McGinn: Take the viaduct down by next year

Mar 15, 2011

Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn says he thinks the city’s waterfront viaduct poses an earthquake risk and should be taken down next year.

That's a good four years before the viaduct's planned replacement -- a deep-bore tunnel under downtown -- would be ready.

McGinn made the remark on the "Weekday" talk show on KUOW-FM.  He was discussing the earthquake in Japan and Seattle’s earthquake preparedness.

When you see what’s going on in Japan, and you see the potential loss of life and damage that could be done, I really think it’s appropriate to evaluate whether it’s right to say we’re gonna leave it up until we get this other solution in place.

Current plans call for the Alaskan Way Viaduct to stay in use while the tunnel is built to replace it. That project is slated to be complete in 2016.

In the Seattle Times,  City Council transportation chair Tom Rasmussen asks what would happen if the viaduct were closed without a plan to handle the displaced traffic.

This is why we need to move forward with the tunnel. (McGinn's) alternative seems to be to take it down and create total gridlock.

McGinn spokesman Mark Matassa tells the Times the mayor doesn’t have a plan for how to deal with the traffic caused by closing the viaduct before an alternative is in place.

He doesn't have a detailed proposition on it. He's just saying it's not safe.

McGinn opposes the tunnel and is active in an effort to put an initiative on the ballot to overturn the City Council’s decision to proceed with the project. McGinn's preferred alternative is to upgrade surface streets and boost transit to accommodate the traffic that now uses the viaduct.

Governor Chris Gregoire pledged in 2007 to close the viaduct by 2012, saying the aging structure -- damaged by the Nisqually earthquake ten years ago -- was a threat to public safety.

When she came to support the tunnel to replace the viaduct, she pushed that date back to 2016.

Scott Whiteaker, Gregoire’s spokesman, tells seattlepi.com that work is already underway to dismantle the viaduct.

Just last month, crews removed one of the on-ramps near Qwest Field. The portion of the viaduct open during the tunnel’s construction will be subject to regular inspections. This path forward increases public safety and minimizes congestion during construction ...