Would Jane Jacobs Have OK’d The Deep-Bore Tunnel?
And…..Was Moses Really The Devil?
In Crosscut this morning, Knute Berger channels the spirit of famed urban planner, writer and neighborhood preservationist Jane Jacobs – and sits down with Seattle City Council member Tim Burgess to talk tunnel.
They’re mulling Seattle mayoral candidate Mike McGinn’s call for ditching the planned deep-bore tunnel to replace the Alaskan Way Viaduct on State Route 99 in downtown Seattle. Berger’s hook is two-fold. First, Seattle is having its own Jane Jacobs moment in the candidacy of tunnel opponent McGinn, who favors a “surface street” option instead. Second, there’s a new book out by Anthony Flint titled, “Wresting With Moses,” on Jacobs’ battles against the epic, 20th Century infrastructure builder of New York, Robert Moses (pictured, right).
Cast as the genius-villain writ large in Robert Caro’s landmark, 1974 Pulitzer-winning biography “The Power Broker,” Moses is just the kind of guy who like Seattle leaders in 1950 would have supported a noisy, fume-spewing, shadow-casting elevated highway such as our viaduct, and who if transported to 2009, probably would have been all for building the world’s largest diameter single-deep-bored tunnel to replace it. Or a grand bridge across Elliott Bay, instead. The stage set thusly, Berger in his interview draws some astute observations from Council Member Burgess, himself a great fan of Jacobs’ neighborhoods-first activism and scholarship.
…Burgess…says that reading the (Flint) book made him more certain that the deep-bore tunnel was the better option for the waterfront. That seems counter-intuitive, because Jacobs fought against highways. Doesn’t a multi-billion-dollar road project seem more like a Moses boondoggle? Doesn’t the surface option, which would limit vehicle traffic, sound like more like a Jacobs kind of solution?
But Burgess worries that the surface option will be destructive at the street level, especially to the businesses that rely on Highway 99 and waterfront access.