Why The Tunnel Is So Wrong

Well, at least we decided, right?  Hooray, we’re Deciders! We’ve been debating the viaduct so long that deciding has become a glorious end in itself.  Wretched.

What strikes me is how subdued the surface-option cartel has been about this so far.  Where’s the WTF?  Hey there Sightline, Worldchanging, Futurewise, Cascade Land Conservancy, Transportation Choices Coalition,  Seattle Great Cities Initiative, Sustainable Seattle, Allied Arts, and so on, are y’all going to make some noise?  Tell us Quality Growth Alliance, does the tunnel qualify as quality growth?  And hello UW Department of Urban Design and Planning, anybody home?  Might this be an opportunity to focus your awesome analytical resources on something a little more pressing than another publication in an obscure academic journal?

And isn’t anyone the the least bit peeved about how the painstaking work of the viaduct stakeholders committee was completely blown off?  And is it not troublingly bizarre, even if you support the tunnel, that the deep-bore solution was never seriously considered before now?

Ground control to Seattle:  The tunnel is stupid.  As some guy recently said, “the world has changed and we must change with it.”  The tunnel is a solution that is stunningly out of touch with future reality.  The tunnel will not age well at all.

Carry Moon and Mike Obrien’s recent PI op-ed goes a long way toward explaining why:

“Reorienting priorities around transit, compact growth, street connectivity, and providing people real alternatives to driving works for urban mobility, freight mobility and economic development. Spending $2 billion or more on tailpipe capacity with deep-bore tunnel — the most expensive option — is not a step toward a better future.”

Another piece of the equation is well-addressed in this Seattle Transit Blog post on how the tunnel would encourage sprawl and make transit less viable:

“Paradoxically, the Viaduct is actually bad for mobility. Because it allows people to entirely bypass downtown, it encourages spread out development…   This has always been the problem with highways – they break down the efficient hub and spoke structure of human settlement.”

And Sightline has been questioning the sanity of a high cost of a viaduct replacement since the Nisqually Quake (see this STB post for current cost analysis).  Of the $2.8 billion that the State has committed (not including the several billion more the tunnel will likely cost) Sightline noted:

“Calculate it per peak hour round trip—the only time when the street grid is currently full to capacity—and you’re talking ~$500,000 in taxpayer spending to support each round trip driver.”

>>>

Allow me to repackage the big picture reasons:

Climate Change:  The planet’s climate is headed off a cliff.  Those who have been right about climate change from the start are now advising that the IPCC’s target of 450 ppm CO2 is insufficient, and that we will need to stabilize at 350 ppm to avert climate catastrophe.  In the Puget Sound region, transportation accounts for nearly half of all greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.  And the State of Washington recently passed a law mandating a 50% reduction in vehicle miles traveled (VMT) by 2050.  Spending billions a tunnel that will increase GHG emissions from cars is not only a violation of State law: it is suicidal.

Energy:  We are almost certainly within a few years of peak oil, if we haven’t passed it already, while at the same time, demand for oil is spiking in developing countries with huge populations.  The era of cheap fuel for cars is ending.  This means that in the future we will drive less, and we will need more efficient alternatives, namely, transit.  As noted above, a downtown bypass like the tunnel would muck up the efficient hub and spoke urban layout that makes transit most efficient.  A good example of this New York City, where per capita energy use is lowest of all U.S. cities, primarily because so many people use transit.

Some believe that electric cars will arrive just in time to enable zero change in the way we get around.  I’m not so optimistic.  The electricity has to come from somewhere, and we’re talking about a huge amount of energy.  The rising cost of fossil fuels, restrictions on GHG emissions, and population growth will all be putting the squeeze on the U.S. electrical grid.  There are alternative sources like solar and wind, but as our supply of cheap fossil fuels dwindles, we will likely find ourselves scrambling for every possible source of electricity just to maintain existing output.  And here’s another gotcha: a conversion to electric cars would significantly increase water consumption (via The Oil Drum). So yes, we will have electric cars, but we will travel far fewer miles in them.

Economics:  It would be peachy if we had the excess wealth to build the tunnel and then just write it off if it turns out we don’t need or want it.  But we don’t have that luxury.  The U.S. federal deficit is the largest ever this year, and is expected to double next year.  Washington State has a $6 billion budget hole.  The $2.8 billion that the State has set aside for viaduct replacement is often discussed as if it’s a gift from the Gods that must be used for that purpose alone or else it will go up in smoke.  How asinine.  And same goes for the any billions we may get from the feds — it’s not free money.  There is an almost endless list of ways we could spend our money that would be more wise than buying a new tunnel.

The economy will rebound.  But unless we find an energy source as cheap, storable, and plentiful as fossil fuels were during the 20th century, it is delusional to believe that we can slip right back into economic business-as-usual for any significant length of time.  Energy is the elemental economic engine that delivers a high standard of living.  We are going to have to do more with less, and part of that equation will undoubtedly be a more localized way of life.  In other words, less driving around.  As in, a world in which multi-billion-dollar tunnels for cars start to look very, very dumb.

But here’s the thing: it’s not all bad.  Wouldn’t people would be better off spending less time in cars?  Wouldn’t communities be stronger if people lived more locally?  Our oil binge of the past century created wonders, but as with any binge, the downside is not fully appreciated until the hangover.  The party has been fun, but in all our excitement we’ve forgotten much about how to best nurture our human souls.  Time to take the keys away from the guy who’s stumbling toward the tunnel boring machine.

59 Responses to “Why The Tunnel Is So Wrong”

  1. John of Humdinger

    Perhaps Seattle’s town fathers should talk to the tunnel experts in Boston before they commit.

  2. Joshua

    I’m not supporting the tunnel, but I think it should be pointed out that the Big Dig was a cut and cover, and not a deep bore. There is actually a big difference in terms of potential for cost overruns, as cut and cover tunnels affect the ground surface to a much greater degree.

  3. F**king Morons

    I think tunnels are inherently good in urban scenarios, as long as they provide for mass transit situations (Paris Metro, London Underground, New York, you name it). You gotta put the infrastructure in at some point so stop bitching about how much money it’s gonna cost, cause’ the longer you wait, the worse it’ll be.

  4. Matt the Engineer

    I keep hoping that we’ll find a way to a somewhat soft landing once peak oil hits, but it’s more and more obvious that we’re going to fall on our face.

    My last remaining (delusional?) hope is that someone in Olympia has the foresight to allow for future rail conversion. We could have heavy rail on the lower level and light rail on top, with stations built underground later.

  5. Matt the Engineer

    I suppose the much of my anger at the decision has been dissipated mostly because the alternatives weren’t good. I certainly don’t want to invest in another elevated freeway. I do want a surface option, but the surface options that the state was pushing would have been close to freeway widths along with widening I-5. What I’d really want is for us to tear down the Viaduct and do nothing. But that just wasn’t going to happen politically.

  6. BrianK

    Words words words. Dan, you’re so far out in front but most of our society is not ready to give up their cars until events speak for themselves. There are not enough alternative choices are available.

    But instead of using the billions intended for the tunnel to fund those choices, we will proceed and start to build it. In a couple of years, if the worst of the predictions above come to pass, the stupidity will become clear and we’ll end up with the equivalent of the Texas Superconducting Supercollider. You know, the $2 billion, 14-mile-long tunnel that was begun, stopped, and then destroyed? That one.

  7. Matt the Engineer

    My attempt at a solution.

  8. Cascadian

    I agree with all of Matt the Engineer’s comments. The least we should do is include transit or transit conversion plans in the tunnel. But the surface alternatives we got were bad, and the best option to just tear down and keep the street layout as is was never considered.

  9. wes

    But…but, how will people get from W Seattle to Ballard?

  10. Sarah

    Ahem…http://www.worldchanging.com/local/seattle/archives/009302.html

    We covered it on Worldchanging Seattle and posted it to the global site in our weekly round-up.

  11. Tony

    I also am not happy with the tunnel. I agree with many of Dan’s points, and I personally like MTE’s idea of just tearing the thing down, but I am not so unhappy that I am up in arms, and the reason is, that when you go into a roulette game with three options:

    1.) win $10,000,000
    2.) lose $1,000
    3.) Certain Death

    and the wheel lands on 2, my first inclination is not to dwell on how pissed I am that it didn’t land on 1, but to be relieved that it didn’t land on 3.

    That’s a bit how I see the viaduct, though the weights are obviously slightly different for some people. As pissed as I am about the tunnel, I am very, very relieved they do not plan on building another viaduct.

    I also fear, honestly, that if we somehow rose up as a city and killed the tunnel, that the fallback would not be surface-transit or a simple tear-down, but a new elevated structure. I wonder how many of the progressive organizations you mention are thinking the same thing. I.e. let this fight go for fear of making it worse.

    There are very powerful interests, including the State DOT, the governor, and Industrial businesses interests who strongly oppose any reduction in capacity. These interests don’t care if it’s tunnel or a viaduct, but they will fight to the death against a surface option. On the other hand, there are other, very powerful interests including downtown boosters, property owners and local government leaders who strongly oppose a new viaduct. These interests don’t really care if we do a tunnel or a surface option, but they will fight to the death to kill a viaduct.

    The tunnel is the only option that is not vehemently opposed by a group far more powerful than progressive armchair urban planning nerds like us. If we were to actually kill the tunnel, somehow, we’d be setting up a battle royale between two very powerful, very committed groups. It’s a gamble. Maybe the downtown boosters are stronger, especially when combined with the enviros, but maybe they are not. Maybe killing the tunnel would give us something much worse.

  12. Bobby

    You people and your Oil Peak. Let me assure you, it will do nothing to cars and driving patterns. Cars will just run on algae or something else. You underestimate technology advancement.

    Having said that, another downtown bypass IS needed if you don’t want to fuck up DT. It is so stupid to make folks go trough downtown if all they want to do is visit a family member in Shoreline or Everett or someplace that is not going to get an easy transit access any fucking time soon. If ever.

    Ridiculous.

  13. Keith

    Bobby,

    So maybe someday cars will run on trash, air or salt water, and you can drive to your heart’s content, but that doesn’t solve any of the sprawl and accompanying environmental/social/health problems that come with it. Technology is not the panacea that will solve all of our problems.

    (To the chorus):
    And correct me if I’m wrong, but wasn’t it the intent of the interstate system to not bisect cities, like it has done here, but to serve as links between metropolitan areas? I have a hard time believing the parade of suburbanites using them daily is what was intended.

  14. joshuadf

    I love the solution. The surface portion is better than any of the alternatives, and the tunnel will never get built due to funding issues. They’ll tack up SR-99 signs along I-5 and call it done.

    If I’m wrong (as I usual am) the tunnel will be lightly used because it was a stupid place for a freeway in the first place: West Seattle to Ballard. Hmm, I guess that would be a nice alignment for a rail line if only we could connect it to the Transit Tunnel. Oh, you mean separate tunnels for rail lines in other cities do connect? Wow.

  15. Bobby

    Keith,

    What I’m trying to say is that due to our unique topography and the patterns in which this city grew, we NEED another downtown bypass. I agree that the tunnel is not exactly density friendly, but people have to understand that some of the traffic that wants to and HAS to bypass DT Seattle. And you can’t just whistle, take the viaduct down and let people worry. It would have been ok if there was another alternative to I-5; but there isn’t and trust me there are a lot of folks who need to go somewhere else than downtown, from places like west seattle and other suburbs south or north. Places to where no buses go (and there are plenty of those). If in 20 years our transit system is up to par with some of the European or Asian countries you will still have to accommodate the projected increase in population. And I’m not only talking about some of those people driving their cars but also delivery trucks etc.

    And the tunnel is exactly for that, so when in 20 years 200k people live in West Seattle and some want/have to drive to freaking Everett to pick someone up, they can do so without clogging DT and fucking up I-5 more.

  16. joshuadf

    The “folks who need to go somewhere else than downtown” problem is not due to topography. The “more highways” solution leads to an exponential increase in highways since there are some folks in every neighborhood wanting to go to every other neighborhood. This has been tried in LA, Dallas, etc. and all it creates is more gridlock.

    What we actually NEED is a change in expectations. I’m sure people in New York, London, Paris, Tokyo, etc. have places they’d like to go that are on the other side of downtown, too. They just know that it will take them hours to get there because of the millions of other people living in the city.

  17. Deb Eddy

    So far, you “armchair urban planning nerds” have been running a pretty interesting site. Even the comments to postings include some thoughtful analysis.

    But the recent tilt toward Kunstler’s nihilist/utopian visions of the future – while philosophically interesting — indicates a shift, perhaps, into a pessimistic mind-set?

    Optimism beats the alternative, every time.

    And Tony’s roulette illustration cracked me up.

  18. joshuadf

    Nah, it’s just that Dan’s been reading some Kunstler. We’ll feel better next month.

  19. Sabina Pade

    I, too agree with Tony’s perspective.

    The notion of splurging on a tunnel while cutting back on education and denying thousands of citizens decent housing is of course appalling.

    A bypass tunnel, however, is in itself not bad for downtown Seattle. And in the debate over vehicular traffic, team density here seems a bit obsessed with energy supplies and roadways.

    Experience in other countries has consistently shown that the cost of fuel, the accessible square footage of roadway and the efficiency of public transportation are relatively minor factors in people’s choice whether or not to drive.

    The most significant factor is the availability (and cost) of parking. In essence : if people can (afford to) park their cars, they’ll drive them.

  20. dan bertolet

    If you like pessimism, try this on for size:

    http://www.newscientist.com/article/mg20126921.500-one-last-chance-to-save-mankind.html

  21. Tony

    Bobby said:

    “we NEED another downtown bypass”

    Bobby makes a good point that there are a number of trips that start at on one side of downtown and end on the other side that we are a very long way away from serving with transit. I also don’t agree with joshuadf’s assessment that we should just accept that these sorts of trips should not be made at all.

    Most of us agree however, that with good planning, a much larger portion of trips bound for downtown can be shifted to transit. I’m not just talking about trips to downtown from ballard and west seattle, but from everywhere.

    I-5 has 13 lanes running through downtown seattle. If most of the TO trips where shifted to transit, then those 13 lanes could easily carry every THROUGH trip in the region without a $3 billion bypass. So in reality, the argument that most viaduct trips are through trips is irrelevant, because we have more than enough potential through capacity on I-5 if we just create a mode shift for the trips bound for downtown.

    Park-and-rides, with all their faults, can actually be a huge help here. As expensive as it is to provide a park-and-ride space, it is more expensive to provide that same space in the heart of downtown. A ring of park-and-rides at Ballard, Fremont, The University Distrirct, West Seattle Junction, Sodo, Mt. Baker, and one on the east side of I-90 and one on the east side of 520, with light rail or BRT connecting each of those to downtown would be enough to provide a convenient way for virtually everyone in the region to access downtown seattle with virtually no added time cost because no matter where anyone is coming from, to get to downtown you pretty much have to pass through one of those eight points (except for the center city residents, who can easily shift to transit w/o a park-and-ride.

    The viaduct currently provides for 110,000 one-way trips per day, which is about 55,000 round trips, round up to 60,000 for cushion. That means, we need to get 60,000 people who are driving to downtown to switch to transit, because that will free up the space on I-5 for the through trips.

    The thing is that we are already building light rail or BRT between downtown and every one of the 8 key points I mentioned. Now all we need to do is build 60,000 parking spaces. At 30,000 each, that adds up to $1.8 billion. Given the tunnel cost of $3 billion, that leaves $1.2 billion for various capital improvements to transit, I-5 and the downtown street grid. Done and done, without anyone giving up any serious amount of convenience or preference in trip making.

  22. justin

    Am I the only one that thinks a bypass on 99 is the wrong place for it?

    If any road should have a bypass it should be an option on I5. Let’s deep bore under I5 and do it there…

  23. joshuadf

    Just to clarify, I didn’t mean “these sorts of trips should not be made at all.” I was trying to say that whether or not you spend billions freeways (as in LA), cross-town trips will take longer as the city grows.

  24. serial catowner

    Well, right now, this show looks a lot more like Searching for Mr. Goodbar than it does like The Music Man. From the roots of our angst come the recovered memories,and I’m not getting a good feeling when I see the Sierra Club, which opposed transit in the 80s and 90s, opposing tunnels now.

    Yeah, that worked. The nattering nabobs killed the Seattle Commons project, and now the neighborhood is a charming melange of low-income housing and preserved historical gems. Not. Except for the trolley, an evil machination by the city patriarchy to benefit Paul Allen. What a tangled web we weave.

    Ironically, when the state unveiled plans for I-5 in the late 50s, a committee of architects and engineers pointed out that a cut-and-cover past downtown would be cheaper to build than the roller-coaster ride that was designed and built by the state. Who knew.

    I think what amazes me the most is that any discussion on a local blog about where to put another light-rail line always agrees that we certainly couldn’t put it straight up 15th West or 99 because where would the cars go? And now, suddenly, it’s like “Cars? They are so 20th century! People will ride transit and if we use all 13 lanes passing through town for buses we’ll have plenty of capacity”.

    Well, cue John Fox, Tim Eyman, and all the Bubblegum Petes of local talk radio. The Sierra Club will have no shortage of allies in opposing a tunnel.

    However, responding to a few points in Dan’s post, demand for oil is not spiking in third world countries (for a number of reasons), and we could double our mileage figures by letting in the 50 mpg cars that are sold in other parts of the world. There’s plenty of off-the-shelf technology for electric cars today that have a 40 mile range and 40 mph top speed. Also, go and actually look at the traffic on the Viaduct before you make decisions about what it is.

    Secondly, hub-and-spoke isn’t universally loved as the best of all possible worlds. Deciding not to build an underground bypass for traffic bypassing downtown because you love hub-and-spoke is dubious logic.

    As for the budget deficit of $6 billion, that’s about 1% of the proposed military budget this year. But we have four unused aircraft carriers in Bremerton, and probably a few more stashed here and there. Or, we could switch to universal single-payer healthcare coverage, and save about 5% of our GDP (roughly $700 billion) each year. It’s not like stopping the tunnel is the only option we have.

    The one possibility I never see discussed is that they would get halfway through building the tunnel, realize that the demand for cars was falling and the demand for transit was rising, and decide to build it for transit instead. What this tells me is that the people who think the age of cars is over and everyone will ride transit don’t think that very strongly- at least, not as strongly as I do.

  25. Spencer

    “we NEED another downtown bypass”

    Maybe what we need is a little more patience.

  26. Spencer

    Tony,

    Finally someone takes a stab at a solution.

    Thank you.

  27. Spencer

    SerialCat and Dan,

    Let’s have a resource off.

    Where are you both getting your information on developing countries’ peak oil demand? Neither of you cited it.

  28. dan bertolet

    Hey Spencer and S.Cat: by developing countries I was primarily referring to China and India. Do you really need a reference? Perhaps demand in these countries has eased during the current downturn, but there is no question that they will be sucking down more and more oil as they modernize. More demand + less supply = ?

  29. Sabina Pade

    For reference : statistics posted on Wikipedia indicate that the current population of China and India, together, is approximately 2,468,665,604. That of the USA is 305,682,072.

  30. serial catowner

    I usually go with impressions formed by reading the Oil Drum, Paul Krugman, K Drum etc. The basic feeling was that during the period of high prices, the third world countries were priced out of the market and weren’t making demand pressures- i.e., the high prices were actually lower than they would have been if everyone could have afforded to buy oil.

    Since then, the third world economies are suffering from recession, meaning they still can’t buy the oil they might want. Incidentally, I class China and India as second world countries, and would call their economies, not ‘developing’, but ‘maturing’.

    Nations with primitive economies can leapfrog more developed economies. We did this ourselves when we became a nation and applied the latest managerial techniques to a continent which, as far as we were concerned, had no landed aristocracy to slow or frustrate change. Compare with 19th century Russia.

    Imagine that third world countries (and parts of the Chinese, Russian, and Indian economies) simply bypassed the age of oil. In that case they would still not exert demand pressures on oil markets.

    IOW, we’re probably somewhere in peak oil right now, but the results of this may not be what was imagined. “The Stone Age didn’t end because they ran out of stone, and the Oil Age won’t end because they run out of oil.”

  31. serial catowner

    As Sabina indicates, there are absolutely huge numbers showing that the car is a footnote to history. I read recently that Russia has no freeways. You somehow doubt they will start building them now.

    However, there are other numbers- the GDP- that will influence what we see around us.

    Having lived through the early 70s oil crisis, I’ve seen the oil spigots turned off with no help in sight, and I’ve seen people keep driving when they should have bought a home on a transit line.

    Worldwide, however, I think it’s totally clear that most people will never own or drive a car. Stick a fork in it, it’s done.

  32. joshuadf

    I’m mostly with serial catowner on lower oil demand in India and China than in the West. The population figures are huge, and no doubt there is conspicuous consumption amoung the wealthy, but these are places that have a little experience in building successful cities.

    I don’t expect them all 2.5 billion to start actin’ like Texans.

  33. reality based commute

    Where to start? I agree/admire Dan on 99% of what he posts, but I think the histrionics against a tunnel are overblown. Lets start with a few givens:

    1) Any viaduct solution is being designed as a 50 year solution.
    2) We have no meaningful rail transit in this city. ST2 won’t deliver extensions for at least 10-15 years. Any future rail extensions will likely lag behind those.
    3) Your view on what is necessary and appropriate is always influenced by your personal experience. Most of the “surface option cartel” is dominated by well-meaning North Seattle and Capitol Hill residents who don’t use the viaduct.
    4) This tunnel isn’t a big capacity tunnel. It is two-lanes each direction with a heavy surface/transit component to compliment it. It is not a WSDOT freeway lane for freeway lane proposal.
    5) The state legislature would likely shoot down any state dollars for a surface/transit only option. Seattle is only 1/10 of the state legislature and our goofy delegation can’t even agree on a position.

  34. reality based commute

    Now lets look at a few of the arguments Dan lays out.

    –The reason the “surface option cartel” is subdued is that they all realize how close we were to getting another elevated viaduct on our waterfront. The status quo is always the default option.

    –The viaduct stakeholders group was not blown off. If you actually attended the meetings you would know that all but one elevated guy supported surface/transit with meaningful study of a tunnel. And that over half of the stakeholders group would probably endorse the current proposal.

    –The Seattle Transit Blog post on the tunnel encouraging sprawl is a bunch of hooey. 90% of all traffic on the viaduct is from Seattle or neighboring cities to Seattle or neighboring cities. Show me in a meaningful way how it actually breaks down the hub and spoke transit patterns that encourage transit in a city where half of downtown workers already use transit. Anyone who actually uses the viaduct will tell you that it is the yellow pages freeway. All those UPS trucks, plumbers, Amazon Fresh drivers, etc. that you depend on every day need a way to get from their offices in Ballard, SODO, South Park, etc. to places all over the city.

    –Sightline is fine, but the figure on the cost per peak hour trip is laughable. To arbitrarily decide to make this the measure of the true value of an investment and deliver a figure is certainly not a meaningful exercise. I agree that we are building too much capacity still for peak hour traffic, but one doesn’t have to rely on bullshit instead of the kind of meaningful analysis the stakeholder group engaged in.

    –Climate change–Agreed, roads suck. Cars pollute. From an environmental standpoint the whole auto/personal transport idea is a disaster for urban planning, the planet and everything else. But the big leap many make is to assert that building a tunnel will encourage more auto usage in the future or that we have any proven formula for meaningfully measuring future GHC emissions.

    –The State Legislature will only fund a viaduct replacement scheme that they view as credible. The leg is a far more conservative body than you or I. They would naturally be inclined to ram an ugly elevated viaduct down our throats in the name of interstate commerce. Instead the deal is a much smaller tunnel, significant surface improvements to downtown Seattle as the region doubles in population over the next 20-30 years, and the promise of a more stable funding base to maintain and expand bus service in the future.

    All I am saying, is this is not a simple political decision. There are a lot of stakeholders in a community and any result must include business and developer input. To ignore them and to ignore the political climate of the state and region may not be a wise strategy to achieve our long term goals.

    Sorry to babble on.

  35. serial catowner

    With apologies to Joshuadf, I was actually trying to distinguish between second-world economies like China and India, and third-world economies like the very poor countries of Africa. When oil prices spiked the very poorest countries couldn’t afford it and dropped out of the market; with the worldwide recession the poorest economies aren’t making enough money to buy oil.

    China and India are so very large, however, that their per capita consumption could be a fraction of ours and still hugely significant.

    Hopefully, the leadership of China, India, Russia, and other large countries will turn sharply away from the automobile-centered development we experienced. If and when they do, we can’t expect them to have much sympathy for our addiction to cars.

  36. dan bertolet

    Hey there RBC @33 and 34, you make a lot of interesting points, but you avoid making a commitment to what you think should be done. Do you believe that the deep-bore tunnel is the best solution for the future of Seattle, yes or no?

  37. reality based commute

    For now, yes. My answer is based on both political pragmatism and following the money. Task one was/is to defeat any idea of another elevated viaduct on our waterfront. This is no small task with Speaker Chopp and our state legislature.

    Most people and their elected officials in this region believe that we need to continue to provide an alternative to I-5 through downtown. Most of the people who don’t believe we need to address this need rarely use the viaduct because of where they live. A strictly surface/transit option simply doesn’t have the votes in the leg. Suburban Puget Sound legislators will oppose it because of fears that it will impact I-5 and I-405. Our goofy ass Speaker of the House, Frank Chopp, will try to kill it as well. The state will move to defund the surface/transit option and shift that money to 520 and tell Seattle to pay for it themselves.

    I believe in the duality of all things. To believe that the surface option, or a tunnel, or an elevated has no pluses and minuses is silly. You have articulated many of the negatives about a tunnel. But a surface option in a region with limited transit to speak of will by necessity mean heavy surface traffic on the waterfront. The transit is a promise that will take years to realize, will continue to struggle with sustained funding, and will be susceptible to political struggles like the 40-40-20 Metro formula for new service.

    A tunnel allows us to separate the pass through traffic from the downtown traffic which makes the surface element work much better as this region almost doubles in size. Yes, it is a lot of money, but Seattle shouldn’t assume that money is to be spent where they please.

    I get people’s desire to radically change how we live for climate change reasons and those of urban design. But I also get that personal transport vehicles will continue to grow in numbers in this region. Each year we register almost 80 more cars per day than the previous year in the Puget Sound region. I want us to make the change from a auto-dominated city to a transit-dominated city like more mature cities have done. But we have just begun to build high-capacity transit and it will take a long time before we really build a network. If we build this tunnel now we will have it as a fixed resource which can be converted to rail in the future.

    Under this deal the state pays for the tunnel which you don’t want. If there is no tunnel, the money goes away. The city pays for the surface improvements, and the county pays for more transit. Unless there are compelling reasons why Seattle should give away even more of our state gas tax dollars to build roads elsewhere, I fail to see what is wrong with this deal. I remain unconvinced that it will negatively affect urban design or climate change to the degree opponents suggest.

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  40. I Skim The Seattle Times And Crosscut So You Don’t Have To | hugeasscity

    [...] that I’m not biased, I also didn’t read Mike O’Brien’s Crosscut piece on what’s wrong with the deep-bore tunnel even though I got about 72 facebook updates telling me I should.  [...]

  41. One Issue | hugeasscity

    [...] a McGinn supporter and one who also believes that the deep-bore tunnel is a spectacularly bad idea, my response to those who would  seem to be compromising their values in a broad sense by letting [...]

  42. Tunnel Resurfacing | hugeasscity

    [...] idea that the tunnel is a waste of money is not new, and as the debate is not over, this 2006 study on the “No-replacement Option” is good [...]

  43. Don’t Worry, It’s Probably Nothing | hugeasscity

    [...] the bigger question this all circles back to is this: Why are we taking on the huge risk and expense of a piece of mega-infrastructure we don’t [...]

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  45. Sunday Open Thread: Viaduct Inspection - Seattle Transit Blog

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  52. Is This Thing On? | citytank

    [...] enough? Not local enough? Would it help if I wrote something frothing at the mouth about the deep-bore tunnel? Do I need to stir things up with a self-righteous cycling [...]

  53. Still Not Digging The Tunnel | citytank

    [...] 01.23.09: Why The Tunnel Is So Wrong [...]

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