I just posted about a phenomenon called job blackmail on Sightline’s Daily Score. Job blackmail happens when businesses threaten to leave the state or city because of environmental legislation. But megaprojects like the waterfront tunnel replacement for the viaduct also become the focus of what could be called megaproject blackmail. The blackmail machine was humming along the other day when Port of Seattle Commissioner Bill Bryant said that a s
So now Patrick Doherty, right here on SeattleScape, has offered yet another arm-waving warning that borders on what could be called “throughput blackmail.” If you don’t build the tunnel we’ll have to build another freeway somewhere else to handle all the traffic. Things will be even worse for climate change and there will be even more cars. Don’t build the tunnel and we’ll be destroying the environment. We’ll have to build even more highways. He writes:
If north-south circulation through the metro area is even further complicated by the removal of one of the region’s vital north-south highways, the I-605 promoters would essentially be offered more fuel for their fire. Constant gridlock on I-5 and the downtown Seattle streets, coupled with the congestion already on I-405, could lead to a ready-made argument in favor of efforts to pursue an I-605.
First of all, Vehicle Miles Traveled (VMT) and gasoline consumption are down, a fact that defies classic transporation planning. Part of this is attributable to last year’s wild increases in gasoline prices but it is also because people are making different choices that result in less driving. And gasoline prices are still volatile, causing people to get off the fossil-fuel rollercoaster.
Second, Doherty is comparing apples to oranges. Traffic volumes on the viaduct are nowhere near what they are on highways like I-5 and I-405. Those are interstate highways while the viaduct is a state highway. Why would we build a new high-capacity interstate freeway to deal with whatever capacity issues are created by a surface option? And remember, whatever problems with capacity that are created by a surface option are only periodic in nature, not constant.
Finally, our policies might finally be catching up to our high-flying rhetoric about saving the planet and being responsible stewards of our resources. If Mike McGinn is elected mayor of Seattle, for example, there is really a chance that the tail will stop wagging the dog. Like Portland and Seattle in the past, we might just resist the urge to spend billions of dollars on a new highway — one that has no exits downtown for all this throughput that Doherty is concerned about. And if Doherty is right about stoking the fires of I-605 there is no reason to believe we won’t be able to resist that too.