The Times recommends
No to a tunnel, yes for a rebuild
The ranting and raving, the threats of lawsuits filed and permits withheld — all of it has gone on long enough. Seattle voters have an...
The ranting and raving, the threats of lawsuits filed and permits withheld — all of it has gone on long enough. Seattle voters have an opportunity to put an end to Seattle Mayor Greg Nickels' insistent vision of replacing the Alaskan Way Viaduct with an expensive tunnel.
The Seattle Times' recommendation: Vote no on Advisory Measure No. 1, against the four-lane tunnel; yes on Advisory Measure No. 2, for the elevated roadway. The tunnel was a good idea with a lot of appeal. In the end, however, it is too costly and potentially creates as many problems as it solves — all at some mystery cost. Maybe $3.4 billion, maybe a lot higher.
As Gov. Christine Gregoire said, there is only one clear workable option in front of us and that is to replace the aging roadway with a rebuilt elevated highway. It is a practical, cost-effective solution to a legitimate safety problem.
In truth, it isn't the only option.
There are really three horses in this race but only two are on the ballot. The third is a surface-transit option. At present, this idea will not come close to meeting needed traffic capacity.
Capacity is not an idle concern. After all the work done to revitalize downtown Seattle, it is foolish to clog Interstate 5 and north-south streets of this hourglass-shaped city because we could not reach a reasonable decision on the viaduct.
In its current condition, the surface-transit option will not work. If this option can be improved, the public has a right to know more about that.
The governor is not so stupid as to force an elevated roadway down Seattle's throat, if voters say no to the elevated.
For sure, they should say no to the tunnel, because doing so will make reaching a final decision a lot easier.
Sentiment is building in favor of a "no, no" vote. Vote no twice, say local Democratic Party activists. Vote no twice, say supporters of a surface-transit option. No, no doesn't mean anything except that voters are angry they are stuck in this position.
As good as it might feel to state that anger, it accomplishes nothing and wastes $1 million of taxpayer dollars on the cost of the special election.
Voters can make lemonade from lemons with the upcoming March 13 vote. They can remove the tunnel from further consideration. That, in its own way, is progress. The mayor, who has been wildly in favor of the tunnel, has said he will abide by the vote. Let's get on with it. Let's get the tunnel out of the mix.
State transportation officials have said they cannot recommend the tunnel because of serious operational and safety problems.
As state Sen. Mary Margaret Haugen, D-Camano Island, chairwoman of the Senate Transportation Committee, succinctly said, "It makes absolutely no sense to replace an unsafe viaduct with an unsafe tunnel."
The key tunnel safety issue is heavy reliance on shoulder lanes to accommodate peak-hour traffic.
None of our politicians looks very good at the moment. Gregoire has looked indecisive and stymied by this imbroglio. Nickels and his City Council pushed for a tunnel because they believe a tunnel is the best long-range solution for Seattle. No one should fault them for trying to mix urban redevelopment with removal of the viaduct before it falls down in an earthquake — to a point.
But there is a time and a place to fight, a time and a place to heal your city. Nickels, who has never been much of a regionalist, has told the rest of the state, in essence, he doesn't care if Seattle appears greedy. He wants what he wants.
The elevated roadway does the job and does so for a reasonable amount of money, $2.8 billion, in funds already available. It is the most-practical solution because it accommodates the traffic and commerce with safe lane widths and reasonable access, including downtown exits.
If the surface option can be designed in a way that meets necessary capacity, that will come out in the weeks ahead.
For now, steer clear of the cynics. Don't waste $1 million on an election with an angry vote. Vote "no" on Measure No. 1, against the tunnel, "yes" on Measure No. 2, for the elevated roadway.
When vice president of Sub Pop Records Megan Jasper isn't running things at the office, she's working in her garden at her West Seattle home where she and her husband Brian spend time relaxing.
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