State and local executives have opted for a deep bored tunnel slightly upland from Seattle’s waterfront as a replacement for the crumbling, earthquake-threatened elevated freeway, the Alaska Way Viaduct. It will carry through-traffic on Route 99 that runs the length of the West Coast not far from the newer Interstate 5, while a waterfront boulevard will handle the downtown Seattle traffic. (Matt Rosenberg of the Cascadia Center of Discovery Institute rounds up the remarkably large number of stories here.)
There is still much controversy ahead, but this is a big step and should help mobilize federal support. For 16 years the Cascadia Center of Discovery Institute has promoted a tunnel replacement for the Alaska Way Viaduct as part of an over-all transportation program for the region.
But crucial in building support for the current hybrid tunnel/surface proposal was the leadership shown in the past year by a large committee of transportation, waterfront and environmental stakeholders—from the Chamber of Commerce to organized labor to Allied Arts.
It also has been persuasive to elected leaders that outside transportation experts have been able to demonstrate the technological strides that tunneling has made in the past decade or so and the cost reductions that this progress entails.
Seattle is famous for endless “process” politics, but it is just possible that the great bulk of the populace will insist on getting this truly enlightened plan enacted. The rest of the country—especially those cities with aging elevated freeways that are under-utilizing valuable urban space—may follow developments in Seattle with keen interest.