Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Viaduct Replacement: Congratulations, It's a TUNNEL!

Well, it hit the papers this morning: we're getting a tunnel to replace the Alaskan Way Viaduct.

Details are still emerging at this time, and more have since I first read about it this morning, including the mention of transit in the plan.

The decision is not without controversy:
  • Voters shot down a tunnel in a 2006 advisory vote. The selected tunnel option is a deep-bore, unlike the "excavate and cover" tunnel initially proposed, but that's not likely to appease some people
  • It's the most expensive option on the table, with current estimates at $4.24 billion
  • It does not appear to provide entry/exit from the highway from Battery Street Tunnel on the north to the Stadium area at the south end
  • It does not connect Ballard to the bypass

I've got mixed feelings about this.

I like that we won't have to look at an eyesore elevated roadway along the waterfront. I like that it can be done with very minimal impact on existing businesses and current traffic patterns, which business owners should appreciate during these tough economic times. I like the fact that the plan includes for increased transit capacity, however, that does little to help matters if folks won't use the additional transit capacity. I like the open space planned along the waterfront, and hope it remains open space and is not entirely sold off to development interests.

I'm concerned about the cost during a time when we have a state deficit of over $6 billion. I'm concerned about the idea of a miles long tunnel in an earthquake-prone area (OK, so the Bay area has done just fine with BART, but you never know...). I'm concerned about the tunnel's capacity; the current plan calls for two lanes in each direction, it doesn't sound like it adds any more capacity to the roadway. If we don't get our collective mindset changed about transportation in general, and mass transit in particular, in this region, when the tunnel opens in 2015, it will be insufficient for the needs of traffic in the region.

From what I've seen in the news, there is no mention about what this means for cyclists and users of human powered transport. Perhaps I'll get answers to that tonight at the "Bikes & Bridges" meeting.

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