January 18, 2007

Apparently, there's this viaduct thing downtown. It's big, it's ugly, it's noisy, and it's structurally unsafe. Should there be a moderately significant earthquake, we are told, the whole thing is likely to come down. But, apparently, no one can really agree on what we should do about it. Certain parties (Seattle's mayor included) want to tear it down and replace it with a 6 lane tunnel, a project that has a price take to the tune of several billion dollars. Other parties balk at that sum and insist the viaduct can be repaired or replaced for significantly less money. Now, Washington's governor has gotten into the act (I guess it's something about the viaduct actually being a state highway) and has said that if there isn't a vote on the tunnel vs. rebuild by the end of February, we get a rebuild by default or the state money goes to fix the 520 floating bridge, something also in danger of collapse.

So there's the highly-abbreviated, surely-missing-something-crucial synopsis. And I'm just going to take the moment to go on record as supporting the little-discussed third option: surface streets. I'll also confess that (a) I don't live in West Seattle, (b) I almost never drive on the Viaduct, (c) I don't work or live downtown, and (d) I don't know what I'm talking about. But, regardless if it's a tunnel or a rebuild, they are going to have to shut the viaduct down to do the work, and all the traffic that currently uses it is going to have to go somewhere else. So, I say, tear the dangerous hulking monstrosity down and don't replace it with anything. Use the money currently available for fixing the viaduct to radically improve public transportation and get a functioning lightrail going before 2027. The space formerly occupied by the viaduct can be split in some way between those who want to use that space for "unifying downtown and the waterfront", whatever that means, and those who want more green space.

We folks in Seattle talk the green talk really well. But actually give up our cars? You're kidding, right? I say, it's time to walk the talk. The best way to get people to stop driving is to provide regular, thorough transportation alternatives and simultaneously make driving really, really unpleasant. Oh, and if at the same time, if the area's the major employers would develop significant in-house support for telecommuting, that would be even better.

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