"Choppway" plan for Alaskan Way Viaduct unveiled
The eight proposals for replacing the aging Alaskan Way Viaduct were presented to stakeholders Thursday. In all, the state is looking at three surface-boulevard options, two aerial viaducts and three tunnel options.
Seattle Times staff reporter
Imagine a milelong building, filled with office and retail, 90 feet wide and 55 feet tall, stretching from King Street to Victor Steinbrueck Park.
On top of that would be the roadway, and on top of the roadway would be a massive park.
Officially known as Option E among eight proposals for replacing the central waterfront portion of the Alaskan Way Viaduct, it's unofficially called "Chopp in a Box," or "The Choppway."
It's the plan being promoted by House Speaker Frank Chopp, one of the state's most influential politicians. The proposal, which was presented to the viaduct-stakeholders group Thursday, has had the least amount of scrutiny of the eight plans.
Insiders say the city doesn't like it. Not only is it massive, it conceivably could be the most expensive option on the table.
The state Department of Transportation, which is leading the viaduct-replacement talks, said cost figures of the various options won't be available until mid-November.
That's after the elections and, if Republican gubernatorial candidate Dino Rossi wins, he's already said he wants a tunnel to replace the viaduct.
Viaduct project director Ron Paananen won't talk about how the election will affect the viaduct plans. "My boss is now Christine Gregoire," he said. "I think we'll go through the process regardless of the governor's race."
In all, the state is looking at three surface-boulevard options, two aerial viaducts and three tunnel options.
Gone, and officially buried, is a retrofit of the existing viaduct.
Paananen released a copy of a report by California structural engineer Kit Miyamoto, who said any retrofit should not exceed half the cost of replacing the structure, and the state says it could be 90 percent of the replacement cost.
In a media briefing Thursday, Paananen, along with city and county officials, said the state is examining each option based on 27 "performance measures," including cost, transit access, and how much they shade the street.
Ron Posthuma, assistant director of the King County Department of Transportation, said the eight proposals were weighed for their seismic safety and their design life, and there was little difference. All plans would be built for a 1,000-year earthquake and would have a 75-year life.
Where the differences in the options start to appear is on access to the waterfront.
The Chopp plan and a bored-bypass tunnel rank lower than the rest.
The options also differ in how they affect the downtown "historic properties," such as Pioneer Square, Pike Place Market and warehouses on Western Avenue.
Bob Powers, deputy director of the city's Department of Transportation, said the Chopp plan would separate the historic piers and warehouses and could have significant visual impact along the waterfront.
The options with the least impact would be the surface proposals.
"But none are any deal breaks for any other one," Paananen said. "We have one shot to do this right."
He also explained another option that hasn't received much scrutiny: the lidded trench. This would be a single-level below-ground roadway, about 30 feet deep, built east of the sea wall.
There would be long, narrow openings for ventilation, and a four-lane surface roadway would be built above it along Alaskan Way.
Stakeholders will meet again Nov. 6 to hear the transportation and travel-time differences of each option.
On Nov. 13 they'll get cost estimates, and on Nov. 20 the state plans to reduce the options to two or three.
A final recommendation will be made to Gregoire, Seattle Mayor Greg Nickels and King County Executive Ron Sims by the end of the year.
Susan Gilmore: 206-464-2054 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Copyright © 2008 The Seattle Times Company
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