Gregoire’s Viaduct Decision: No Decision

AW_Viaduct.jpgGovernor Gregoire today made her long awaited decision about the Alaskan Way Viaduct replacement – which turns out to be no decision at all. She’s passing the buck to Seattle residents by calling for a Seattle-only vote. From the Times:

“We are at a political stalemate and must find a path forward to replace the viaduct,” Gregoire said in a statement. “I don’t believe that, without a vote, either option will move forward. We need to hear directly from the people for whom this decision has the most impact.”

The vote, which is to take place by April, will force Seattle ultimately choose their viaduct fate… well, sort of. The vote will only include two options, the $2.8 billion replacement option and the $4.6 tunnel option. The state has committed to fully funding the replacement option. But should Seattle choose the tunnel option, the city and its residents will be legally responsible to commit $1.8 billion to the project. A third option, the $1.3 billion transit/surface boulevard option advocated by the People’s Waterfront Coalition will apparently not be on the ballot.

Some observations:

  • Gregoire is smart. Cowardly, but smart. By punting the decision to Seattle voters, she becomes absolved of any responsibility in the decision. If we choose the tunnel, the east Washington voters can’t hold her responsible. If we choose a rebuild, it’s our own fault for having another ugly highway on the waterfront. She’s safe and re-electable.
  • The only two options on the ballot are those with the least amount of vision. Both are short-sighted in that they only focus on moving cars instead of moving people. The transit/surface boulevard is purposefully being omitted despite the fact that is now the city’s official backup plan. It is the only plan that is financially feasible, encourages transit, and removes the highway from the waterfront.
  • Common sense, or lack thereof, by our leaders. Why not implement a phased strategy as Cary Moon advocates?
    1. Begin traffic mitigation (essentially the same thing as the Transit + Streets projects) immediately.
    2. After the mitigation is in place, close the viaduct, and watch how well traffic adapts and redistributes for one year.
    3. Armed with empirical evidence — instead of inaccurate computer models – then decide how much additional car capacity is needed, if any.

But it looks like the stage is set. Rebuild or Tunnel? Sadly, between the two, I’d have to choose the tunnel. One hundred more years of highway waterfront? No thanks. But I’m anxious to hear how Cary responds to this news.

2 Comments so far

  1. eldan (unregistered) on December 15th, 2006 @ 4:27 pm

    The thing is, Gregoire has made a decision on the sly: she’s chosen not to allow the state to fund the tunnel. As such, it’s at least better than simply vetoing the tunnel – her declaration amounts to telling Seattle “you can have the tunnel if you’re willing to find the extra money it will cost”, which is fair enough considering that it’s only this city that will benefit from having a tunnel instead of a viaduct.

    That said, you’re absolutely right about the lack of vision, and actually the other decision Gregoire’s taken is the nasty one: she’s insisted on framing this as all about cars that we assume will always be there, just a day after trying to score greenie points with the Puget Sound restoration initiative.


  2. jason (unregistered) on December 15th, 2006 @ 6:37 pm

    your favorite option is to completely screw up traffic, with no plan at all, and then figure things out later?! that’s actually more cowardly and less of a vision than just provided by the governor. you know full well that trying to build in capacity after-the-fact is a non-starter in this city. the argument now is based around people pretending that fixing/replacing the viaduct is the same as planning an entirely new highway where none existed before.

    i agree that what she’s done is smart politically but screws us over. the reason cary moon’s plan isn’t being considered is that isn’t a plan at all. it’s a bunch of hopes and dreams without any concrete reality for how it will affect the city the following week, much less 50 years later. “encourage transit”? provide an actual (you know, real and feasible) mass transit plan if you want to be taken seriously. ‘moving people’ is a nice slogan and completely lacking in specifics. at least the computer models provide something other than pure speculation.



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