Everyone knows the Alaskan Way Viaduct is ugly. Even its supporters admit it. But Seattleites should know why they should vote "yes" for...
Everyone knows the Alaskan Way Viaduct is ugly. Even its supporters admit it. But Seattleites should know why they should vote “yes” for the surface/tunnel hybrid option: It sends a message to Olympia that we want to invest in our waterfront. We want to transform that neighborhood from a place for cars into a place for people.
A “yes” vote on Measure 1 for the hybrid tunnel and “no” on Measure 2, against the viaduct rebuild, puts Seattle in the best position for getting a waterfront for all … for parks, salmon, transit and maintaining essential highway capacity.
While the hybrid option likely won’t be the final plan that Seattle and Olympia agree to, it tells Olympia that we want a solution that fits our values. Seattleites love walking in parks, having places to meet friends for lunch and taking in the natural beauty of Puget Sound. We love safe, healthy places for kids to play. These require that we invest in our city. The hybrid tunnel does that.
Unfortunately, Seattle’s values aren’t on Olympia’s radar even though this decision will define Seattle’s livability for a century. Our car-addled representatives have failed to balance state transportation needs with Seattle’s quality-of-life concerns. Rep. Helen Sommers sponsored a law that handcuffed planners and designers. Sommers’ law made it illegal to study any option that reduced the corridor’s 110,000 “vehicle” capacity. “Vehicles” become more important than their passengers; a full bus equals an SUV with one passenger. The result: Appealing alternatives such as smaller tunnels and increased transit sat unexplored.
The hybrid option is a great start to a compromise between car-addicted Olympia and Seattle’s desire for parks and transit. The package borrows from the tantalizing but unproven surface-plus-transit option and melds it with a tunnel idea that gets the job done affordably. The hybrid’s four-lane tunnel preserves a Seattle bypass for essential traffic — freight and cars traveling through the city. It reknits the downtown street grid and creates transit to carry 21,000 commuters. More importantly, it redefines Seattle’s waterfront from a barren transportation corridor to Seattle’s front porch.
How foolish is it for the state to spend close to $3 billion on a viaduct rebuild and to take us farther from our quality-of-life values? For 20 percent more, we can invest in seven acres of new parks, plazas and new transit, increasing our quality of life.
How will we pay? Unlike the elevated rebuild, the hybrid option will increase the city’s tax revenue through increased tourism and property values, a tax on which will help fund nearly half of the additional cost. The rest is only $6 per Seattle household per month through 2017, a small price to pay for such a generational legacy (“Proposed tunnel would raise utility bills about $6 a month” Times Local News, March 3). Let’s not be penny wise and pound foolish.
The best outcome of this advisory ballot is to meet Gov. Christine Gregoire back at the drawing board to come up with a viaduct-replacement package that we can all live with. She has more incentive to work with Seattle if the hybrid tunnel gets more votes than the viaduct she is trying to drive down our throats.
We need to see options that guarantee ample space for parks and promenades on the waterfront. We need designers freed from Sommers’ restrictive law so that we might consider real transit solutions, a complete analysis of existing street improvements that allow for a smaller, more-affordable tunnel — or no highway at all.
We can’t let Olympia force freeways through our neighborhoods. A “yes” on Measure 1 for the hybrid option and a “no” on Measure 2 against the new elevated structure tells Olympia that the citizens of Seattle prefer green grass to gray concrete, sunshine to shadow, and chirping birds to roaring engines — and that we value places for people more than lanes for cars. Tell our elected officials that we want to invest in Seattle’s future.
Brian Steinburg is a member of Action: Better City, and producer/co-director of the film “Viaduct? What Viaduct?” which can be seen on the Seattle Channel Web site. Todd Vogel is vice president of Allied Arts of Seattle.