Proposed Viaduct in Seattle is a Mega-Luxury Project we Don’t Need

When you think about it, the proposed Seattle Viaduct Governor Gregoire wants is a Mega-Luxury Project using 1950’s traffic solutions for the 21st century. The Viaduct is gross misrepresentation of the actual needs for that transportation corridor and shows no innovation in dealing with reducing traffic flows and reducing fuel consumption and reducing CO2 contributing to global warming.

A Seattle Dept of Transportation Map shows that the average figure for traffic going through the Battery Street Tunnel is 60,000 cars per day. The traffic on the South part of the Viaduct by Spokane Street is also only 60,000. These are two constrictor points.

In the center of the Viaduct a figure of 110,000 vehicles is usually given. The question is how much of this figure is a short on and off travel figure or a pass through that could go elsewhere. What is the traffic flow of these 50,000 vehicles?

Even using these numbers to support rebuilding a Luxury viaduct are misleading. They are actually the wrong numbers to look at.

The important question to ask is, what is the hourly traffic each hour during the day using the viaduct? What time is the highest per hour capacity now and what are the alternatives that might lower that peak capacity travel? How many park and rides and buses could we fund with $2 to $3 billion dollars to reduce that peak capacity?

We obviously don’t need a 110,000 capacity corridor for 24 hours, 7 days a week. For most times a lesser capacity option would work. That is unless our goal is to increase traffic flow through this corridor with more air pollution and noise.

So then what is this huge luxury viaduct being built for – for maybe 20 peak hours of travel – 2 morning and 2 evening rush hour traffic flows during the weekdays? Obviously Saturday and Sunday traffic flows are different. Saturday and Sunday traffic wouldn’t warrant such a large capacity. And traffic flows in the night are not much.

Building a 110,000 vehicle/day capacity is like buying a huge truck because maybe once a month you need to haul something. Why not buy a small fuel efficient car for most of your travel and rent a truck those few times you need to haul something? Its the same with the traffic corridor in question, why not built it for smaller capacity that meets 90% of the travel needs? And look for solutions to address the remaining 10%.

For those few hours of peak capacity, how about increased bus traffic – maybe even free bus passes from new park and ride lots north and south of the viaduct? You can give out lots of free bus passes for a billion dollars, and reduce traffic noise and congestion and cut air pollution.

It’s what happens now with special buses to sports events. What’s so different about having “special buses” to zip people to work downtown who now use the viaduct? I know this is a pretty radical idea. Since trips to work are round trips 10,000 people using the bus means 20,000 fewer car trips. 50 people in a bus means 50 fewer cars at the same time. How about some car pooling.

Another way to check the true need for the viaduct capacity is to start charging tolls and then see how many people still use the corridor. Charge car pools or van pools less or let them pass through free. Tolls have been mentioned as one way to help pay for transportation infrastructure and what better way to see how many would pay a toll to use the Viaduct corridor than to start now. The initial toll could be used to build a fund to tear down the viaduct.

Seems to me to be a legitimate way to use the tolls. And the concept of user pay is fair. If you don’t use it, why should you pay for it?

We’re going to have to tear the viaduct down anyway so why not do it now. Then see how many people clamor to rebuild it. You might be surprised how many would look to different solutions than those proposed now. Too bad we can’t plan for an earthquake at 3 AM sometime soon to speed up the tear down process.

2 responses to “Proposed Viaduct in Seattle is a Mega-Luxury Project we Don’t Need

  1. By my reckoning, closing the viaduct would add between 6,000 and 7,000 peak-hour car trips through the downtown core. (That avoids double counting viaduct trips that begin or end on the downtown surface streets.)

    Now, getting rid of 6,000+ SOV car trips isn’t simple. But it’s not rocket science either. The bus/train tunnel, once it’s open, can handle at least 9,000 passengers per hour. By some estimates, it’s as many as 18,000. Third Ave., if it’s not a bus route, can handle about 2,000 car trips per hour. A revamped Alaskan Way could handle about the same. Adding a peak-hour congestion fee to I-5 could reduce “low value” trips, adding capacity for commutes. Tweaks to the street grid could boost N-S throughput by a few percent — adding capacity for a thousand vehicles or so per hour. And so on.

    Somehow, this all feels like a massive failure of imagination.

  2. Why do you assume that the Viaduct must be torn down? Who among us believes everything the government tells us?