Do You Have Tunnel Vision?

Test your transportation IQ

By Matthew Halverson October 11, 2010 Published in the November 2010 issue of Seattle Met

THE STATE’S PLAN to replace the crumbling Alaskan Way Viaduct with a deep-bore tunnel (total price tag: $4.25 billion) has been as difficult to follow as driving on the elevated highway without imagining it collapsing beneath you. Take Seattle Met’s handy tunnel test to see if you’re smarter than a WSDOT official.

1. Politicians, developers, architects, and lunatics have been proposing ways to improve the Alaskan Way Viaduct for decades. Which idea for dealing with the aging structure has not been proposed in the last 35 years?

A. Turn it into a mall with an attached art museum.
B. Turn it into a parking garage.
C. Convert part of it into a public park.
D. Turn it into a war memorial.


2. In May 1994, a consortium led by former Metro head Neil Peterson proposed an ambitious transportation project that included dropping Mercer Street below street level, constructing tunnels beneath First and Second avenues, burying State Route 99 between Southwest Spokane Street and South Royal Brougham Way underground, and demolishing the Alaskan Way Viaduct to replace it with a tunnel. How much would the whole thing have cost?

3. Serious talks about replacing the viaduct began in February 2001, when the Nisqually earthquake, which registered 6.8 on the Richter scale, damaged sections of the elevated roadway. Since then, portions of the structure have sunk 5½ inches. According to state engineers, how much farther would they have to sink to make the viaduct unsafe?

A. ½ inch
B. 1 inch
C. 3 inches
D. 5 inches

4. In March 2007, nearly 70 percent of King County voters said they opposed the construction of a tunnel to replace the viaduct. City councilman Nick Licata called the advisory vote “worthless” in the eyes of state legislators, but how much did it actually cost the county’s election office to conduct?

A. $100,000
B. $500,000
C. $1 million
D. $10 million

5. Despite the fact that a plan for its replacement didn’t exist yet, Governor Christine Gregoire pledged in January 2008 to tear down the viaduct by 2012. Republican State Senator Cheryl Pflug, who proposed her own tunnel plan in 2007, mocked the governor’s timetable. What did Pflug say will happen before the state begins dismantling the roadway?


6. In 2008, State House Speaker Frank Chopp proposed a towering viaduct replacement that would house roadways, retail, and offices. What did local pols nickname it?

A. The Choppway
B. Chopp Hooey
C. The Great Wall of Chopp
D. A Really Bad Idea

7. On January 13, 2009, Governor Gregoire—along with then-Mayor Greg Nickels, then–King County Executive Ron Sims, and Port of Seattle CEO Tay Yoshitani—announced that the viaduct would be replaced with a two-mile-long tunnel. How did they mark the occasion?

A. By lobbing water balloons off the top of the viaduct at tourists on the waterfront.
B. By hanging House Speaker Chopp in effigy in Pike Place Market.
C. By getting soused and skinny dipping in Elliott Bay.
D. By holding a run-of-the-mill press conference in the World Trade Center Seattle.

See the answers on page 4.

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8. True or False: At 55 feet wide, Seattle’s tunnel will be the widest in the world and require a custom-built boring machine.

9. Fill in the blanks in this passage from a January 2009 editorial coauthored by Cary Moon, cofounder of the People’s Waterfront Coalition and outspoken advocate of sustainability:

“It’s time to embrace ________. It’s the best way to ________ and ________ our existing roads and highways.”

A. the tunnel; minimize waterfront traffic; unclog
B. tolling; reduce congestion; maximize the efficiency of
C. mass transit; reduce congestion; maximize the efficiency of
D. flying cars; make commuting fun; say goodbye to

10. A 2009 amendment to tunnel legislation stipulating that “any costs in excess of [$2.8 billion] shall be borne by property owners in the Seattle area who benefit from replacement of the existing viaduct with the deep-bore tunnel” was originally spearheaded by Mike Armstrong, a Republican representative from Wenatchee. But who lobbied hardest to include it in the bill?

A. Republican Attorney General Rob McKenna, of Bellevue
B. Democratic Speaker of the House Frank Chopp, of Seattle
C. Democratic State Senator Lisa Brown, of Spokane
D. Republican Secretary of State Sam Reed, of Olympia

11. Which statement about replacing the viaduct did Governor Gregoire not make?

A. “Building a deep-bore tunnel will support a strong economy today and in the future.”
B. “To move forward with [a tunnel] would simply be irresponsible.”
C. “Seattle ought to get back their waterfront. I really don’t believe that’s going to be possible with that viaduct in place, which is why I support a tunnel.”

12. Fill in the blanks. After the House approved tunnel legislation in April 2009, Washington State House Transportation Chairwoman Judy Clibborn said:

“If you listen carefully, you will hear _________. It’s coming from people across the state who are saying ’________’”

A. laughter; It’s about time.
B. a giant sigh of relief; When are you going to get done with this project and move on?
C. teeth gnashing; Why should we pay for a tunnel that only Seattle gets to use?
D. the sloshing of a beer bong; Tunnel? We thought you said funnel.

13. What method has Magnolia resident and viaduct advocate Elizabeth Campbell not employed to try to block the construction of a tunnel?

A. Sue the Washington State Department of Transportation in King County Superior Court.
B. Sue WSDOT and the Federal Highway Administration in federal court.
C. Run for mayor on a no-tunnel, pro-viaduct platform.
D. File an initiative seeking a public vote on the tunnel.
E. Lie down in traffic until the city relents.

14. Campbell is also one of the founders of SCAT, a volunteer group that opposes
the tunnel. What does the acronym stand for?

A. Seattleites Concerned About Taxes
B. Seattle Citizens Against the Tunnel
C. Seattle Citizens Against Travel (of any kind)
D. Screw Cars And Tourists!


15. In October 2009, which Washington politician said this in reference to the tunnel: “It is not the mayor’s job to withhold the cooperation of the city government in executing this agreement.”

A. Governor Christine Gregoire
B. Democratic State Senator Ed Murray
C. Seattle City Council Chairman Richard Conlin
D. Then–mayoral candidate Mike McGinn

16. Since taking office in January, Mayor Mike McGinn has fought against the tunnel, fearing that Seattle taxpayers could end up paying for cost overruns. How does he propose dealing with the viaduct?

A. Replace it with a new viaduct.
B. Repair the existing viaduct.
C. Replace it with a surface street, widening Interstate 5, and increasing transit options.
D. Free bikes for everyone!

See the answers on page 4.

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17. The northbound portion of the current Alaskan Way Viaduct has two exits between Safeco Field and the Battery Street Tunnel. How many would the proposed deep-bore tunnel have?

A. None
B. One
C. Two
D. Three

18. Under the current plan, the viaduct will remain open until the tunnel is completed, presumably in November 2016. What is WSDOT installing to protect drivers in the event that another earthquake should strike before then?

A. Retractable road spikes that will engage within two minutes of a temblor of 5.0 or greater and blow out the tires of oncoming cars.
B. A series of railroad crossing–like arms that will descend and close off the viaduct within two minutes of a temblor of 5.0 or greater.
C. Cargo nets. Lots and lots of cargo nets.
D. An army of mini Matt Hasselbeck clones who will be released within two minutes of a temblor of 5.0 or greater to carry drivers to safety.


Image: WSDOT

19. On October 25, 2009, nine days before the Seattle mayoral election, WSDOT released a scary computer simulation of what could happen if another earthquake were to strike near Seattle. In it, the sea wall collapses, Alaskan Way slides into Elliott Bay, and portions of the viaduct pancake. How long had WSDOT kept the video under wraps?

A. One month
B. Six months
C. One year
D. Two years

20. Under the current plan, how will the traffic lanes inside the tunnel be configured?

A. Two northbound lanes and two southbound lanes, all on one level
B. Three northbound lanes and three southbound lanes, all on one level
C. Two northbound lanes on one level and two southbound lanes on a second level
D. Four lanes, each with its own tunnel within the tunnel

21. The state has budgeted $2.4 billion for the tunnel portion of the project. It has also pledged to toss in $400 million more to cover cost overruns. How might the state raise that extra cash?

A. By requiring tunnel users to pay tolls that could reach $4 at peak drive times
B. By increasing car-tab taxes by as much as 50 percent
C. By legalizing and taxing marijuana
D. By holding a really, really big bake sale


22. In April 2010, the international construction firm Skanska won the contract to replace the southern mile of the viaduct, with a bid of $114.6 million. That same month, it completed construction of the NFL’s New Meadowlands Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey, which had an initial price tag of $800 million. What was the final cost of that project?

23. At times in the tunnel excavation project, it will be impossible to use a boring machine and workers will be reduced to shoveling soil by hand. Why?

A. The ground along the waterfront is so unstable that it poses severe cave-in risks.
B. The City is concerned about the possibility of destroying Native American burial grounds.
C. The City has been unable to determine if or where old utility lines lie along the tunnel’s path.
D. In case there’s buried treasure down there. Hey, anything to help defray the cost of this thing.

24. As of October 1, the state had yet to choose a contractor for the tunnel portion of the viaduct-replacement project, but when do state officials say the digging will begin?

A. This winter.
B. Next spring.
C. Next summer.
D. It’s already begun; Nickels is down there hunting for the remains of his political career.

25. True or False: The deep-bore tunnel will absolutely, positively, without a doubt be built.

See the answers on page 4.

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1. D

2. A

3. A

4. C

5. B

6. A

7. D

8. True

9. B

10. B

11. C (That was Dino Rossi)

12. B

13. E

14. B

15. D

16. C

17. A

18. B

19. D

20. C

21. A

22. C

23. B

24. C

25. Who the #@!& knows?

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