Frank Chopp likes the “Roads and Transit” option for viaduct replacement

As a Belltown resident, I’ve got a great view of the Alaskan Way Viaduct. I should, because the thing is fifty feet outside my window! Fifty feet! When I wake up every morning, I look out my window at the rush hour traffic whizzing by on the Eisenhower-era structure. The Viaduct is not some political abstraction for me.

There’s a debate about how to replace the Viaduct. Some folks want a tunnel, or a rebuild, or what is being called the “roads and transit” option. Lots of people are against the tunnel option, but not all of those folks are for another viaduct. A new viaduct will be at least thirty percent wider than the current viaduct, thanks to modern DOT guidelines. Maybe it made sense in the 1950’s to build freeways through the city’s core, but it sure seems like a bad idea these days.

Do we need to replace the car capacity? Not necessarily. Plenty of car trips made on the viaduct could be made on arterial streets. We could mitigate the West Seattle to Downtown and Ballard to Downtown routes. Most Viaduct users make local trips. Is it cost effective to spend billions on a mile of roadway? It may not matter what a Seattle guy like me thinks, as these big decisions are made in Olympia. If only Seattle had an ace up their sleeve, a power broker with influence to spare, someone to push for a progressive solution. Someone like…

Frank Chopp!

He’s the ‘big dog’ of the Democrats, and he’s against a tunnel. He’s corralled a bunch of Democrats into signing a letter stating the tunnel option is a bad idea. Big shots like Frank can stop things, but what plan would Chopp actually go for?

Here’s a snippet of The Stranger’s Josh Feit’s interview with Rep. Frank Chopp.

Then Chopp surprised me again: “That leaves two alternatives that I’m very open to.” He started sketching again, drawing two options he felt hadn’t been given a fair hearing. “One is the surface transit option,” he said. “I’m okay with this if it’ll work.”

By “work” I asked him if that meant “maintain capacity”… and he said simply: “I don’t know if the surface transit option is good or bad, but I’m open about it. If that’s what we end up with, I’m happy.”

Others aren’t so happy. Some are attacking the People’s Waterfront Coalition, the folks behind the plan, saying the idea is non-starter. Then again, lots of people thought the R. H. Thompson Expressway was absolutely necessary for Seattle’s economic health. You can see what happened to that proposed freeway when you drive through the Arboretum. (Look for the freeway ramps that just… end.) The Washington State Department of Transportation is a highway building bureaucracy. That’s their job. Where they see traffic problems, they see highway solutions.

As the tunnel option seems unaffordable, and the elevated option unpalatable, a truly progressive solution to the Viaduct problem is at hand. Instead of spending millions studying the same old auto-centric ideas, I hope the WA-DOT can think about moving people, not just cars. That would make this Belltown resident sleep more soundly.


  1. 1


    Yet another case of a politician not being for anything, just against something. While I don’t expect Seattle to do anything but screw itself over on this, I’m in favor of the tunnel. As someone who enjoys the waterfront even though I don’t live in Seattle, I am willing to help somehow pay for part of the cost of beautifying the city. If you’d like to see what things could look like take a look at what I wrote on this last month, in particular the video showing what things would look like with a tunnel.

  2. 2

    Will spews:

    I hear ya, Dan. As a former tunnel supporter, the only real downside of the tunnel plan is the price tag. My read is that few folks would pay more to beautify Seattle. Heck, I don’t know, maybe Nickels is right. We’ll see!

  3. 3

    Manof Truth spews:

    The idea behind replacing the current structure is that the space will be opened up for some sort of public space use.

    WRONG !

    What will happen when the viaduct goes away is that Mayor Nickle & Dime along with his merry band of developers will build wall to wall condos blocking public use all under the banner of clearing up an eyesore.

    You think South Lake Union was an aberration ?

    YOU ARE DELUDED and need to stop with the bad drugs that are destroying your mind.

    Say NO to the wall of condos plan.

  4. 4


    You know, I have hard time buying the surface “roads & transit” alternative as being feasible. I’m acquainted with someone who worked on the EIS; he’s convinced the surface street alternative would result in a cluster fuck.

    I’m convinced that the city needs a limited-access highway solution. The viaduct has approx. 110k veh/day. The only way a roads & transit plan will work is if we can reduce vehicle demand for a through downtown route. There are freight considerations as well as the large amount of demand that falls outside the peak hour consideration of the link provided. I don’t see the transit improvements reducing this demand, especially considering future traffic growth.

    I’m certainly not a pave-and-play type. The future for this country and this region is in the development of more sustainable transit modes of transport. But that doesn’t mean roads are always the wrong choice.

  5. 5


    Oops, I forgot to mention that I have no idea which of the two favored alternatives I support. I just know I support one of them (or any other that provides a limit access, divided highway that is sufficient to meet current and reasonably projected future demand).

  6. 6

    proud to be an Ass spews:

    Anti-taxers will continue to throw sand in the gears of this, trotting out their experts claiming all we need is some tie-wire and duct tape. When the damned thimg falls down they will write sad, ironic editorials blaming Seattle’s “tiresome process” yet again.

    Manof–the idea is to make the developers scream in agony to build their condo heaven. Use the money to help pay for the tunnel.

  7. 7


    Probably the most interesting (and damning) part of the whole Viaduct question is our region’s inability to be able to make a decision. The so-called “emergency” started with the Nisaqually ‘quake. Now, almost SIX years later we don’t even have a plan much less are under construction. Have we mitigated any of the supposed dangers from a weakened Viaduct by lowering speed limits or restricting heavy trucks? No.

    There is no crisis and there will be no tunnel or rebuild or “surface/transit” option. Mr. Chopp may talk nice about the latter but he is if nothing else very sensitive to the voters. And when/if the “surface/transit” option is considered seriously, you will see West Seattle and Ballard emerge to stop the fantasy.

    No, folks, we’ll end up with where we should have started: Repairing the thing.

  8. 8

    Bobby spews:

    Let me see if I have this right, Goldy….. You bought, and live in, a condo that overlooks the viaduct, and are now complaining about the view of the traffic?
    People who live next to hiways, Sea-Tac, S.I.R. (or whatever they are calling it these days), or dairy farms should realize that the reason they got a good price when they bought the place is BECAUSE they are next to the aforementioned location!

  9. 9

    Sandeep Kaushik spews:

    Your post is timely — check out the full page ads in today’s Times and P-I placed by Not Another Elevated Viaduct, an anti-rebuild alliance of the city’s movers and shakers from the political, business, civic and environmental worlds. It is signed by Slade Gorton as well as my boss, Ron Sims, by Mayor Nickels and six councilmembers, by bigwigs in the Seattle Chamber and enviros-tranit advocates like Aaron Ostrom and Jessyn Schor. The ads are an open letter to the governor, calling on her to reject the rebuild while (implicitly) leaving open the final resolution of the Viaduct replacement for a future date when we have a beter sense of whether the mayor’s tunnel financing plan is panning out.

    It is a politically astute move. There are a huge number of people in Seattle that don’t have a firm opinion about what the ultimate solution for the Viaduct ought to be, aside from the fact that they know the rebuild is a terrible idea. For too long now the Viaduct debate has been framed as a battle between establishment road warriors with tunnel vision, represented by the mayor, pitted against Seattle’s civic improvement/urban planning/green living populist left. All that has succeeded in doing is empower retrograde pro-rebuild forces that do not have Seattle’s best interests at heart. In fact, pro-tunnel and pro-surface advocates share far more in common than either do with the rebuild forces, led by anti-Seattle legislators in Olympia in an unseemly alliance with the anti-Seattle Times editorial page which has been beating the war drums for the pro-rebuild, anti-tunnel crusade.

    Anytime the Times starts ranting about what’s best for Seattle, I start to worry.

    To move forward in a positive way, we need Governor Gregoire to kill the rebuild, and to push the legislature to allow us to decide locally about whether to put the state’s $2 billion contribution towards a tunnel or surface-transit option. Then as we begin the planning process for bringing the current structure down, we have some time — say, 18 months — to figure out which of the two we choose; by then we should have a better idea about whether the tunnel is affordable or not.

  10. 10

    Greg spews:

    As a long-time (62 years) Seattle resident, I LIKE the viaduct. Next time you have a friend fly into SeaTac, drive them in on the viaduct. It is arguably the most dramatic and scenic entry into any city, anywhere, period. Moreover, it’s efficient.

    Recently I drove into Seattle from the north on Aurora, our other main, north-south highway. It was one of the first, dark rainy evenings. Traffic was jammed up very much as it will be while the viaduct is closed for refurbishing or replacement or much longer for a tunnel. When the viaduct is closed, plan on adding one full hour to your commute to SeaTac. It’s what any rational person might expect if you add between 30% and 50% to an already overloaded I-5.

    As a previous commenter stated, those who are complaining either bought into downtown condos with an existing neighborhood or are planning large profits from developments which will appreciate substantially as a result of improvements made for them by the general tax base of the entire city.

    We had a good and equitable solution. It was called the monorail. It was sandbagged by a mayor acting as agent for developers and a lethargic city council and an unskilled board manager. Now we’re supposed to want what – a tunnel?

  11. 11


    Hey – dumbass @8, please note that Goldy didn’t write this post (if you bothered to read the by-line, you would’ve known that).

    Frankly, I’m for anything that isn’t a rebuild – if we can find the funds for a tunnel – fine, if we can’t – then we should suck it up and do the Cary Moon thing. Surface+Transit isn’t as bad as everyone thinks it will be – we’re smart people, we’ll adapt our travel. Whatever we build will be at capacity within a decade anyways – why not make it more palatable for people to take transit over their single-occupancy vehicle?

  12. 13

    John Barelli spews:

    Being one of those happy folks over in Gig Harbor that was told (by the folks up in King County) that we need a new bridge, and that the new bridge should be paid for with tolls, I’m wondering why nobody is proposing paying for the new tunnel with a toll?

    I also note that there was a proposal for an Elliott Bay bridge, but it was knocked off the table as quickly as possible. For some reason, it was given a price tag of five times what a similar bridge cost in Greece, declared to be too expensive, and we were back to a tunnel.

    Could it possibly be that the Seattle city government is trying to tap transportation dollars to fix their seawall?

    Still, I’d be in favor of either a tunnel or a bridge, paid for with tolls. Heck, if you’d put it to a vote out here in Pierce and Kitsap counties, I’m sure it would pass overwhelmingly!

  13. 14

    Goldy spews:

    Greg @10,

    An even more spectacular entry into Seattle would be to land a helicopter on the top of the Space Needle. But it wouldn’t be a very viable transportation solution.

    Sorry to be so snide, but I find the view from the car argument the least persuasive argument in favor of a rebuild.

    Here’s my take. If we didn’t have a crumbling, noisy hunk of concrete cutting across our waterfront today, nobody in their right mind would ever propose building one. It would be a non-starter. (And a real non-starter, not like the supposed non-starter of a surface street solution, which has been picking up support at a surprising pace.)

    We have a once in a lifetime opportunity to reimagine our city. Let’s take the time to do it right.

  14. 15

    asdf spews:

    John @ 13,

    Can’t use tolls, b/c there are too many alternative routes. One of the Viaduct studies concluded that even a very modest toll ($1, maybe?) would have driven a large percentage of traffic to other routes, killing the toll revenue.

    And I’m from Bainbridge, so I hear you on the Narrows bridge issue. WSF is shooting for recovering 85% of its costs from farebox revenue, up from 60-65% a few years ago. Is the new 520 bridge going to be paid 85% by people who live in Redmond? No.

  15. 16

    Roger Rabbit spews:

    You take a nice stab at it, Will, but I see two problems with your analysis.

    One, you’re using a snapshot of today’s traffic volume — without taking into account that whatever replaces the Viaduct will have to serve Seattle’s transportation needs for 50 to 75 years, and Seattle’s population and traffic likely will grow tremendously over that time span.

    Two, moving 105,000 cars a day off a limited access state highway onto downtown surface streets will make an already dangerous and unpleasant situation for downtown pedestrians utterly intolerable. How many pedestrian injuries and deaths are we willing to accept for improved views? What makes you think impatient drivers who already disregard traffic signals and don’t yield to pedestrians, will become more consideration when downtown streets are even more crowded and travel times are even longer?

    It won’t work. This is one of those flying machines that looks better on paper than it does on top of the cliff.

  16. 18

    Particle Man spews:

    Manof Truth at #3 has it right. A tunnel will only result in a wall of new condo’s that will be much taller than the viaduct and effectivly wall off the view for everyone below third ave.
    The re build, retrofit and surface roadway are all being looked at, as is the “wall of condos over a tunnel option”.
    In the end, the state needs to help the city get off the dime prior to a catastrophy and should push for a roadway that meets the long term neads of not just the fine few like Will who live right along the route.

  17. 19

    Daddy Love spews:

    3 and 18

    I like it you think that we should reject a proposed replacement plan because of what you’re sure will happen. The “view” is already “walled off” for anyone unfortunate enough to be between intersections on any North-South street in the downtown area. The view from the East-West streets will not be affected materially by potential future development.

    Oh, and when I am in the city I get great views of Lake Union from any number of places in the city, notwithstanding any South LU development. We live in a hilly town. Get hip to that.

    However, what shape that development takes can be managed by today’s actions. The “wall of condos” is far from the foregone conclusion you summarily declare it to be.

    In short, I think your prediction is flat wrong.

  18. 20

    ted bessell spews:

    In addition to the Venetian Gondola Canal to Alki solution, I am also increasingly interested in the large “Plastic Hamster Tunnel under the Sound” solution.

    In addition to this being a real shot in the arm to local plastics fabricators, the translucent, yellowish color of the giant hamster tunnel would create what the young folks call a really “trippy” car trip.

  19. 21


    Bobby @ 8

    I’m Will, not Goldy, and I’m a renter. I don’t advocate this to get a better view. It’s actually sorta neat to look out my window at folks stuck in traffic.

    Roger Rabbit @ 16

    The 100,000 or so car trips would not all be transfered to surface streets. A good portion of those trips would just… dissapear. It’s happened in every city which has torn down freeways. It’s never as bad as some folks say it’s going to be. Besides, building freeways as a response to growth isn’t progressive! As for ped safety, there’s NO excuse for drivers not yielding the right of way to peds, and I won’t make excuses for them.

    to the anti-capitalists @ throughout:

    If they do the PWC’s plan, you have to face facts. SOme folks are going to build condos downtown. Then people will move downtown. People will opens restaraunts, bars, nightclubs… None of this can happen without developers. If Seattle’s downtown waterfront is revitalized by this plan, that’s good for ALL of us, not just developers. Don’t ya’ll have a favorite bar? It was built by a developer!!!

  20. 22

    whl spews:

    I would like to offer a view of the viaduct situation that may not be available from very many other observors. I don’t live in Seattle, but did in the 1970s. At several times over the years I have driven very large trucks into, around & out of the metro area–particularly containers in & out of the terminals from 2000-05, & large commercial vehicles (LCV) into & through the city at other times over the past 40 years.

    The Alaskan Way Viaduct is, was & always will be a ludicrous nightmare. It is also ugly, noisy, puts pollutants up in the breezes to waft out over the area & stinks. There are no restrictions on LCVs and, trust me, there definitely should be.

    A tunnel (& all its variants) looks like the 2nd or 3rd dumbest idea ever proposed since Boston MA screwed itself into the “Big Dig.”

    Let’s change gears, punningly, & look elsewhere. I-5 is a stupid, stunningly failed North-South corridor with totally useless access ramps to ridiculous, unworkable feeder streets. At the Seneca ramp, I-5 is essentially a one-lane trail through town. When I am operating an LCV in the right lane, trying to power up over 100,000 pounds (with double dump trucks, concrete mixers, fuel tankers, etc., fore & aft) at speeds of zero to 15 or 20 mph, only the left lane is available to standard vehicle traffic. There is no way for heavy, long haul trucks to avoid this incredible, endless mess & the negative impact is stunning.

    One more gear change, please: take a look at the West Seattle Freeway–on second thought . . . let’s not!

    It seems to me that Seattle, King County & Washington State have been faced with an ultimatum by an earthquake reality & all of these politicians & bureaucrats focus on, buy into & promote a myopic, short-term isolated “fix,” when they have an obvious chance to generate a comprehensive transportation plan that could vitalize (not “re-” vitalize) the Puget Sound commuter, commercial, tourist & safety corridors for the next 100 years.

    It ain’t rocket science–& even it it were, then get some space cadets assigned to the project & figure out some genuine long-term solutions. This current high-placed whining & hand-wringing is very nearly the most ridiculous tripe I’ve ever seen (except BushInc makes this look penny-ante). I am constantly amazed at the incredibly foolish politicians who voters will put in charge of their “stuff.”

    Finally, I am in that group of anarchistic negativists who prefers razing the viaduct & letting the rats find their own alternative raceways to success. Tear it down, haul it away & ho-hum, “I guess Seattle traffic’s a bitch.”

  21. 23



    Can you cite specific examples of major arterial freeways, servicing a center core, being torn down that made demand disappear?

    Seriously, I’m curious and do find it in the realm of the possible since the converse is certainly true.

    If you build large highway capacity (with no tolling), it doesn’t take long for that capacity to be met. You could replace SR-520 bridge with a 16-lane solution and capacity will be met with a daily volume far ballooning anything the current bridge services. It would only take a few years if not months.

  22. 24

    FrankS spews:

    Quite often hwy 99 is the only way to get from North to South around the parking lot that is I-5 through downtown. A local transit solution won’t solve that. Not that we will get an actual transit solution. The busses suck and the one option that that would have worked was tortured to death by a bunch of rich fucks who did not think that they had enough to personally gain from it.

  23. 25

    eponymous coward spews:

    Can you cite specific examples of major arterial freeways, servicing a center core, being torn down that made demand disappear?

    The Embarcadero in SF, for one. Torn down because of the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake (another parallel for the Alaskan Way viaduct).

    Of course, Seattle =! SF, but there are some parallels- lots of bridge-over-water chokepoints that make engineering horribly expensive, for instance. One thing SF does NOT have is a freeway running through downtown (CA Hwy 1 and US 101 become surface streets, and I-80 and 280 end in SF). The fact that I-5 was designed to drop people into downtown Seattle as opposed to route people through it has some problems (land acquisition prices are obscene and expansion is nearly impossible, and I-5 only has two lanes going through + collector/distributor capacity, which isn’t enough and turns downtown into a huge-ass bottleneck).

    Of course, SF also has functioning light AND heavy rail alternatives (BART, Muni, Caltrain)- far more so than Seattle does at this point.

    Of course, the logical counter to “If we eliminate freeway capacity we can eliminate trips” is “OK, so if we eliminate ALL freeway capacity, do we eliminate ALL traffic jams”? At some point, obviously, there’s diminishing returns.

  24. 26

    jason spews:

    anon@23, he can’t provide examples; not real ones, anyway. the cities most cited are san francisco, portland, and milwaukee (with seoul being added recently). none of those cities are comparable, mostly because the focus of the highways they torn down was completely different & they also already had viable mass-transit available.

    the downtown streets are not made to handle that much volume. the surface/transit option (show me actual mass transit happening in this city & i might start to believe in the fairy tales) won’t be able to handle the volume of traffic 50 years from now. it’s shortsighted in the most extreme way possible.

    oh, and what is the magical plan to mitigate the traffic from west seattle? the sad truth is that there isn’t any. they don’t care. as long as the condescending elitists get people to stop driving (or get those drivers stuck in even worse traffic), then it’s mission accomplished.

  25. 27

    ivan spews:

    Goldy @ 14:

    Thanls for the tip. Right now I am “reimagining” myself driving through Seattle on a new improved Viaduct.

    I’ll wave to you and Belltowner and Sandeep. Promise.

  26. 28


    @ 23

    There are lots of situations in the US and abroad. Milwaukee is a big one, so is SF. A city in South Korea just tore down a freeway not to long ago. Was there chaos, as was predicted? No. I’ll find the links later for you.

    @ 24

    Franks, don’t be a dumb ass. I’m talking about the VIADUCT. That’s about 2 miles. The rest of 99 will be the same.

    jason @ 26

    Folks like you always say “Seattle is so different, nothing that works everywhere else could work here.” Seattle is like most places I’ve ever been, and, here’s a newsflash, some places are even better than Seattle!!

  27. 29



    I don’t understand why Bavasi doesn’t try to land Zito as he’s teh best!!!1. (just kidding)

    Thank you for providing an example; but you’re right SF isn’t Seattle. In terms of cost, where is the equilibrium point between transit improvements and road options?

    I understand that when taken to extremes, trip count doesn’t go to zero when highway capacity is zero (when alternative routes exist). I’m just not sure where the minima occurs on the curve and have hard time believing (although I can be persuaded) that something short of a limited-access highway will suffice.

    I’m not unconvinced transit improvements along with a 4-lane limited-access surface route isn’t viable. Is that even an option?

  28. 30

    Roger Rabbit spews:

    21 I don’t believe you when you claim the 100,000 trips using the Viaduct today will be less 20 years from now.

  29. 31


    @ 30

    Roger, you don’t build freeway capacity to catch up with future demand. You’ll never win, and you’ll always be building freeways. Give people better options. Give them high speed transit options. I don’t want Seattle to look like LA (lots of freeways, everyone’s stuck all the time).

  30. 32

    Roger Rabbit spews:

    Sure you can get people to drive less by reducing capacity. But at what cost? It means people won’t work in jobs that are too hard to get to; won’t attend events that are too hard to get to; won’t shop in stores that are too hard to get to; won’t visit friends that are too hard to get to. How would making transportation an even bigger hassle than it already is improve the quality of life in this city?

  31. 33

    Roger Rabbit spews:

    31 Mass transit is part of the mix, but certain things are needed for mass transit to work.

    1. Adequate parking at point of trip origination.
    2. Routes going within easy walking distance of trip destination.
    3. Frequent service.

    A big part of the problem with public transit in Seattle is that our existing public transportation is designed on the spoke-and-wheel principle. Buses are okay for going to downtown, but they’re hopeless for going from Lake City to Ballard, or Greenwood to Kent, or Kirkland to Rainier Valley. Who wants to make three transfers, and wait 45 minutes for a bus at each transfer point? Doesn’t work.

    There are other problems with public transit, too. Like unruly passengers, inadequate (or no) security, long travel times occasioned by frequent stops to embark and disembark passengers, etc. Even on the straight-shot, no-transfer routes from the ‘burbs to downtown, it takes an hour to get downtown simply because there are so many bus stops between you and your destination.

    Now for me, as a rabbit, it’s not so much a problem because I just hop where I want to go, and I’m not on a schedule. If it takes me three weeks to get from Green Lake Park to visit my cousin Pinkears in Marymoor Park, it’s no big deal, as long as there’s gardens (or at least grass) to eat along the way. But if you have to commute from, say, Federal Way to downtown Seattle, then your boss sends you on, say, sales calls all over the city — well, public transit doesn’t work for that, and never will. If you can’t get to your customers by car, you can’t get to them at all, and you either find another job or another city to live in.

  32. 34

    Roger Rabbit spews:

    And what about tradesmen who have to go to job sites, and take tools and materials with them? What about delivery trucks? What about shoppers with a large number of packages, and travelers with heavy suitcases? The roads aren’t used only by car commuters, you know.

  33. 35

    Roger Rabbit spews:

    Can you imagine some guy boarding a bus or light-rail car with a welding outfit and acetylene tank?

  34. 37

    TJ spews:

    The Embarcadero is SF is not comparable, nor is the freeway that was torn down in Milwaukee. Both were essentially extended on/off ramps for a freeway that remains.
    And if you want to cite Milwaukee, look at the loss of business and population that occurred in that city after that route was removed. Milwaukee didn’t experience any horrible effects becuase the city lost a large part of their population, not because people learned to cope.
    What about Kobe, Japan? They had an elevated highway that fell in an earthquake, and they rebuilt it.
    The truth is, a larger share than not of the traffic on the Alaskan Way Viaduct is through traffic – that is, traffic neither originating in nor destined for downtown. It’s about 60% of the 100k trips. Add 60k vehicles to downtown traffic, and the view from those offices and expensive condo windows won’t be of an ugly viaduct, but a downtown core in constant gridlock. Not all north-south streets in Downtown even get through the city (I believe only two could actually perform the task, according to DOT officials that have reviewed the city’s layout of streets).
    Without any serious public tranport in this city (meaning something that doesn’t rely on streets), this is the future the surface option will lead become.

  35. 38

    drool spews:

    Brought to you by the same retards that put the constriction on I-5 with the convention center.

  36. 39


    Way back at #10, Greg calls the viaduct

    arguably the most dramatic and scenic entry into any city, anywhere, period

    I beg to differ.

    Driving toward Pittsburgh from the southwest on I-279, one winds past wooded hills, through small towns and villages, with buildings tucked into narrow hollers. Eventually, the road zigs and zags to the entrance of the Fort Pitt Tunnel. The tunnel is fairly short and quite claustrophobic.

    Which makes the view seen on emerging from the tunnel onto the Fort Pitt Bridge all the more remarkable. With absolutely no foreknowledge, one comes upon the Pittsburgh skyline, the Golden Triangle, the confluence of the Monongahela and Allegheny to form the Ohio, the two major sports stadia, numerous bridges … all seen at once.

    Here’s a more artistic photo, showing the Fort Pitt Bridge on the right side. PNC Park and Heinz Field are on the far bank of the Ohio River, just left of the view in this photo.

    This “grand entrance” to Pittsburgh was aptly described by Brendan Gill in The New Yorker (January 9, 1989, emphasis added):

    If Pittsburgh were situated somewhere in the heart of Europe, tourists would eagerly journey hundreds of miles out of their way to visit it. Its setting is spectacular: between high bluffs, where the Monongahela River and the Allegheny River meet to form the Ohio. Driving in from the airport, one gains a first, startling glimpse of the city at the end of a highway tunnel through Mt. Washington: a conventionally pretty rural landscape suddenly gives way to the whole sweep of the city, with its bridges and skyscrapers. At the apex of what Pittsburghers have always called their Golden Triangle – an area of two hundred and fifty-odd acres of level bottomland that makes up the city’s traditional downtown – are a grassy park and a fountain, which mark the site of the eighteenth century Fort Pitt.

    and by New York Times architecture critic Paul Goldberger (January 3, 1988):

    This is the only city in America with an entrance. You slide and slither into most downtowns, passing through gradual layers of ever-more-intensely built-up sprawl, and you do not so much enter the center as realize after you are there that it is all around you. Not Pittsburgh.

  37. 40

    uptown spews:

    Just to be clear – the section of the Viaduct we are talking about is from King St to about the beginning of Pike Place Market’s parking, less than one mile. Eveything south would still be above ground and probably raised, and the north end would be above ground (partially capped?) to meet the existing tunnel (how come no one complains about driving in that tunnel?)

    What I would like to see are some actual options; why are we again trying to fit all the various needs into one solution? How come we are being forced fed two very expensive and limited solutions to a complex traffic issue? How about using the money to come with a versatile solution?

    I would like to see –
    Prices of other tunnel options: smaller; shorter; located under the current Viaduct fooprint to take advantage of the better soil conditions.
    Prices for a limited access surface street; either in combo with one elevated deck for two lanes, two lanes in a tunnel, or by itself.

    Is that too much to ask??

  38. 41


    Turns out the 100,000 cars number is bullshit:

    The 110,000 figure is based on traffic models and hasn’t changed since at least 2002, when newspapers first began reporting the figure. A look at WSDOT’s actual traffic counts, as measured by a computerized sensor on the roadway itself, however, shows “annual average daily traffic” of just 74,700 vehicles—just 68 percent of the number tunnel boosters like to use. In general, actual traffic counts are far more reliable than computerized models in estimating traffic flow.

  39. 42

    FrankS spews:

    Will (O28)

    Dumbass? Um without the center section you have two halves of a highway that have surface streets to connect them. To me that does not sound like much of an improvement over the I-5 parking lot. In fact it sounds just asenine. Sorry I am such a dumbass, maybe the best answer would be to redirect a new viaduct around your apartment. After all now that you live there, everbody else needs to adjust to you.

  40. 43

    harry tuttle spews:

    TJ has it right @37, about San Francisco, at least.

    An extended off/on ramp is exactly what the Embarcadero was, having been shit-canned by the voters in the late fifties, the structure was never completed. If it had been, you could have gone to and from the Bay to the Golden Gate bridges without traveling on a SF street.

    By the time Loma Prieta happened, taking a ride from the Bay Bridge to Broadway was no longer the titillatingly attractive destination it had been in the sixties, with Carol Doda and all the strip clubs. As for commuter traffic, the Washington Street off and Sansome Street on ramps weren’t missed because parking had become so expensive in the the thirty years between cessation of construction and destruction that most folks were getting off at Mission and Fremont streets to park, anyway.

    The Viaduct actually takes traffic around the city and provides people in West Seattle, Ballard and the North side with a reasonable way to and fro. We’re going to scream like hell if the Viaduct isn’t replaced, and we have more voters than Belltown.

  41. 44

    Will spews:

    FrankS @ 42

    I’m sorry, I’m an asshole sometimes. While the viaduct is the CENTER section, loads and loads of people take 99 south and get off at Broad St, thus never driving on the span itself. For them it’s irrelevant how it’s replaced.

    Harry # 43

    The viaduct does not take people around Downtown so much as it takes them TO Downtown. The majority of trips start or end Downtown.

    As for votes, looks like I have Frank’s vote. But you ARE right; this thing may come down to a vote between “rebuild” and “roads + transit”, and I like my chances.

  42. 45

    bill spews:

    Ive seen quite a bit about the tunnel option or rebuilding or the roads and transit, but has anyone suggested building a surface road and surrounding it with walls and a lid then covering it up with a two mile park?

  43. 46

    harry tuttle spews:


    I’m sure that commuters from Burien and Shoreline end their trips in Seattle, but we Seattle residents most cer tainly take the Viaduct as a cross-town alternative to I-5 and 1st Ave.