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February 12, 2007

Opinion: Let's break the gridlock on Alaskan Way Viaduct

The recent political dramatics around the Alaskan Way Viaduct are obscuring two simple facts about the project to replace the viaduct.

First, many critical decisions have already been made, and there is agreement on many elements of the project. Second, a project of this magnitude and cost requires the ability to achieve partnership between the city, the state, the county and the Port of Seattle, as well as between the city, the immediately impacted businesses and neighborhoods, and the public. Whatever replacement option is chosen will generate transportation and construction impacts that will require creativity, patience and goodwill among the public, agencies and businesses.

Since the long-term impacts of the replacement decision are so important, no one can afford to look at this decision from a perspective that only considers their self-interest. If one group “wins” a decision in the tunnel versus elevated debate, that doesn't really help, because this project will not work unless all parties cooperate to make it work.

That is why the Seattle City Council adopted Resolution 30959 on Jan. 19, proposing concrete, practical steps that will move us forward. We know what mitigations and transportation alternatives will have to be implemented no matter what design is chosen for the central waterfront. The resolution urges the project partners to proceed immediately with “a thousand little steps,” including, among other things, expanding Metro bus transit service and the West Seattle water taxi; renovating the Spokane Street Viaduct; improving the Spokane, Lander, and Mercer corridors; and better coordinating traffic signals.

There is also agreement on the design, engineering and funding plan for much of the project south of King Street. The city and state should proceed immediately with construction on the sections of the project south of King Street where agreement exists.

These are consensus steps and there is no reason why we cannot begin work on them as a first phase in the implementation of the overall project. Experience working together can help us to resolve the remaining issues about the design of the central waterfront portion of the project.

Richard Conlin

Seattle City Council

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