The State narrowed the SR99 options down to two last week. Maybe that’s not the final word, but let’s assume it is for a moment.
I don’t like either of them. Both options have big problems. (On the other hand, wouldn’t a decision, good or bad, be a relief on some level?)
That’s not easy to admit. I was on the viaduct-over-my-dead-body bandwagon not long ago. Why build another view-blocking encouragement to driving too much? Why choose to make the same horrible decision that so many of us have regretted for decades?
A tunnel is clearly the best option. It handles most of the traffic, and it does it out of sight. But remember our assumption.
The one-way surface couplet is scary, though it has its benefits. For a few reasons.
For all the horrors of the current viaduct, it gets traffic off the streets, and makes Western and Alaskan pedestrian-friendly. We’re talking about turning both into high-volume throughways. Sort of like Western already is in Belltown, but worse.
The surface option assumes some traffic would go away as transit use grows, and as people make new decisions about where to live and work, telecommuting, etc. But it also assumes more traffic flows to I-5 and other surface streets. We also plan to accommodate more cars on our streets.
I don’t want Downtown Seattle to be a throughways! Let the through traffic stay on the two freeways, and let our surface streets focus on people and their own neighborhoods.
The emphasis on transit is fantastic. We should do that regardless. Taking it a step further, Seattle needs its own version of the Metro and Sound Transit bus improvements that are mostly suburban. A levy in the tens of millions per year would revolutionize inner-city transit.
If you’re concerned about the aerial option encouraging driving, rest assured that it won’t add capacity, and has fewer lanes than the current version, with the plan that Downtown commuters will exit sooner. Actually Downtown streets stand to suffer even in this scenario. It’s a decent balance.
Sometimes pragmatism and compromise gives you a better result than idealism.
P.S. North of Denny, it’s all positive. Anything is better than the mishmash of pedestrian barriers we have now, crossing Aurora, going north-south west of Aurora, etc.