Seattle Viaduct Will be Tunnelled; Charlotte LRT to Expand; Connecticut Sees a New CR Line in Its Future

Seattle Approves Tunnel Replacement for Viaduct

After years of discussion – and few actual conclusions about what to do – it looks like Seattle will replace its elevated Alaskan Way Viaduct (shown in the picture above), which currently separates the city’s downtown from its waterfront, with a tunnel directly underneath downtown. It will be completed by 2015. The project, at a cost of $4.25 billion, will include the construction of the deep-bore two-level tunnel, the demolition of the viaduct, and its replacement with a park-like environment along the water (shown in the picture below). It seems likely that the city will contribute funds towards the project’s transit component, probably by building a waterfront streetcar that would fit in with the city’s overall inner city transit plan.

The viaduct, built in 1953, has been long in need of replacement. An earthquake in 2001 damaged it, making its continued use unsafe in the long-term. But the state and city have argued since about whether to replace the elevated highway with yet another viaduct, build a tunnel, or simply create a surface road along the waterfront. And just a month ago, the state seemed to have concluded that the only feasible options were the viaduct and surface options. So this news comes as quite a turn-around.

This is good news for Mayor Greg Nickels, who has campaigned vigorously against the new viaduct option. Governor Christine Gregoire’s new willingness to sponsor a state contribution to the project ($2.8 billion) means that the Mayor’s determination not to continue the city’s separation from its waterfront has been rewarded.

Charlotte Moves Ahead on Light Rail Expansion

The Lynx Blue Line, North Carolina’s first example of rail mass transit in decades, has been a dramatic success, having achieved its 2020 projected ridership goals within the first two months of operation. Running from the city’s downtown to the south, a proposed extension would extend the line from downtown to the northeast, reaching the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. Yesterday, the city approved the routing of the project.

The 11-mile project is expected to cost around $900 million and will be completed by 2015 – construction could begin by next year. It will be funded by the city’s 1/2-cent sales tax, which is dedicated to mass transit.

Connecticut Blames Amtrak for New Haven-Hartford-Springfield Commuter Rail Delay

Connecticut, which currently offers Amtrak service from New Haven to Springfield, Massachusetts, via Hartford, the state capital, has been planning for the past few years to develop a commuter rail line along the same route, hoping to duplicate the success of the state’s Metro-North New Haven Line, which ferries commuters along the shore to New York City. The state has studied the project extensively and even developed a preliminary service plan, which could include the construction of a second track along the route and the development of several new stations.

But the state now argues that Amtrak is preventing the state from moving forward because the federal agency is demanding too much from the state – such as basic improvements along the line that would allow for service improvements. Now, while it’s always easy to blame Amtrak, in this case, the intercity rail operator makes sense. The route is currently in a decrepit state, trains must run at a slow speed along much of the line, and because of most of the route’s one-track nature, it would be difficult to add many trains. So if Connecticut is really intent on expanding service, it should invest in the line, paying for the upgrades before more trains are added.

This type of complaining, without promises by the state to improve the current situation, is pretty annoying.

Top photo from flickr user Slightlynorth under CC license; bottom photo from Washington State DOT

2 Comments | Leave a Reply »
  • dustin

    seattle finally made its decision! nickels has to view this as a personal triumph since he’s been campaigning for the tunnel for years. anyway, even though its expensive, if you believe in keynesian economics during recessions, perhaps we shouldn’t be quite so worried about cost as we would be under normal circumstances…

  • david nikolaisen

    I think it is asinine to spend that kind of money on a new viaduct when we can’t keep schools open and decent education for our children.How much of a pay cut has Gregoire taken? I didn’t think so! YOU ARE CRIMINALS!!!!!!!!!!!!!! How about some free health care?How about taking care of our elderly? Ever heard of the French Revolution? Wait until the PEOPLE have had enough and come up the driveway of your mansion with ropes!

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