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October 27, 2007

Pie Underground

"Hmm", you may be thinking to yourself, "Hasn't it been a couple of years since the Seattle Post-Intelligencer proposed a wacky solution for replacing the 520 bridge?" And you would be right! Luckily the rode to the rescue a couple of days ago. This time they were flogging variant 3, subsection D, which is "a tunnel of some sort". I think it's best if we just roll the image first:

So what you've got here is a tunnel which drops down from I-5 to below the water level, and also includes an underwater highway interchange, and then magically surfaces in the middle of Union Bay to connect to a bridge. This was designed by Danish people, who brought us IKEA and Volvos, or something, so it wouldn't be one of those clunky islands that dopey American bridge builders toss together whenever they build a bridge-tunnel (the connector islands for that one are about 200 yards wide, which is roughly half the width of the opening from Union Bay to Lake Washington). Instead it would just slip into the water, sort of like the Incredible Hulk roller-coaster at Universal Orlando.

There's a very interesting but subtle part of the article, which was explained to me by my brother, who works for the New York City Department of Transportation. This quote "Tunnels were not among the options featured in a draft environmental impact statement released last fall by the state Department of Transportation" is followed later by this lukewarm quote from the WSDOT project manager: ""We're interested in what COWI comes up with." Why is he so dubious? Well, their draft EIS did not include the tunnel. But if they have to consider the tunnel, they have to re-do the draft EIS. So just adding this to the alternatives they have to consider, no matter how quickly it gets tossed aside as absurd, is going to set the project back a year or two (this on top of the mandatory 18-month delay due to the mediation process that was imposed by the Legislature). I hate this stuff because it reinforces this weird belief that government is slow and inefficient. But really, most of the time government is slow and inefficient because it has to take the time to listen to clueless citizens with ideas like this tunnel. Then people wonder why it takes 15 years to build a bridge...oh right, must be that slow and inefficient government.

The P-I, inspired by all the "you are idiots" comment posted to the original article, responded with a "We are not idiots, really" editorial to back up the article. Let's see..."It might not be feasible. It might be too expensive. Then again, it might be neither of those things." It's hard to argue with that. You could say the same thing about my plan to build giant catapults on either side of the lake. "It would also be an interesting departure from the contentious four-lane/six-lane bridge debate that has brought us to the point of requiring outside mediation." I never thought of that! Because a contentious four-lane/six-lane TUNNEL debate would be much more constructive--especially since you can't build the tunnel equivalent of wider pontoons to accommodate future expansion, as you can with a bridge. "What's the harm in waiting for the Danish engineering firm to do its work and then decide whether a freak-out is warranted?" I don't know. What's the harm in waiting for aliens to land and build the bridge for us? And I won't even get to the part of the editorial where they relate Danish fiscal policy to design quality, mostly because I don't understand it.

Gahh, I know the Danes built the Great Belt and invented Lego, but does it really matter that a Danish company is investigating it? It's a hopeless idea, can we please just punt it and get on with building the six-lane bridge, which is the obvious answer, isn't really that complicated, would be routed through the same spot as the current bridge with only a small widening of the right-of-way, and is what we are eventually going to build once all this nonsense plays out? Thank you.

Posted by AdamBa at October 27, 2007 05:26 PM

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Actually, I would prefer a six-lane bridge with room for light rail and emergency lanes.

Posted by: sweet peanuts at October 28, 2007 02:17 PM