Seattle Mayoral Candidate Mike McGinn A One Song Bird: Gut the Viaduct Plan – Editorial by Ricardo A. Guarnero
It appears that Seattle Mayoral Candidate, Mike McGinn has staked his campaign on one issue, gutting the viaduct tunnel plan carefully negotiated by all the relevant players. If he wins, he has stated, he will view his victory as a mandate to undo the viaduct replacement plan. In its stead, McGinn has promised more busses, sidewalks and bike paths. As someone who regularly commutes on the viaduct it’s hard for me to see how more sidewalks and bikepaths is going to make my commute any easier. Oh, yeah, and McGinn says he wants to use light rail to replace the viaduct. Geez, I didn’t know that Sound Transit was planning a light rail leg for West Seattle and White Center. Wait, there is no light rail leg for West Seattle. So if McGinn is elected we can expect protracted delays on replacing the viaduct, procuring boatloads of money and the decade’s long process of what: extending the light rail line to West Seattle. No problema. I’ll take the tunnel. It’s clear that McGinn does not live in West Seattle nor does he use the viaduct to commute.
What is particularly disingenuous, is McGinn’s claim that the tunnel option was voted down by Seattle voters. This is simply not true. A tunnel option which would have meant tearing down the viaduct and digging up a tunnel was rejected. The deep bore tunnel that is currently planned would leave the viaduct in place while the tunnel gets built, saving West Seattleites years of aggravating surface detours. This option was negotiated because it provides the most mobility and least interference while it is getting built. What McGinn is proposing would set us back a decade and have us revisit the viaduct replacement options once again. Recall how all this useless process killed the monorail (we had to vote on it three times). And in the meantime, we have to hope that a seismic event doesn’t make the whole thing hollow by bringing down the decrepit structure. Busses, bikes and sidewalks, Oh My!
McGinn’s ill-defined plans for the viaduct are enough to nix the guy in my book. Add to that, the fact that he has never held electoral office, that most of his policy positions lack any specificity and you have a feel-good kind of guy that you might pick for your soccer team, but not a mayor for a major city. Seattle needs better. I’m not crazy about Joe Mallahan, but he at least seems considerably more grounded on policies. We have already had a couple of amateurs embarrass the City. It’s time to let the grown ups proceed with real policies grounded in reality.
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September 17th, 2009 at 1:43 pm
I’m curious what you think of this new development, Ricardo. There is no mention of WC in the article but a possible rail line for West Seattle.
September 17th, 2009 at 2:51 pm
My reaction is that it sounds great, but look at the reality. Not only would McGinn have to come up with loads of money to extend the light rail, he would have to get the land and permits (more loads of money) and he would have to go through the whole public process which would take years. I cannot imagine getting a project of this magnitude done in less than 10 years. Just another example of McGinn wanting to sound “green” but actually having little of substance to back it up.
September 17th, 2009 at 9:20 pm
I echo your sentiments but am not sure that Mallahan is more than a wolf wrapped in sheep’s clothing. I don’t want to hand McGinn a mandate to derail the tunnel, but i don’t want to hand Mallahan the keys to the city either. Can you tell me anything that would make me feel better about voting for Mallahan?
September 17th, 2009 at 9:22 pm
The tunnel was not the result of careful negotiations. The Legislature merely gave up on the stakeholders’ group, and took unilateral action.
I recall voting down both the rebuild and the tunnel, in separate ballot questions. Mike is being accurate there.
My major complaint with the tunnel is not that it is being built, but that, yet again, cars get all the land-surface space, and transit gets nada. This, just after Sound Transit 2 just passed, and the county roads bond issue was voted down.
Why does the tunnel have to be just for automobiles, while the buses I ride get stuck in traffic, since the city council doesn’t have the guts to make 3rd Avenue buses only?
September 17th, 2009 at 10:30 pm
Totally disagree. Mcginn is the only candidate with a vision now and in the primary. His views on the viaduct mirror what most seattleites were saying well before he voiced it. It is expensive and not worth the time.
The tunnel was voted down. Both options were voted down because of the cost involved.
Do a little more research Ricardo. Better yet, go talk to the man – he’s quite knowledgeable.
By the way, the man doesn’t claim to be green. He is for a cleaner environment (who isn’t) but is bright enough to realize that the conservative elements within (and right outside) Seattle don’t support that unless it also benefits the economy. Not wasting money is good for the economy and the deep-bore tunnel is a waste of money.
September 17th, 2009 at 11:28 pm
I couldn’t have written it better myself. I would hate to have been one of those who spent hours and hours reading materials and listening to testimony to fully understand the issues involved only to have it all unraveled by someone who hasn’t spent the effort on the issue who didn’t like the outcome second-guessing me. Unfortunately, Mike is joined by at least a couple of Seattle City Council candidates (Mike O’Brien, David Bloom) who feel the same way; see last Sunday’s KING-5 Up Front program for proof (http://blogs.king5.com/upfront/archives/2009/09/seattle-city-co.html ). If you disagree with unraveling a decision that’s already been made that would involve 3-4 years of surface disruption and displacement of 110,000 vehicles per day – hidden costs never accounted for – to implement their will on us, then you should be voting for Joe Malahan, Robert Rosencrantz, and Sally Bagshaw.
September 18th, 2009 at 9:05 am
I agree with Mcginn. When traffic backs up people will flock to their bikes, move closer to town or ride public transportation. You’ll get foot ferries regularly running to west Seattle. Hey a little adjustment, but you will adjust.
October 3rd, 2009 at 8:43 am
It’s simple. The money that is going to be spent in building the new tunnel etc should be used to build the new West Side light rail system. People have to get out of their cars in Seattle and the only way that they will do so is if Mass Transit is the main way of getting in and out of the central part of the city. Why spend billions of dollars in a new traffic tunnel and not use that money for a much larger mass transit system?
October 4th, 2009 at 10:51 am
The politicians in the statehouse can come up with 4 billion for rebuilding the viaduct but they can not shift this money to the construction of a West Side Rail line? What does that tell you about the fact that there is money for transportation but only for a continuation of the same old policies. By the way if you want to see a city that has a great public transportation structure you should look at Berlin. There is a terrific highway loop around Berlin and great highways all around but none of them go to the center. The main way of going to the center of the city is by public transportation which is the way it should be in central Seattle with its limited land mass. 4 billion for West Side Rail and other such projects and no to a rebuildt Viaduct!
October 4th, 2009 at 12:50 pm
Alexander, I appreciate your comments and sympathize with your sentiments. Unfortunately, the process of transferring highway money to public transport is not “simple.” If the next mayor decides to gut the viaduct, we will not get a light rail line in its stead. More likely than not, there will be a fight for the funds currently allocated for viaduct replacement for other legislators’ pet projects, most likely other highway projects. Which means we will not get light rail and the dilapidated viaduct will continue to fester and likely be torn down for a surface option which will increase congestion, cause innumerable delays during the construction phase, never mind the fact that we will be set back another decade in taking care of this problem with the notorious “Seattle Process.”
Berlin, is no doubt, a very fine model but our regulatory system is much different than Germany or Canada (see Vancouver BC) where the government has considerably more power over private development. If you read my posts on Greenbridge you will see that I am a proponent of the New Urbanism which calls for integrated, walkable neighborhoods with greenspace, bike lanes and public transportation. All great, but the viaduct is a disaster and a crisis that needs to be addressed now. No solution is going to please everyone, but at least we have a solution that provides mobility, lessens congestion during construction and finally gets rid of the crumbling viaduct.
As for light rail, please lobby for it. We need it. But signing up for McGinn’s hand grenade approach will only set us back and help no one.
October 11th, 2009 at 9:48 am
I am with you Ricardo. It is time to get on with a high speed, high volume tunnel replacement for the viaduct.
A WS daily viaduct commuter and former viaduct supporter.