New Study: Seattle’s I-5 Is a “Freeway Without a Future”

Comments

1

Ree-fucking-diculous.

2

You'd have to come up with more than just regional transit options. I-5 is also a main corridor for goods, travel to Canada (assuming they ever reopen the border), and much more. We can't shunt it all over to 405 - since the toll lanes went in, the rest of the freeway is packed tightly. Our geography means we're very limited on N-S travel options, so until a solution covers the longer-distance options and goods haulage, we're stuck with the freeway.

I'm okay with them lidding it over, though, especially if they can engineer out the downtown bottleneck a little better.

3

Keep looking for that Bluebird of Happiness riding that unicorn.

5

"You used to be able to walk down from Capitol Hill to swim in South Lake Union."

No, you could swim in Lake Union.

South Lake Union is a neighborhood - and as far as I know, it never had a public pool.

5

I think a lid would be great, but how is is related to climate change?

6

I agree that I-5 through downtown is both a blight and a traffic nightmare.

However, I don't think we have the ingenuity and drive to really fix it. We can barely maintain it.

7

Even when all cars are powered by batteries or hydrogen or whatever, they'll still need major arteries to get around on, including I-5.

8

I just read an article in the NY times about this: https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2021/05/27/climate/us-cities-highway-removal.html
It mostly focused on Rochester, NY where a highway was reduced but I-5 is on the list of highways being studied for removal/reduction. It takes a long ass time and the price tag is unbelievable but I'm coming around on the idea more. It's certainly a better investment than a convention center expansion or new car-centric tunnel in my mind. My main concern is that new space would just get gobbled up by developers who want to build luxury apartments though.

I live up in Shoreline and we're blessed to have overpasses at 185th and 192nd, as well as an underpass at 155th. Those are where I primarily cross I-5 by car or on foot. Another pedestrian bridge is planned for 148th and one is currently being built down by NSCC, both connecting to new light rail stations.

9

I'm having a bit of trouble squaring "the highway has no future" with "the future of the highway is to become a tunnel."

10

Lid it, and set up fully functioning rv camping spaces. You can charge usage fees for some of them to encourage a lower cost living option but for those that want to live in a less thunderdomey environment. Free space for broke down heaps and drug dens, charge, and have maybe a model year cutoff, to encourage a nicer environment lot for middle class and working class who have been priced out. It would take the strain off our parks and neighborhoods while providing multiple living options for all lifestyles. And sure, while we're at it, a drug free lot that is also free of charge and for any condition(heaps) but it might not be super popular.

11

@5A:

It's entirely possible to "swim in South Lake Union", because the "South Lake Union neighborhood" is bordered on the north side by - wait for it - Lake Union. It's like saying one went swimming "in Madison Park" - a neighborhood - which is adjacent to Lake Washington, without having to refer to the lake itself, because anyone likely to read such a statement would immediately understand its meaning.

12

@5A addendum:

"Anyone likely to read such a statement" - besides yourself, apparently...

13

To simplify, lid then convert downtown I5 to rv camping with 3 lot types: 1) free with thunderdome rules 2) paying with model year cutoff and where rule of law is followed and expected 3) free and any heap but where rule of law is followed and expected.

14

Um, Lake Union isn't the best place for a swim these days, but in the time before I-5 was put in, it was a soup of raw sewage and industrial waste. Yeah, maybe someone could walk from Capitol Hill to swim in south Lake Union, but they might not survive the experience. They'd at least need to avoid open flames for a while.

15

According to the study referenced:

"Even the simplest lid structure—to hold up green space—could be complicated and
expensive. The (very preliminary) projected costs for developing a lid project from Madison Street to Denny Way range from about $966 million for the lowest cost “park lid” to about $2.5 billion for a lid that can support a development program that maximizes vertical development and private investment."

Sounds like the worlds most expensive 'affordable housing.'

Given the huge amounts of investment required, and competing priorities for public funds, there is no way this gets done without becoming a 'public-private partnership' - with someone like Vulcan Inc. ending up with all the development rights atop the lid.

At best, lidding I-5 will end up being South Lake Union 2.0

17

It would be too expensive, unless you were willing to sell off the newly created blocks as private, developable land. If you're willing to do that, maybe there's a possibility of funding this project. The price of 20 blocks of downtown real estate would cover a lot of construction expenses, if you're willing to sell to developers and let them develop profitable buildings on the new sites. Note, I'm not normally a huge booster for private real estate development, I just think it would be the only feasible way of accomplishing the goal.

18

Vancouver don't got no freeway and they get shit in and out of there.

https://www.theguardian.com/cities/2016/may/09/story-cities-38-vancouver-canada-freeway-protest-liveable-city

19

@8: I grew up in the Rochester, NY area so your post caught my eye. Checking Wikipedia to see if my gut instincts area correct - that city has been slowly losing population at a steady rate for some time. It makes sense you can reduce highways in a city where the population is declining. Skeptical same can be done, or is feasible, in Seattle. From the article here:
https://buffalonews.com/news/local/dont-think-buffalo-can-remove-a-highway-rochester-did/article_69bedc4a-caf5-5464-87f4-f0709721fc6e.html

"A stretch of sunken highway that ran two-thirds of a mile east of downtown, known as the Inner Loop East, was filled in last year, creating 6 acres of undeveloped land and a smaller, at-grade, four-lane roadway. That is reuniting the East End neighborhood, including Monroe and Park avenues, with downtown's business district, enhancing walkability and returning land to the tax rolls."

Removing 2/3rds of a mile built to get people around Rochester simply can't be compared to reducing a highway like I-5 that serves the entire west coast.

20

From Seattle's absolute worst and stupidest blogger. Maybe some can find a hole to stuff on Matt Baume, his pie hole, that is. Ugh.

22

For a Seattle Metro Area bypass route a four or more lane highway could be built from Preston on I-90 more or less over 203 to Monroe on Highway 2 for coastal traffic. That would fuck Snoqualmie Valley royally and I still don't think I-405 could handle north/south intra area traffic with out an I-5.

It would be funny if the ghost of Dixie Lee Ray got elected governor and gave Bellevue a lid first, tut tut Seattle can have a lid when they pay off their Billionaire's tunnel cost overruns.

23

@4,10

samefag

24

Yeah, great idea! Would be a winner if we all were single, young, a triathlete (to bike all those Seattle Hills) and all live in the downtown/Capitol Hill area. You mean there are other people to consider? Fuck 'um all!

25

Hey Matt. Just for chuckles review a couple of years or more of your articles and add up all the Taxpayer money you want to freely spend. Waiting for the total.

26

I'm going through these comments here, and I have to admit, Prof_Hiztory @16 has the most reasonable take, culminating in: "How about focusing on more and better rail transit connecting north and south so fewer people need to use I-5 in the first place."

THE pressing transportation and urban planning challenge of our time is committing to the shape and scope and timing of Sound Transit 3, especially the line for which there is supposed to be a second downtown transit tunnel.

These fantastical reimaginings of I-5 strike me as a case of taking your eye off the ball. Fine as fan fiction but not to the exclusion of the real issues facing us, starting with ST3.

27

Originally Lake Union was a swamp, it's only since we cleaned up Lake Washington that you can swim there. Not that that stopped anyone.

Obviously we need to replace two lanes of I-5 with high speed passenger and freight rail and lid that.

28

@15, 16, 17 - I'll never understand the constant demand to build affordable housing on the most expensive real estate in the City, if not the State. We'd get way more bang for the buck if we concentrated on places where land is cheap. Or even only slightly expensive. The lid over I-5 would have killer views and be ultra-convenient. In other words, it would be worth huge $$. Does it really make sense to tie it up with taxpayer subsidized housing?

29

@13 - How high is the wall around the Thunderdome lot going to be?

30

"The CNU report notes that promises of a lid on I-5 go back to before it was even built, and that Seattle was one of the first cities in the US to cover its freeways. (Little caps by the convention center and by Mount Baker cover the road.)"

Gong, thank you for playing.

31

More condo's.
More high-rises. The higher ( and the higher the price tag ), the better.
More construction.
More parks that the neighbors can't use, because they've been permanently turned into homeless campgrounds.
More traffic jams.
Less public transit.
More "this bus stop is closed" signs.
More buses stuck in permanent traffic jams.
More toll booths.
More luxury high-rise shopping malls, that it's almost impossible to get to.
More diesel exhaust. More bike lanes. More co-location of the diesel exhaust and the bike lanes.

Yep. That'll make the city "more livable".
Sure it will.

32

You can't look at infrastructure as an expense, it's an investment. The money goes into people's pockets and they pay income taxes. The new infrastructure gets used for homes and businesses which provide other taxes (sales, property, etc.).

33

@28 Reinforcing economic segregation (and all of its attendant problems) by only housing poor people where there are already a lot of poor people is a big part of why midcentury public housing projects failed.

Fortunately, research and planning have both come a long way since then. We now know that you get far fewer problems for everyone in your city if you disperse public/low-income housing throughout it, on cheap and expensive land alike. A lot of people don't realize this, though, because these smaller, dispersed, more numerous, more successful housing projects are a hell of a lot less noticeable than the huge failing ones of yore.

We have a pretty good idea what works, we just tend not to build enough of it when population growth is high and vacancy rates are low, as we've seen in Seattle for the past couple decades. That's mostly a political problem, and the fact that the daily papers in a lot of American cities are owned by skittish local real estate barons doesn't exactly ease things along.

All that said, lidding I5 sounds to me like one of those middle eastern vanity megaprojects. Why not build some islands in the shape of a peacock in the middle of Lake Washington while we're at it, it's at least as good a place to stick whatever mix of development you might dream up to justify it.

34

I want to see a story bemoaning how unsafe Rainier Ave next to a story on closing I-5.

35

@5 -- It is related to global warming because it would reduce driving, while increasing walking and transit ridership. If you covered I-5, a lot of trips that now take forever on foot become quite easy. Buses that are stuck in traffic would be more direct, and faster. There are a significant number of people who now commute to work by walking. This should be viewed as more than a "park and housing" project, but a major transportation project (better than half the shit in ST3 for example).

36

@16 "How about focusing on more and better rail transit connecting north and south so fewer people need to use I-5 in the first place."

In a few years the light rail line will stretch from Lynnwood to Federal Way. There will be no "need" to use I-5 from a transit perspective. Which is not to say that Metro will completely eliminate express buses, but those are mere "nice to have" routes, largely serving rush-hour commuters. The vast majority of people using transit will transfer (or walk) to Link if traveling along this corridor.

This is all ST2 (along with service to the East Side). ST3 is largely crap. We would be better off if we simply put the money into improving the bus system (especially since our buses will carry more riders than our trains, even after spending a fortune on light rail to places like Ash Way and Fife). I'm not saying I would have done that (Seattle could use more rail) but right now we are screwed. We committed ourselves to building projects that are a terrible value, and now those projects will cost a lot more than we expected. The best we can hope for is that we somehow find money for the bus system, and that ST3 is not a complete fiasco.

37

Drain Lake Washington and Lake Union. Plenty of prime real estate.

38

You guys convinced me the lid is a dumb idea. I guess keep as is. Between our relationship to Canada, and our own ports, there is way too much shipping traffic alone to be able to eliminate the downtown I5 corridor. Having done the Renton to Redmond commute for some time that any additional traffic on that side would make things untenable.

39

Cut and cover 99 from green lake to 85th

40

Ah, Washington, home of the loudest fucking freeways this side of Moldova. And why exactly are the freeways so unlivably loud from the King/SnoHo line to Southcenter Hill? Because the road surface is original concrete laid down in the 1960s, that's why. Oh, little gaps have been filled here and there, and the state even ground down the surface a couple years back, (ruts in the road filled with water during the winter, posing a safety hazard, plus the slick aggregate led to plenty of further accidents) but because there's no political will in the city to resurface the freeway, it continues to shake motorists' fillings out when they ride on it.

If we're going to spend money on I-5, maybe we should keep our eye on the ball. I-5 through Seattle, I-90 from Issaquah to Ellensburg, and I-205 through Vancouver are embarrassments to the state. If you go on a road trip, you don't see pavement this bad again until you hit Chicago. Until we fix this glaring problem, sorry, no 20 billion dollar freeway lids.