City's viaduct workshops: lots of threads, no blanket vision

Washington State Department of Transportation's Alaskan Way Viaduct and Seawall Replacement Project, partnering with the city of Seattle's Central Waterfront Plan, organized three public meetings last week (see story on front page).

At their presentation in the Interbay National Guard Armory Drill Room, the space was filled with posterboards on easels and a bevy of eager men from the government agencies and engineering businesses representing their involvement in these projects. With graphs, charts and glossy handouts the agencies were hard at work performing the legal requirements to have public meetings, and ready to answer all questions.

However, scratching the surface one found that there did not seem to be an overall and cohesive vision. A bit of a focus here, an attractive rendering of a revitalized waterfront scheme there; a truly inaccurate map showing SR99 going up the west side of Queen Anne Hill; an interesting new project, to my eyes, called AWW that would connect the South Lake Union development (Vulcanville) to Queen Anne by lowering Aurora Avenue outside the Battery Street tunnel. This project would require two or three new on and off ramps. I have forgotten the stated cost.

And of course there were boards on the Mercer Corridor Project. Tell me about a Seattle public meeting on transportation in the past 25 years that has not included the dream solution for the Mercer Mess!

There was no board showing how the time-lines of all these transportation schemes would be interwoven. Yes, most of the projects showed high-level imaginings of when the review processes would be completed and construction could begin, but I would have been fascinated to see a comprehensive graphic depicting the true time-line intersections for all these developments.

And then the sorry state of financing, for the money has not been securely earmarked for the Alaskan Way Viaduct's renewal/replacement. I looked around the room and wondered just how the presenters could stay on project. I asked a designer for the Waterfront Project how he could stay focused on the design aspects, how he could put pencil to paper knowing that the project might never see the light of day?

It seems to me that the worst-case scenario would be that an earthquake would take down the crumbling viaduct, and with emergency funds basic roadways would be built to carry the traffic needed to continue some economic viability for the region. The designed amenities of trolley cars, plantings, artworks and parks would never come to fruition.

Without guaranteed financial resources, it seems to me we are dealing with a chicken-and-egg situation. The city of Seattle is spending money on developing a waterfront scheme, while it appears WSDOT has not done their lobbying work in the other Washington - and we will not get sufficient funds during this cycle, and the next cycle of funding is six years into the future.

So, were the Mercer Corridor project and the AWW project included in this Viaduct/Seawall - Waterfront Public Meeting to divert our attention?

There were so many threads, but no compelling or believable overall vision. This public, me, gets worn down. And I know I am not alone.

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