Position Statement - Alaska Way Viaduct
While Cascade Bicycle Club has not supported any particular Alaskan Way Viaduct replacement proposal, we have laid out criteria for a successful project for our bicycling constituents.
Cascade has made it clear that any proposal we support must improve non-motorized access along and across the corridor while enhancing the public's access to the waterfront. Furthermore, because co-locating housing and employment centers reduces auto-dependence and encourages bicycling and walking for short trips, the facility should enhancenot detract fromSeattle’s downtown residential market and its commercial core.
Clearly a new aerial freeway on the waterfront fails to meet these criteria, and thus the needs of our bicycling constituents. We urge Seattle voters to reject a new elevated Alaskan Way by voting against it on the March ballot.
For its part, the Hybrid Tunnel includes components that would support improved non-motorized access to the center city and its waterfront. Notably this would come in the form of an enhanced five-lane Alaskan Way, with bicycle lanes, wider sidewalks as well as a rebuilt multi-use trail free of dangerous driveway crossings.
The tunnel plan has merits; however, it has not adequately addressed barriers to bicycle travel south of downtown, from the stadiums to the Spokane Street Viaduct. It is not certain that travel along and across this part of the corridor, the only viable route for West Seattle commuters, will improve. Furthermore, in a cost-cutting measure, the tunnel excludes the lowering of Aurora north of Denny Way (part of the original tunnel design). Consequently, the Hybrid Tunnel project fails to reconnect the street-grid between South Lake Union and Queen Anne. By not doing so, route options between the two neighborhoods for both non-motorized and motorized travelers remain constrained. (On a positive note, Seattle’s Department of Transportation seems dedicated to creating more non-motorized route connections between the two neighborhoods than currently exist.)
Given what we know of the Hybrid Tunnel to date, Cascade Bicycle Club is not making any recommendation on the tunnel portion of the advisory ballot.
The options on the ballot present voters with a difficult choice: both the tunnel and the elevated freeway are expensive, both impact public space in the urban core, and both maintain a state of auto-dependence at a time when the public is asking for more and better travel options.
Further complicating matters, it is certain that within the 75-year life of the project our transportation and energy paradigms will shift dramatically. That clouds the reasoning behind such a substantial investment in preserving the status quo. Moreover, the latest climate change reports are issuing warnings and calls for action to cut emissions of greenhouse gases - more than half of which are produced by cars, trucks and busses in Washington State.
In short, we will not be able to keep driving the way we do now and prevent catastrophic changes to the planet's climate.
That brings us to an option not on the ballot, the so-called "Streets Plus Transit" proposal. King County Executive Ron Sims has stated that Metro can provide new transit that will attract 30% of viaduct trips, and that they are moving forward with those improvements. Further, City officials recognize the street improvements necessary to redirect viaduct traffic during 2-4 years of closure are the first priority, and are beginning to implement them.
Cascade Bicycle Club on the Viaduct “Early Actions”
September 10, 2007
In March 2007, voters in the City of Seattle rejected both a tunnel and a new elevated highway to replace the current SR 99 viaduct through downtown Seattle. The outcome of the vote itself was clear: no to a larger new elevated viaduct (which lost 57 to 43 percent) and no to a four-lane cut-and-cover tunnel (which lost 70 to 30 percent).
In the aftermath of the spring vote, the major stakeholders agreed to move forward with a series of early, uncontroversial repairs that will be necessary regardless of the final design of the central waterfront project area. You can find descriptions of these “Early Actions” on the Washington State Department of Transportation’s viaduct website.
Cascade Bicycle Club supports the early actions insofar as they protect the safety of travelers and move us closer to a solution that works for all transportation system users. We recently asked the project team and our local elected officials to consider the needs of bicyclists and pedestrians in three specific ways:
1. By incorporating “state of the practice” multimodal facilities and mitigation into every phase of the project, particularly by including bicycle enhancements in the Transit Enhancements and Capital Improvements portion of the early action plan,
2. By insuring uninterrupted nonmotorized connectivity along and across the viaduct replacement segment between Holgate and King Streets,
3. And by refraining from retrofitting the Battery Street Tunnel in such a way that limits the options for the central waterfront configuration. Cascade Bicycle Club opposes an elevated Viaduct replacement.
The Alaskan Way Viaduct replacement project both the final configuration and the construction phases will affect local residents’ ability to walk and bike. Whatever the final design, we look forward to working with all concerned parties to arrive at a solution that is consistent with our regional and local goals of increased reliance on nonmotorized transportation modes.