Seattle's larger working waterfront is a place for jobs, and a linchpin for our economy. Moving freight through our city's core is crucial. That said, we need to ask: do we even need to replace the Viaduct?
Transportation planners in Seattle Department of Transportation (S-DOT) have put together a proposal for what to do in the event of a major earthquake that knocks the Viaduct completely out of commission. This proposal, the Central City Access Strategy, presents an exciting possibility: with improvements to existing facilities, we can get around and keep freight moving without a new highway on our central waterfront. This Strategy identifies 21 separate projects that together improve the larger road network and transit systems.
Why would we want to pay $4 billion (or more), suffer the brutal effects of 7-11 years of 24 hour a day, seven day a week of construction downtown, and continue to pour pollution into Elliott Bay, if there might be a simpler and cheaper solution to keep Seattle mobile?
Our proposed "No-Highway" solution is based on the work done by S-DOT. It's comprised of multiple smaller projects, organized into four strategies:
- Fix missing or broken links in the larger road system and spread Viaduct traffic out
- Take advantage of excess capacity of the new transit systems coming on line
- Create truck only lanes on important freight corridors to keep freight moving
- Reduce demand with dense, walkable neighborhoods and disincentives for excessive driving.
Implementing this set of improvement projects could ultimately create a more fluid, flexible transportation system for us all by creating more choices for each trip. With more options, Seattle travelers will find the quickest route and former Viaduct trips will be accommodated into a more efficient network. Increasing transportation options and making the larger system more robust is a smarter long-term solution than a single costly megaproject that lacks flexibility to adapt to changing travel needs. Capturing existing road capacity is just the kind of efficient, elegant and sustainable solution Seattleites love.