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Planned removal of Seattle's waterfront freeway


mb10784

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Seattle is proposing to demolish its long-standing waterfront freeway, the Alaskan Way Viaduct, which was damaged during the 2001 Nisqually earthquake. The most popular (and most expensive) proposal is to completely replace it with an underground tunnel. The existing freeway is constantly criticized as an eyesore and a barrier between downtown and the waterfront, and the city hopes to develop the neglected area underneath and in proximity of the viaduct.

More information on the project can be found here: http://www.wsdot.wa.gov/projects/Viaduct/

What do you think? My guess is that if Seattle commits, it will achieve the same kind of success as San Francisco's when it demolished the Embarcadero Freeway.

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Getting rid of elevated freeways is almost always a good idea in cities. Free the land for a better use. I can think of few places where banishing the freeways wouldn't be an improvement. As in the recent case of Boston, however, great care must be taken to ensure that the resulting space is not wasted. I'm not sure Boston has yet capitalized upon the great opportunities afforded them by the banishment of their elevated Central Artery. Parks are nice, but they won't necessarily connect different parts of a city which have been rudely interrupted by a freeway. Maybe Seattle can do something clever with the land- like putting good urban streetscapes! ;)

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I think the Big Dig in some ways has been a roaring sucess because it has fixed so many of the problems with Bostons highway system that were created when so many projects were stopped in the 1970's because they were ripping down half the city. One would have had to have been here before and now see to truly apreciate the difference.

Most critisism outside Boston seemed to be from people who don't like our politics more than from people who actually knew anything about the project.

EDIT: Boy did I mangle the English language on this one.

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  • 1 month later...

Getting rid of elevated freeways is almost always a good idea in cities. Free the land for a better use. I can think of few places where banishing the freeways wouldn't be an improvement. As in the recent case of Boston, however, great care must be taken to ensure that the resulting space is not wasted. I'm not sure Boston has yet capitalized upon the great opportunities afforded them by the banishment of their elevated Central Artery. Parks are nice, but they won't necessarily connect different parts of a city which have been rudely interrupted by a freeway. Maybe Seattle can do something clever with the land- like putting good urban streetscapes! ;)

Getting rid of Portland's Harbor Drive in 1974 was definitely the best thing the city could have done. After getting rid of this 4-lane monstrosity, the city turned it into Gov. Tom McCall Waterfront Park. Now, after more that a quarter of a century, the park is still going strong. It is the site of the Pepsi Waterfront Village during the Rose Festival, the site of Portland's Cinco de Mayo celebration, the site of the Oregon Brewers Festival, and the site of numerous concerts and civic events. It is truly a gift to have this park in an already dramatically beautiful city. Seattle should really follow Portland's lead on this one. If I had my way, I'd knock down Alaskan Way and some of those piers, creating an inviting park where people could actually reach the water and not simply look at it from twelve feet up in the air. Northwest cities need to show the rest of the nation that we really do connect with the natural settings we have been blessed with.

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  • 4 weeks later...

I must agree the Alaskan Way Viaduct is in horrible shape.....driving North on the top level is a bit un-nerving, like, how does this thing keep standing? :) However, I may be the odd one here, but I love the feel of the two level highway. If replaced (which it needs to be), I would love for to be rebuilt to it's current form. Walking down to the waterfront or along the waterfront, the Alaskan Way gives such an added urban element. Can't imagine it not being there.

CIMG5169.jpg

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  • 1 month later...

It would be strange at first to have the viaduct gone...but that property would be worth so much that it would fill almost overnight. It wouldn't just remain parking lots beneath the viaduct. The people who are talking about parks have good ideas but they would most likely loose out to the private industries that would fill that space with condos/housing and retail. I wonder if the newly raised height restrictions affect that portion of the city?

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  • 3 weeks later...

Getting rid of elevated freeways is almost always a good idea in cities. Free the land for a better use. I can think of few places where banishing the freeways wouldn't be an improvement. As in the recent case of Boston, however, great care must be taken to ensure that the resulting space is not wasted. I'm not sure Boston has yet capitalized upon the great opportunities afforded them by the banishment of their elevated Central Artery. Parks are nice, but they won't necessarily connect different parts of a city which have been rudely interrupted by a freeway. Maybe Seattle can do something clever with the land- like putting good urban streetscapes! ;)

Actually, whether Boston capitalizes on the Big Dig is yet to be seen. The parks are still being built, parts of the Bulfinch Triangle will be rebuilt with retail and condos. There's a planned YMCA, and 2 museums along the greenway. There's also a proposal for a permanent farmer's market and a botanical gardens under glass (though funding has not come through). So, the final result of the greenway is still up in the air.

I believe that it is hard to build any large buildings over some portions of the greenway due to structural issues. However, it doesn't preclude, them from adding buildings at a later time point.

I think Seattle should follow SF's lead in just demolishing the freeway, unless the viaduct is a major thoroughfare that needs to be kept.

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  • 2 months later...

I remember this highway from when I was in Seattle. I think this would really open up and look much freer in that area. I remember going to a skatebaord shop and some iron/welding shop right near there and there was a gritty feel to them (not that bad though). With out that highway, it would be much more open, a good thing in my opinion....

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Can we all agree? Seattle needs to move that eyesore from its pristine waterfront, yet they need to learn from Boston's mistakes. There are also more to this project than meets the eye. Most of Downtown Seattle was reclaimed from Elliot Bay in the 1890's after Seattle's major fire that destroyed the city. To do that, they built a seawall and raised the city "from the ashes." This seawall has been deteriorating and this tunnel replacement project would replace that seawall. Here's some more information from the Washington State Department of Transportation: WSDOT

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  • 3 weeks later...

Wow, I amazed at this idea. It's a sign that Seattle has been heading in the right direction for quite some time. I'm glad to see Seattle-ites-an focusing on the walkability of their city. Whether a tunnel is viable is yet to be seen, but I like the idea, this was done all over the city in Sydney and it has worked really well.

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  • 3 weeks later...

The good thing about having the freeway there is that there is still hope the space can be reclaimed in responsible ways. I wouldn’t look to Boston for guidance but instead to Chicago. Boston removed a freeway that allowed tourists to more easily reach a “non-organic” and “non-Boston.” strip. Personally I think Boston should have kept the scale of Cambridge, Backbay and Northend at the waterfront.

Seattle waterfront concept:

Chicago on the other hand has millennium park where everyone can appreciate the greenery and art. In my mind a perfect adaptation of this for Seattle would be to create a park with several cafes, galleries, public art, water features, a plaza, museum and an event similar to Providences Waterfire.

Chicago

http://www.chicagotraveler.com/chicago_mil...rk_pictures.htm

Providence

http://www.waterfire.org/

Brad Spencer

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  • 2 weeks later...

I hope Seattle choses the tunnel option over the elevated highway. My home city of Grand Rapids, MI is a case in point of why not to build elevated highways. I-196 and US 131 have divided the city into pieces, isolated communities, and constrained our DT core and it's economic effects into a very small area. If these stretches of highways were tunneled or simply routed elsewhere back when they where built in the 60's GR would have had a completly different look and feel. So I say do tunnels. They are more pricey at the start but will be worth the expense by reuniting sections of your city isolated by the existing highway structure running through your city now.

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Almost everyone in the Seattle area agrees the Alaskan Viaduct has to go. Almost everyone favors a tunnel too.

Not only is the viaduct hideous, but it is a sitting time bomb, just waiting to crash in Seattle's next big earthquake. Imagine the next biggie happening during rush hour, when the viaduct is bumper-to-bumper. THOUSANDS of lives would be lost.

So far it's looking like money is the hold up. Immense projects like the Big Dig and the Alaskan Viaduct replacement cost upwards of a billion US dollars and more.

A signature waterfront park would be awesome. Like everyone on here has mentioned, it would unify downtown permanently and add tons of appeal to an essentially sealed off area.

But if the money can't be arranged I think Seattle should look into selling the land under the Viaduct to private developers. The land is really a much larger parcel than it looks like at a glance. THOUSANDS of condos and restaurants could be built. The city could capitalize on skyrocketing real estate values downtown and hopefully pull in enough money to finance the tunnel.

Of course I would rather have a park; who wouldn't? But if the only way to get a tunnel is to sell the land, I say go for it.

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