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.

Friday, September 22, 2006

Seattle City Council joins Mayor Nickels, endorses Alaskan Way Tunnel

Good news today:
The Seattle City Council today voted to adopt a tunnel as the preferred alternative for replacing the Alaskan Way viaduct, eliminating a public advisory vote in November.

The council voted to embrace the tunnel – the same position it took two years ago – after learning of soaring costs for both the tunnel and an elevated rebuild of the viaduct.

The ordinance also said, "In the event a tunnel proves to be infeasible, the city recommends development of a transit and surface street alternative."

Mayor Greg Nickels, who had initially supported a vote, said he changed his mind after learning of the new numbers, feeling they were too uncertain to send to a vote.

The State Department of Transportation on Wednesday said new costs estimates increased the price of a tunnel from $3.6 to $4.6 billion and the elevated structure from $2.4 billion to $2.8 billion.

The council also supported an ordinance by Councilman Peter Steinbrueck, that asserted a new elevated viaduct would violate the city's waterfront zoning laws and wouldn't be allowed.
The Alaskan Way Tunnel is a reasonable and prudent investment that the the city and the state need to make. A tunnel is the safest, most environmentally friendly option that preserves the capacity of Highway 99. A tunnel also allows Seattle to reclaim its waterfont and create a vibrant public space.

It's tempting to pick the cheapest option that preserves capacity - the viaduct rebuild. But that would be a mistake.

This is a one hundred year opportunity to make the right decision - a decision that will affect Seattle for a very long time. It is heartening to see that leaders like Mayor Greg Nickels and Councilman Steinbrueck have the vision and the foresight to continue supporting the tunnel despite its high price tag.

The Alaskan Way Viaduct is a dangerous, unsafe structure. Demolishment of the structure should begin as soon as possible - the waiting has gone on long enough. Funding for the tunnel does not need to be entirely secured before the structure is closed and removal begins. The idea that we have to settle on the replacement option before beginning demolition of the viaduct is a false choice.

And the argument that we have to pick the viaduct rebuild option because a potential earthquake will strike is also phony.

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