As I’ve stated before, I tend to agree that a tunnel option for replacing the Alaska Way Viaduct is politically dead… but I can’t help but thinking. The state rejected Mayor Nickels’ recent four-lane hybrid tunnel-lite proposal, arguing that using the shoulders as exit lanes during peak traffic would be unsafe. So… why not just eliminate the exits altogether?
Stick with me here.
We keep hearing that 99 is a vital North/South thruway, and thus the governor insists that she won’t support any option that reduces capacity. Yet if the Viaduct is bounded by a surface street to the South and the four-lane Battery St. tunnel to the North, then obviously much of the traffic must be local.
So instead of talking about a “viaduct” why not consider a “bypass” — a two-mile, four-lane tunnel through the downtown waterfront that eliminates the northbound exits and southbound entrances at Seneca and Western? This way all that vital N/S traffic can continue to flow N/S, while local traffic is diverted to improved surface streets.
Without the need for extra wide shoulders, or the cost of building four ramps, the “hybrid bypass” solution would be even cheaper than Nickels’ tunnel-lite, while ensuring that thru-traffic travels along the waterfront faster than it does today. And local drivers that would have used the existing exits would be served by improved surface streets and transit options, unburdened by the need to accommodate existing N/S thru-traffic.
Yeah, maybe I’m just talking out of my ass. But one of things that has always annoyed me about the current debate is the total lack of imagination. Surface-plus-transit option? That’s just for hippy-dippy whackos. A “gold-plated” tunnel? It’s an unaffordable gift to developers. We’ve had a double-decker freeway running through our waterfront since the earth was created, and if it’s good enough for God then it’s good enough for me, by golly. Or at least, that seems to have been the intellectual process.
Ridicule me, a man with no engineering or traffic expertise, for suggesting a hybrid bypass. But at least I’m trying to think creatively.