A Highway Runs Through It

Seattle's viaduct is back in the news.

Seattle’s perenially contentious Alaska Way Viaduct is making headlines again.

First, the annual city sustainability rankings by SustainLane includes a prominent piece on the viaduct. It also has some good perspective from gadfly Cary Moon:

“They told us, ‘You can’t fight the highway department,'” says Moon.

But Moon is doing just that—and says she’s got the power of facts on her side.

First off, she says, highway I-5 runs parallel to the viaduct. Does Seattle really need two highways running side-by-side?

And not only that: the viaduct isn’t really used like a highway—most car trips on the roadway are in-city trips where drivers use the viaduct as a shortcut around downtown. Well-designed city streets could serve that same purpose.

If the viaduct is eventually replaced with something more human-oriented, then perhaps Seattle (#3) can overtake Portland (#1, yet again).

Second, the Congress for a New Urbanism ranks the urban freeways that are most in need of a giant delete key. Seattle’s viaduct is number one.

Interestingly, the viaduct is the only highway west of the Mississippi to make an appearance on the list.

And finally — just when you thought the highway era was drawing to a conclusion — there’s another rebuild proposal…

Today at Crosscut, David Brewster has a lengthy take on Washington House Speaker Frank Chopp’s new idea. Following, a few key points:

The Choppway is very different from these. He would build a mega-structure where the Viaduct now stands, just as high and almost twice as wide. The two ground floors would be developed as commercial space all along the structure, except for portals at street crossings. Next level would be an enclosed highway, three lanes in each direction (maybe one lane each way for buses), with vent openings at each cross street cutting under the highway. Atop would be a park with splendid views of Elliott Bay, 90 feet wide and extending more than a mile from the Pike Place Market to South King Street. Lastly, surface traffic would be routed to the east of this megaduct and along Western Avenue, so the (rather narrow) promenade on the waterfront, alongside the docks, would be traffic- and (almost) noise-free.

And:

But he’s very late in the game. Most of the town’s politicians and business leaders have sworn blood oaths against building another Viaduct, which many consider a great folly of the freeway-mad 1950s. Developers are intent on open views and getting rid of the Viaduct’s noise and fumes, so they can build expensive waterfront condos down there. It’s become a lie-down-in-front-of-bulldozers kind of issue.

And, perhaps most importantly:

…cost estimates have not been produced, partly because of Chopp’s coyness in presenting the plan to the transportation task force.

Sounds simple enough. I expect everything will go swimmingly.

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Comments

  1. Matt the Engineer says:

    Of course! That’s what’s wrong with the viaduct – it isn’t big, expensive, or gaudy enough. Maybe we can bulldoze the piers and put two of the things in, for good measure.

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