Viaduct vs. tunnel: disputed passage

The guest column signed by Sen. Jeanne Kohl-Welles (D-Queen Anne), King County Councilman Larry Phillips and John Coney of Waterfront for All regarding their preference for a tunnel to replace the Alaskan Way viaduct (Magnolia News; Nov. 22) was full of nonsense and misinformation.

They wrote: "We are committed to approaching every transportation infrastructure decision with the objective of reducing greenhouse gas emissions."

What does this have to do with a tunnel? There would be just as many greenhouse gas emissions from vehicles in a tunnel as from vehicles on a viaduct. They said it's essential to fund alternatives to driving, such as transit facilities. Wasting $2 billion on a 1-mile-long tunnel will leave us $2 billion less to spend on alternatives to cars.

Phillips and Kohl-Welles claim a new viaduct would be higher, uglier and noisier than the current viaduct. It would be about 3 feet higher, which nobody would even notice. Most people likely would find a new viaduct to be more attractive than the current one.

And where did they get the idea that a new viaduct would be "noisier" than the old one? A WSDOT engineer told me that the reason the current viaduct is so noisy is that the noise from the lower deck bounces off the underside of the upper deck and is deflected to the ground. This engineer said that a new viaduct could be paved with quiet asphalt to reduce noise, as well as baffles under the upper deck to prevent the noise from the lower deck from bouncing back to the ground. Therefore, a new viaduct likely would be much quieter than the current one.

Kohl-Welles and Phillips imply that the funding for a tunnel is in place. This is patently untrue. Around $800 million they are counting on for the tunnel would come from the RTID tax increase, which would have to be approved by public vote. This is $800 million that would be available for the 520 bridge, or other projects, if it is not wasted on a tunnel.

Finally, they reference some "economic impact study" which claims a tunnel would result in new economic activity in Seattle. An economic impact study will come to any conclusion the author is paid to reach. Find out who paid for that study, and you will know how much credence to give it.[[In-content Ad]]