City Proposes Waterfront Highway on Top of Tunnel


Seattle's fucked. I left at just the right time.
Don't be shy Fnarf.
What do YOU think about it?

Cities are vestigial structures from the 18th century and get in the way of motorized vehicles.

Nice writing. And notice how Fnarf was able to make his point without throwing a bunch of gratuitous f-bombs.
@4, oh, I got yer f-bombs right here waiting.
And just exactly how would you get all that traffic in and out of the city? Teleportation?
Or we could just not build the tunnel and save a TON OF TAX DOLLARS.

But that would be prudent.

And then we could afford to finish the 520 bridge. Right now we can't.
@6 teleportation would be cheaper than the $10 each way tolls, quite frankly.
@6, there's a brand-new ultra-expensive freeway going in directly underneath this boulevard. But hey, thanks for contributing (nothing).
@7, @8: please don't comment.
@7 Apparently not with a tunnel.
I honestly don't get this. Wasn't the WHOLE POINT of the tunnel to avoid this? Was this in the fine print all along?
Who is coming up with this shit? Is this the city council's doing?
Is there anything to be done about it? Or is the dye cast?
@6 I think that's what the massive tunnel was for? That and that big freeway we already have going through our city.
You all laughed at Frank Chopp with his "enclosed viaduct with retail underneath" plan, but it looks pretty good now, doesn't it?
@16 It does not.
@15, there's also First Avenue, Second Avenue, Third Avenue, Fourth Avenue, Fifth Avenue, Sixth Avenue, Airport Way, Elliott Avenue, Aurora Avenue, Dexter Avenue, Western Avenue, Westlake Avenue, Fairview Avenue, Yale Avenue Eastlake Avenue, Denny Way, Olive Way, Stewart Street, Pike Street, Pine Street, Seneca Street, Spring Street, Madison Street, Cherry Street, James Street, Yesler Way, Jackson Street, King Street, East Marginal Way, and Boren Avenue.

I'll think we could manage.
After looking through the report (page 38 & 39), the top image of this post is not showing nine lanes of traffic, but actually: 2 lanes of transit, 4 lanes of general purpose, 2 lanes of ferry loading/parking, and 1 lane of general parking. And that's only for King to Yesler; Yesler to Madison would have 4-8 lanes, and Madison to Pine would have 6 (and there are never more than 4 lanes of general purpose through the whole route).

You'll also notice the dedicated bike lanes that are separated from motor vehicles.

I'm not advocating for a huge street, but did any of you think they'd be getting rid of Alaskan Way in addition to the viaduct? The plan itself looks pretty similar to how the street is now, just updated with more thought to traffic flow.

The street still needs to exist, especially for all of the ferry traffic.
Beautifully done.
What is the reason, exactly, why we can't have one lane in each direction, a middle turn lane, and bike paths on each side? Add an additional right-turn/waiting lane close to the ferries. That would actually fit the space.


One thing I didn't mention here that I wish I had was to remind everyone that while the tunnel is underground the vast approaches are not, and not far from the places in these illustrations is going to be a mind-boggling, multi-acre sea of bare concrete, as many as sixteen lanes wide in places. And another one to the north.
I will note to readers that you can submit comments on this plan via Waterfront Seattle's website Fnarf links in his post, and would encourage folks to do so.
Wouldn't an elevated Light Rail/Subway running in that place (like the #7 through the aforementioned Flushing) make more sense as long as we have the new viaduct?

@19, to paraphrase Charles Mudede, you're thinking like a traffic engineer. You're totting up all the things that sound reasonable, but you're missing the bigger picture, which is the amount of space it takes up. If you're a pedestrian, it doesn't really matter if all the lanes are technically through traffic; they're still lanes, twelve feet of asphalt with a motor vehicle on top of it. Notice that my caption doesn't say "nine lanes of traffic", it says "nine lanes of motor vehicles".

If instead you start from the point of the purpose of the city, and consider the vast space available for redesign, including the viaduct space, the current Alaskan Way, and the pier surrounds, plus all the vacant or grossly underutilized lots that are down there, you've got a whole neighborhood to plan.

Don't start with the streets, that's what I'm saying. Starting with the lanes means you will come up with something like this every single time. Start with the city instead. Start with buildings.

If it was up to me I would drop a bunch of buildings down there and then wend the street around them after I'd finished. One lane each way. Make it slow and annoying to drive, like Pike Place; the through traffic will find another route. There are dozens.

Build this boulevard and the projected traffic paying those tolls in the tunnel drops to almost zero. We're counting on those tolls to stave of bankruptcy from the tunnel project, remember?
SUCKERS. To all you who voted for tunnel or didn't vote at all, please go to hell.
The bigger picture is we're trying to cram twice the number of vehicles into half the capacity, with zero added transit (in fact, a reduction of transit), fewer downtown exits (as in zero), and a massive congestion already caused by the non-solution to the Mercer Mess that Gates and Allen stuck us with.

And all with $10 tolls each way - which no millionaire will pay, because we already agreed to exempt their non-profit all-electric limos and party vans.

Are you getting it yet?

One minor accident and the whole thing gridlocks.

One 200-500 year event like Rainier going (happens all the time, you just didn't live here then) or the Quake zones ripping and all the people trapped below die. All of them. The fans stop working since the power is cut and the fans overheat with scurf and debris. It's just simple numbers. No matter how you pretend otherwise.
The point of knocking down the Viaduct was to knock down the Viaduct, so there would be more un-obstructed views from the Condos that will be built down there. That's what they meant by "opening up" the waterfront.
The tunnel never made any sense. Who would want to pay as much as it will cost to use it to go where it goes?

With this boulevard (which I certainly don't mind as much as Fnarf does), I can't imagine anyone ever using the tunnel. Never could, really...but this boulevard seems to seal its fate.

If put to a vote: I'd have chosen this boulevard over the tunnel. Who would ever vote for both of them?
And then they put a surface road above that, as if that would help.

It might if it was truck only and transit/bike only.

But ... it isn't. It's going to be tourists. Lost tourists, trying to figure how to turn.

Human behavior is predictable.
@25, Detroit just filed for bankruptcy a moment ago.
@26, the legislature's vote is the only one that mattered.
@27, you and the word "scurf" were made for each other.
Dude, you are obsessed with Australia
Hear effing hear. As a West Seattle resident that commutes downtown for work, the entire tunnel is a boondoggle. However, if we're tearing down the viaduct and building that boondoggle, please please please do something intelligent with the waterfront. Does anyone really get misty-eyed about, for example, Lake Shore Drive in Chicago? Because that's what that sounds/looks like. Eegads.
Kudos to FNARF. It looks like the highway engineers took a lesson from Mercer Street, the brand new waterfront highway in south Lake Union. More than twice the width of Aurora Avenue.
there's like 3 blocks where there will be more than 4 lanes for traffic ... and that is because they won't relocate the ferry terminal and need to have a place where cars can feed into the ferry terminal. From Columbia north ... only 4 lanes ... just like they showed us at the Open House last month.
Sorry to have not llinked.
Detroit—The city of Detroit filed the largest municipal bankruptcy case in U.S. history Thursday afternoon, culminating a decades-long slide that transformed the nation’s iconic industrial town into a model of urban decline crippled by population loss, a dwindling tax base and financial problems.…
I find that I really can't get that excited about this either way. I have no non-work reason to go to the north end, and the waterfront makes me itch. But I do appreciate Our Dear Fnarf's passion.
Totally agree. This plan makes San Francisco's Embarcadero look like Rue Montorgeuil.

Leave the bike path, make dedicated light rail lanes down the center, but the rest pavement should be dedicated to moving the bare minimum of of cars to-and-from ferries or to business and industry in the neighborhood with few other options. People traveling north and south already have a ton of alternate routes.

Don't like stop-and-go traffic? This is downtown. Use the tunnel. Use the freeway.
@35: Four lanes is two too many.
The illustrations in that report are ridiculous.
@25 I mostly agree with what you're saying, except for one thing: this is a Street and Transit Update developed by, one would think, traffic engineers. Their job is to manage traffic, not create neighborhoods.

Now that isn't to say they couldn't work around a different objective if one was presented, but I don't think any part of the viaduct replacement plan included construction of new buildings and mass rezoning of the area. The plan was to build a tunnel, tear down the viaduct, and update Alaskan Way.

I think they can get away with removing a lane or two, but more than that and you'll be losing transit or ferry lanes, both of which would impact traffic of all other lanes (as well as traffic through the downtown corridor). Since there aren't dedicated lanes for mass transit throughout Seattle any failure point would cascade through surrounding areas which is bad for everyone.

@35 Yep. From a general sense, any area where people will actually congregate only has four lanes.
Be suspicious when the renderings look like they were done by Thomas Kincade.
Knowing something like this would be done anyway, this is exactly why I voted against the tunnel.
I wonder if this plan has anything to do with that study that determined that no one is going to use the tunnel on account of the tolls.
@41, there aren't any dedicated transit lanes downtown? I could swear that not that long ago we built yet another giant fucking tunnel for buses (and now trains). Must have been a dream.

"Only" four lanes, huh? Look at that Seneca intersection again. Four lanes of THROUGH TRAFFIC, yeah, but also an acre of "buffers" and parking and so on, adding up to seven lanes of pavement, whether there are moving vehicles on them or not. Plus enormous sidewalks.

The point being that this street is not a place; it's a way to get from one place to another. No one will want to "congregate" here at all, because there's nothing there, or almost nothing.

That's because the people in charge of this city don't know what cities are for, and what suspicions they have, they're against. Think of how the city deals with the subject of signs, or advertisements, all in the name of pearl-clutching "good taste".

@32, I used a pic of Melbourne because I have it, and it sorta-kinda represents what I'm talking about. I wasn't able to get other pictures that were better because of rights issues. I have pictures I took of London and Paris and Sydney and Mexico City, too, but they unfortunately suck donkey balls. I could drop a ton of Google Streetview links but no one would look at them.
I have an idea - and I don't know if this has ever been considered or discussed before - but could we build some sort of structure on the surface above the tunnel, something with two layers (one for each direction of car traffic), under which pedestrians could walk to the waterfront without crossing a busy street?
@45 The bus tunnel is great, and if we could get more of that I'm all for it. But even the bus tunnel exits to surface streets, and plenty of busses still move through downtown at all hours of the day.

You lost me with the Seneca intersection. What's wrong with a sidewalk? Or a promenade? Or a buffer to keep bad Seattle drivers (and tourists) from running over pedestrians?

Seeing as how the point of a waterfront is to be on the waterfront, I don't see the problem with having a big strip running along the piers for people to walk up and down, which also pushes the traffic (and noise) further away.
@45 wrong - it was built as a tunnel for light rail and I convinced the ST finance and pols to allow bus traffic until capacity usage on light rail was high enough.

Which ends when the Capitol Hill and UW Husky Stadium stations come online.

No bus tunnels then.
Ironic that the Stranger complains about this when the person they just endorsed for Mayor is doing nothing, NOTHING, to make the waterfront a success. If McGinn wins another term, expect the waterfront to be a disaster. He lost his tunnel fight and has taken his toys and gone home, leaving the very people he complains about to make all decisions on this project. We're fucked
Look on the bright side - all the rich land developers (the same ones who helped kill projects like the monorail) will soon have property with unobstructed views of the waterfront, which in turn will increase their wealth. See? The system works!*

(*The corrupt system, that is.)
@50 - if we had a mayor with a plan who could implement it, that wouldn't have to happen. By not being involved, McGinn will allow this to happen.
@ 49, read the byline. This might be published by The Stranger, but it wasn't written by any of their staff.
Kudos Fnarf. Well argued and spot on.

Christ this thing is a monstrosity. Dougsf mentioned the Embarcadero and that was my first thought too. It's like someone looked at the Embarcadero and said: "ah that's not quite right, let's make it a little bigger".
@48, "I convinced the ST finance and pols to allow buses"


Except that it was called "the bus tunnel" from the start, with the (false) promise of future rail. I say "false" because the dummy rail they put in was unusable and they had to rip it and the whole line out and lower the floor and rebuild everything when the time came.

And Sound Transit had nothing to do with the planning or construction of the tunnel, and indeed did not exist until years after it was built. So there were no "ST finance" people for you to convince. And no pol has or had the faintest idea who you are, other than "oh, that guy, what a creep". And you couldn't convince a starving man to eat a sandwich. Other than that, yeah, totally plausible.
The Central Waterfront Committee is meeting in moments:


July 18, 2013
3:30pm - 5:00pm
Seattle Municipal Tower, 40th Floor, Room #4080…
There should be a way to integrate an elevated park with traffic flow that can let some of the commerce coming from/through Ballard toward the Port or West Seattle flow through the waterfront with reasonable efficiency without creating untenable choke points. An elevated park doesn't need to span the entire waterfront afterall ...
There's only one candidate for mayor who has both the vision and the planning credentials to get the waterfront done right -- Peter Steinbrueck. He gets a bad rap from the Stranger because his knee doesn't jerk Yes for every high-density development scheme that comes along, but Peter's smarts are what's needed here.
I'm with fnarf on this one. How do we fix this?
W.T.F. ?! Who the fuck green-lighted this bullshit?
How do we fix this car-tastrophe #2?
Great post, Fnarf.
@13 "Who is coming up with this shit? Is this the city council's doing?"

This has come from McGinn's DPD and SDOT and Parks Department.

Let's give him 4 more years so we can build this billion dollar fuck up.

Or dump him.

The Stranger Election Board is just too stoned to see what a loser McGinn is and how he is JUST FUCKING UP THE CITY.
Here's a VERY stupid question. Why can't we build this proposed mega surface street and then BUILD ON TOP OF IT? Walkways, shops, a park -- whatever. Cover the damned thing.
@62, you mean...with, like...a...viaduct?
@63, nope. Well, not exactly. Just a way to make it less unsightly. Which, I suppose, might meet the technical definition of a viaduct, but not like ours.

Street Level: this monstrosity as proposed by whatever clown
Above that, build a ceiling.
On top of the ceiling, put pedestrians.
And bicycles.
And a nice walkway to connect to the Market.
And a pony?
@65 I think WSDOT owes at least goats at this point.
@58 - won't get fixed until we get a new Mayor. Simple.
@64, sounds an awful lot like the cut and cover tunnel design.
Please take a look at page 18 of the Report:…



Does that report represent formal City policy?
The CWC is some sort of big-deal group but it is NOT the City Council and Mayor.
Do you know exactly where that Report is? In terms of process?

Maybe you should ask the Mayor for a comment. He'll probably answer.
Fnarf: amen, amen, amen.

All the people who complained that the viaduct "cuts off the waterfront from the city" -- what crack were you smoking? The viaduct is ugly, yes -- but the traffic lanes needed to make up for the broken tunnel design (no downtown exits, only two lanes each way, access to Elliott and NW Seattle no longer easy) will cut off the waterfront more thoroughly than the viaduct ever could. You can at least walk under the viaduct.

And where is the waterfront streetcar, and why do the powers that be seem so determined NOT to bring it back? The fix is in, somewhere.
What idiots we are.
We didn't take the extra steps -- we just believed in Authority -- that we couldn't make the repair of the Viaduct feasible.
Makes me sick to think about it.
I'll be dead by the time the bills come in so I don't shouldn't care.
But it really makes me sick of the lost opportunities and wasted resources.

Waterfront Seattle is a civic partnership led by the Seattle Department of Transportation, the Department of Planning and Development and the Department of Parks and Recreation and includes the following project team members:

Marshall Foster
Department of Planning and Development

Steve Pearce
Seattle Department of Transportation

Hannah McIntosh
Seattle Department of Transportation

Nathan Torgelson
Parks and Recreation

Design Team: james corner field operations

Project Management / Engineering Team:
Shiels, Obletz Johnsen & CH2MHill
So what does that mean?
Has the City Council and Mayor approved the plan? Authotized/sought financing?
Motherfuckers, this was the plan the whole time. I voted against the tunnel, but now we get this monstrosity on top of it. The combination of these two project is one of the most colossal civic fuckups and waste of taxpayer dollars of all time. Baby Jesus, help us.

We asked for "no viaduct/no tunnel".
And what did we get?
We got "highway/tunnel".

"How'd that work out for you?"
Hahahahahaha, hilarious. More more!! More roads, more tunnels! Cant wait to move out of Seattle.
@74 David, i know that the administration has been publicly presenting this plan. hopefully council will question it. funding for this fiasco? good question.

wonder if the mayor or council will tell us not only how this beast will be funded, but the $2B (at least and growing) deferred roads maintenance, $270M parks backlog, the unfunded pension liabilities, the new SLU substation, the northern portion of the seawall, etc.
People, you're smoking crack. The new waterfront is going to be rad. As a pioneer square resident, I'm super psyched to have an honest to goodness beach access in my neighborhood, a new entertainment pier for concerts, a SWIMMING POOL barge, and no viaduct dripping oily sludge on me when i go for a run. Would it be nice to also have an entire new neighborhood? Sure! but the city doesn't have money for that. They are being extremely creative with the small amount of money we do have, after most everything is being spent on the tunnel, to make something cool. The development of this plan has been years in the making, involving huge efforts to include public input and engage the city in the dialogue. There have been opportunities to participate in the process all along the way. It's disappointing that the Stranger would give voice to this totally unproductive and misleading rant. It is so painfully difficult to get anything done in this city. Please, rather than riling people up, misleading the public into thinking that there is money for some grand non-existant plan, and tossing out the years of money and planning that have already gone into it, let's just make it happen and move on to making more cool shit. I hope there is someone planned to make a slog post about all the cool shit the plan has going for it. Otherwise this seems totally irresponsible.
Are you being serious? Or not?
Honestly, I can't tell.

@79 Exactly! But people expect rants here...
Can't we get them to re-aim the tunnel machine and have it come out in Interbay or something? Then we could at least run trains through the stupid tunnel.

Also, @79, where's the pony paddock going?

@78, some of it is from "later phase" Seawall projects. There's links to the budget for that at including a "new surface streets" item.
got MVET for transit service and capital? got south pathway? no.
got two freeway interchanges next to downtown? check.
@79: You're the one on crack I'm afraid. Sure all sorts of fun stuff along the waterfront itself would be great, but if you put this monstrosity between the city and and the water it's a disaster. You create a huge deadzone between each. Wasted, empty meaningless acres of concrete.

Just curious: have you ever seen the Embarcadero?

We've got a one shot opportunity here and you're willing to settle for this garbage? Just doing nothing at all and letting it rot would be better.
If this is going to happen I would like to see something modeled off of Las Ramblas in Barcelona. Have a pedestrian center with vendors and a place for street artists to perform! If we nurture the artists more will come and up their game! It could be awesome.
@54 I was there. It was a party downtown. You missed it.

It took you forever to realize I was right about the SR-99 Tunnel being a Very Bad Idea. When Sound Transit pulls the plug on bus service in the tunnel when the next stations come online - as planned - don't come crying to me that you didn't read the fine print.

But, yes, it was my idea. Sorry if that shatters your fragile ego.
Time for a massive campaign to take back beautiful Seattle design. NO to streets on streets. NO to this idea. Yes to pedestrian and tourist flows and background flows of pedicabs, bicycles, tourist buses and King County Metro Transit!
I just checked the configuration of the Embarcadero.

It has two traffic lanes in each direction for most of its length. Maybe three in a few places. And it has bidirectional light rail.

I don't see why that shouldn't work in Seattle.
When Fnarf and Will go to hell, they'll be stuck in a padded cell with each other. Both of them are so full of shit they could solve the worldwide fertilizer shortage.
I grew up in Seattle and this kind of thing is why I left. We voted several times AGAINST the stadiums and FOR the monorail and got shafted in both instances. Then there were the Supersonics and the subway. Too bad for corruption and incompetence. Sorry to see things going this way though, seriously. Good article.
I grew up in Seattle and this kind of thing is why I left. We voted several times AGAINST the stadiums and FOR the monorail and got shafted in both instances. Then there were the Supersonics and the subway. Too bad for corruption and incompetence. Sorry to see things going this way though, seriously. Good article.
How do we make sure this doesn't happen?
Yawn..everybody unclench. The section Fnarf chose is the one with dedicated Ferry waiting lanes south of Yesler. All of the other sections look less horrifying. Look here (download it, file size is large) and examine the whole plan:…

If we get rid of car transport via ferries, and maybe the Port of Seattle while we at it - problem solved!
Wow, this sounds like the construction time will bankrupt every business currently doing business on Alaskan. But, I'm sure that the plans for the developers who are pushing this through.
This is why I favored rebuilding the Viaduct. It would have been cheaper, and people could have walked under it to get to the waterfront just like today. Add some lighting and some paint and it could even have been reasonably pleasant down there. As I said all along, the only people who benefit from a tunnel are property owners who get to build a new swath of view condos.

Incidentally, you know those interesting-looking brick commercial buildings there that have been around for a hundred years or so? You can expect those to be replaced with character-free luxury condo towers.
New things are never perceived to have "character", unless they mimic hundred-year old designs. Fifty years down the road, people are rallying to save bowling alleys and Denny's locations.
"If we get rid of car transport via ferries, and maybe the Port of Seattle while we at it - problem solved!"

And every one of gets a pony as well!
@94, I'm surprised to hear that Seneca is south of Yesler now. Something to do with the magnetic poles reversing or something?

Here's a quote from a great new book I just picked up, Walkable City by Jeff Speck, that gets to the heart of what I was saying:
Rome, at first glance, seems horribly inhospitable to pedestrians. So many things are wrong. Half the streets are missing sidewalks, most intersections lack crosswalks, pavements are uneven and rutted, handicap ramps are largely absent. Hills are steep and frequent (I hear there are seven). And need I mention the drivers?

Yet [...] this anarchic obstacle course is somehow a magnet for walkers [...]

This tumltuous urban landscape, which fails to meet any conventional American measure of "pedestrian friendliness," is a walker's paradise. So what's going on here? [...] The main thing that makes Rome--and the other winners: Venice, Boston, San Francisco, Barcelona, Amsterdam, Prague, Paris, and New York--so walkable is what we planners call "fabric," the everyday collection of streets, blocks, and buildings that tie the monuments together. Despite its many technical failures, Rome's fabric is superb.

Yet fabric is one of several key aspects of urban design that are missing from the walkability discussion in most places. This is because that discussion has largely been about creating adequate and attractive pedestrian facilities, rather than walkable cities. [emphasis mine] [...]

If walking was about creating safe pedestrian zones, then why did more than 150 Main Streets pedestrianized in the sixties and seventies fail almost immediately? Clearly, there is more to walking than just making safe, pretty space for it.
This waterfront plan fails to meet the basic standards for walkability, because it LACKS INTEREST. Plants are not interesting; buffers and bollards and blank open spaces are not interesting. Traffic lanes are not interesting. What's interesting is attractive, friendly building faces, curiosity-inspiring street angles, useful shops and amenities.They're not here.
Well, again, what Fnarf said. Wide pedestrian plazas, big wide sidewalks and setbacks on wide American streets do not a walkable, livable city make.