Cascadia Center Applauds Decision To Replace Viaduct With Tunnel


2 p.m. PT

Contact: Bruce Agnew (206-228-4011); Mike Wussow (206-292-0401 x158); or Matt Rosenberg (206-938-2082)


Transportation Center Says Governor, Mayor, County Executive Show Leadership, Vision

SEATTLE (Jan. 13, 2009) – The Cascadia Center of Discovery Institute applauded the decision announced today to replace the Alaskan Way Viaduct. The decision, made jointly by Washington Governor Chris Gregoire, Seattle Mayor Greg Nickles and King County Executive Ron Sims, paves the way for the aging Alaskan Way Viaduct to be torn down and replaced by a deep-bored tunnel under the city.

“We are thrilled with today’s announcement,” says Bruce Agnew, director of Cascadia Center. “We have long believed that the best way to meet the future sustainability needs of the region – with regard to replacing the Alaskan Way Viaduct – is with a deep-bored tunnel. Our region’s leaders have studied the issue, carefully considered the alternatives, and made the right choice. We applaud them for that.”

Along with others, Cascadia Center has been one of the leaders in pushing the community to consider the benefits of a tunnel option for replacing the Viaduct. In December of 2007, the transportation center brought community leaders and international tunneling experts together in Seattle to examine how the technology for deep-bored tunneling had changed. The advances and consequent benefits were too compelling to ignore, and for the last year, Cascadia has shared research with the Stakeholders Advisory Committee in an effort to assure the tunnel was given due consideration.

Cascadia Center said as this process unfolds in 2009, decision makers should continue to rely on the experts in Seattle’s own backyard, a group of which joined together last year to provide their own recommendations to Washington’s deputy transportation secretary: Richard Prust, Vladimir Khazak, Dick Robbins, Kern Jacobson and Gerhard Sauer. Mr. Khazak helped lead the development of the downtown transit tunnel completed in 1986, and Mr. Prust’s company, global engineering firm, Arup, completed a tunnel cost comparison showing that tunnels are being built around the world, at a faster pace, at less cost and disruption, and using highly advanced technology.

Key tunnel facts to address ongoing misconceptions:

  • Tunneling technology isn’t new for Seattle. Seattle already uses tunnels, including the Beacon Hill tunnel, which came in at $300 million, and the Mt. Baker tunnel, which was at $38 million.
  • The cost estimate for the tunnel that experts have given is in the range of “$100M to $350M per mile of single tunnel, which would equate to $400M to $1.4B for a twin bore two mile tunnel in Seattle.” Those estimates “include portals, tunnels and all associated safety requirements.”
  • Experts say construction could take less than five years as opposed to nine being cited by others.
  • A deep-bored tunnel is an environmentally sound option: a tunnel can prioritize transit; technology has the ability to clean surface water run-off and capture air particulates.

“This is an important day for Seattle,” says Agnew. “Today’s decision represents the thoughtful, tireless work of countless individuals – stakeholders, elected officials, staff – all who want to see the region continue to make the right decisions on transportation. The road ahead isn’t entirely certain, and it’s understandable that misconceptions about the tunnel will need to be answered in due time. We continue to look forward to doing our part as a think tank, including, if asked by the region’s elected executives, bringing tunnel experts to Seattle again to review costs, new technologies and new finance elements such as public-private partnerships with union and public employee pension funds.”

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CASCADIA CENTER OF DISCOVERY INSTITUTE is known for its leadership in transportation and development issues in the Cascadia Corridor, Puget Sound and the U.S.-Canadian cross-border realm. Funded in large part by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Cascadia is proud of its reputation as an independent voice for solutions to regional and national challenges, a voice shared through policy analyses, testimony to government bodies, and through forums and conferences designed to solve complex policy matters. More at:

Cascadia Center

Founded in 1993, as the Cascadia Project, Discovery Institute’s Cascadia Center for Regional Development is an important force in regional transportation and sustainable development issues. Cascadia is known for its involvement in transportation and development issues in the Cascadia Corridor, Puget Sound and in the U.S.-Canadian cross-border realm. We’ve recently added to that mix through a major program to promote U.S. efforts to reduce reliance on foreign oil, including the earliest possible development and integration of flex-fuel, plug-in, hybrid-electric vehicles.