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Old September 13th, 2006, 07:24 AM   #1
hkskyline
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[USA] United States | US Highways & State Highways

Seattle proposal to replace dated highway with tunnel raises fears for some
By CURT WOODWARD
19 August 2006

SEATTLE (AP) - The Alaskan Way Viaduct shuttles more than 100,000 automobiles each day on twin concrete decks that soar above the sparkling waterfront. The highway is also drab, rickety and outdated, and Mayor Greg Nickels and his allies want to bury it.

Their proposal to replace the viaduct with a major tunnel has critics pointing to Boston, where another ambitious highway tunnel project -- nicknamed the "Big Dig" -- stampeded past deadlines and cost estimates.

"The Big Dig is the nightmare that we all have here in Seattle," said Nick Licata, the City Council president and a vocal critic of Nickels' plans.

Tunnel supporters dismiss such dire predictions, and believe they could gain a crucial stamp of public approval if the City Council agrees to hold a citywide vote on the tunnel this fall.

"Some cities make the right choice and some make the wrong choice," Deputy Mayor Tim Ceis said. "We made the wrong one in the '50s, and now we've got a chance to fix it."

Seattle and Boston have the same yearning: to reclaim the views and property values scarred by elevated highways. Boston built a series of tunnels at a cost of $14.6 billion (euro11.4 billion), the most expensive highway project in U.S. history.

Though it is considered an engineering marvel, the Big Dig has been plagued by cost overruns, delays and faulty construction that culminated in one motorist's death under a collapsed tunnel ceiling in July.

Nickels' more modest plan in Seattle would consist of a single tunnel topped by an urban park and commercial zone.

While the comparison to the Big Dig is not entirely apt, Boston's troubles are likely to be cited in other public battles over major projects, Washington Transportation Secretary Doug MacDonald said.

"The Big Dig now has become almost a mythical thing in the American public works landscape, for good and for ill," MacDonald said.

The viaduct definitely is a liability. Built in the 1950s, it was damaged in a 6.8-magnitude earthquake in 2001, and engineers warn it could collapse in another temblor.

Two replacement options have emerged as serious contenders: Nickels' tunnel, and a new elevated highway. An elevated highway could cost between $2 billion and $3.1 billion (euro1.6 billion and euro2.42 billion); a tunnel could cost from $3 billion to $4.5 billion (euro2.3 billion and euro3.5 billion), Washington state says.

Two cheaper alternatives have been discussed. One relying on public transit and urban planning changes is discounted as unable to handle the viaduct's current traffic -- up to a quarter of the north-south travel in Seattle.

The second alternative would add beams and other braces to the viaduct, which could stay open during construction. But officials say it still might not withstand a major earthquake.

Some key legislators, who have already committed more than $2 billion (euro1.6 billion) for the viaduct project, warned Nickels that his tunnel plan is a nonstarter.

"The Legislature funded a rebuild, not a tunnel," House Speaker Frank Chopp and two other influential state lawmakers wrote to experts evaluating the plans.

Nickels' administration says it has accounted for inflation and difficulties in attracting enough money from Congress or other sources.

"Yes, it costs more money," said Ceis, the deputy mayor. "But it's worth it."

------

On the Net:

State DOT: http://www.wsdot.wa.gov/Projects/Viaduct

Nickels' viaduct plans: http://www.seattle.gov/mayor/issues/viaduct/
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Old September 13th, 2006, 07:51 AM   #2
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Thanks to the Big Dig's huge pricetag & problems, no other US city will ever be able to do get the funding to do what Boston did. It doesn't bode well that Seattle's experience with large-scale transportation projects has not been an inspiring one either. After several decades of debate about building various rail transit systems, it's taken Seattle almost forever just to get a very basic line rail line underway. A much better idea than the Big Dig comes from the removal of San Francisco's Embarcadero, an elevated freeway that was very similar to Seattle's Alaskan Way, & that's keeping it simple. The Embarcadero was replaced with a surface waterfront boulevard & a historic streetcar line, but no tunnel.
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Old September 13th, 2006, 08:09 AM   #3
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If I'm not mistaken, the Boston dig is mostly by boring (if not all). Seattle's dig could use a relatively less costly and faster method, cut and cover.


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Old September 24th, 2006, 04:26 PM   #4
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I wonder if it'll be eligible for any federal funding? It'd be great if more cities could bury their 'Central Artery's. I know I'd love to see the Gardiner Expressway in Toronto gone, but as mentioned earlier, the Big Dig has scared many (though that isn't the only cause).
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Old September 24th, 2006, 08:06 PM   #5
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I don't care of it costs more than that ugly Viaduct, Toronto should persue a "Big Dig".
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Old September 25th, 2006, 09:40 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by bayviews
Thanks to the Big Dig's huge pricetag & problems, no other US city will ever be able to do get the funding to do what Boston did.
If there is another project on the scale of the Central Artery project, rest assured the money will be watched much better.
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Old September 28th, 2006, 03:24 PM   #7
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The problem you run into is if your tunnel hits capacity. Then you're screwed, because expanding tunnels that are underground ends up being a lot more difficult and costly than adding an above ground lane. If you need to build underground, you should do if for short stretches only, or you should build rail, which is much less likely to hit capacity.
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Old September 29th, 2006, 02:17 AM   #8
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The Big Dig was expensive in part because the tunnel was built under the existing freeway - the existing freeway had to be supported on girders while the area below was excavated.

In addition, the Big Dig wasn't just one tunnel, it was a whole infrastructure project with a new 12 lane bridge and massive interchange south of the city with a new tunnel to the airport as well.
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Old October 1st, 2006, 01:47 AM   #9
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I think Seattle has just realized that it needs to get going. The viaduct was damaged in an earthquake we had back in 2001, and if theres another big one its gonna fall down. They were also talking about builing a bridge over Elliot Bay, like the one in Greece. But the light rail will be done soon, voters are gonna vote next year to extend it and build another line to the eastside. Seattle is also building a complex streetcar system
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Old October 1st, 2006, 05:12 AM   #10
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City Council wants a 'Plan B' if waterfront tunnel can't be built

http://seattlepi.nwsource.com/transp...viaduct26.html

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

City Council wants a 'Plan B' if waterfront tunnel can't be built
Surface option may get more study

By LARRY LANGE
P-I REPORTER

Seattle City Council members, while once again supporting a six-lane tunnel to replace the Alaskan Way Viaduct, called for a "Plan B" on Monday -- just in case the tunnel doesn't work out.

The council approved a resolution to pursue the "surface" replacement option if the tunnel proves infeasible.

That alternative, rejected by the state Department of Transportation so far, would remove the 1950s-era elevated viaduct, also known as state Route 99, and not replace it, dispersing traffic to nearby downtown streets and into transit buses.

In the past, most council members said they didn't think the surface option would work, but when architects and environmentalists suggested it might, a few members pushed for a detailed study of it.

The push was renewed again last week after the state released new cost estimates for the tunnel, which had jumped from between $3 billion and $3.6 billion, to between $3.5 billion and $5.5 billion, based on analyses of recent trends in building material costs and inflation.

Councilman Peter Steinbrueck, one of those most interested in the surface option, said "there are serious misgivings" over the new cost estimates for the tunnel, as well as costs for a new elevated structure.

Councilman Richard Conlin said a backup plan is needed because of a potential shortfall in money for a tunnel replacement. State legislators so far have approved only $2.4 billion for a replacement. Mayor Greg Nickels has proposed a financing plan he says could supply $2.6 billion of the cost, but just $215 million of that has been committed so far.

"Not all the money (to build the tunnel) is in place and potentially (it) might not be in place," Conlin said.

The resolution passed Monday says that when 15 percent to 20 percent of the tunnel design is completed -- likely by mid-2007 -- the city and state will re-evaluate whether to keep moving ahead. About 5 percent of the design is completed now.



That decision will be based on whether tunnel funding has firmed up and whether there's agreement on who would pay cost overruns. Other factors would be conflicts with the city's land-use plan, and reducing or eliminating the effects of construction on businesses and others.

If the tunnel is nixed, "the city will begin analysis of a new transit and surface streets alternative," that would expand on studies already done by the state, the resolution says.

The resolution doesn't give a deadline for completing the new study. The council in August completed a quick study of the surface option that questioned whether it would work

"We can dream all we want ... but the reality is we have 100,000 vehicles going through that corridor (each day), and it's going to increase," said Councilman David Della, who supports building a new elevated highway.

Council Transportation Committee Chairwoman Jan Drago said the tunnel is the preferred alternative but it must prove financially feasible once more design is completed. She acknowledged the council's earlier look at the surface issue option, but said, "My question is how hard have we looked at it?"
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Old October 1st, 2006, 07:16 AM   #11
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Has the Alaskan Way Viaduct undergone seismic retrofitting to prevent another Cyprus Viaduct - type collapse?


USGS

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Old October 1st, 2006, 08:15 AM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Mr. Fusion View Post
Has the Alaskan Way Viaduct undergone seismic retrofitting to prevent another Cyprus Viaduct - type collapse?


USGS

No.

One of the options previously considered was to reinforce the existing viaduct. That option now appears to be out of favor.
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Old October 3rd, 2006, 09:04 AM   #13
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Do any large cities really need huge multilane highways through their centres? Can Seattle simply stop the highways short of the city centre. Sure this will cause problems in the short term, roads at grade will be congested and people may need to move to be nearer their work places, but eventually the city will adapt, as they have in cities such as Vancouver or London which do not have such highways carving their way through the hearts of their cities. Eventually public transit will facilitate cross city connections for people. Its a hard choice, but may be more practical and sustainable in the longer term.
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Old October 3rd, 2006, 01:57 PM   #14
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Quote:
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Do any large cities really need huge multilane highways through their centres? Can Seattle simply stop the highways short of the city centre. Sure this will cause problems in the short term, roads at grade will be congested and people may need to move to be nearer their work places, but eventually the city will adapt, as they have in cities such as Vancouver or London which do not have such highways carving their way through the hearts of their cities. Eventually public transit will facilitate cross city connections for people. Its a hard choice, but may be more practical and sustainable in the longer term.
1. There is a grassroots effort to replace the existing Alaskan Way viaduct with a surface boulevard plus transit improvements:

http://www.peopleswaterfront.org/

2. The state legislature has allocated $2 billion toward the viaduct replacement project contingent on the replacement having the same motor vehicle capacity as the existing structure. The amount allocated was supposed to be enough to replace the existing viaduct with a new viaduct. It is not enough to pay for a tunnel. The Washington State Department of Transportation has rejected the surface boulevard option and is studying only the viaduct and tunnel options:

http://www.wsdot.wa.gov/projects/Viaduct/

3. The mayor and city council strongly favor the tunnel option and are struggling to convince the governor and the state legislature that they can find the additional money to make it feasible. If the tunnel proves not to be feasible, the mayor and city council's fallback position is the surface boulevard option:

http://www.seattle.gov/mayor/issues/viaduct/

Last edited by greg_christine; October 3rd, 2006 at 02:09 PM.
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Old October 3rd, 2006, 02:17 PM   #15
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http://www.westseattleherald.com/art...ditorial02.txt

Editorial

Op-Ed-Licata lone holdout

By Nick Licata

The City Council (last) Friday passed a series of bills about the future of the Alaskan Way Viaduct.

The council votes included: Passage of an ordinance designating a tunnel as the preferred alternative; passage of an ordinance against an elevated highway along the waterfront; voting down two resolutions calling for a public vote (all three passed 7-1),

The council voted first in committee, then in full council. They delayed the vote on a resolution calling for a funding agreement between the city on the state on who would cover funding shortfalls or cost overruns.

I voted "no" on the ordinance which would proceed with the tunnel option and eliminate an elevated highway option. I voted in favor of a public vote and an agreement on cost overruns. I introduced the funding agreement measure and one of the public vote resolutions.

Earlier this week, the Washington State Department of Transportation released revised cost estimates for the Alaskan Way Viaduct and Seawall Project. The estimates were only for the "core" alternatives for a tunnel and a rebuild, not for the "full" option. The "core" option does not include work to the north of the Battery Street Tunnel, such as lowering Aurora and connecting streets in South Lake Union. The full option includes all this, as well as a complete seawall, the "core" option stops the seawall rebuild at approximately Union Street.

The 2005 estimates were $3.0 billion to $3.6 billion for a "core" tunnel, and $2.0 billion to $2.4 billion for a "core" rebuild of an elevated structure. The new cost estimates are $4.63 billion as the "likely" cost for a core tunnel, with a range from $3.56 to $5.54 billion. The estimate for a rebuild is $2.82 billion as the "likely" cost, and a range from $2.20 to $3.34 billion. These estimates do not include financing costs.

In summary, the likely cost on the core tunnel option increased by 40 percent or one and a third billion dollars. The likely cost of the core elevated rebuild option increased by 28 percent or $620 million. In other words, the increased cost of the tunnel is double the new elevated structure's increased costs.

The State Department of Transportation did not perform new cost estimates for a full tunnel or a full rebuild. The 2005 estimate for a full tunnel was $3.7 billion to $4.5 billion, $2.7 to $3.1 billion for a full rebuild. It is reasonable to expect a full tunnel would now be more expensive. If the same factor applies, then the likely 2005 full tunnel cost of $4.1 billion would now be $5.7 billion.

The new cost estimates were ordered by the Governor, in response to the recommendations of the Expert Review Panel, released August 31.

The council passed an ordinance adopting the tunnel alternative as the preferred alternative by a 7-1 (Licata) vote. Della was absent due to a personal matter, but has said that he would have voted against it. The ordinance also states opposition to the rebuild alternative, and says that if a tunnel "proves to be infeasible," the city recommends development of a "transit and surface street alternative."

The ordinance calls for the Full Tunnel alternative, which includes work to the north of the Battery Street tunnel. There is no updated State Department of Transportation cost estimate for this alternative, but as I estimated above using their current factor of increase, the council is endorsing a close to $6 billion dollar project.

I introduced an amendment calling for the "core" tunnel to be the preferred alternative. It failed by a 7-1 vote. Even though I do not support a tunnel, the full tunnel is even less viable than the Core tunnel given its huge expense. It would have been a step in the direction of fiscal sanity. I believe we are sending a message to the state that we are price deaf.

A companion resolution sponsored by Councilmembers Richard Conlin and Peter Steinbrueck (was to) be introduced and up for a vote at (last) Monday's full council meeting on Sept. 25. Its intent is the same as the passed ordinance, with additional detail.

The council passed an ordinance against a rebuild by a 7-1 (Licata) vote, listing city policies that would oppose an elevated replacement. I voted "no." The ordinance also states the council's intent to pass a comprehensive plan amendment against an elevated highway. It is highly unusual that this took the form of an ordinance, a formal law, rather than a resolution, a statement of policy, when the council has yet to even hold a hearing on the comprehensive plan amendment.

The state Growth Management Act states, "no local comprehensive plan or development regulation may preclude the siting of essential public facilities," which raises doubts about how effective this ordinance would be. I believe this ordinance serves only to obstruct progress in replacing the viaduct. And every day we delay this project is close to a one million dollar price increase in its costs.

There were two measures calling for a public advisory ballot. The first called for a vote on the tunnel vs. an elevated structure, the second was a proposal of mine that called for an up or down vote on the tunnel. I proposed this because a tunnel is the most expensive option by far; once eliminated, we could then figure out what is the best option.

I intended to propose an amendment to the tunnel vs. elevated measure adding language noting the tunnel cost at least $1 billion more than an elevated option. This seemed reasonable given that the difference in the "likely" cost estimates for the core options is now $1.8 billion. It was clear there was little support for a ballot measure, so I didn't make a motion for a vote.

I voted "yes" because I thought a ballot measure was reasonable, given that this is Seattle's most expensive public works project ever. In the past, councilmembers have said that since the Monorail Project was so expensive the public needed to vote on it, and now these same Monorail watchdogs are suggesting the public would be too confused to vote on this even larger public works project.

The ballot measure failed by a 7-1 (Licata) vote.

My up or down on the tunnel measure failed by the same vote.

I have long been concerned about potential cost overruns. My inquiries to Seattle Department of Transportation and State Department of Transportation have not yielded clear answers.

In pursuit of clarity, I proposed a resolution calling on the Mayor to negotiate an agreement with the state specifying who would pay for any funding shortfalls, cost overruns, or be liable for property damage or bodily injury.

This followed from the recommendations of the Expert Review Panel, appointed by the governor to review the Viaduct and 520 projects. The (expert panel) recommended "that stakeholders identify-early in the process-how increases to the cost of the project will be handled."

The (expert panel) report also noted "major concerns" about the cost estimates, which led to the governor ordering new cost estimates. The report also noted the average cost overruns for mega-projects is more than one-third of a project's estimated cost.

Councilmembers Steinbrueck and Conlin (intended) to introduce a resolution (last) Monday which addresses some of the points brought up in my resolution, albeit with milder language, so there is some overlap. I agreed to hold this resolution until Monday, so that both versions can be compared.

It is encouraging that there now appears to be agreement on the council in favor of some acknowledgement of fiscal realities.

I understand the desire of the other councilmembers to have an "open waterfront" with more pubic open space. And I certainly support such a goal. But I believe that the mayor and the council are going down a deep hole, both literally and figuratively. The claim is that the current viaduct stops people from visiting the waterfront, when in fact each year over twenty million people visit it. The viaduct is noisy, but audio experts have testified that the noise can be cut in half. The viaduct does cast shadows, and so does every building over seven stories - we live in a metropolis, not a village. Finally the five environmental goals identified in the Central Waterfront Plan can be accomplished with a rebuild of the viaduct; it does not have to be removed.

Some councilmembers say that the viaduct was a mistake, but it is has been an roadway allowing efficient and effective access to Seattle's downtown business core as well as through it - something that neither the tunnel nor a surface option accomplishes. If the tunnel does get built, we will be depriving over 100,000 people a day a view of Elliot Bay, stick them in a hole and then charge them (via a toll) for the pleasure. I can understand why the council and mayor decided not to place the tunnel on the ballot. The voters would be confused by the logic of such a proposal - they would vote "NO" on a tunnel option.

City Councilmember Nick Licata wrote this column last week with assistance from his legislative aide, Newell Aldrich. He can be reached at nick.licata@seattle.gov or 684-8803.
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Old October 5th, 2006, 12:12 AM   #16
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I think Seattle has just realized that it needs to get going. The viaduct was damaged in an earthquake we had back in 2001, and if theres another big one its gonna fall down. They were also talking about builing a bridge over Elliot Bay, like the one in Greece. But the light rail will be done soon, voters are gonna vote next year to extend it and build another line to the eastside. Seattle is also building a complex streetcar system
in addition to the LRT?
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Old October 5th, 2006, 01:12 AM   #17
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Yeah, seattle already has 1 line on the waterfront. The second line is under construction, its called the south lake union line. It will run from south lake union to westlake center in the shopping district, at westlake it will connect with the light rail line. It should be done by next july. There also thinking of building a line across first hill and on 5th avenue.
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Old October 5th, 2006, 04:57 AM   #18
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Do any large cities really need huge multilane highways through their centres? Can Seattle simply stop the highways short of the city centre. Sure this will cause problems in the short term, roads at grade will be congested and people may need to move to be nearer their work places, but eventually the city will adapt, as they have in cities such as Vancouver or London which do not have such highways carving their way through the hearts of their cities. Eventually public transit will facilitate cross city connections for people. Its a hard choice, but may be more practical and sustainable in the longer term.
This is America. Trying to beat people into submission doesn't work here. People won't obediently move to the city center... instead, businesses will leave the city in disgust and move to the suburbs into new office parks conveniently located next to major freeways. And if Seattle says "No" to office park developers, there are a half-dozen suburbs 10-25 miles away who'll enthusiastically say "yes!" (drooling with delight over the property tax revenue from those new office parks).
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Old October 6th, 2006, 02:12 PM   #19
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Yeah, seattle already has 1 line on the waterfront. The second line is under construction, its called the south lake union line. It will run from south lake union to westlake center in the shopping district, at westlake it will connect with the light rail line. It should be done by next july. There also thinking of building a line across first hill and on 5th avenue.
1. The Seattle waterfront streetcar service has been replaced with a bus. The streetcar was shutdown so that the maintenance barn could be bulldozed to make way for a sculpture garden. A location for a new barn has been proposed in Pioneer Square. There is not yet a plan to implement this:

http://transit.metrokc.gov/tops/wfsc...streetcar.html

2. Seattle is building the Central Link light rail system. The line from downtown to the Airport should open in 2009. An extension to the University of Washington is funded and is presently in the design stage:

http://www.soundtransit.org/x1171.xml

3. Future extensions of Central Link are being planned that could extend the system all the way from Everett to Tacoma and across Lake Washington to Redmond. A ballot measure to fund the trans-Lake Washington line may appear on the ballot next year; however, the state legislature has mandated that it be linked to a plan to fund a regional highway construction plan:

http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/htm...stlink13e.html

4. Seattle is building a streetcar to connect the downtown area to the southern shore of Lake Union. The southern terminus of the streetcar line will be about a block north of the underground Central Link light rail station at Westlake Center:

http://www.seattle.gov/transportation/stcar_slu.htm

5. The future extension of the Central Link light rail line to the University of Washington will bypass an important service area at First Hill due to tunneling complications. As a consequence, First Hill is often cited as a possible destination for an expanded waterfront streetcar line. There is not yet any plan in place to accomplish this:

http://www.seattle.gov/transportatio...r_broadway.htm

6. This fall, there will be a ballot measure to fund a plan for expanded bus service. Parts of the plan are advertised as BRT; however, the buses would not have dedicated traffic lanes in way of critical chock points:

http://www.metrokc.gov/kcdot/transitnow/

7. There was a plan to build a 14-mile monorail transit line through the city; however, it was sent back to the voters and defeated due to a funding shortfall. Some former monorail supporters championed the creation of a city-wide streetcar system. The streetcar proposal included the possible replacement of the World‘s Fair/Seattle Center monorail along 5th Avenue with a streetcar. The proposal does not appear to have gained adequate support either among the general public or among city officials.

8. The World’s Fair/Seattle Center monorail remains shutdown due to reliability problems. Money has been budgeted to renovate the system:

http://www.seattlemonorail.com/
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Old October 13th, 2006, 03:18 AM   #20
Haber
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I must say the Big Dig in Boston has shown that removing a highway is a great thing but building a network underground isn't. We have to stop kidding ourselves that we can solve the problem by building more roads. They should just get rid of the viaduct and improve transit to the areas that use the highway. If car drivers don't like the few minutes added to their commute by travelling on normal city streets they can take transit or live closer to where they work
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