On the Viaduct Replacement: Tom Rasmussen

Like I mentioned earlier, I emailed the members of the city council early last week urging them to take the time to adequately research the surface boulevard and transit option for replace the viaduct. Responses from various member have trickled into my inbox. Today’s insights come from Tom Rasmussen who, according to his bio, enjoys bicycling, music, reading, and gardening. Summary: The state only gave us two choices and I chose the least terrible of the two.


Thank you for writing me about the replacement of the Alaskan Way Viaduct. I want to provide you with a brief update of the Council’s recent action on this issue and the next steps for the project.

Friday, September 22, seven members of the Council voted to support a cut-and-cover tunnel as their preferred replacement alternative. I supported this option following many hours of review and consideration of the options. I am convinced that the tunnel provides us with an extraordinary opportunity to significantly improve our city by connecting downtown with the waterfront and eliminating the blight of the overhead expressway that carries over 100,000 vehicles per day.

Fifty years ago when the Viaduct was built, freeways were seen as the solution to our transportation needs. Today, we know that cities like Seattle require other solutions to meet our transportation needs. I do not want to rebuild an elevated freeway on the west side of downtown Seattle above our waterfront.

The Washington State Legislature authorized the Council to state its preference for a Viaduct replacement or to place an advisory measure on the ballot for Seattle’s voters. The Legislature also asked us to choose between two alternatives; a new elevated structure, or a cut-and-cover tunnel. The state has not authorized funding for any of the other proposed alternatives that the Council has heard about, such as a bridge, or a no-replacement option.

The Council chose not to put an advisory ballot measure before the voters. I agreed with that decision because I was elected to make decisions on difficult, complicated issues. Over the course of my review of this project, I have heard hours of public comment and read many e-mail messages and letters prior to making my decision. The Council decision has been conveyed to the Governor who has the ultimate power to decide which alternative to build. She is expected to make the final decision by the end of the year.

In an accompanying resolution the Council called upon the state to ensure the well-being of our City, including our waterfront businesses during construction and to provide for freight mobility with minimal disruption. Finally, the Council voted to create an important milestone in our project review process at 15-20 percent design completion; if at that point it is determined that the tunnel will not proceed, the City calls upon the state to immediately begin developing a surface-and-transit option that would substantially invest in mass transit, commute trip reduction, and other alternatives to traveling by single-occupancy vehicle. This reinforces the Council’s opposition to building another elevated structure if the tunnel does not work out.

I appreciated receiving your message. I anticipate that there will be more chances for public comments and recommendations in the coming years. Please feel free to contact me at any time if you have any questions or further comments.


Tom Rasmussen
Seattle City Councilmember

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