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Tag: Alaskan Way Viaduct

Aug.
18th

The real election season shifts into high gear

This editorial will appear in Friday’s print edition.

The primary ballots haven’t all been tallied yet – thanks to the requirement that they only need to be postmarked by Election Day. But some things are already clear.

Just because it’s more convenient to vote now that the election is all-mail doesn’t mean people are suddenly voting in much higher numbers. As of Thursday afternoon, turnout was a lackluster 27 percent. In the last off-year election (2009), turnout was 19.2 percent.

Turnout this year wasn’t helped by the fact that voters in some communities might not have had much to get

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Aug.
7th

WSDOT’s secrecy undercuts its own tunnel plans

This editorial will appear in Monday’s print edition.

The state Department of Transportation really does want to build a deep-bore tunnel to replace the crumbling Alaskan Way Viaduct, right?

Why in the world, then, are transportation officials giving tunnel opponents campaign fodder by denying their request for public records?

Late last week, the group behind an Aug. 16 referendum on the tunnel went to court, supposedly to force the state to produce the latest version of the tunnel financing plan.

State officials had earlier denied the document request, invoking the “deliberative process” exemption to the public records law because the financing plan is currently being reviewed by the Federal Highway Administration.
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March
30th

Don’t let tunnel critics drive up costs with delays

The Alaskan Way Viaduct along Seattle's waterfront could collapse in a big quake. (Staff file photo)

This editorial will appear in Thursday’s print edition.

If dithering were an art form, Seattle would be Salvador Dali.

That city’s infighting over replacement of the 58-year-old Alaskan Way Viaduct – a state highway – has taken on a surreal quality with attempts to kill the $2 billion deep bore tunnel proposal via an August ballot measure.

Tunnel critics are hoping to overturn the City Council’s 2009 decision to move forward with the project. But it’s unclear whether that vote would even be legal. The state has already signed contracts with a consortium to build the tunnel, which has the support of city business and labor leaders, a City Council majority, King County government, the Port of Seattle and state lawmakers. Current plans are to start excavating the tunnel’s entrance in late summer.

And if not a tunnel, what? Many tunnel critics prefer a new or repaired viaduct. Others – primarily transit advocates, environmentalists and Mayor Mike McGinn – want to tear down the viaduct and fund new and improved surface streets. Read more »

Oct.
21st

One more reason to keep viaduct risk in Seattle

This editorial will appear in Friday’s print edition.

That generous slush fund built into the Alaskan Way Viaduct replacement project that all but guarantees that it won’t run over budget? It just shrank by quite a bit.

State officials announced this week that they are shifting more than half of the money set aside for risk and inflation to help sweeten one of the project’s contracts.

Potential bidders have been wary of taking on the most troublesome portion of the project: The 1.7-mile, 55-foot-diameter deep-bore tunnel that will link Sodo to South Lake Union.

The number of construction teams in the hunt has dropped from four to two this year. Contractors are nervous about what they might find in the watery and abrasive soils beneath Seattle’s downtown, which one expert described earlier this year as worse than those encountered in Boston’s problem-plagued Big Dig.

To keep the remaining two teams interested, the state Department of Transportation is now offering $230 million in concessions. A big chunk of the money – $100 million – will go toward additional bonds and insurance to address the risky nature of boring project.

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July
31st

Seattle viaduct replacement: Is it politically impossible?

This editorial will appear in tomorrow’s print edition.

If Seattle isn’t serious about replacing the quake-damaged Alaskan Way viaduct, how serious should the rest of Washington be about it?

Next year will bring the 10th anniversary of the Nisqually earthquake and the 10th anniversary of the engineering report that the viaduct had to be rebuilt or replaced – lest it collapse in the next big shake.

Despite nearly a decade of facing what some would consider a dire threat, Seattleites seem poised for yet another Big Dither.

Mayor Mike McGinn is doing his utmost to unravel a hard-won agreement between the governor and the city leadership to reroute state Route 99 through a tunnel beneath downtown Seattle.

He makes an easy target with his ecotopian vision of a bottlenecked surface corridor whose engineered congestion would force commuters onto bicycles and buses. But a lot of other greenish Seattleites also think that’s a spectacular idea, and some are threatening a city initiative to stop the tunnel and start the arguments all over again.
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June
2nd

An actual end to dithering on Alaskan Way Viaduct?

This editorial will appear in Thursday’s print edition.

Nearly a decade after the 2001 Nisqually earthquake rattled what little faith traffic engineers had in the Alaskan Way Viaduct’s structural integrity, a few Seattle politicians continue to debate how best to replace the 57-year-old structure.

Gov. Chris Gregoire said Wednesday she’s had enough. She plans to tell the viaduct oversight committee today that time’s up.

“We may have disagreements on some subjects, but we’ve got to move forward,” Gregoire told reporters by phone from Washington, D.C., where she was testifying on, of all things, disaster readiness. “We’ve processed this to death.”

Death by process is a Seattle specialty. But in this case, it’s not just a $4.2 billion transportation project at stake – it’s lives. State highway engineers say there is a 10 percent chance in the next 10 years that parts of the viaduct will collapse in an earthquake.

Those odds are too high for any highway span, much less one that carries 110,000 vehicles a day.

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May
6th

Five highways endangered by one Seattle mayor

This editorial will appear in tomorrow’s print edition.

Every so often you read about a 2- or 3-year-old who crawls behind the wheel while the engine’s running, drives off in Mom’s car and soon winds up in the ditch.

That’s looking like a painfully apt metaphor for Mike McGinn, the new mayor at the wheel of the City of Seattle.

When elected, McGinn – an environmental activist – had neither the experience nor the expertise needed to run a large city. Now it’s becoming clear he also lacks the temperament and political savvy.

That might not be such a big deal to most Washingtonians if the damage could be contained inside the 206 area code. But five major state and federal highways run through or around Seattle, and the mayor is displaying a petulant obstructionist streak that could threaten every one of them.

Since taking office in January, McGinn has been working to undo a settled multi-city agreement for replacing the Evergreen Point floating bridge, which carries state Route 520 across Lake Washington. Time is of the essence in getting that project moving. If the decaying bridge collapsed in a storm or earthquake, as engineers say it might, Interstates 90 and 405 would wind up paralyzed with traffic.

McGinn also opposes the hard-won deal to replace the earthquake-damaged Alaskan Way viaduct with a tunnel.

He has championed a surface boulevard that would cut the route’s existing capacity by perhaps 50,000 cars a day. In his utopian world, Earth-friendly mass transit would make up the difference. In the real world, that stretch of state Route 99 would become hell, and desperate commuters would jam downtown Seattle and Interstate 5.
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April
17th

Grab your wallets: McGinn’s got plans

This editorial will appear in tomorrow’s print edition.

As expected, Seattle’s new mayor, Michael McGinn, is giving non-Seattleites reason to change the PINs on their debit cards.

McGinn, like many environmentalists, doesn’t much like cars. No problem there: Just about anyone might get sick of cars after living in congested Seattle long enough. But McGinn’s Seattlecentric approach to transportation keeps threatening to run up the state’s bill on the planned Alaskan Way tunnel and Highway 520 bridge.

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