It's time for county and state officials to make the long-anticipated final decision regarding the fate of the Alaskan Way Viaduct and the downtown waterfront. Last Thursday, Governor Gregoire, Mayor Nickels and King County Executive Sims announced two final options for replacing the viaduct: the surface / transit / I-5 solution, and another elevated highway. Between now and the end of the year, the officials will be comparing costs and benefits of each option in order to make their decision.
This is an important moment in Seattle history, as what we choose to do now with the highway, the waterfront and the seawall will affect Seattle and Puget Sound for much of the next century. And there is much more than traffic at stake. To support the surface/transit option and to underline the key reasons for repairing and enhancing the seawall, Worldchanging Executive Editor Alex Steffen sent the following letter to King County Executive Ron Sims:
I hope that you will whole-heartedly support the surface option with transit improvements for the waterfront. I just can't imagine us being irresponsible enough to build an expensive, climate-hostile waterfront-blocking elevated freeway. I hope you'll help make sure that doesn't happen.
On a related note, I hope that you'll bring attention to the seawall and the latest information about sea level rise. The European Geosciences Union states in their recent paper that the sea level may rise by as much as 0.8 to 1.5 meters by the end of the twenty-first century. As you know this is much higher than the last IPCC report, which in turn was higher, as I understand it, than the figures used in the seawall study. And, of course, most of the science seems to indicate that climate change is accelerating more rapidly that we expected.
A 1.5 meter sea level rise would result in storm surges much, much higher than anything we're used to seeing now. If we're going to defend Seattle against rising waters, we need to make sure that our investments in the seawall now will support the kind of waterfront defenses we'll need in the coming decades.
Please consider pushing on state officials to submit a plan for a seawall that serves our needs now but also converts as easily as possible into the foundations for a seawall that can handle our rising oceans.