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Originally published December 2, 2006 at 12:00 AM | Page modified December 2, 2006 at 12:35 AM

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House Transportation leader asks state to consider boulevard to replace viaduct

Saying the state needs to more thoroughly investigate replacing the Alaskan Way Viaduct with a surface option, outgoing House Transportation...

Seattle Times staff reporters

Saying the state needs to more thoroughly investigate replacing the Alaskan Way Viaduct with a surface option, outgoing House Transportation Chairman Ed Murray, D-Seattle, is asking the state to provide information on the traffic impacts of creating an open boulevard.

"The [Department of Transportation] must go back and examine its work done examining the traffic impacts of a boulevard option and take a second look at mitigation strategies to manage the impacts on Interstate 5 and local streets," Murray wrote in a letter sent Friday to Transportation Secretary Doug MacDonald.

Murray asked MacDonald to provide any studies the DOT has done on the traffic impacts of a surface option. He also wants cost estimates on tearing down the existing viaduct, the cost of rebuilding Highway 99 on the surface and the costs of freight mobility and bus rapid transit improvements to a new boulevard.

"We will answer the questions in Ed Murray's letter," MacDonald said Friday, declining to give specifics. "We'll consider it and take appropriate steps to answer it."

Murray also sent a letter to Grace Crunican, head of Seattle's Department of Transportation, asking for work the city has done to analyze and plan for the 100,000 trips that would be diverted to city streets should the viaduct be taken down.

The city and state are working on a traffic plan for the viaduct-replacement project.

Murray wrote the letters because he wants another option if the state and the city get bogged down over the best way to fix the viaduct. He said his concern is "if the state and city are at war over an elevated structure versus a tunnel, that we find a way to move forward with a third option."

He has asked for the state Department of Transportation to respond before Jan. 8, which is when he steps down as chairman of the House Transportation Committee. He is one of nine lawmakers who signed a letter in September that called for replacing the viaduct with a tunnel, and he still supports that option.

Murray left his seat in the House to run for the state Senate. He won a seat in the 43rd District and is expected to become a vice chairman of the Senate Transportation Committee.

House Majority Leader Lynn Kessler, D-Hoquiam, said that although Murray is leaving the House, his views still carry weight there.

She said most members of the House Democratic caucus oppose replacing the viaduct with a tunnel. Talk of a surface route is just emerging, she said.

"For people who think maybe they won't get the tunnel and they still don't want the viaduct, they're going to try to find an alternative," Kessler said.

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The Seattle City Council in September passed an ordinance declaring a tunnel as its preference for replacing the viaduct. But it also said, "In the event a tunnel proves to be infeasible, the city recommends development of a transit and surface street alternative."

Patrice Gillespie Smith, chief of staff for the Seattle Department of Transportation, said the city will prepare a response to Murray's letter.

In other viaduct developments, viaduct project manager Ron Paananen has dismissed a state-funded study by T.Y. Lin International that looks at retrofitting rather than replacing the viaduct.

While Lin has developed a retrofit plan that could withstand an earthquake, "it would only have a 25-year life span and would cost 80 percent of the elevated-structure alternative," Paananen said.

Susan Gilmore: 206-464-2054

Andrew Garber: 360-943-9882

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