Friday, February 23, 2007

Aww, crap

I live in West Seattle. I work downtown. I use the viaduct like you wouldn't believe. I depend on it. I need it. I loooooove it. Please don't suggest I-5 to me as a viable alternative. Anyone who knows anything can tell you that the proper response to that suggestion is to grab said suggester by the shoulders and shake him violently while screaming "Are you fucking kidding me?!" in his ignorant, startled little face. Please don't look at me, befuddled, and say "Can't you just take Alaskan Way all the way into town?" Um. Sure, I can. But what are you going to do with the other 10,000 drivers? We're clearly not all going to fit on what is largely a two-lane arterial, often backed up by lines of eighteen-wheelers. And don't even get me started on the trains. I never knew I could hate an inanimate object so much, until I came to work on the waterfront.

For the sake of my commute, my sanity, and my property values, I NEED a solid viaduct replacement option, as does ever other West Seattle resident. (And probably some other south Seattle folk, but I'm currently too self-absorbed to even begin to think about them.)

However, I think the viaduct is atrocious. It's ugly, it's loud and, though it's been said enough to be a bonafide cliché, it completely cuts off the waterfront from the downtown core, which is an entirely asinine thing for a city to do. And, while I agree that the viaduct affords drivers a spectacular view of the sound and the Olympics, I would argue that one shouldn't be gazing at the mountains while speeding along an elevated highway. "It's the last free view in Seattle" is a ridiculous argument on which to build a viaduct (second in ridiculousness only to building one on fill).

The tunnel option? Sure, I'm all for it. Assuming it's feasible (ha!), and that my fellow West-Seattleites and I are provided with a way to get out of the tunnel prior to, I dunno, Ballard (ha!). This is, in fact, a sticking point with the Viaduct rebuild option as well, as the most recent sketch I saw (which, admittedly, was a long time ago) did away with the Seneca St. exit. So I feel the need to remind the planners that, while I understand that one purpose of the highway is to get people through downtown, another quite important one is to get them to downtown. Let's not bypass downtown altogether, shall we?

The viaduct is bad long-term city planning. The tunnel, from everything I've read, just simply can't work. Or, if it could work, wouldn't be anything we could afford. And the construction of either would effectively kill the waterfront for the next 7 years, at least. So where does that leave me, a West-Seattleite so obscenely dependent on this particular elevated highway? Screwed, pretty much.

If we were in a different city - one that could, say, get a monorail built - I would whole-heartedly support the "neither" option. Widen the hell out of some roads, improve mass transit, and let people adjust. (Though that still doesn't solve the freight issues for the Port, but as I said before, I'm too self-absorbed right now to think about anyone else.) But this is Seattle, and we CAN NOT figure out mass transit. Sure, we have really cool accordion busses that wow my out-of-town guests whenever they visit, but busses get stuck in the same traffic everyone else does. And the transfer system leaves a little to be desired. Busses from West Seattle to downtown? Pretty great, actually. Busses from West Seattle to anywhere other than 1st & Union? NOT GREAT. Or, I should say, not great unless you enjoy waiting 20 minutes for your connection and then slowly crawling your way down 1st Ave. during rush hour.

And that's where the "aww, crap" comes in. Because, despite my doubts and my complete lack of confidence in the city's ability to make it happen, I think I've been slowly turned into a "neither" proponent, which is in direct conflict with my personal commuting needs. So, in the interest of self-preservation, I'd like to make a suggestion to the powers that be: A little thing called a monorail would've helped. That's not a suggestion, admittedly, but needed to be said. Here's the real suggestion: The West Seattle Water Taxi? You might want to look into getting a bigger boat, and then double your fleet by getting yet another bigger boat, increase the frequency of the runs, and expand the service beyond tourist season. Taking some West Seattleites off the road completely might just be a good place to start.

But what do I know? I'm just a commuter who's suckled at the crumbling, if not comforting, breast of the viaduct for 15 years, obstinately refusing to take the I-5 bottle(neck) being offered in its stead.

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