattle seawall, which was built in the early 1930's.

The Colman ferry terminal, the waterfront fire station, and the Alaskan Way Viaduct were all built on fill.

Pictures from 1932 through 1934 show construction of the wooden sea wall. The area behind the wall was filled with sawdust, earth fill, and whatever materials were available at the time.

The soil is unstable when agitated and liquefies under sustained shaking.

If the soil liquefies, it would exert severe pressure on the seawall.

"That's going to cause the seawall to bulge out, to move outward toward the bay," said Dr. Steve Kramer of the U.W. Civil Engineering Department. "The soil behind it will follow and the foundations of the viaduct at least in some locations are going to fail."
Get the idea?

The seawall and the viaduct are interconnected. Media pundits like Joel Connelly and others say we need the viaduct rebuild option because it's cheaper. But what about the seawall replacement?

A tunnel may be more expensive, but it has two simply enormous advantages: (1) public safety (tunnels are, believe it or not, incredibly earthquake-safe) and 2) it takes care of both the viaduct and the seawall at the same time.

If you rebuild the viaduct, you have to do a seperate replacement of the seawall, whereas if you build a tunnel, the seawall basically forms one of the tunnel walls. It's part of the tunnel construction.

It would also be nice to actually open up the waterfont, but that's not the biggest or best argument for the tunnel.

Here's an idea of how critical the seawall is:
The Capital Project Director for the Seattle Department of Transportation, Richard Miller, says a breach in the seawall is becoming more likely: "There are some marine worms called gribbles that are eating the timber that supports the seawall and the viaduct."

Miller says some emergency repairs have been made, but the city has lacked the money for a substantial fix. The estimated cost of seawall replacement is $800 million.

Gribbles caused substantial damage. The 70-year wood flakes under minor pressure and several blocks are believed to be in seriously deteriorated condition.

Seattle has upgraded the viaduct by strengthening its ability to withstand earthquakes. But engineers say if the seawall fails, that strengthening would make little difference.

Miller says it would create enormous problems: "A lot of the downtown power comes through this corridor, so it's a transportation corridor as well as utilities. So it is very important to the lifeblood of Seattle."
(emphasis mine)

So, why hasn't the city been planning for this? Well, it has:
Seattle has a rebuilding plan. But the state warns that plan will die if voters reject a gas tax increase.

"It is the cornerstone of the financial plan for fixing the viaduct," MacDonald said. "So, if the initiative passes, the implication for the project is we are almost back to square one."

The seawall replacement plan dies with the passage of Initiative 912, you say?

Initiative 912 is plainly not just a threat to public safety and transportation anymore. It's a threat to the economic livelihood of Seattle. The Port of Seattle and the waterfront are especially in danger.

So, Dino Rossi - Initiative 912 threatens public safety and our economic livelihood. What do you think about that?

Wouldn't you agree with many of your business backers that it makes sense to make an investment in upgrading our infrastructure? You did, after all, help get the 2003 transportation funding package (the nickel gas increase) through the state Senate. Isn't it clear to you how important this is?

Why don't you be a leader and take a position on I-912? If you want to run for office, speak up. You'll instantly have our attention. We'll cover your press conference or news release.

The bottom line, whether Dino decides to behave like coward or not, is that we need to act. And now. We have dithered for far too long. It is time for a vote of confidence in securing a sound future for Seattle and Washington State. Vote NO on Initiative 912.

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