The Seattle P-I editorial board doesn’t want to cut off talk of a tunnel option to replace the Alaskan Way Viaduct:
We fear that eliminating any talk of a tunnel will lead to a political confrontation in Olympia that will favor another elevated monstrosity. Potentially, that would even reinvigorate the possibilities for House Speaker Frank Chopp’s overwrought, multistory highway-park-stores- and-offices mega structure, which the planners rightly intend to eliminate from further consideration.
Major surface and transit improvements must be in place when the current viaduct comes down, no matter what permanent plan is pursued. And, even with impressive recent enhancements for Interstate 5, the surface option is the cheapest. So, we hope Gov. Chris Gregoire, King County Executive Ron Sims and Mayor Greg Nickels will agree on the surface solution as their basic strategy.
We also believe, however, that the three leaders should reopen the idea of a compromise embracing the surface option with some sort of a commitment to studying a tunnel. The compromise wouldn’t have to be exactly the “hybrid” proposal favored by business groups. But it should include at least some traffic speed and volume metrics that would provoke a tunnel study if the surface streets and enhanced transit capacity prove less effective than supporters expect. After all, we think a surface-and-transit solution will work quite well for traffic, the environment and the economy, but we don’t know for sure.
I’m not sure how building the surface/transit alternative eliminates the possibility of a future deep bore tunnel, should technology improvements make it affordable and traffic demand it. But I see no harm in building in a committment to explore the possibility at some point in the future. After all, talk is cheap; it’s actual action for which our region has trouble coughing up the cash.