The people of Seattle will soon be making a decision about a critically important issue facing us all, a decision that we'll live with for...

Share story

The people of Seattle will soon be making a decision about a critically important issue facing us all, a decision that we’ll live with for the next 100 years: whether or not to replace the current, aging Alaskan Way Viaduct with a new, bigger, elevated highway.

Regardless of how you feel about what should replace the viaduct, one thing is certain: If a majority of voters say “yes” to an elevated highway, our leaders in Olympia will begin construction of a taller, wider, noisier double-decker elevated freeway on Seattle’s waterfront.

As former governors of the state of Washington, we urge you to reject this shortsighted idea.

The current viaduct was built in the 1950s and was a solution that fit the times. The waterfront was a dirty and dangerous place, and it made sense for Seattleites to drive above it.

However, the consequences of that decision have been profound. Seattle’s waterfront is disconnected from the city as the viaduct has literally put a wall between Seattle and its waterfront. The area beneath and around the viaduct is dark, dirty and noisy. Areas under the viaduct prove to be dangerous breeding grounds for theft and crime, discouraging people from walking on this public land.

Taking the viaduct off the waterfront and returning this precious waterfront to public use will be a great gift to future generations. It will help our economy and environment, inviting people and jobs to Seattle and surrounding areas. More downtown green space will also encourage residents to live downtown and reduce sprawl.

We’re not the first city to face this challenge. But one thing is certain: No other major city anywhere in the world is building a concrete fortress or a freeway on its waterfront. In fact, port cities all over the globe, including San Francisco, Baltimore and Barcelona, are tearing down their elevated freeways, rediscovering their waterfronts and finding new sources of revenue and jobs. Our grandchildren will say “What were they thinking?” if we miss this chance and simply replace the viaduct.

We believe it’s important for voters to understand the facts about the proposed new elevated viaduct: It will be bigger, noisier and even more unattractive than the current structure.

Bigger: A new elevated highway will be much wider and more massive and will permanently scar the downtown waterfront because of earthquake code and federal/state safety transportation regulations. In many places, including at the base of Washington Street, the new elevated highway will be 50 percent wider and much bulkier and higher than the existing viaduct.

Noisier: The new structure will only make the noise on the waterfront and in surrounding neighborhoods worse. Loud, overhead noise from a double-decker highway will discourage residents and visitors alike from enjoying the peace and tranquility of Elliott Bay. Current traffic noise levels approach or exceed Federal Highway Administration noise-abatement criteria at 44 out of 52 sites along the corridor.

It is unfortunate that this decision has become so divisive. As former governors, we faced issues that had both profound impacts on a local community yet were of statewide significance. The viaduct is yet another one of those issues.

Because of the importance of this issue, we strongly urge the voters of Seattle to make their voices heard in the March 13 special election. And we urge leaders in Olympia to listen to the citizens of Seattle. In a democracy, every election counts. Every time a citizen casts a vote, it is of profound importance and significance. This election is no different.

We have an important choice that will impact the economy of the entire state of Washington: We can make an investment in our region’s future or we can make a shortsighted “second choice” decision and ruin Seattle’s waterfront with traffic.

Whether you are a tunnel supporter, or someone who wants to see a different solution, it’s important to vote “no” on Measure 2. Your ballots have started arriving in your homes and as you consider this vote, we want to remind you that this is a once-in-a-generation opportunity. We need to make it clear to Olympia that we want our waterfront opened up for future generations.

Daniel J. Evans served as Washington governor from 1965 to 1977. Gary Locke served as governor from 1997 to 2005. Both are part of the Not Another Elevated Viaduct campaign coalition, www.noelevated.org