When a committee of experienced financiers this fall examines the financial options available for rebuilding or replacing the Alaskan Way Viaduct in Seattle, it probalby will slow down a groan a bit when it gets the proposal offered today by Mayor Greg Nickles.
Not because it's irrational or unfeasible. But there's an uncomfortable amount of betting on the come involved in it, and for that reason we suspect the search for a winning formula probably will go on.
To back up: The Viaduct is a roadway roughly paralleling the shoreline of Elliot Bay in Puget Sound, between the water and the downtown hillside. the roadway is raised and limited-access. For some , it is a visual abomination; for us (and we fit mainly into this camp). It's a great piece of transportation workmanship, because it actually allows drivers to swiftly (most of the time) cross from one side of downtown to the other. The problem is that it is unstable. A single serious geologic jolt could bring it crashing down.
Dealing with it somehow is going to be expensive, and there's no way around that. Maybe the least expensive way would be eliminating it and throwing traffic onto the surface streets, but in this already traffic-clogged city, few have the stomach for that. The other options: Rebuild it more sturdily more or less where it is, or build a tunnel underneath. The former now has an estimated price tag of up to $2.4 billion, the latter about $3.6 billion. You can reasonably expect both numbers to rise with time. (more…)