Blog As Year Ends, Viaduct Replacement Work Begins

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We’re not sure what outgoing Seattle Mayor Greg Nickels has on his holiday wish list, but continuing the progress being made to replace the Alaskan Way Viaduct with a deep-bored tunnel is likely on there. Mayor Nickels, along with former King County Executive Ron Sims and Washington Governor Christine Gregoire, came together earlier this year in a decision that commits the State of Washington to tearing down the viaduct and replacing it with a deep-bored tunnel.
The West Seattle Herald has an informative report about progress being made to prepare for the actual viaduct replacement work.

Within the next few weeks, crews will finish relocating electrical lines from the viaduct to underground locations east of the structure between S. Massachusetts Street and Railroad Way S. This project, which began in September 2008, prepares us for replacing the viaduct south of S. King Street and also helps protect downtown’s power supply in the event of an earthquake.

Members of the program team met with the north portal and south portal working groups this month to discuss new design options for the proposed bored tunnel alternative. The working groups, which include neighborhood, freight, pedestrian and bicycle organizations, and business representatives, help inform the design and environmental review process for the viaduct’s central replacement.

And in other news that things appear to be moving along, last week The Seattle Times reported that the Washington State Department of Transportation has named several design-build teams that have the qualifications to “submit proposals for the Alaskan Way Viaduct bored-tunnel project.”
Washington State’s transportation secretary, Paula Hammond, is quoted in the article saying, “‘We are very pleased with the quality of the contractor teams vying for this project…. Their world-class expertise will be invaluable as we identify innovative ways to deliver the tunnel on time, within budget and with the highest level of quality.'” All four teams will be eligible to submit their proposals in Fall 2010. The proposals will detail how each team would go about “completing the tunnel design, constructing a tunnel boring machine and building the tunnel, including the interior roadway, tunnel systems, ventilation buildings and portal connections.” Cascadia Center of Discovery Institute’s Bruce Agnew, when interviewed last week on KUOW’s Ross Reynolds show about the region’s “Most Overlooked News of 2009,” talked about the deep-bored tunnel and how such a big story was “under-reported” vis-a-vis cost comparisons and related issues.
The debate about how to best replace the aging, earthquake prone Alaskan Way Viaduct has been going on for years, and for good reason, reaching a solution hasn’t been easy. Another thing that couldn’t have been easy was — after considerable study and examination — making the decision to take a stance on a tough regional issue. Although it is Cascadia Center of Discovery Institute’s view that the deep-bored tunnel is the wise choice for the region’s future, reasonable people can (and do) certainly disagree on the best course of action for replacing the viaduct. It’s a complex issue for sure, and it’s best for the region that it has been examined from all angles. For his part, however, as he prepares to leave the city’s leadership scene, Mayor Nickles might take pride in the fact that it looks like the viaduct replacement work is continuing on schedule. That might be the only gift he needs this year.