As a critic of the Highway 99 tunnel, but one who thinks we’re probably stuck with it, I’m still hoping that Bertha gets itself* up and running again. I really do hope that whatever solution to the latest problem turns out to be the last fix. I’d also like to be more sure that Seattle won’t be on the hook for any cost overruns.**
Still, with this new revelation that the Viaduct is sinking, and with Bertha stuck for who knows how long, I say don’t wait on the tunnel to take it down. It’s — as ever — disconnecting the city from the waterfront. The main goal of zooming cars at unsafe speeds through a city their occupants hate has already diminished considerably during construction, without many of the traffic problems we were promised.
Yet, on the ground in the waterfront, it’s still not pedestrian or bike friendly. The bike/walking path below the Viaduct south of Yesler gets used by cars as a turning lane, and various parts of the waterfront sidewalk being blocked off at random push pedestrians into the road. These are normal side effects of construction, but they don’t have to be made worse by the delays to the tunnel.
If traffic is bad, then either mitigate it with more transit and better maintenance of surface streets or, I don’t know, get Bertha fixed. In the mean time, the people who use the waterfront on a regular basis don’t need to be in limbo.
* Also, am I the only person who refuses to call a piece of drilling machinery “her”? I don’t find it fun or whimsical, but I’m worried that that just makes me anti-fun and whimsey. Still, sticking with that.
** I will admit that so far I’ve been pleasantly surprised that it’s on the contractor.