One Question

One (Unanswered) Question for WSDOT on the Tunnel

One unanswered question for WSDOT on the deep-bore tunnel.

By Erica C. Barnett March 13, 2014

One Question

As we've noted previously in On Other Blogs Today, Sightline has done a terrific job keeping a spotlight on an inconvenient truth about the downtown deep-bore tunnel, which proponents argued was necessary to carry ever-growing traffic loads, including both commuters and freight traffic, through downtown Seattle. 

Except, that—whoops—traffic on the viaduct has actually declined precipitously since deep-bore tunnel construction began, declining from more than 110,000 trips per day in 2009 to 62,000 in 2012. And that reduction can't be attributed to people simply driving on alternate routes; as Sightline also documents, traffic through downtown Seattle declined overall during the same period, dropping 8 percent, "meaning that between 2010 and 2012, about 1 trip out of 12 vanished." 

Image via WSDOT on Flickr.

During the debate over whether to build the tunnel, proponents of the surface/transit option argued that when you eliminate highway lanes that primarily serve cars, people make different choices, opting to take transit, choose alternate routes, combine trips, drive at different times, or avoid unnecessary trips altogether. Now, it looks like that's exactly what they're doing. 

So, during a tunnel press call today, I asked what seemed like an obvious question: What was tunnel deputy project manager Matt Preedy his reaction to plummeting traffic volumes on the viaduct? Given that people are using the viaduct less and less, is the tunnel—which, again, was justified in part by the argument that the state must preserve traffic capacity on a critical highway—even necessary anymore? 

With the tunnel-boring machine stuck until at least September, and delays and cost overruns looking increasingly likely, this seems like an opportune time for WSDOT to consider that question. 

Preedy, however, declined to answer. "I really don't have any comments on that. I wasn't a part of the development team for the tunnel concept," he said. 


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