Seattle Voters Reject Waterfront Highway Options

On Tuesday, Seattle voters rejected both highway options for replacing the failing Alaska Way Viaduct on State Route 99. Two options were put before the voters to vote “Yes” or “No” on an elevated highway or “Yes” or “No” on a tunnel highway to replace the viaduct. The votes so far are 70% against the tunnel and 55% against the elevated option.

Governor Chris Gregoire held a press conference today with Seattle Mayor Greg Nickels, King County Executive Ron Sims and legislative transportation committee leaders on the next step. The governor laid out a plan that mirrors the proposal put forward by the AIA/WA.

AIA/WA’s proposal for the viaduct replacement includes:

  • Create a public facilities district (PFD) to move the project forward. The state should take this project out of WSDOT’s hands and put it into the hands of an agency that can take a larger view of the problem and can represent a broader set of interests.
  • Immediately implement transit enhancements, surface street improvements and other mitigation projects.
  • Once the traffic mitigation is in place, demolish the viaduct and remove the public safety hazard.
  • Create a new design for the waterfront. While the mitigation and demolition are occurring, there will be time to thoroughly evaluate new options for moving people into and around in the City of Seattle.

The Governor’s $900 million plan, which had the support of the other officials at the press conference, includes:

  • Develop a collaborative process for bringing the government stakeholders together on a common plan.
  • Begin safety repairs on the viaduct to stabilize it until its target demolition date of 2012.
  • Utility relocation that can be accomplished immediately.
  • Improvements to the Battery Street Tunnel and at Lenora and Battery Streets
  • Transit and arterial improvements

Seattle Mayor Nickels, for his part, said he heard a clear message from the voters to not build another highway on the waterfront. He said that he will no longer push his proposal for a tunnel and will continue to oppose the building a new elevated highway.

Other than general comments, there were not details on what the ultimate replacement design may include. The speakers were careful to avoid committing to a plan, instead referencing the new collaborative process that will be developed.

Construction on the mitigation and related projects will begin this summer. The “collaborative process” will not begin until after the legislature adjourns on April 22, 2007.

Overall, the vote and elected leaders’ comments validate the position the AIA has developed on the Viaduct replacement. We will continue to work closely with city, county and state elected officials on the plan.

AIA Seattle and its leadership are to be congratulated for their role in the election and their continuing leadership on the replacement process.