Viaduct Schmiaduct. Hmph.
Over the weekend the New York Times ran a feature story on a subject we’re all familiar with: the Alaskan Way Viaduct replacement project.
The never-ending debate between the tunnel and surface options.
The fight between Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn, the governor’s office and the city council.
The Times asks whether McGinn is a nobleman or an obstructionist. During the mayoral campaign, McGinn was staunchly against the tunnel option, and had a million reasons why the surface option was better, namely cost overruns and the question of who is responsible for them
In the 11th hour however, McGinn said that if he were elected, he wouldn’t work against the tunnel option, which was already in the works at the time.
Then McGinn was elected. Since then, he’s done exactly what he swore to the voters he’d never do; fought actively against the tunnel as the replacement for the Viaduct.
McGinn says he never said he wouldn’t fight the tunnel or the costs he says Seattle residents will be on the hook for.
Now there’s going to be a vote on the August ballot to determine if voters think the City Council acted appropriately when it approved the tunnel contracts with the state. It’s political theater so outrageously dysfunctional they’re talking about it in the New York Times.
I’ve had people ask me why I haven’t weighed in on the viaduct replacement. I’ve never written about it or talked about it here, when I talk to the Mayor or his staff, I never ask about it.
There’s a very simple reason for that: I don’t care about the viaduct replacement.
Yes, I know it’s a lot of money. Yes, I’m aware it’s an open opportunity to criticize the mayor.
Truthfully, I don’t care about the money or who has to pay cost overruns and let’s face it, if I jumped on the mayor every time he doess what he does, I wouldn’t have time to talk about anything else.
When I think about the Alaskan Way viaduct, only one thing ever comes to mind: The California quake of 1989 and the Oakland Interstate 880 Cypress viaduct. Sections of it collapsed on top of each other. Over 40 people were killed and many more were injured. I remember watching coverage of rescues and memorials on television.
Most of all I remember how the devastation in California suddenly shined a spotlight right here, on our own viaduct. I remember when it became clear the viaduct was unsafe and needed to be replaced to prevent what happened in California from happening here. To prevent people from dying.
Since then it’s been a process of 2 steps forward, 5 steps back. Debates, elections, ballot measures, referendums. Followed by more debates, elections. Ballot measures and referendums.
Still the viaduct snakes along Seattle’s waterfront, cracking and sinking a little more every year, still likely to collapse in a significant earthquake.
I don’t care which replacement option costs more or less, or which is more pleasing to the eye or frankly which is more environmentally friendly.
No one should be driving on the viaduct. It’s dangerous. We all know it. In fact its risk for collapse seems to be the one thing we can all agree on; it will collapse. If people are on it or under it when it does, they will probably be crushed and die.
If I had one question for Mayor McGinn about the tunnel, it would be this: how much is too much to prevent that?