Viaduct update: Surface/Transit is cheaper

Article Photo

We recently heard from our friends at the People's Waterfront Coalition about some recently approved numbers that will help stakeholders determine the fate of the Alaskan Way Viaduct.

According to evaluations of cost and construction time, the surface/transit option supported by the PWC would cost less and require fewer years to construct than any of the other leading choices.

The surface/transit (S/T) option is a mix of improvements to I-5, SR-99, surface roads and public transit that would together absorb traffic in the absence of the Viaduct. According to project officials, this model, which does not include a waterfront highway at all, has been tested and analyzed and is expected to be able to handle the projected demand for mobility as effectively as all other proposed options, even if we see as much as a 20 percent increase in vehicle trips between now and 2015.

Other groups favor options for replacing the Viaduct with another elevated highway or an underground tunnel. Many of them argue that eliminating the highway altogether will exacerbate congestion.

We at Worldchanging support the Surface/Transit option because we feel it's the best big-picture solution to fixing several problems at once. Removing the Viaduct will open up the possibility of a more vibrant and attractive waterfront. Strengthening existing surface roads will encourage more efficient use of existing infrastructure. Improving public transit and supporting non-vehicular transportation is good for everyone. And eliminating the highway altogether -- which has been shown in other cities to actually reduce congestion -- prepares us for the less car-centric future that we need to support.

Here's a list comparing the estimated costs of various options, sent to us by PWC director Cary Moon:

SR-99 portion + Fixes to streets, transit, I-5

Surface/Transit Options:
S/T A: $800 million + ($400 million to $1.3 billion)
S/T B: $800 million + ($400 million to $1.8 billion)
S/T C $900 million + ($400 million to $1.8 billion)

Elevated Options:
Elevated D: $1.6 billion + ($400 million to $1.3 billion)
Elevated E: $2.2 billion + ($400 million to $1.3 billion)

Tunnel options:
Bored F: $3.5 billion + ($400 million to $1.8 billion)
Cut Cover G $2.7 billion + ($400 million to $1.3 billion)
Trench H $1.9 billion + ($400 million to $1.3 billion)

The Viaduct team will now focus on narrowing down this list and zeroing in on more accurate cost estimates for each.

"If all the options serve mobility in the future, then achieving the win-win-win of a great highway-free civic waterfront, mobility and access for Seattle, and increased attractiveness of downtown as a place to work, live, shop and play is completely within our reach," says Moon. "We don’t need a waterfront highway. Given the clarion call to reorganize our prosperity around lower fossil fuel consumption, we'll be better off without it in some profound ways."

Photo credit: WSDOT


Please, someone forward this to Frank Chopp. He still wants to build a freeway mall as a replacement for the Alaskan Way Viaduct. And for some reason, he thinks that the city can afford it.

Posted by: Jen Power on December 7, 2008 2:21 AM

I think this is the obvious solution to the problem but the public needs to know more about it so they can support it. Please add more details like how public transit would work down there and what improvements to the streets would take place. What can we do to make sure this happens?

Posted by: Brian Hilliard on January 3, 2010 2:01 PM

Post A Comment

Please note that, while disagreement is fine, insults and abuse are not, and will result in the comment being deleted and a likely ban from commenting.

Yes No