Last week, city, county, and state officials released a study showing how fast traffic will move under each of eight viaduct-replacement scenarios. Next month, officials will narrow the viaduct options to two or three. The results encouraged backers of the "surface/transit" option, because they showed that even a surface replacement kept people moving through the city.

That's the good news.

The bad news is that nothing the transportation geeks can say will keep one very bad option—state house Speaker Frank Chopp's "elevated parkway," a new, enclosed, elevated viaduct with a park on top and retail underneath—off the table.

What Chopp doesn't want you to know about his plan is that it would only fund the 90-foot-wide elevated highway. All other elements of the proposal—including the park, the facades disguising the huge new concrete wall on the waterfront, and all the other "amenities"—would be funded by a special tax on all the retail shops and restaurants Chopp insists will want to open under his new viaduct. If those businesses don't materialize, none of those "extras" will be funded. (Chopp couldn't comment due to a family emergency.)

"He's saying if you build this highway, you'll have the ability to do all this amazing stuff," says Cary Moon, founder of the pro–surface/transit People's Waterfront Coalition, "but the only thing he's paying for is the highway." If Chopp's enclosed viaduct failed to draw retailers away from the downtown core, the city would be left with a bigger, badder, more imposing version of what we have now.

In spite (or perhaps because) of this, Chopp's vision is gaining traction. According to King County Council member Dow Constantine, who represents West Seattle, "Everybody I talk to who's not part of the downtown Seattle intelligentsia fully expects that Chopp's will be one of the three final proposals"—a statement backed up by state legislators and some members of the downtown intelligentsia.

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"It's hard to say whether it's a good or bad idea," says senate majority leader Lisa Brown. "Aesthetically, of course, not having a structure is better, but what's really important is that we have a plan to pay for it." Governor Christine Gregoire, who hesitated to take a position on the viaduct prior to her reelection, could step in, but, according to state viaduct project manager Ron Paananen, she "has never had a favorite option and has said all options are on the table." Brown adds, "It's easy to see how [Chopp] would have enough influence to have his proposal move forward."

The Chopp option, in other words, is a real possibility—one that Seattle residents who care about their waterfront need to take seriously. "The only people who are going to be able to stop this are the good people of Seattle who don't want this big, ugly thing on their waterfront," Constantine says. recommended