Offering frequent news and analysis from the majestic Evergreen State and beyond, The Cascadia Advocate is the Northwest Progressive Institute's unconventional perspective on world, national, and local politics.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Another argument for building the Alaskan Way Tunnel

The Seattle Times editorial board, which supports the viaduct "rebuild" option should rethink its support, especially after this article from the Times' own reporter, Susan Gilmore:
These are the four options the state is considering. All envision construction starting in 2008:
  • "Tunnel complete": Build a tunnel along the central waterfront, replace the sea wall along the north waterfront, add a walkway over Highway 99 from Victor Steinbrueck Park to the waterfront, widen curves in the Battery Street Tunnel and lower Aurora Avenue North north of the tunnel. Cost would be $3.7 billion to $4.5 billion and would take seven to 10 years to build.
  • "Tunnel core": Build a tunnel along the central waterfront and a bridge up to the Battery Street Tunnel, with no lowering of Aurora or changes to the tunnel other than safety improvements. The sea wall would be partially replaced. The cost would be $3 billion to $3.6 billion, and construction would take seven to 10 years.
Both of these tunnel options assume a complete closure of Highway 99 for 18 to 42 months. The longer the closure, the shorter the construction time.
  • "Rebuild complete": Rebuild the viaduct along the central waterfront. This option includes complete sea-wall replacement and a lowered Aurora Avenue. Cost would be $2.6 billion to $3.1 billion, and construction would take 11 to 12 years.
  • "Rebuild core": Rebuild the viaduct and sea wall along the central waterfront. No lowering of Aurora. The cost would be $2 billion to $2.4 billion and construction would be 11 to 12 years.
Rebuilding would take longer than a tunnel because the roadway would remain open, at least during peak hours, during construction, Dye said.
Not only is the tunnel a much safer option, but it will lead to an attractive waterfront and it won't take as much time to build. (And Seattleites can manage without that arterial for a few years - by the time construction begins, Sound Transit's Central Link light rail line should be open or about ready to open, which will help).

Yes, the tunnel is more expensive than the rebuild option, but it's about time people started looking at factors other than cost. The cheapest solution is often not the best solution.

It's like investing in renewable energy. The startup costs are high for say, solar equipment, but once you get over that hurdle you have free electricity. Americans seem to have a tendency to look at short term costs and ignore long term gains. The Seattle Times editorial board and others should support the only sensible option for replacing the Alaskan Way Viaduct: the construction of a safe, modern tunnel.

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