We’re Number Six!

Seattle is the sixth worst waterfront city, according to the Project of Public Spaces.

Seattle residents adore their scenic mountain vistas. But increasingly they are seeing them through windshields while stuck in gridlock on the Alaskan Way Viaduct, an elevated highway that divides downtown Seattle from the waterfront.


The situation is quite similar to what San Francisco faced in the aftermath of the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake, which finally led the city to demolish the elevated Embarcadero Freeway. San Francisco made a difficult decision: They did not rebuild this busy artery. Today they are reaping the dividends with the greatest waterfront renaissance in the United States. Seattle could also make huge gains by taking down the Viaduct along the waterfront, and investing in transit service instead. The waterfront now feels disconnected from downtown, but the removal of the viaduct would open up new links between people and Puget Sound. Public destinations that are floundering today would flourish.

But what the fuck do they know? They’re just a bunch of people who know a lot about

“environmental design, architecture, urban planning, urban geography, environmental psychology, landscape architecture, arts administration and information management. The staff also collaborates on projects with architecture, landscape architecture and engineering firms, graphic design firms, transportation consultants, retail planners and community organizations.”

But Seattle is different and more special than every other place in the world! Nothing that worked in any other city could work here! Besides, it’s a state highway! That’s all that should matter! State highway! State highway! State highway!


  1. 3


    David @2,

    First of all, Will wrote this post, so you should probably address your question to him.

    But as for me, I’m willing to seriously consider “Repair & Prepare” at the same time we seriously consider a “Surface-plus-Transit” option. In fact, I think the two might likely compliment each other.

    I’ve said it before — if it makes economic sense to maintain the existing elevated structure, so that we can make street and transit improvements before demolishing the Viaduct, then that’s great. In fact, that’s what seems to make the most sense.

  2. 5


    “I’m willing to seriously consider “Repair & Prepare” at the same time we seriously consider a “Surface-plus-Transit” option. In fact, I think the two might likely compliment each other.”

    Duh…Goldy you don’t even know what the “Repair & Prepare” option is! :)
    That’s comical. Really. Hilarious. Yet you pretend to comment on it.

    It would be funny if you didn’t have an audience who hang on your every word. You really are trying to compete with Rush Limbaugh.

  3. 6

    ArtFart spews:

    3/5…Presumably we’re talking about an “Erector-set” collection of braces, gussets, clamps and girders similar to what’s been holding up the Magnolia Bridge for the last 40 or so years.

  4. 8

    jason spews:

    will, your posts on this issue would be more useful if they occasionally used objective resources. hell, it would improve if you even used facts instead of lies. you’re citing a group that claims we have “gridlock on the Alaskan Way Viaduct”, which shows that they’ve never visited here and know very little about our situation. gridlock?! wait until you get your way & all we have left is I5, already a monument to gridlock.

    i don’t care how many degrees these people have, or their varied backgrounds – they’re an advocacy group! they wouldn’t be fulfilling their mission if they didn’t attack the viaduct. i’m actually a bit shocked at their restraint. given the vote coming up, and the final decision being made sometime this spring (session’s almost over), i would have expected at least top 3. they’re shilling for your cause – why should i take “the project for public spaces” any more seriously than the NRA?

    also, they’re lying about san francisco and how the embarcadero compares to 99. no, our city isn’t more special, but i’m sick and fucking tired of you fucking pretending that we already have transit like every other city you care to cite, or that 99 is a spur highway for casual use like the embarcadero.

    yes, it’s an EXISTING state highway, and one of only two N-S connectors through our city. that should matter. we’re not asking to build a new highway where none exists before (despite what the “No on anything” crowd implies, but we do want something equivalent to almost immediately replace a road that currently handles up to 120,000 vehicles a day. we clearly don’t have the capacity to handle our current trafffic load on I5 (or routing thousands of cars through the downtown retail core; talk about causing public destinations to flounder), and you’re offering nothing of value as an alternative.

    will, another proud member of The Gridlock Gang
    “we don’t drive, and neither should you. suck it up, commuters… and anyone who lives in west seattle.”

  5. 9


    @ 8

    Building a new freeway on the waterfront is exactly that; it’s a newer, bigger freeway meant to carry even more cars than the current one. It is not a 1 for 1 replacement. It’s an enhancement. Not only that, but the freeway itself will be up to 71% wider.

    Gov. Gregoire is spending 200 mil to clean up Puget Sound and is spending 3 bil on a freeway to make it dirty. Amazing!

  6. 11

    jason spews:

    again, tell me how we’re going to immediately replace capacity after you tear down the viaduct, and i’ll listen. i’m not talking about building roads for all future population growths, but how we’re going to handle our current situation. traffic is not good, hwy 99 presently assists with that burden (along with serving the west-of-99 population of this city; they matter), and i’ve yet to hear one reasonable proposal from the “no on everything” crowd. the DOT’s re-routing plan through downtown has always been for emergency mitigation, not meant for months or years of use.

    have we determined a source yet on those drawings showing how huge the new viaduct would be? everyone acknowledges that it would have to be wider than the current one, but i have no reason to trust random sketches posted by people with an agenda. if they come directly from the DOT, i’d be surprised, because erica hasn’t been crowing about it.

  7. 12

    YOS LIB BRO spews:

    how we’re going to immediately replace capacity after you tear down the viaduct,



  8. 13


    @ 11

    First, I’m not no on everything. The tunnel is less worse than the rebuild. If I had a gun to my head and HAD to vote for SOMETHING, it’d be the tunnel. But its politically dead! Thus, I’m no on elevated freeway and no on expensive tunnel.

    That said, I don’t think it’s a good idea to tear down the Viaduct right away. We should make all the improvements before it is torn down.

    Or, we could rehab the structure to gain an additional 20 years of useful life. Light rail is slated to reach Lynnwood in a little less than 20 years. In twenty years when the viaduct comes down, we can tell people to take the fucking train. After all, if we can limit regional auto traffic on the waterfront using light rail, whatever city traffic that exists can be mitigated. Heck, if we extend the Seattle Streetcar into Ballard and West Seattle, we’ll be getting somewhere, literally.

    The most important thing is to REJECT a rebuilt viadcut on Seattle’s waterfront. After that’s dead, we can go to the Gov. and make a deal: we’ll keep it up for another 20 years if at the end of that time WashDOT lets us tear it down.

  9. 14


    If both options go sideways in the election, the likely result is Repair and Replace. The difference will be that those pushing for a teardown with vague ideas of transistional options may declare that they supported Repair and Replace all along. Not too much of a big deal, except that Orwell wrote much about that kind of cognitive dissonance.

    Second, let us suppose for a minute that Repair and Replace, and the Rebuild costs are the same (I doubt they are, and I would bet good money that when R/R becomes the inevitable option that the funding will happen). From an “ends” standpoint, we could either have another elevated highway, with no significant surface improvements or plans, or we could have a situation where the plans and improvements are in place after Repair and ample time (more then six years, I’m afraid), and go ahead with the deconstruction. In short, outside the tunnel, the options are back-at-square-one in 50 years, vs square two and three in about 10 or 15.

    Lastly, it is unrealistic to belive (in a tear down as planned situation, in 1013) that all necessary surface improvements, and other necessary peripheral improvements can be done in 6 years time, which is the current position of Friends of Seattle and other people. I’m sorry, but the history shows that major projects take a long time, even to get out of the discussion/planning stage, especially when dealing with intermodal freight that DOES use surface streets in SoDo, and south and West/South Seattle commuters.

    Unless people want surface transit by decree. Good luck with that.

  10. 16

    kirk spews:

    Who was this Neal horse’s ass who wrote the editorial in the PI this morning? All of his “common sense” was wrong…

  11. 17

    rob spews:

    I don’t live in Seattle anymore and very seldom go there because when I do I have to keep my windows down and a Slayer CD blaring to keep the hippies away. I will give you my opinion though which is worth exactly what I am charging you for it.

    If you believe that nothing is going to happen for the next 20 years like Will does I have a bridge to sell you from Sand point to my house in Kirkland. All of the local politicians while promoting the gas tax told us what peril we were in by leaving the viaduct in it’s present state. Those comments could land some politicians in jail if all of their predictions come true and citizens die in a viaduct failure if they do nothing.

    You elected them and you voted for the gas tax. Enjoy your new elevated viaduct suckers.

  12. 18

    Terry Jay spews:

    So Goldy up and says “But as for me, I’m willing to seriously consider “Repair & Prepare” at the same time we seriously consider a “Surface-plus-Transit” option. In fact, I think the two might likely compliment each other.”

    Doesn’t it just conjure up visions of a bus and a concrete column having a discussion. Bus says to column “Nice gusett. It sets off your bracing really well.” Column replies “My, what a nice paint job you have.”

  13. 19

    chuckles spews:

    If Seattle wants a world-class waterfront, get rid of all the vehicle traffic. No elevated road, no tunnel, no car/truck ferries.

    Now is the time for real leadership and truly creative ideas. Unfortunately, no politian will go too far out on a limb to provide leadership since the risks are high and any benefits will not show up until they are out of office. The ideas we have are rebuild an elevated eyesore, the Big Dig West, and tear down the current eyeore and force traffic on to the surface streets. That’s it?!? I thought Western Washington had a lot of creative thinkers, I guess not.

  14. 20

    Bax spews:

    But Seattle is different and more special than every other place in the world! Nothing that worked in any other city could work here!

    Will — you weren’t intending to be serious, but you’re right about Seattle being different than the other cities where they tore down freeways downtown. For example, the Embarcadero in San Francisco was a spur off of I-80 at the end of the Bay Bridge. It ran for a little ways on the waterfront and abruptly ended. It was basically a glorified off ramp of I-80. Same with Milwaukee. The “freeway” in Portland that was torn out along the waterfront was basically a surface street that had another road running directly adjacent to it about a block away.

    The problem is that none of the cities that have torn down freeways and not replaced them tore down freeways that went all the way through their downtown area. They almost all tore down freeways that were spur routes. Yes, it was a good thing for the waterfront to tear down the Embarcadero, but don’t kid yourself — getting through downtown San Francisco and along the waterfront is a nightmare. It’s a sacrifice they were willing to make, but it’s a nightmare.

    The rough equivalent to Seattle would be if the Viaduct came from the south and stopped at James Street, depositing all of its traffic there. That’s what the Embarcadero was. That’s why you can’t compare Seattle to San Francisco.

    Of course, San Francisco does have a freeway that runs through downtown: I-80, which turns into 101. Nobody, and I mean nobody, has proposed tearing it down and not replacing it, even in San Francisco. Why? Because even in San Francisco, they know that tearing down a thruway and not replacing its capacity will cause gridlock. And they’re a city with far, far more mass transit options than us.

  15. 21


    The big new factor — that’s the plan, of course — is Steinbrueck.

    He’ll be out in front on “Repair & Prepare” (and on his waty to the Mayor’s office) very soon as it is the compromise which the majority can accept.