I have been researching the engineering reports on the Alaska Way Viaduct, the 520 floating bridge, and other fast deteriorating bridges and structures in WA state… and the more I learn, the more frightened I get. It will not require a major earthquake or other natural disaster to bring down some of these structures: one of our run-of-the-mill, winter wind storms could easily sink the 520 bridge, while the Viaduct is slowly toppling over onto the waterfront, all on its lonesome. And yet, one of the typically smug taunts I routinely get from I-912 proponents whenever I raise these issues is, “If it’s so dangerous, why is it still open to traffic?”
And so I would like to make an appeal to any attorneys in my audience, or other concerned citizens willing to contribute materially or financially, to join me in suing WSDOT and other responsible public agencies to immediately shut down the Viaduct, the 520 bridge and other structures that present an imminent danger to public safety. Really.
I suppose there are some in this region who simply do not believe that these structures are unsafe, or who are willing to gamble that “the big one” won’t strike during their lifetime, or at least, when they or their loved ones are traversing one of these hazardous roads. It is human nature to procrastinate in the face of possible, yet uncertain, deadly disasters (hence, New Orleans inadequate levees.) But how many voters are willing to cancel or delay the state transportation improvement package when faced with the imminent threat of adding an hour or more to their daily commute… each way?
If the Viaduct closes, it will not only spill traffic onto the surface streets, but onto an already congested I-5… which will in turn push traffic onto the even more congested I-405. And if the 520 bridge closes, I-90 will crawl to a virtual standstill for much of the day. Close them both at the same time, and… well… good luck to those regularly commuting across or around Lake Washington.
Don’t get me wrong; this is not just some Machiavellian ploy. These roads really are that unsafe, and if the only alternative is inaction, we would be doing a public service by shutting them down. But in the weeks leading up to the vote on I-912, something needs to be done to drive home to voters the truly dangerous state of our decaying infrastructure… and I’m not afraid to be the one cutting the reality check.
No doubt a successful lawsuit would deliver a huge blow to our regional economy, but I have talked to several elected officials who would privately welcome somebody taking such a politically untenable action. In the wake of Hurricane Katrina our collective paralysis is unconscionable, and anybody who understands the engineering reports understands the moral imperative to act now.
The 520 bridge is brittle and crumbling, its pontoons springing leaks faster than they can be patched up. The Viaduct’s columns rest on unstable soil, and no amount of reinforcement can keep it from falling over. These and other structures are public hazards that need to be replaced immediately, or removed entirely… and I intend to make my case in a court of law.
I have neither the legal training nor the financial resources to pursue this on my own, so if you can substantially contribute money or legal expertise, or know of others who can, please drop me an email. I hope to file suit by early October, and if I can generate enough interest to proceed, I will open a “legal offense fund” so that others may contribute according to their means.
Of course, none of this would be necessary if Republican “leaders” like Dino Rossi would take a responsible, public stance on this dire issue, persuading their core constituents to vote no on the foolishly obstructionist I-912. But barring such an uncharacteristic fit of candor, I will be forced to follow the only lead Rossi has ever given the people of this state, and turn to the courts to achieve an objective I might not be able win at the polls.