“Frank Chopp is a Complete Jackass” and Other Less Obvious Viaduct News

Disclaimer:  Mind the quotation marks in the post title — I’m just reporting what one anonymous source said. Hugeasscity has no official position one way or the other on jackasses, complete or otherwise, and their alleged resemblance, real or imagined, to the honorable public servant Frank Chopp, a.k.a. the most powerful politician in Washington State.

But this I will say: the Choppway is an urban design fiasco. Much has already been written, and since at the moment I’m feeling like my time on this earth is too valuable to throw away on typing another word about it, I’m cutting and pasting the following little riff a friend sent me:

“FORGET that Frank Chopp supersized the New York City High Line project, plugged it full of program spaces from Paris’ Viaduc des Arts, and called it a solution for the Viaduct.

  • Forget that neither the High Line nor the Viaduc des Arts occupy prime waterfront real estate.
  • Forget that the High Line is only 30 feet wide in parts and often no more than 18 feet off the ground and that the Viaduc des Arts is embraced by apartments and balconies that look onto its parkway (providing security) and interwoven with broad step sequences and ramps that provide easy access to the ground.
  • Forget that neither the High Line nor the Viaduc des Arts block distant vistas.
  • Forget that neither the High Line nor the Viaduc des Arts include third party program space AND an active, limited-access freeway. THEY ARE BOTH DEFUNCT RAIL LINES, FOR CRYING OUT LOUD!!!

BUT REMEMBER, from the renderings, it seems that Mr. Chopp’s rooftop park gives all those dressed like a footless Mary Poppins mysterious powers of levitation. Now that’s barrier free design! BUILD THE MEGADUCT FOR ALL!”

In other viaduct news:

A new study by Eco Northwest found that each of the eight viaduct replacement options would have similar economic impacts. According to the study, the surface options would result in slower travel times, but because this would only affect a small fraction of total regional trips, the economic consequences are minimal. Can you feel the legs under the expensive (i.e. non-surface) options buckling?

Meanwhile Gehl Architects of Copenhagen just released a study concluding that none of the eight options does much for the pedestrian. Their criticism of the surface options sounds familiar: “The space along the water is out-of-scale, too wide and lacking definition.” And, needless to say, the report also states that the Choppway “is the least desirable option from an urban-design and open-space standpoint.”

The Gehl study offers no design solutions, but that’s not surprising given that their fee was only $15,000. This whole viaduct replacement effort would be seriously energized by an inspiring urban design vision, and that means spending hundreds of thousands — still a relatively small portion of the overall budget.

Lastly, some still dream (last paragraph) of a tunnel, and a recent report by the Cascadia Center and Arup suggesting that the $3.5 million estimate for the bored tunnel is inflated may keep their hopes alive. The report surveyed bored tunnels worldwide and found costs ranging from $200 to $700 million per mile.

A tunnel would solve a lot of problems, though in my opinion it’s still hard to justify spending a significant amount more than the surface options to facilitate vehicle miles traveled. But oh man, you just know that the machine in the picture below would cut through all that fill on the waterfront like butter.