Seattle residents should vote "no" and "no" on the mail-in ballot about how to replace the waterfront viaduct. Here's why:
If money were no object, a tunnel might make sense. But the "surface-tunnel hybrid alternative" falls far short of the ideal. This alternative would require considerable additional funding, yet shortchanges critical street improvements (such as around Aurora Ave. and to the Battery Street tunnel). A vote for this alternative won't encourage elected officials to pursue a smarter tunnel. It will muddy the debate.
The "elevated structure alternative" is totally unacceptable if the goal is creating an urban core that will continue to drive the economy of Cascadia, as Vancouver and Portland do. There are ways to move people and freight through downtown without building another viaduct. Preserving views from the freeway is also no reason to build another one. Seattle has prevented massive elevated freeways along Lake Union, along the northern waterfront through Interbay and through the Arboretum because the damage they would have caused far outweighed the benefit.
A combination of improved surface streets and transit would be a better choice than either on the ballot. Dedicated bus lanes could be set up quickly, dramatically boosting capacity and convenience to West Seattle, Burien, Ballard and North Seattle. Freight and through traffic could be met with improvements to streets and I-5. Simply adding capacity is not enough because the volume will always rise to match it. The region instead needs a full array of alternatives to move people and freight. No one prefers gridlock and, if done correctly, there's no reason this alternative should have that result.
This election is offensive becasue it is reportedly costing $1 million yet the result is a pair of poor choices and results that aren't binding anyway. It's still critical to vote -- to demand a better option.