Tunnel Resurfacing

Yonah Freemark recently wrote on The Infrastructurist that Seattle’s proposed deep-bore tunnel is one of “The 4 Highway Projects that Would Be the Biggest Waste of Money.”

Meanwhile Mayor-elect McGinn is still questioning the cost overrun provision,  House Speaker Frank Chopp might want to play, but head of the House Transportation Committee Judy Clibborn definitely doesn’t. 

And the reality that the tunnel portals will have major impacts is also starting to get more attention, at the north portal, but more importantly, at the south portal right next door to Pioneer Square and the stadiums.

The 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 refresher course.  Lots juicy info, like how conservative modeling done by Parsons Brinckerhoff estimated that 28 percent of trips would disappear as people adapt their routines.  And choice myth busting: 

Myth #1 – Most Alaskan Way Viaduct trips are long distance trips through the city
Myth #2 – AWV is critical for freight movements
Myth #3 – The downtown street grid lacks capacity to move additional traffic
Myth #4 – There is a traffic “demand” that is independent of roadway supply

Responding to concerns over compromised connectivity between north and south Seattle neighborhoods, the authors write:

Here is an alternative view. If people shop and use services closer to where they live, this is a positive contribution towards Seattle’s goals for vibrant neighborhoods and sustainability.

Exactly.  We know that cars are our region’s single biggest source of greenhouse gas emissions, and we know that reducing vehicle miles traveled—as mandated by State law—is a huge challenge.  What’s not as evident to many is that this does not have to be a sacrifice:  reducing car-dependence and localizing communities can actully make life better for people.

UPDATE:  New plans for the south portal have just been posted here.

37 Responses to “Tunnel Resurfacing”

  1. City Comforts

    “Here is an alternative view. If people shop and use services closer to where they live, this is a positive contribution towards Seattle’s goals for vibrant neighborhoods and sustainability.”

    You really think it takes a tunnel to do that? People know how much gas costs and how long it takes to get somewhere. Do you really think that people in Shoreline drive throughSeattle to get to the South End Costco when there is one right nearby? I think you underestimate people.

    Furthermore while I join you in opposing the tunnel, I think that there is no political mileage in proposing the tear down as an alternative. It is too big a change for most people (those over 40, anyway) to choose. And the tear-down has to be a choice. DOT has been reinforcing the Viaduct for the past few years and sure a big quake MIGHT bring it down — but then again, that’s wishful thinking by some people.

    I think that arguing against the Tunnel by proposing the Tear Down as the only alternative will only push a lot of people into supporting the Tunnel.

    I think you vastly vastly misunderstand and underestimate the huge real and perceived social impact and difficulty of taking down the Viaduct. You will not get a majority of people in Seattle to vote for the Tear Down.

  2. MikeP

    Well, as we’ve seen so far, apparently the vote’s not the thing.

  3. mahanoy

    City Comforts @1, so what’s your alternative to the “tear down” as you call it? You want to spend billions to preserve a stretch of highway that isn’t close to being one of the most traveled routes in this region?

    And how do you expect to raise those billions? And then where’s the money going to come from to replace the 520 bridge in addition? We don’t even have the funding in place yet for the 520 replacement, and that’s a route that’s far more vital to our region.

  4. Ross

    I think people support, in order:

    1) Fixing the viaduct
    2) Surface option
    3) A tunnel

    There are a number of different ways of interpreting the previous votes, but clearly the tunnel was less popular than a rebuild. Of course, a lot of people lack information on these projects. Many people assume a tunnel would be just like the current viaduct, only underground. Some assume a surface option means only to tear down the viaduct (and do nothing else).

    Of course, there is a fourth option, which has received very little thought since it was first proposed. I speak, of course, of the Choppaduct. When I first heard the proposal, I thought it was stupid. However, when I thought of basically a huge freeway park, I figured it might be worth considering. It is a giant bread loaf (think of it as one of those record setting hoagies) but most of that area has big buildings anyway. One of the few arguments I’ve heard (and respected) for the tunnel is that it would eliminate the noise found on the South end of the area. This is a much better argument (to me) than the idea that the North end of the area will magically connect to the waterfront once the viaduct is gone (there is a big hill there folks). Anyway, I would like to see a price tag for this, and I would like to hear your comments Dan, on the idea. I know it goes against much of what you and I stand for (spending big bucks on roads) but making a huge park sounds really, really cool to me. We would literally be above the cars for a change.

    Remember too, that a road can always be converted to a rail line.

  5. Wells

    The north portal needs more study. WSDOT’s new version for that portal alongside the old version complicates the Mercer project. WSDOT closes the Broad underpass while SDOT plans use it. Good grief.

    Build the 4-lane Cut/cover. Oh wait, that makes too much sense. Riiight.

  6. Trilby

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ytKI6kHs7Jw&feature=player_embedded

    Check out this astonishing video of a “climate denier” who uses armed security guards to prove his point!

  7. Tony the Economist

    City Comforts @1,

    You seem to have a great deal of confidence in your ability to assess what the majority of Seattle will and will not vote for. Tell me, what was your prediction about the mayoral election this fall?

    You say the tear down is too big a change for those over forty. You’re probably right. The problem for you is, 50% of the adult population in Seattle is under forty. Demographics is destiny. We have the votes, we win.

  8. Chris

    Ah, its been, what, three solid months without a good tunnel debate? I miss it….

    No good crisis goes unwasted, right? Seems that the city of seattle could be beneficent and ask that the state keep $1 billion to reduce the budget deficit and implement a less expensive surface option.

    As an aside, the tunnel is worth very little in terms of transportation benefit if it does not have a western ave exit, as the 4-lane cut and cover would. The 40k vehicles/day making that movement will end up on the surface regardless. Many of these are commercial/industrial trips from Interbay to Duwamish, trips we actually care about vis-a-vis commute trips.

  9. Spencer

    Tony
    I don’t have the current census stats but those from 2000 (ten years ago) posted at the City’s website states that 49.3% are age 34 and less. I don’t know what the birth rate is here in Seattle or how many people under 40 moved here recently (but maybe you do?) but it is reasonable to extrapolate by those census numbers that 50% of the city is over the age of 40.

    Could you also explain how population density directly relates to voting?

  10. Matt the Engineer

    “but it is reasonable to extrapolate by those census numbers that 50% of the city is over the age of 40″

    Heh. Really? That assumes that less than 0.7% of our population are between the ages of 34 and 40. Even assuming an even population distribution between 0 and 90 would get you 5.6% for that age range, bumping the under 40 figure to 54.9%.

  11. Wells

    Chris, The Deep-bore does not serve those 40,000 daily vehicles (measured at the Western/Elliott ramps), but some thousands of that traffic is planned to be diverted via 2-lane Mercer Place and Mercer Street through Lower Queen Anne to the Deep-bore portal on Aurora and on to I-5, as if there isn’t already too much traffic on Mercer. Look at WSDOT’s new configuration for the Deep-bore north portal. It’s a design that accommodates the “Mercer West” travesty. Grace Crunican is slithering out of Seattle because she’s malevolent.

  12. Ross

    In general, Seattle voters don’t like change. They have a habit of voting against things. Sometimes, this is a good thing (as in the proposal to tear down the Pike Place Market) and other times, not so much (we could have had a rail system from Everett to Tacoma a long time ago, for example).

    I’m not sure why this is, but I have a theory. Like some of the other theories thrown around on this thread, it may be complete hogwash. OK, here it is: Lots of people come to this city and have done so, fairly consistently, for a long time. New comers come to the city and they like it (which makes sense, otherwise they would leave). When a proposal to change things comes up (lets build a nice park at the South end of Lake Union — Uncle Paul will pay for it) a lot of folks think “Why? The city is so cool (compared to where they before) I don’t want to change it”. Along with this group, you have lots of folks who have been here for years, who just want things the way they used to be. The folks who do eventually support change are the ones who’ve been here a while, see the problems, maybe visit a city that is nicer (like Vancouver) or gets things done (like Portland) and decide they want to get things done too.

  13. jonathan

    The tunnel needs a new name… I suggest it be referred to henceforth as the “Mercer Tunnel”.
    (This is short for “Mercer/Stadium Toll Tunnel”.)

    Thus we can help bring some reality to the debate, reminding people that all the tunnel traffic enters or exits at Mercer.

  14. Wells

    I have a theory about Seattle as well, Ross. It’s business leaders are conservative and made their fortunes selling cars, insuring, parking, fueling them, clear-cutting hillsides and building 2-car garage w/attached house subdivisions in which the only practical means of travel is by car. Boeing supports the paving over of Seattle region to create places of such dismal character that residents seek to spend vacations elsewhere via air travel. Global trade disempowers local economies that once met most residents’ needs without necessitating cross-county driving for most occupation. Seattle business leaders are completely aware of their cruel domineering and suggestively expose their elitism with insulting arts exibits like Sculpture Park and Hammering Man. In short, the Seattle Chamber of Commerce is corrupt.

  15. spencer

    Matt,

    Did you take into account that people have aged 10 years since the census? There is a chunk that has moved into the over 40 crowd since then. All I am saying is it is “reasonable” to say that 50% of the population is now over 40. That’s my only point.

    Matt, according to the census 16.9% of our 2000 population was 35 to 44 years old and 21.7% is 24 to 34 years old. I’d wager that 0.9% moved into the over 40 crowd. It seems pretty reasonable without more detailed data. If you want to see it for yourself here’s the link.

    http://www.ofm.wa.gov/census2000/profiles/place/1605363000.pdf

    It’s pretty useful stuff when you are using figures to make a point.

  16. dan bertolet

    @1: Yes David, how silly of me to suggest that people don’t base all their decisions entirely on a thorough, rational, economic assessment. Force of habit, lack of information, fear of the unknown, influence of culture: certainly none of those things have anything to do with why people choose to live the way they do. You have to wonder why people bother to write books on subjects like urban design.

  17. Matt the Engineer

    [spencer] I don’t think it’s reasonable to assume that our demographics have changed so much in a decade. You can certainly assume the birth rate roughly equals the death rate – then my point becomes valid. But moving your 49.3% number forward a decade without increasing it is assuming that no children were born in Seattle in the past decade – an assumption I know for a fact is mistaken.

    I see that you’re trying to imagine a large group of 30-somethings that are now 40-somethings. But we don’t know if after the 30’s people move to the suburbs to raise children with new 30-somethings coming in to the city to work. In fact, if you look at the 1990 census using your aging concept, we should have seen a huge spike in 35-44 year olds in 2000 and almost no 30-year olds (we only had 39k 21-24 year olds then!).

  18. Joshua Daniel Franklin

    You can get decent city-level estimates from the American Community Survey (ACS):
    http://www.census.gov/acs/www/UseData/

    Of course, the whole premise of figuring out voting patterns based solely on age or generational cohort is ridiculous. Even boomers who previously wanted bigger roads are realizing that they won’t always be able to (or want to) drive. Current retirees are already choosing to live in close-in highrises like Skyline at First Hill or Mirabella Seattle. They’re certainly not giving up their cars entirely but it’s some massive VMT reduction.

  19. City Comforts

    “… so what’s your alternative to the “tear down” as you call it?”

    I’ll be writing about this on my own City Comforts blog in the next few days or so.

    But the gist is “Repair & Prepare.”

    I think it is practical and politically realistic and a lot of people who can’t support an immediate tear down (like moi) could get behind it.

  20. Spencer

    Jesus, matt. I’m only saying it is reasonable that 40 year old and more could make up 50% of seattles population. I am not saying it is…just possible. What’s your deal? Do you have an issue with “possibility”?

  21. Matt the Engineer

    Sorry for taking this too seriously [Spencer], but your original comment was questioning [Tony]’s statistics. I’ll give you that it’s possible for demographics to make such a large swing in a decade, but I think [Tony]’s assumptions are far more reasonable.

  22. Spencer

    Matt, I’d hardly call 1% a large swing. Surely as an engineer you can admit that? But, I suppose you will believe what you want (shrug).

  23. Matt the Engineer

    But it’s nothing close to 1%. You cited “49.3% are age 34 and less” That leaves everyone between 34 and 39 unaccounted. They add up to at least 5.6% of the population, and likely quite a bit higher.

  24. spencer

    Yes Matt….that’s what I said. But……49.3% for the year 2000. That’s freaking (nearly) 10 years ago! Anyone 34 to 39 in the year 2000, when the last census was done, are no longer less than 40 years old now (2009). Even in the year 2000 50.7% of Seattle’s population was already 35 and older. According to the data from the 2000 census the percentage of people between 35 and 44 is 16.9%. Assuming at least 1/2 of them were 35 to 39 would be 8.4(5)% and almost 3% more than your source.

    If we did assume that death rate and birth rate cancel each other out (but we both know that more people are being born than dying making that a difficult assumption.); with aging alone, (status quo) five years (2005) moves the over 40 demographic beyond the 50% (50.8%) mark in 2010 and could be as much as 59%. Making up a 9% difference with birth rate alone is hard (for me) to imagine. What we need to know are the demographics of who is moving to Seattle.

  25. Matt the Engineer

    Please take a look at the 1990 data I linked to. You could have made all of these arguments back then and have been perfectly wrong. Cities have a higher percentage of young professionals than the suburbs, whatever year you take census data.

    “What we need to know are the demographics of who is moving to Seattle.” Exactly. It’s just not as easy as rolling the 2000 numbers forward a decade.

  26. spencer

    Matt,

    Sure, I did look it over. Here’s the STATS that I found…

    The larges growth was in the 45-54 category from 1990 to 2000 was over 30,000 and over 5% change. The only other significant growth is in the 25-44 year old category. While the under 5 crowd fell in total number and percent, 20-24 and 25-44 year olds did grow by around 12,000 people. While 20-24 had a respectable +2% swing, 25-44 year olds had a net drop in percentage of population (39.8% to 38.6%) nearly negating that increase. We, also, have to take the 25-44 category with a grain of salt because it is the only category that spans 20 years while the others are 5-10 year separations. And, we do not know where the real growth happened in that area. It could be assumed even distribution but we both know that is not likely.

    In that ten year period the trend is toward OLDER not younger as you seem to thouht. The greatest population increase group (44-55) is more than double any other. Meaning, in that time period Seattle got older. So…I’m not “perfectly” wrong. Maybe slightly wrong and mostly right.

    Lastly, the census says nothing about why people move to and from the city. If you are going to make broad generalizations about people moving to and from one place for another back it up with something (survey, interviews, etc.). Most of the people I know living in the Suburbs do so because of the school system and not because housing and land is cheaper. This makes the people I know more selfless, thinking of the future of their children first rather than their own comfort.

  27. Matt the Engineer

    We’re going to keep going? Ok, I’m game.

    (runs through the numbers)

    The mean age in 1990 for Seattle was 35.
    The mean age in 2000 for Seattle was 35.

    The average age in 1990 for Seattle was 37.49.
    The average age in 2000 for Seattle was 37.56.

    Ah, so Seattle is aging. And at this rate the average age will be over 40 by… 2117.

  28. spencer

    Jack, err, Matt, you forgot median and mode ages too. But wait, when did we begin talking about those figures….oh yeah, when you were dunked on by the statistics you failed to read and needed to change the parameters so that you come out on top.

    And, when you mean mean do you mean the arithmetic mean, the geometric mean or the harmonic mean? Would you mind showing your work for those mind bending calculations or should we just take your word for it?

    Seriously, I am running out of pee for this pissing contest and am really beginning to think you are only arguing for sake of you ego. I see no point in in your sophomoric need to get in the last word. So I’ll do it for you…

    Matt says, “last word”.

  29. Matt the Engineer

    Parameters: “it is reasonable to extrapolate by those census numbers that 50% of the city is over the age of 40.”

    I didn’t mean to make this a pissing match, and certainly don’t mean to offend if I have. You just keep coming back, and there I am… just bored enough to type out one more response.

  30. spencer

    Matt, you really don’t get it and by your incessant need to post dribble only goes to show you haven’t a clue about formulating an argument. First, try diverting energy from your ego into some research. So far your minor rants and poorly thought out arguments are having little effect. Dissecting one statement does not constitute an argument.

    “Parameters: “it is reasonable to extrapolate by those census numbers that 50% of the city is over the age of 40.”” — what is this supposed to mean?

    “The mean age in 1990 for Seattle was 35.
    The mean age in 2000 for Seattle was 35.

    The average age in 1990 for Seattle was 37.49.
    The average age in 2000 for Seattle was 37.56.”

    – Where does this come from?

    “Ah, so Seattle is aging. And at this rate the average age will be over 40 by… 2117.” — we both know that population growth is NOT linear.

    “Cities have a higher percentage of young professionals than the suburbs” — what sources are you getting this from?

    “but I think [Tony]’s assumptions are far more reasonable.” — Why? because he agrees with you? He offered no evidence of how he came to that conclusion when I asked. Nor have you.

    “I don’t think it’s reasonable to assume that our demographics have changed so much in a decade.” — See post 26

    “But we don’t know if after the 30’s people move to the suburbs to raise children” — Never did I make any reason for why people move to and from the city nor would I ever use the census as evidence of a behavioral issue. Census quantify not qualify. You as an engineer should know that.

    “we should have seen a huge spike in 35-44 year olds in 2000″ — but this is not entirely correct. According to both census there was a 12,000 person increase in the 25-44 year old population. The second largest growth in that ten year period. It is hard to say it “spiked” because we only have two census to draw from but, CERTIANLY, it did go up.

    “and almost no 30-year olds” — What does this mean and how is it relevant? were there only five or six people in all of Seattle that were 30?

    “Even assuming an even population distribution between 0 and 90 would get you 5.6% for that age range” — I gave you this argument at first but now it must be said that this is not a reasonable way to assume population distribution across the entire spectrum of age. As I stated above we both know population growth is not linear.

    So, Matt, if yo could make a sensible argument with data, information and deduction then I would be open to changing my point of view. So far, you point to things but have no solid reasoning or evidence to back it up. Showing some stats

    I take no offense at all to any of this but enjoy pushing you to act rather than react because you seem like a bright guy. You just don’t seem to put effort into your thoughts.

  31. Matt the Engineer

    //“Parameters: “it is reasonable to extrapolate by those census numbers that 50% of the city is over the age of 40.”” — what is this supposed to mean?//

    All I’ve been trying to say since the beginning is that this statement of yours is false. It is not reasonable to extrapolate by those census numbers that 50% of the city is over the age of 40. One year’s survey data doesn’t at all indicate what the survey will look like a decade in the future.

    //“The mean age in 1990 for Seattle was 35.
    The mean age in 2000 for Seattle was 35.

    The average age in 1990 for Seattle was 37.49.
    The average age in 2000 for Seattle was 37.56.”

    – Where does this come from?//

    That was my own calculation. I broke out each survey by age using an average value for each age group. This gives me an apples-to-apples comparison. I then used these sets to calculate the mean and the average age. Looking at this data it is absolutely not “reasonable to extrapolate” that the average age is now over 40, which would be a requirement to make the statement “50% of the city is over the age of 40″ true.

    //“Ah, so Seattle is aging. And at this rate the average age will be over 40 by… 2117.” — we both know that population growth is NOT linear.//

    Sure. But extrapolating from two points is surely more accurate than extrapolating from one.

  32. Ross

    @14: Maybe the business leaders are corrupt, but that doesn’t explain vote after vote that has been conservative. The Seattle Commons vote is a prime example. The business community (especially Paul Allen) was all for it. Build a park, raise property values and everyone wins. The people got nervous (“I like South Lake Union the way it is — I don’t trust Paul Allen”) so they voted it down twice. Of course, we know the rest of the story (Paul Allen developed the area anyway, only we don’t have a park).

    You do have a point, though. Westlake Park was gutted because the business community didn’t want to pay for it. Of course, that is the other theme. In general, we are notoriously cheap. The Kingdome was a great symbol for our cheap city. Our biggest, wildest park has a sewage plant in it. We had to expand the sewage plant (to comply with new rules) and could have built it somewhere else, but we were cheap. Same with voting against public transit. Likewise paying for the commons.

    In the last ten years or so, things have begun to change. We’ve finally woken up to the fact that spending money sometimes makes sense. The monorail passed (three times) and only failed after an accounting error. Likewise, we’ve finally voted for rail. Park and housing levies usually win, while the school levies win so easily now that they aren’t even interesting.

  33. spencer

    Matt,

    I agree, that extrapolating data from two sets are more accurate than one, but still it does not conclusively prove your point. You are analysing only one snapshot or just one possibility using limited data. “Extrapolating from two points is surely more accurate than extrapolating from one,” can easily be wrong too. Look at it this way. If you are shooting at a target and you hit the target in two places that are very closely grouped but at the left edge of the target can you conclusively say you hit the bulls-eye? No. All you have is accuracy and not precision. Because you are basing your second shot on the first only lets you say something about the two sets of data but not much about expected outcome. It could be that if a third shot were taken it could hit at the bottom of the target (or the bulls eye or the top or in the original group). You can only say with your given data explained in your way proves one outcome. It does not speak for possibility. With limited data we can only talk about potential outcomes and not absolute ones. Thus your outcome isn’t much more right or wrong than mine. That’s all I am saying. You haven’t conclusive proof that 1/2 of Seattle’s population is now (2010) less 40. You can say, according to the average or mean it is likely to be less than 40.

    So saying that I am “perfectly wrong” and “false” is incorrect because they are absolute statements without absolute, conclusive evidence. Sure the trends of two data sets can show that the average age is less than 40 but it isn’t an absolute result as your theory states. If take an even safer approach to your method we would round your numbers for average age(37) an mean age (35) to the nearest 10 years resulting in 40.

    Let me put it another way. Since we only have two sets of data, we could looking at the top a spike in population. Or, we could be looking at turning the corner of a valley. We just don’t know. There is no conclusive date with out a third, forth, etc. sets of data. We both could be bogusly wrong too. Maybe every woman in Seattle had a baby December 31st 2009 or every parent over 60 moves in with their children? Those are possibilities that would really skew the data and that we do not know at this time. Sure they are radical possibilities and not very likely to occur, but until the next census happens they are possible outcomes too. All you can say with your results is this is the tendency of the two sets of two previous data sets.

    Your point of view are rational and safe one but is far from conclusive. We do not have enough data to be conclusive about anything. We can only guess with what we know. Your absolute theory is an assumption (just as mine is). It is not based on enough information and uses only accuracy without proven precision to show your theory. Therefor you can not conclusively say I am “perfectly wrong” and making “false” statements. You can say my result is less likely to happen, and I’ll accept that, but so far you have not proven it false.

  34. Matt the Engineer

    “All you have is accuracy and not precision.” You mean precision without accuracy. Accuracy without precision would be one shot on the left side and one shot on the right.

    “You haven’t conclusive proof that 1/2 of Seattle’s population is now (2010) less 40.” Nor would I need any. My intent was only to show that the statement “it is reasonable to extrapolate by those census numbers that 50% of the city is over the age of 40.” is false.

    All women in Seattle could have had three children in the past decade, but your statement would still be incorrect. It simply is not a reasonable extrapolation.

  35. spencer

    Matt,
    Let me see if I understand what you are saying…With out conclusive proof one can definitively say what ever they want?

    I give up and I’m out of urine.

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