Given the way the city operates, it wouldn't be possible to ameliorate the system with transit. The more cars you put on the streets, the more transit is impacted, becuase here transit means buses driving on streets. We've got one underground busway that by design only serves routes roughly paralleling the I-5 corridor, and we have one above ground part-time half-assed very short busway that because of it's length doesn't really affect the timing of routes as a whole. You still wait 20-30 mintues some time for three consecutive stacked up buses.
Fix transit first, then maybe folks will be convinced that there is a transit solution. Nobody in their right mind would expect one from our D grade bus system.
Oh hell no.
Glad the city council could get all worked up about the seawall... while ignoring this monstrosity.
Ms. Moon is too kind to the governor. Transit improvements aren't just "still not funded", a $20 vehicle license fee for transit made it all the the way through the legislature last session - and she vetoed it.
Isn't that what people have been saying would happen since this half baked "surface solution" was first promoted. The WFC maintained that there are empty streets that needed to be "reconnected" to the grid and the viaduct traffic could just move to those streets.

The WFC also panicked when McGinn said he wanted to fix the sea wall. They (Cary) said there weren't the proper plans ready to build the "people's sea wall" - it is becoming perfectly clear that WFC had and has no real idea what will work or even what they want.

Depending on WSDOT to provide city transit is beyond delusional.
Is this the same Ms Moon who wanted to remove the Viaduct and re-route all of the traffic on to the downtown avenues, mainly 1st and Alaskan. So I struggle to follow her logic that adding capacity below downtown would somehow add the most traffic to city streets. I think what the core of the WFC really wants is traffic out of the downtown. Unfortunately, our downtown is not an historic European town center, it is for better or worse a modern American city built around commerce and movement, be it car, bus, rail, or foot. Removing access to and around downtown would do us all no good.

Secondly, Ms Moon does not live in or I bet even visit Pioneer Sq that often. Her description of Pioneer Sq is only accurate in its assessment of right-of-way widths. Added and controlled traffic would not necessarily be a bad thing for the neighborhood. Most of the time Pioneer Sq is abandoned by outsiders for 22 hours a day. More activity would be welcomed change.

Third, The Stranger seriously damages its limited supply of journalistic objectivity by allowing Ms Moon to contribute to its blog without ever offering a contrasting take, or editorial comment.

By the way, I personally think The Stranger does the best job of reporting in-depth Seattle news. It's not a deep field to run against, but a win is a win.
I have a hard time being concerned about cars being dumped onto city streets when I am reading it on Slog, which collectively took an editorial position advocating we dump all those cars onto city streets.
I'm confused. Naturally, as a vocal defender of Pioneer Square, my natural inclination is to outrage, that they would do this terrible thing to the city's historical heart. But then, I go look at the maps, and see all this action taking place down at First Avenue South at Royal Brougham and points west. THAT'S NOT PIONEER SQUARE.

I don't know if any of you have had a look at the stadium area recently, but Royal Brougham is not an "urban ecology of narrow streets"; it's a brand-new flyover. Complaints about traffic volume in this area come about 35 years too late, at the building of the Kingdome, or even earlier, with the construction of the Royal Brougham offramp from the viaduct, which already dumps a ton of cars at exactly this point.

Pioneer Square proper is not suffering from a surfeit of automobile traffic. If anything, there's too little; quiet streets are dead streets. Cars on streets means LIFE. Look at Occidental Park, which has been a dead zone, a vacuum, a beggar's encampment since they removed the cars from the street.

It seems Moon's goal is to achieve total silence in the heart of the city; total absence, total emptiness, just the sound of rollerblades whooshing by every few minutes, like in her famous waterfront watercolors. There's never any homeless people in those pictures, of course. Her essentially anti-urban vision doesn't do the waterfront any favors, nor does it help Pioneer Square. What Pioneer Square needs is people with money in their pockets. Many of those people come via automobile.

For all that, she does sometimes make some good points. But she damages them when she pretends that the corner of First and Royal Brougham is in Pioneer Square, and she damages them when she pretends that this arrangement will somehow be different and worse than what's there now.
The traffic flow maps show Lake City Way has a volume of 38,000 cars per day - how does that relate to "According to WSDOT’s predictions, about 59,000 cars a day will be channeled onto the few streets in this area, mostly on First Ave or Alaskan Way. First Ave currently carries about 25,000 cars a day, and Alaskan Way about 12,000. To get a picture of an additional 60,000 cars on these streets, imagine the same traffic volume as Lake City Way."

Where in the world did she think the 110,000 cars on the viaduct were going to go?

This article is extremely disingenuous. The panic of increased traffic is not what the author is seriously concerned about. The purpose of the article is trying to get support for their plan that would dump ALL of the traffic from the current viaduct on city streets--much worse than what this study says. Increased transit for commuters in combination with the tunnel to keep freight out of downtown would be a win-win. If we can build 2 stadiums while still paying for the old one and sink enormous amounts of money into I-90 so that Mercer Island doesn't have to notice the freeway they rely on, can't we spend some money to make the center of our region more livable?
The breathless tone of the article would make you believe the 'flyovers' and multiple interchanges are happening in the middle of Occidental Park. It is relying on an overly broad definition of Pioneer Square--in reality the interchange is in SoDo, by the stadiums, which is hardly a pedestrian friendly area with a 'unique urban ecology of narrow streets, a walkable neighborhood, and small businesses'.
Be honest, please, and add to our understanding of the problem instead of inspiring knee-jerk overreaction, Glen Beck-style.
"Among other measures of accountability, an expert review panel with legal, technical, and design expertise should protect Seattle's interests."

I agree with @2. "Hell no!"

Why can't people see that this is the kind of accommodation that has gotten us into this tunnel fix in the first place. Panels and committees have gotten to us to the lowest common denominator here: a tunnel for 'capacity' and a pretty waterfront design. We need an agenda that focuses on the basics.

Here it is:

1. Safety first--fix the seawall and close the viaduct as soon as possible. Lives and property are at risk. Every day we rely on these broken structures is a roll of the dice. There should be no compromise for protecting the people who might be injured or killed in a quake.

2. Focus resources on transit not car or freight capacity (or mobility)--the capacity issues here are a myth. The world will not end without a "replacement" for the lost capacity. Yes, it will create some short term traffic problems. With well funded alternatives those problems will likely melt away. If use the viaduct try the bus or download a book to listen to while you spend that extra 20 or 30 minutes in traffic. Better yet, work at home for a couple months!

3. Focus on zoning east of the viaduct--it is highly unlikely that there will ever be a beach on waterfront. When the viaduct comes down it will be important to plan carefully what happens east of the viaduct. We need to focus less on weaving the city into the waterfront, than we do weaving the waterfront back into the city.

With all of the hobos in that area, it will be a Frogger like free-for-all.
Digressing just a little bit to another angle of the DB tunnel debate. (DB=deep bore OR downtown bypass).

I found an interesting comment in Dominic Holden's story in the current Stranger arguing it's Mayor McGinn's duty to protect the city from getting stuck with the cost overruns. The comment comes from council prez Richard Conlin:
He says that the point of no return would come when bids and estimates show the tunnel "can't make this budget."

"There is ambiguity," Conlin admits. "My feeling is that this is an ambiguity that we can live with until we have to deal with it."

This raises the question, is the plan to do some sort of fixed-bid contract on the tunnel? Or shouldn't that be the plan? That way the contractor would be on the hook for cost overruns, and we'd know beforehand precisely what the price tag will be, so we can pull out before it's too late.

Anyone knowledgeable about this care to weigh in?
I'm still stuck on the math here...

If there are roughly 37k vehicle trips in the area today, and the state predicts that will be 59k in 2030, that's an increase of 22k vehicle trips. Where do the additional 60k trips come from?

And the diversion numbers just look confused. Of the 30k Ms. Moon argues for, it appears that 10k go to Alaskan Way and 13k are diverted to I5. And I'm not even sure how she came up with 30k in the first place from reading the report.

The numbers are fairly incredible. First, we are mixing and matching 2006 and 2030 numbers to come up with the story. Second, to posit that a viaduct that handles ~110k vehicle trips per day currently will dump 90,000 additional trips into Pioneer Square a day is pretty amazing.

I'd like to tell you that adding more transit would work, but that assumes it will be located in the affected areas.

Which, given King County's power allocation is ... not likely.
@14 Do you really expect more from her? She's a landscaper playing engineer.

And yeah, with no viaduct or tunnel there is going to be way way more cars on downtown streets. I am also not really sure why traffic down first avenue is such a bad thing.
@13 Please don't encourage fixed-cost bidding. Politicians love them because don't have the dreaded "cost over-runs." But what they don't tell you is that fixed-cost shifts the risk to the contractor, so all bids are higher.

Let's take two extremes to show you how this works. In Tunnel 1 and 2, the city puts time & materials jobs out to bid. This is the lowest risk for contractors, and many bid very low prices. Tunnel 1 turns out to be really easy to build, the project finishes way under budget. We run into rocks for Tunnel 2, and the city has to pay a bit more - this is run in the papers as "cost over-runs" and the politicians lose their next elections. In Tunnel 3 and 4, identical to 1 and 2, the city puts these out for fixed price contracts. The few contractors that want to take this risk bid very high prices, and assume that they'll hit rocks and that a few buildings will collapse. Tunnel 3 turns out to be easy - and the contractor not only keeps the savings, but all of the extra money in their bid. Tunnel 4 hits rocks and costs a bit more - but the contractor had this and a few building collapses in their bid, so the city still loses money.

There are reasons to have fixed-price contracts, but they are almost always far more expensive than other types of contracts.

This is not your best work. As many above have noted a fully surface solution would dump all of the traffic onto the streets of Pioneer Square. The viaduct was originally built to bypass this congestion. A tunnel could ease this. Also Seattle does have transit issues. It's been that way all our lives and it is a bit much to say any transportation project must solve all transit issues.

Lastly, a portal might be an eyesore but so too is the Viaduct. Pioneer Square will be much proved by removing it. I believe you have argued this in the past. The advantage of removing the Viaduct is greater than the disadvantage of creating a portal.
besides, aren't all Seattle Voters happy about having to pay an extra $1 billion or more for the inevitable cost overruns?

While the rebuilt Viaduct and Surface plus Transit options have costs projected to decrease, there has been ZERO decrease in anticipated costs for the Billionaires Tunnel.

Yup, zero.

Just check with WSDOT if you don't grok that number.
There's a lot of misunderstanding the numbers here.
First, the goal of the overall project was not to provide one for one replacement of viaduct car trips, but to provide mobility for future Seattle. The City should decide what kind of access / streets/ mode split / density/ places it is aiming for in the future, and then determine (with the state) the best transportation solution to support that.

The I-5 / surface / transit approach was given the thumbs up by all three DOTs for effectively providing mobility. It is a mix of solutions that together:
- give more room on I-5 for bypass trips, both freight and cars;
- use system-wide tolling, parking rates, and other incentives to encourage people to make more efficient travel choices;
- add a lot of transit, as the demand for better transit service in this corridor is incredibly high;
- build a 4-lane regular urban street on the waterfront for local traffic;
- improve Spokane Street and Mercer Street to offer connections to more viable north/south routes.

Because most of viaduct trips are short and local and going to a broad set of destinations, giving people more choices distributes the trips across many facilities -- transit, a range of local streets, or switching destinations to local ones, or I-5 for longer trips. This is the opposite of not giving any alternative choices to driving, and then concentrating all the local trips into the two portal neighborhoods, which the tunnel would do.

Extensive study and tons of empirical evidence has effectively proven that removing highways and increasing the viability of other modes WORKS. San Francisco has added 200,000 jobs downtown since BART opened, without any increase in car trips. Seoul now has less congestion thanks to a multimodal solution when they removed their elevated highway.

If WSDOT's tunnel is going to concentrate all the downtown bound SR-99 traffic at the Pioneer Square portal, and then use a tolling system that encourages toll avoiders to get off there too, Seattleites should know what possible effect that is going to have on the local streets to decide if that's really in Seattle's best interests.
Matt the Engineer, thanks for your response @17 to my question about fixed-bid contracts. Frankly, your answer doesn't quite add up to me, but it also sounds like debating it is a moot point since you seem to be implying that WSDOT is not going to be putting the tunnel contract out at a fixed price? Am I understanding that correctly?

So regarding Conlin's observation about being able to reassess before we reach a point of no return... It sounds like that's presuming that the estimates and bids won't be lowballed. And don't WashDOT and the contractors have every incentive to lowball if it's Seattle that will be on the hook for cost overruns?

P.S. I just wonder how Boston's Big Dig might have come out differently if it had been anchored around fixed-price contracts. I'm assuming it hadn't been.
Cary - Seoul built a huge subway system before removing one of many highways through the city. Please don't compare our situation with theirs.

" use system-wide tolling, parking rates, and other incentives to encourage people to make more efficient travel choices;"

tolling and (increased) parking rates are incentives???

people should stop driving through your neighborhood - I get it.

- give more room on I-5 for bypass trips, both freight and cars;
There is only so much that can be done there without knocking down some buildings.

build a 4-lane regular urban street on the waterfront for local traffic;

Right because nothing goes well with a park like what is basically another Aurora. The surface plan is the death of any hope of an enjoyable waterfront.

Yes, we should do the surface improvements and most are part of the tunnel plan, but what the tunnel gets, which the surface only options does not, is a cross town option that keeps cars off of local streets.
cressona - of course it should be a DB contract but then the real price would be known up front. Yes the contract is higher because the contractor bears the risk.

You should talk to PB in that they were part of the Big Dig and are doing the engineering for WSDOT.

[cressona], I think if the Big Dig had gone with fixed-price contracting, they would have never started the thing (a contractor would have forseen all of the costs, plus more for anything else that could have gone wrong but didn't, and this would have been the price they bid - if anyone had enough capital to bid such a job as fixed-price). But maybe that's a good reason to require this for the tunnel.
Hey all you commenters who seem to take such perverse pleasure in attacking Cary Moon: Don't worry, we all understand how hard it must be for you knowing that Cary is taken seriously by policy makers from the local to State level, while the most you can say for yourselves is that you’re anonymous blowhards on Slog.

Anyhoo, a few points on the topic at hand:

2006 modeling predicted that the "no replacement" (surface) option would result in 28 percent of car trips going away. That percentage would probably end up being even higher given rising fuel costs and how our culture is evolving.

The surface option would put more traffic on the downtown grid, but it would be diffused across a broad area, including I-5, as opposed to being concentrated at the tunnel portals. Distributed systems are resilient systems. The surface option leverages the power of individuals to make decisions, instead of being forced into a bottleneck.

Thank you Fnarf @8 for informing us that 1st and Brougham isn’t the center of Pioneer Square. Who knew? But you also might want to consider where all those cars are going once they leave the portal. Since the vast majority of activity is in the downtown core to the NE of the portal, it’s a safe guess that most of the cars going to and from the portal would traverse Pioneer Square.

People bring life to cities—cars are an unfortunate side effect.
Retro fit the viaduct, it works…is often fast….and has a proper amount of on ramps and exits into and out of downtown.

People say it is ugly but northbound is the best view of the bay and the city.

Want more park…cap part of it, extend Totem pole park over a stretch of the viaduct and ad more NW Native American art…modern and traditional.

A two lane each direction tunnel is not the right fix, too many downtown commuters rely on the existing Viaduct.

Work on the I5 problem. The express lanes are six wide at widest point, and should always have traffic going both directions, not just south in the AM and north n the PM. Northbound there is one lane going into the express lanes when driving on I5…can an engineer correct that issue and make it two lanes. Traffic through the city on that highway also goes down to two lanes…this is not good unless you have a good way to bypass local traffic...i.e. get them into an express route.

Put the energy and money into making the “already here” Viaduct safe, and making I5 work to its best capacity. The Tunnel and its subsequent issues will ultimately strangle this city.

Please wait...

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