Tag Archives: viaduct

Seven freeways that never were

More good stuff from Slate’s Tom Vanderbilt (via Bus Nerd):

The Lower Manhattan Expressway—dubbed “Lomex”—which would have coursed in eight-lane glory through the now-vibrant (and expensive) neighborhoods of Soho and Nolita, is one of the world’s most famous unbuilt highways. The epic battle about whether it should be built is virtual mythology in New York City, pitting the sweeping interventions of Robert Moses against that savior of the street, Jane Jacobs, a conflict of networks against neighbors, a struggle over a road that was either essential to Gotham’s 20th century survival or, in the words of Lewis Mumford, was “the first serious step in turning New York into Los Angeles.” (Not thought to be a good thing.)

A recent exhibit* at New York’s Cooper Union, Paul Rudolph: The Lower Manhattan Expressway—complete with an exhaustively recreated scale model* of the proposed road—provided an opportunity to consider the invisible (and sometimes visible) presence of this and other phantom highways in the world’s cities. Existing merely as segments of many-tentacled schemes on faded planner’s maps, they are more than historical oddities or visions of an alternate future. They’re part of an ongoing dialogue about the meaning and possibilities of mobility in the world’s cities: Would their host cities be better off if these highways been built? How should we balance the desire for mobility with the desire to create livable, meaningful urban spaces? Is there any room for the megaprojects of Rudolph in a city that now favors pocket parks and restriped bike lanes?

Read the rest…

Seattle even got a shout–for 520’s ramps to nowhere. Here’s hoping for another miracle.

I’ve been meaning to tell you about…

• State funding for more buses during viaduct construction
Record Metro ridership this summer (not such a big surprise, but worth noting)
No more Seahawks shuttle service

Sorry for not keeping you guys up to date on this stuff. I’d like to say I’ve been too busy to post, but the truth is, I’ve been completely obsessed with the upcoming election–both Prop 1 and the presidential stuff (OK, mostly the presidential stuff). I can’t stop thinking and reading about it; it’s even interfering with my sleep.

May I have my ballot now, please?

Sonics lost, but Seattle won

Tonight, in keeping with our annual tradition, Bus Nerd and I attended the Pistons/Sonics game. My team lost (Pistons: 101, Seattle: 97), but since the Pistons are my second-favorite team (and Tayshaun Prince is my favorite player), I wasn’t too disappointed. Aside from a return ride on one of the funkiest of funky buses (both of us smelled skunk), fun times were had by all.

We returned home to this fabulous news:

“No and no: Voters rejecting both viaduct options”

“Mass transit may end up as biggest winner”

Transit + Streets is still alive, baby! Now, let’s see how much clout this “advisory vote” actually has.

Viaduct day

Thanks to Adam Hyla and Tim Harris (my boys over at Real Change) for this very real editorial about today’s viaduct vote:

If we continue to act as though our car-dependent present is the only imaginable future, progress toward an environmentally sustainable future will come too little, too late. Adopting a Transit + Streets solution begins the process of meeting the 2012 Kyoto Protocol goal of cutting emissions back to 1990 levels, the equivalent of getting 130,000 cars off the road.

We are amazed that tunnel proponents and viaduct rebuild advocates who all claim to be looking out for future generations don’t see the writing on the wall. Our days of auto-dependence are numbered.


If we keep using the (unacceptable) status quo as an excuse to perpetuate our car-centric infrastructure (everyone drives, therefore we must continue to accommodate driving as the primary mode of transportation), we will never see change. Well, we will, but it won’t be the kind of change most of us are looking for.

The new answer to the ultimate question (Hint: It’s not 42)

In Friday’s Seattle Times, our County Kingpin weighed in on the viaduct issue. His take: Any solution, whether it’s a tunnel, a rebuild, or his (and my) preferred surface option, must include transit improvements.

The folks at Metro have identified 49 strategic investments that, if implemented, would reduce car trips on the viaduct by about 35,000 (roughly 30% of current trip levels). Said Sims:

Removing 35,000 trips helps make the “tunnel lite” option viable, which saves more than $1 billion from the original tunnel estimate. Removing 35,000 trips should allow for a smaller rebuild, which should save many hundreds of millions of dollars. And transit that absorbs 35,000 trips is essential to seriously contemplating any surface option.


And more:

Therefore, rather than simply wait for the March vote on the viaduct options, we should all work together during the legislative session to take whatever steps are necessary to make these 49 investments a reality.

Yes, please! And to the folks in Olympia: If you get on a roll, don’t feel obligated to stop at 49. I’m good with 59, or 79, or any of the fast-food-value-menu numbers.

(Note to self: Never write a blog entry after reminiscing with an old friend about your broke college days.)

I’ll miss the view from the 55, but…

A couple of weeks ago, Seattle Times columnist Danny Westneat made a suggestion: Let’s tear down the viaduct before we make a decision about how to replace it. After all, between the time the viaduct is torn down and the time a replacement is built, we’re going to have to make a lot of changes to the way we move vehicles through this city. These changes might work well enough to make us think differently about what’s necessary.

Westneat reminds us that most Seattleites, even transportation experts, expected the September, 2005 bus tunnel closure to snarl traffic downtown. It didn’t. In fact, thanks to many little changes (what he calls “a thousand little things”) traffic has actually improved on some streets.

From the column:

If we’d known back in the ’80s that we could get superior results by making a series of little changes to street use rules and signaling, would we have spent $480 million and ripped up the heart of downtown for nearly four years?

It’s a moot point now. On the plus side, at least we have a place to put light rail.

But the tale of the bus tunnel has me wondering again about our other tunnel, the one not yet built. What to do with the Alaskan Way Viaduct is down to two choices: build a new elevated one or a tunnel. It’s the big ugly or the big costly.

Do we really need either one? What if we did a thousand little things instead?

The Transportation Choices Coalition, a longtime advocate of replacing the viaduct with improvements to surface roads and transit, recently released this statement:

A Tale of Two Cities

Seattle – Local environmentalists are speaking out to express their discontent about the mandate forcing the City of Seattle to vote on the Alaskan Way Viaduct.

With the bulk of the conversation on the Viaduct centered around a “gold-plated” tunnel and “big ugly” elevated structure, many in the environmental community are crying foul, suggesting that the 1950’s framework of defining capacity as moving cars from Point A to Point B has provided us no good option when it comes to the Viaduct. They believe that Seattleites have been pushed by the state into a box that no one wants to be in – choosing a structure that is too expensive or choosing to cut off the city from its waterfront for another 100 years.

What many in the community are calling for is a re-framing of the discussion, with a focus on moving people and goods, not automobiles. Outdated, auto-centric transportation planning has no place in a progressive city like Seattle. They want to see our elected officials articulating a vision for the city that will guide our decisions and state support to see that vision come to fruition.
“The new four-lane tunnel, a surface option – these are very encouraging conversations,” said Jessyn Farrell, Executive Director of Transportation Choices Coalition. “The State has given us a false choice – we haven’t been using the right framework.”

Their charge is that a vote now is premature because all the alternatives – including a 6-lane tunnel, a 4-lane tunnel, another elevated structure, and a surface option – have not gone through a true vetting process.

The environmental community has been staunch in their commitment to fight any alternative that does not reclaim the waterfront. But the aging, compromised Viaduct structure does need to come down as a matter of public safety. The state currently has $2 billion in-hand to start taking down the Viaduct – no matter what alternative is chosen. “After implementing mitigation measures to deal with lost capacity, let’s start taking it down now and have a true discussion of what should replace the Viaduct,” said Farrell. “Only then will we see a reasonable consensus.

I also advocate a surface/transit option, but I see this as a solution everyone can get behind. We have to tear down the viaduct eventually, so why not do it now? If the “thousand little things” work well, we’ll have saved a lot of money to invest in better transportation options. If they don’t, we’ll have more time to make an informed decision about what will.