Sunday, June 8, 2008

A Cheap Solution to the Viaduct?



Courtesy of [Price Tags]

9 comments:

Jason said...

The problem with the viaduct isn't that it's an eyesore though. The problem with the viaduct is that it's unsafe.

The viaduct must be torn down and replaced with something new, be it a tunnel, another viaduct, or perhaps an elevated rail system.

Josh Mahar said...

Yes, but what would be cheaper? Dismantling the whole thing OR dimsantling some and retrofitting the rest for pedestrian-use only?

I actually have no idea but a comparison would be interesting.

Jason said...

You can't even compare the two structures. The viaduct is a concrete structure designed for passenger vehicles that has seen many earthquakes over the years and will see more. The high line is a steel structure designed for freight trains that hasn't seen so much as a tremor. The entire viaduct must be replaced, not just sections.

Seattle simply does not have the real estate to not replace the viaduct with more transportation.

Josh Mahar said...

"Seattle simply does not have the real estate to not replace the viaduct with more transportation"

I whole-heartldy agree with this statement. I think our fundamental difference is that while you believe this needs to be diverted to more highway I believe in mass, public transportation, in the form of:
- better, more efficient bus service,
- link light rail, with multiple lines
- better bike lanes
- and a denser, wider urban center

With funding redirected towards these goals instead of a new highway I know that we can get by without the viaduct. In any case, regardless of the option we will HAVE to get by without the viaduct for a number of years and it is absurd to re-introduce a greater amount of single occupancy vehicles after we already have to limit them.

My question here is in terms of the physical viaduct structure itself. I do not know the details, but I know that it is broken. Dismantling the viaduct will inevitably cost tons and tons of money. The simple fact of moving large amounts of elevated concrete is just plain expensive to do safely.

My suggestion is that leaving a portion of this structure intact, and simply retrofitting for pedestrians, which, in terms of weight, seems like a piece of cake, could in fact be a much more cost effective solution. In addition it will give us a wonderfully unique piece of waterfront with amazing views and even shelter from the rain!

Jason said...

I don't recall ever stating that I wanted to replace the viaduct with another highway. In fact, I recall that in my first reply I suggested an elevated light rail.

However, keeping any of the structure intact is simply not a viable option. Period. The entire structure is weak and subject to collapse with the slightest seismic encouragement regardless of loads on the deck.

On the other hand, replacing the viaduct with another highway is the only option for the space in question, however, as the viaduct was part of highway 99 which if you haven't noticed, extends far beyond Seattle. Simply abandoning functioning highways just because of one segment that needs to be replaced is not an option.

Likewise, such altruistic suggestions as bike lanes is simply wishful thinking. Bicycles aren't a solution to any traffic problems. Nor is a downtown focused light rail or bus system. Only by investing heavily in the mass transit infrastructure of the entire region, and I mean from Seattle to Tacoma and Everett and all the way to both Vancouvers, can the issue of traffic and congestion be properly dealt with. I for one would suggest a high speed rail system between Portland and Vancouver running the I-5 corridor, be it mundane bullet train or a much more efficient maglev system. Meanwhile I would connect the area between Everett and Olympia with a more local system of monorails or maglevs.

Josh Mahar said...

"keeping any of the structure intact is simply not a viable option. Period."

I would beg to differ here. Retrofit is still included on the State's most recent list of options.

Further, only a small portion of the viaduct is actually damaged. A pedestrian route could be short, and tailored to the removal of only those damaged segments and then, possibly only a minor amount of retrofitting would be needed.

"Simply abandoning functioning highways just because of one segment that needs to be replaced is not an option."

The fact that Hwy 99 will no longer run through Seattle, does not mean the entire speedway will be abandoned. Many places around the world have major highways that are interrupted by cities (ie. Vancouver, Rome). Many of them actually do it intentionally as a method of congestion control.

"Only by investing heavily in the mass transit infrastructure of the entire region, and I mean from Seattle to Tacoma and Everett and all the way to both Vancouvers, can the issue of traffic and congestion be properly dealt with."

While I agree with this I think much of that investment needs to be localized. People in Seattle should be able to get around Seattle easiest and quickest. Likewise, People on the Eastside of Lake Washington need to be able to get around that area easiest and quickest. This is an area that we are seriously lacking. The Seattle suburbs have little to no internal transit systems and without them they will never fully develop as dispersed hubs. Of course, this is a paradox because they will never develop great transit options until they become hubs.

Sustainability (along with quality of life) require that we begin working, playing, and socializing closer to home. Again, this is not to say that full regional transportation is not important, but perhaps not as important as an internal one.

Josh Mahar said...

And the smaller our range of daily milage becomes the exponentially more important biking and walking become.

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