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Who's crazy now?
Seattle Times staff columnist
At least once a day now, strangers call up Cary Moon and absolve her of being nuts.
"They always start by saying, 'I thought you were crazy,' " Moon says. "But then they say they're starting to get it. "I don't know — something is happening. We were ignored for two years. Now my phone is ringing off the hook."
I met Moon, 42, at a Belltown coffee shop. She's a stylish mom with two young kids, an engineer by training who once ran a respirator factory.
She's definitely not crazy. It's just that her idea sounds way too good to be true.
Moon runs the People's Waterfront Coalition, a tiny group that wants to tear down the Alaskan Way Viaduct. And not replace it with anything.
No pricey tunnel. No elevated freeway. Just a four-lane road and a long list of smaller traffic fixes to absorb a fraction of the displaced cars.
The idea has been dismissed by the powers-that-be. Only two City Council members say it even deserves to be studied. No legislator has spoken for it.
We must replace the freeway, they all say. With no freeway we'll have total gridlock.
Yet you can feel momentum building for Moon's plan — if for no other reason than the other plans are bombing.
"That's been part of our strategy from Day One," Moon says. "The more people understand that the two choices on the table are just dogs, the more they'll open their minds to something else."
If that's not monorailian enough for you, the tunnel plan has been so altered due to lack of money that even the City Council is unsure what it voted for a year ago.
"When will the public be able to view images that give a more accurate picture of what will actually be built?" council staff wrote last week in a pointed list of 36 questions about both proposals.
Moon offers a third way. And last week, it got a boost when five UW professors argued the viaduct should be shut down now. It's not safe, and a planned closure is a perfect chance to see if traffic can be handled in other ways.
"Maybe we'll find like other cities that we don't need to build a new section of waterfront highway after all," they wrote in The Seattle Times.
Epic traffic jams trapped me in West Seattle for several days after the 2001 quake, so count me as skeptical. But why not test it? Highway 99 will be closed up to four years during viaduct work. If we can stand it for four years, it's worth asking: Could we stand it forever?
That question isn't confined to the viaduct, Moon says.
"No state has enough money to repair and replace all its highways," she says. "Somewhere, sometime, we're going to have to take a risk and try something else."
Or maybe it'll be tried for us. A new quake or lack of money or our inability to make decisions — all could push us by default toward Moon's freeway-free waterfront.
It may in fact be crazy. But it's time to take it seriously.
Danny Westneat's column appears Wednesday and Friday. Reach him at 206-464-2086 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Copyright © 2006 The Seattle Times Company