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Viaduct Tape

By Dave Fox
Seattle, Washington

As you may recall from yesterday’s post, I promised that today I would attempt to finally begin blogging about the travel calamities I faced more than two weeks ago whilst attempting to cross Norwegian mountains and the Atlantic Ocean. I faced many delays on that journey. In the spirit of honoring those delays, I would like to give you, my faithful readers, an intimate sense of what such delays feel like, which is why I have decided to delay blogging about the aforementioned journey for another day or two.

(Actually, I need to run something past my censors first.)

But fret not. In lieu of travel reporting this afternoon, I am proud to present to you news from right here in Seattle. This is at the request of a local dedicated reader, Bryan, who sent me the following e-mail yesterday:

Hey Dave,
I can’t believe you haven’t blogged about the viaduct/tunnel “advisory vote” fiasco yet. Such low hanging fruit, such easy pickings!
See you soon,
Bryan

Thank you for that inspiring e-mail, Bryan. Hey, by the way, aren’t you that hypothetical guy who hypothetically broke a shot glass on my kitchen floor a few years ago, a small sliver of which got lodged in my foot and caused me excruciating pain? How lovely to hear from you!

I have not blogged about the upcoming, so-called “advisory measures” as to what do with Seattle’s Alaskan Way Viaduct for a couple of reasons:

1) No matter what I write, some crackpot is going to come after me with a rusty machete.

2) I really do not understand what the hell is going on anymore. I am horribly confused. I am confused because while one would think a city that has a generally positive image in the outside world would want to do something positive in terms of not having a roadway that is likely to fall down and cause widespread fatalities the next time somebody sneezes. But apparently many Seattlites are pro-death — a concept I personally do not get — and I just don’t know what to say about the issue anymore.

For my readers who do not live in Seattle, allow me to explain:

In February, 2001, Seattle had a major earthquake that measured 6.8 on the Richter Scale. Immediately following that wacky event, engineers closed the Alaskan Way Viaduct, a double-decker road that runs through downtown, for emergency repairs. After a few weeks, they declared the viaduct safe and reopened it. A few days later, a large hunk of concrete fell on an innocent lady’s car, nearly killing her and her baby.

Ever since then, people in Seattle have been sitting around saying, “Hmmm, maybe this viaduct thing isn’t so safe. Maybe we should do something about it.”

They then proceeded to treat this potential looming disaster with the same sense of urgency that I have exhibited in blogging about my recent trip to Norway.

Six years later, the viaduct is still there, teetering precariously, while politicians and citizens have squabbled about more pressing issues, such as whether or not to give millions of taxpayer dollars to fund a new basketball stadium.

Meanwhile, Seattle has faced a transportation crisis, which the city has responded to by holding not one, not two, but (somebody correct me if I’m wrong — I’ve lost count) three referendums on whether or not to build a new monorail to ease traffic woes. After voters repeatedly approved the monorail plan, the city raised our license tab fees to help fund it, spent millions of dollars, and then announced that they decided not to build it after all. (“Oh, and sorry about those extra license tab fees, folks, but we’ll have to keep charging them for another year or two because the now-defunct monorail is badly in debt.”)

What is happening now is that next Wednesday, the citizens of this great city will vote in a non-binding referendum on what to do about the viaduct. Then city officials will ignore our vote and do something different.

There are three different options we can choose from in next week’s election:

  1. Tear down the viaduct and build a new one.
  2. Tear down the viaduct and build a tunnel.
  3. Whine that all of this would cost money (an estimated 2.8 billion dollars for a new viaduct, or 3.4 billion for the prettier tunnel option), leave the current viaduct intact, and go do an anti-earthquake dance on our faultline.

It is a common assumption that if another big earthquake hits, anybody who happens to be in the general vicinity of the viaduct will probably get squished. It is also a common assumption that we are due for another big earthquake sometime soonish.

An ugly new viaduct would be paid for with state and federal funds. The more expensive, more attractive tunnel option would be funded by state and federal funds, city utility funds, and a tax hike. An earthquake would be funded by nobody in particular, though we would send the bill to Al Qaida.

Oh, the dilemma! What’s a city to do?

Published on Thursday, March 8, 2007

3 Responses to “Viaduct Tape”

  1. March 8, 2007 at 1:20 PM

    There are quite a few more options than you outline.

  2. March 8, 2007 at 1:35 PM

    Yes. There are many more options than I outline. I should explain to newcomers to this blog who are reading the post on this highly charged (in Seattle) topic that nothing I write here should ever be taken seriously, ever. (Except for yesterday’s post in which I said my readers should send me thousands of dollars.)

  3. brrre
    March 8, 2007 at 10:56 PM

    Haven’t you been to Rome? Then you should know that having ruins is the proof of being a highly developed cultural society. Leave something for the future archeologists. Our civilization are on the edge to collapse anyway.
    Don’t spend money on boring stuff like roads. Spend it on a new war or two. Most people, both in the US and elsewhere, are quite bored with that war in Iraq. It’s like having yesterdays paper every frogging day!

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