Sunday’s O includes an op-ed arguing that Seattle’s Alaskan Way Viaduct replacement project suggests a process to reach consensus on the Columbia River Crossing?
I’m not deeply familiar with this project. Is the deep bore tunnel (and associated projects) a good result? Does the process of building some kind of consensus yield any lessons for us?
9 responses to “Is This the Path for the CRC?”
You’re so invested in making Portland awesome, I suppose its understandable if you have read much on the viaduct. I’d recommend pretty much everything Sightline Institute has written on the subject: http://www.sightline.org/?s=viaduct. From my outside perspective, the AWV seems like Seattle’s own ridiculously expensive highway project.
The deep bore tunnel replacement is a monstrosity. Imagine the crc without the light rail and multiuse path components, and that’s a good approximation. Similar budget, same rosey projections for toll revenue.
There is no consensus on the Alaskan Way Viaduc replacement. Most people don’t really want the tunnel because it’s so expensive. Most people don’t want a rebuild of the elevated structure because it separates the city from Puget Sound. Most people are afraid of what a plain surface street replacement would do to traffic on I-5 (already capacity constrained through downtown by a tunnel). There are no solutions that attracted the support of a majority of voters, but after voting on various options 3 times, most people are just tired of the debate.
And because they are paying for it with tolling, it is projected that it will vastly increase congestion in downtown, as many of the commuters will turn to the surface streets to avoid the tolls. No transit component, and a soviet-esque boulevard on the waterfront. Getting rid of the viaduct is a great move, but this solution is far from optimal.
Wsdot is lead agency of the CRC and thus similarities with the Alaskan Way Viaduct replacement project are apparent: Absolutely the worst engineering imaginable, long lists of rejected designs, controversial opposition, professional and business community covering each others backs, dangerous designs touted as safer, interminably lengthy planning process, studies overtly misdirected to reach predetermined outcomes, unaccountability, refusal to answer public concerns, etc. The tunnel boring machine won’t arrive in Seattle til next year. The bored tunnel itself is NOT under construction as the article would have readers wrongfully believe.
Surface street reconfigurations make traffic much worse on Alaskan Way, adjacent Western Ave, sidestreets & 1st Ave, worse on Mercer Street & Place through Queen Anne, Lake Union and Denny Triangle. Proposed “stabilization of soils” is an unsuitable replacement for a sturdy rebuilt seawall to stabilize the soft fill, watery, crumbly soils beneath vulnerable downtown buildings along a major earthquake fault line. Proposed park designs are completely out of historical character and poor use for district activity.
A 2008 Wsdot design for a waterfront elevated replacement viaduct resembles the current bridge design for the CRC. Both are “top heavy” standing on single support posts. The Seattle elevated was 3-lanes wide atop a golf tee. The CRC design is 6-lanes wide atop the LRT/Ped/Bike “truss box” atop a single support post. Both are structurally unsound. The CRC commission will probably reintroduce the single-level bridge design of 2008 with only a Ped/Bike lane on the westside of the Southbound bridge. Wsdot is ideologically opposed to light rail and mismanaged the planning process to waste money, create controversy and deter public participation.
Wells, you know a lot about this. Do you live in Seattle? How did you find all this out?
As far as applicability to CRC goes, the tunnel illustrated in the Oregonian had two lanes of traffic each way. We probably need at least three.
The proposed deep bore tunnel highway 99 is indeed 2-lanes each direction ‘stacked’ inside. I’ve closely followed Seattle transit and highway projects since 2000. Evidence strongly suggests Wsdot falsely rigged all cut/cover tunnel studies. Their only real intent was to build the replacement viaduct and gambled voters would approve it in 2007.
Of the roughly 9 cut/cover tunnel options, the least disruptive was concealed from public view until 2009 and is now depicted in the FEIS as the typical version, but it’s the only one possible to construct while leaving the AWV in place.
Even so, Wsdot rigged its construction process to be more disruptive than necessary by proposing to build a huge 6-block trench between Spring & Main Streets in the 1st Phase followed by similarly huge trenches to the portals at King and Pike. The least disruptive process would be to start at the south portal and work north in 1 or 2 block segments that return to semi-normal use segment after segment. All excavated debris removed via complete segments to the south instead of lifted to the surface and trucked out.
It’s a ‘stacked’ 6-lane version that would line up perfectly well with the Sodo portal ramp for the boring machine. It forms a dam-like seawall, removes 80′ of unstable soils and stabilizes remaining soils. It’s anchored better, uses half the concrete & recycles more. It has a safer evacuation plan. It’s more stable in an earthquake and doesn’t alter subsurface hydrology as does the bored tunnel. It manages traffic best. It’s closest to the tunnel I favored months after the Nisqually quake in 2001.
After the 2007 vote, Wsdot rigged Surface/Transit alternative studies by incorporating 27-30 stoplights from Aurora to Sodo, but not versions with as few as 9-13 stoplights. All studies of the new 4-lane Alaskan Way, Mercer West, closing Battery Street Tunnel and Broad Street Underpass were rigged to minimize impact of tens of thousand more cars and trucks rerouted from suitably commercial corridors onto surface streets already overwhelmed with traffic. Wsdot and their close counterparts at SDOT are intentionally making downtown Seattle traffic worse. Accidents and fatalities will multiply exponentially. They probably suppose cars will one day be operated by computer perfection to justify the predicted gridlock and yet refuse to improve the downtown transit system layout which is one of the worst in the nation.
For those of you interested, there is a Museum in Pioneer Square regarding this project. The museum has won awards and, in my opinion, regardless of what you think about the tunnel project, is very well done.
Here is a link that discusses the museum:
I’ve visited this so-called museum. Believe me, it’s not a museum. It’s a public relations dog and pony show. Few cities do PR better than Seattle. Just remember that Hard Sell tactics like this PR exhibit showroom are only necessary for an inferior product. In this case, what you see is NOT what you get.