Two stories this week about Seattle bureaucratic craziness and dysfunction got unexpected responses.
Sometimes, maybe especially these times, you have to get your sustenance from little things. So here are two from this week that showed me there is still a lick of common sense left in the land.
The first is about the Battery Street Tunnel, the one-third-mile tube that connects the Alaskan Way Viaduct on the waterfront to Highway 99 in South Lake Union. Last week I wrote how shortsighted the plan is to fill this old but usable tunnel with concrete rubble when the viaduct is torn down next year.
We should recycle the tunnel instead, I argued. Not as some architecturally tortured subterranean park, but as something that is utterly out of style in shiny Seattle: a utilitarian roadway for buses and cars.
Well, Seattle City Councilmember Sally Bagshaw called to say it could happen.
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“There is a growing drumbeat of interest in saving that tunnel,” she reported.
The hangups to date have been threefold. One, the state is so far behind on the Highway 99 deep-bore tunnel project that the last thing it wants is a new complication. Two, the city would have to be willing to take responsibility — and the costs — from the state. And three, what would we use it for?
To date most of the ideas have been silly, like mushroom gardens. But repurposing the tunnel for mass transit is both tangible and desperately needed. After my column ran, a senior Metro transit planner, Jack Whisner, wrote that it would work, too.
“The middle paragraphs of the column approximate a concept I shared at work” after the current tunnel plan was hatched, Whisner wrote on Facebook. “The Battery Street Tunnel … would be a two-way bus way connecting Aurora Avenue and the 3rd Avenue transit spine.”
He also proposed using part of the tunnel for “bus layover” — i.e., a place to hide idle buses, which are soon due to be kicked out of the downtown transit tunnel.
Bagshaw said she’s heard figures for retrofitting the old tunnel ranging from $25 million to $100 million — either of which strike me as cheap considering the price of new tunnels.
“The point is, we can do so much more than making it a graveyard for old concrete,” Bagshaw said. “It just makes a ton of sense.”
So save the tunnel! Or, as an online petition puts it: “Kill the Fill!”
The other little thing that happened: The “ghost Jaguar” is a ghost no longer.
Seattle court officials are dropping a series of parking tickets for Philip Corsano, who lost his 1998 Jaguar when it was towed and auctioned off last summer while he was working overseas. Despite the sale, he continued to be haunted by tickets and toll bills racked up by the car’s new driver, as described in my Wednesday column.
“They called and said they were very, very sorry,” Corsano reports.
The court wrote Corsano a letter Friday apologizing profusely. The state tolling department also wrote to say it would excuse Corsano from his toll bills.
It turns out the towing company had filed a bill of sale with the state. But “the clerk who responded to Mr. Corsano viewed the (bill-of-sale) record online, printed a copy for our files … and somehow reached the wrong conclusion,” a court administrator sort of explains.
All the tickets, which totaled more than $500 with late fees, should now be charged to the new owner, the court said.
Corsano said he’s still irked that his many phone calls and appeals, which he documented with proof, failed to penetrate the bureaucracy’s thick hide. Also, he’s still out his sweet Jag.
But you take what humanity you can get, he said.
“They did call up and apologize,” he said. “They admitted they screwed up. Who does that anymore?”
He added: “Still, it would be a much fairer world for everyone if they didn’t first need to be flogged with a big stick.”
That sums up this little tempest better than I ever could. Oh, and as the bumper sticker says, the floggings will continue until morale improves.