Redeeming the viaduct
After the negative vote on both the tunnel and the building of a new Alaskan Way Viaduct, Mayor Greg Nickels and the Seattle City Council...
Special to The Times
After the negative vote on both the tunnel and the building of a new Alaskan Way Viaduct, Mayor Greg Nickels and the Seattle City Council apparently concluded that the alternative of a surface/transit solution was what the public wanted.
They continue to consider the existing viaduct as the unredeemable "Big Ugly."
Instead of sacrificing the "Big Ugly" to the stylish environmentalism of the surface/transit proposal, officials should see that the viaduct's incremental retrofitting, initiated at the north and south sectors by the repair and strengthening of existing columns and footings, also provides the approach to the central sector's renewal.
A redesign and reuse of the existing viaduct is much more environmentally responsible, especially when energy costs of demolition and resultant congestion are analyzed.
Pragmatically reusing the viaduct could include a number of variables accommodating not only the city's regional transportation needs but also the synergy between public and private properties, such as parking garages adjacent to the viaduct that serve both.
An urban-design approach for transforming the viaduct should look at opportunities to make the central waterfront more hospitable to Seattle residents and visitors alike.
Proposed components and improvements ought to include:
1. Retrofitting the viaduct structure using steel bracing, and accommodating emergency parking on each side of existing roadways;
2. Realigning Alaskan Way with east-west street access to pier buildings, with designated delivery times;
3. Using a steel bracing structure to develop a continuous waterfront arcade with soundproofing, for waterfront open space;
4. Rebuilding the seawall and providing runoff filters from east-west downtown streets;
5. Developing east-west pedestrian access through the midlevel roadway at selected east-west streets;
6. Acknowledging and enhancing the upper level as a scenic route along downtown Seattle and Elliott Bay;
7. Considering an extension of the monorail line from the Seattle Center to the sports stadiums alongside the viaduct, with a possible extension to West Seattle and Ballard;
8. Having the viaduct, as a megastructure defining the edge of downtown, lend itself to a continuing transformation for other uses, when and if Seattle's dependency on the automobile is reduced.
Folke Nyberg is a University of Washington professor emeritus in architecture and urban design.