A sampling of readers' letters, faxes and e-mail.

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“Waterfront for all”

Chance of a generation

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Editor, The Times:

As someone who has gone to countless public meetings about the Seattle waterfront, sponsored by the city and state as well as many nonprofits, I want to thank the mayor, City Council and state Department of Transportation for listening to the people.

For three years we’ve been talking about what should replace the broken viaduct and now the decision has been made: a waterfront tunnel. It’s inspiring to see that the Seattle process can actually work.

The waterfront tunnel is an investment in our future, and it is our generation that has been called to provide the financial resources, as well as the leadership to make our waterfront a true regional treasure.

Next time you’re at the Seattle Center for Bumbershoot, a play or Sonics game, or the next time you take your out-of-town guests to the Pike Place Market to show them a piece of authentic Seattle, take a minute to thank the people who made those places for us so many years ago. That’s the kind of opportunity we have today with the waterfront.

I encourage everyone in the Northwest to follow the example of the mayor, the council and the state by showing our support for the waterfront tunnel and our enthusiasm for a “Waterfront for all.”

— David Yeaworth, Seattle

Talk of the tunnel

Build your own

front porch

Well, the mayor of Seattle is already pitching his plan for the Alaskan Way Viaduct replacement (“A waterfront for all,” Opinion, Dec. 5). He plans to incorporate an “aggressive” financing plan. Heaven help us all!

My question is, while acknowledging the importance of the structure to regional transportation needs, why should those in Snohomish County be required or otherwise hornswoggled into chipping in another billion dollars just so Seattle can have a “new front porch”?

I have lived in the region for 20-plus years and have driven on the viaduct maybe three times. Most of the people up here avoid downtown Seattle like the plague, so why should we care about a “beautiful promenade from Pioneer Square to Pike Place Market”?

We have our own aesthetic concerns for our own parts of Western Washington. If Greg Nickels and Seattle want an “interesting streetscape” for the city’s pedestrians, bicyclists, et al., then let the residents of Seattle pay for it themselves. If I want a “new porch” for my home up here, I should not expect people living in Queen Anne to pay for it.

— Mark Williams, Lynnwood

Pay more, get more

As someone who works on Seattle’s waterfront and lives in Seattle, I am thrilled and relieved that both the state and the city of Seattle have selected the tunnel alternative in rebuilding the viaduct. Now it’s time for our state’s politicians to honor the public trust and develop fair funding solutions to get the job done right with real value for the tax dollar spent.

Already some politicians have suggested that squandering a whopping $3 billion taxpayer dollars on a solution that will gain our state absolutely nothing over what we have today (the rebuild option) is the easier solution to accomplish.

I believe they need to try a little harder and work to fund the $3.6 billion it would take to gain back our state’s most civic waterfront. There is no “cheap” alternative except in outcomes. A vibrant, civic waterfront will translate to a significant tax revenue source for our state for decades to come. A rebuild option will be money wasted.

— Bryon Ziegler, Seattle

What about the interim?

The most striking feature of Mayor Greg Nickels’ pitch for a tunnel to replace the Alaskan Way Viaduct was what he didn’t mention. What do we do about Seattle’s traffic during the seven to 10 years (most likely 10 years or more) between when the viaduct is torn down and its replacement (tunnel or whatever) is built?

And, if we can somehow provide relief during those 10 or so years from the major chaos caused by replacement construction, using a fraction of the $4 billion needed for a tunnel, we can provide permanent relief by better utilization of what already exists — and still achieve all the good things that Mayor Nickels envisions. All of that without the enormous disruption that building the tunnel will produce.

— Bill Silver, Seattle

We’re overextended

One billion dollars more for a tunnel option? Nonsense! The state can’t even fund a crumbling ferry system. Until the state adequately funds and modernizes the ferry system, a primary mode of transportation for thousands of us, you can expect zero support from us in the Legislature for rebuilding the viaduct.

— Charles Valencia, Port Orchard

This takes vision

I read with dismay about the initiative recently filed to prohibit the city from building a tunnel. As a lifelong Seattleite, I strongly disagree that the project is merely a proposal to placate downtown property owners.

In 2003, I was part of a design studio at the University of Washington that generated concepts for the space currently occupied by the viaduct. What became clear immediately is that redevelopment of the corridor presents a significant aesthetic and physical challenge.

But it also demonstrated the area’s incredible potential. Many people call it Seattle’s “front door.” The viaduct occupies a stretch of land that runs through the heart of historic downtown Seattle, from Pioneer Square to Pike Place. It truly cuts off and covers our history. If the viaduct had never been built, we would view our waterfront in a much different light.

Our project did not weigh the costs and benefits of a tunnel. A tunnel is clearly more expensive in terms of directly measurable dollars. Another viaduct, though, would have a much higher indirect cost.

A major public project is imminent. I hope that the residents of Seattle can appreciate the truly historic opportunity presenting itself and have a little vision.

— Reuben McKnight, Seattle

Extravagant approach

We were really shocked to see the light traffic depicted in the Alaskan Way Tunnel images on the front page of the Opinion section. The persons presenting these renderings have either been asleep for the past 25 years or have been swayed by local politicians. In the 20-plus years we’ve lived in the Puget Sound area, we’ve never seen such light traffic.

We’ve been shocked that in this state, we make decisions, do studies, vote on them, hold hearings, do more studies, vote on them again, hold more hearings and vote on them again. It seems we never do anything except spend millions to do studies.

We were delighted to see an initiative to stop the tunnel. We recognize the seawall needs to be rebuilt. But as a retired civil engineer, it seems to me that it is extremely extravagant to spend hundreds of millions of dollars to relocate the underground utilities infrastructure just to build an underground tunnel.

Living in Federal Way, we rarely go downtown. The two or three dozen times we’ve driven the viaduct in the past 20-plus years were to take out-of-town guests to view the downtown and Elliot Bay from the viaduct, the best vista in town. To us, tearing down the viaduct would be almost like tearing down the Space Needle.

— James Bishop, Federal Way

Keep focus on recreation

The “Waterfront for all” plan could just as well be on Broadway. Enhance the right of way for vehicles. Provide “streetscape” for merchants and people. Why waste our limited waterfront on knickknack shops, snack bars or roads?

Seattle’s waterfront facilities should enable locals and visitors to enjoy water-related recreation. Install a launching facility in the sheltered waterway between Pier 91 and Magnolia, with parking for hundreds of cars with trailers.

Open Myrtle Edwards Shore as a dinghy park. Midtown, install fishing piers. Dedicate two piers, sail and power, with boat storage, launching hoists, rental facilities for occasional boating and for visitors. Seattle could enjoy the sight of a hundred small boats sailing out into the bay, running home with bright spinnakers blossoming.

Everett, Tacoma, Olympia, Prosser and others are receiving state funds to enhance their boating facilities. Seattle limps along with facilities that were inadequate 20 years ago. Indeed, give Seattle back the waterfront.

Redeem our former claim to “Boating Capital of the World,” or allow us to ride high on the Alaskan Way Viaduct retaining our spectacular view of Elliott Bay.

— Jean Gosse, Shoreline

Don’t lose beautiful drive

The current Alaskan Way Viaduct, albeit old and dangerous, is still one of the most beautiful drives in the Seattle area. One side overlooks the waterfront and port of Seattle, an amazing sight. The other side overlooks two beautiful ball stadiums and the city of Seattle. Regardless of the season, it is a beautiful drive.

Replacing or fixing the viaduct is important, but to replace it with a tunnel that adds extra cost is just sad. Turn this beautiful drive into a boring, ugly tunnel … and this is the No. 1 choice? Please, planners, let’s keep the good parts of the Pacific Northwest, its beauty.

— Julian Slane, Covington

Let’s forgo the Ferrari

Local and state officials will always choose the expensive option for viaduct replacement. That’s a given. My choice for a new car, price no option, would be a Ferrari, too. Seattle has always gotten overpriced projects. It’s the history of movers and shakers.

The arterial cannot be replaced by nothing; probably better than half the users bypass Seattle and I-5 on it. There is no choice. If I-509 is completed connecting to I-5, 110,000 daily tunnel users would be nothing. Think stop-and-go. As was for I-5, there’ll be pressure for on/off ramps to the city and stadiums. This made a mess of I-5. Stadium traffic will be backed up you know where.

Think of the ventilation towers that will roar, and traffic din filtering through ventilation gratings. Overhead, developers see possibilities of available land. A tunnel next to a seawall will be dangerous come the big earthquake, and is dangerous from accidents or fire.

Thought needs to be given to viaduct rebuild processes. Consider a traffic-diversion-lessening, piecemeal process: a section at a time, built separately, assembled in place quickly once in a while, using temporary lift in/out spans between changes.

— Delmont Gould, Seattle

A lesson learned

Local officials should be applauded for having the foresight to endorse the tunnel-replacement option for the aging viaduct. One has just to look at pictures of the San Francisco waterfront before and after demolition of the Embarcadero elevated freeway to realize the devastation elevated transportation structures wreak on cityscapes.

By placing the viaduct underground and connecting the city to its waterfront, there exists the potential for Seattle to have one of the most stunning and beautiful waterfronts in the world.

Those who say they will miss the view from the viaduct should concentrate more on the operation of their motor vehicles and less on the view.

— Jeremy Johnson, Seattle

Beware the “Big Dig”

I think we’re about to embark on a serious mistake, replacing the ugly Alaskan Way Viaduct with a grimy and expensive tunnel. Learn from Boston’s “Big Dig.”

I strongly favor the over-the-bay bridge that an independent group proposed some time ago. That proposal would build a graceful, curving suspension bridge to replace the Alaskan Way Viaduct. It would project south from the Battery Street tunnel, out over Elliott Bay, and gently curve southeast to rejoin Highway 99 somewhere near the stadiums.

Judging from the proposers’ sketches, I think it presents a beautiful new image for Seattle, akin to the Golden Gate or Verrazano Narrows bridges, but with lighter, more graceful design.

A well-designed bridge certainly would be more visually appealing and attractive than the waterfront itself will ever be, perhaps replacing the Space Needle as Seattle’s symbol. Just think: visitors’ photos of themselves at Pike Place Market with the new Elliott Bay Bridge framing the Olympic Mountains in the background. Now, that’s more “Seattle” than the Space Needle — and less expensive than an invisible, grimy tunnel vibrating under the waterfront.

— Donald Gerards, Seattle