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Grist: An Interview With Tunnel Opponent Cary Moon

By Erica C. Barnett December 15, 2010

Grist has a long interview with Cary Moon, founder of the People's Waterfront Coalition and a leading opponent of the deep-bore tunnel.

The environmental web site Grist has a great Q&A with Cary Moon, founder of the People's Waterfront Coalition and a leading opponent of what the site's David Roberts calls "a concrete-heavy, emissions-intensive, multi-billion-dollar piece of old-school highway infrastructure devoted almost entirely to cars" that "is being rammed through over the express opposition of Seattle voters." Moon will be on our six-person tunnel panel at City Hall (600 Fourth Ave.) tomorrow night.

Some highlights from Roberts' interview with Moon:

On the surface/transit/I-5 option:
We did a lot of research on what was going on in other cities and brought all these case studies of giant urban highways that had been torn down – and the traffic impacts were better without the highway than with it. It's counterintuitive, but it works. You're giving people more choice. You're distributing trips instead of channeling them all into one place, which can jam up when there's congestion. It's got environmental benefits, because you're encouraging people to stay local rather than enabling sprawl and long-distance commutes.

On growing opposition to the tunnel:
Until there was actually a budget, a plan on paper, it was hard to attack the tunnel. Tunnel proponents kept saying, don't worry, the traffic's just going to disappear! It's totally affordable! There's no risk! They spent almost two years in that mode, but the draft EIS [environmental impact statement] came out recently from WSDOT.

Now that the facts are on the table, politicians are forced to confront the reality, not the fantasy. A new citizens' initiative [Move Seattle Smarter] is launching, saying the city can't sign any agreements on the tunnel until there's a full, transparent funding plan and someone steps up to the plate for potential cost overrun. ... Politically, that is what gets people the most irritated, that WSDOT picked this project and then said they're only going to pay a certain amount and the citizens of Seattle will pick up the rest.

On what the tunnel would look like:
There would be no exits. No transit, because there aren't any transit routes that bypass downtown. No bikes, obviously. The emergency egress is also quite interesting: If there is accident or fire and you need to get out, you have to walk to either end. There are no elevators or stairs. What if you're on crutches, or in a wheelchair, or sick? You just have to wait until someone comes to rescue you. And the shoulders are tiny, just two feet and six feet, so it's not like there is a lot of room for emergency vehicles if there's congestion.

On why Gov. Chris Gregoire doesn't think a surface/transit plan would help the state reach its climate-change goals:
My guess is that she's not an urban person. The argument that you can solve this problem with transit and demand management, and the city will be fine -- she just doesn't believe it. She's been in Olympia her whole life. She doesn't get why Amsterdam works, why Copenhagen works, and why New York City and San Francisco work. She just doesn't think that way.

So when the Chamber of Commerce and Boeing say, you don't understand, this is absolutely vital for us that we have more highways, she doesn't have the tools to argue. In some ways that's a failure of our side [to communicate that] good cities are about transit and walkability. It's this mix of urbanism and environmentalism that we haven't quite got right yet in Seattle.

It's a long interview (three lengthy pages) but well worth a read.
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