Pat's View: Let's repair the bridge then build the tunnel
Dear Mayor Durkan,
As Bob Ortblad has proposed, an Immersed Tube Tunnel, in the final analysis makes the most sense.
Every other solution falls short in significant ways.
As Bob says, "An Immersed Tube Tunnel (ITT) is the fastest (3-4 years), least expensive, longest life(120-150 years), most environmentally sensitive, earthquake resistant, and only light rail accommodating solution to reconnect West Seattle.”
As you stated in the most recent CTF meeting, you have to think long term. Completely sensible. And as many members indicated you have to think “short term” too. The economic impact on West Seattle (and points West) is immense. The obvious uncertainty of a so called “rapid replacement” in terms of not just permitting but actually executing such a plan rapidly is troubling.
I’ve covered this story from the very beginning. I’ve spoken to Heather and Sam. I’ve done many, many hours of research. We’ve published contrarian points of view from Ortblad’s tunnel concept to Adam Ludwig’s insistence that repair is the only logical short term path.
What has emerged for me is this.
Seattle from its deepest roots has been a city of vision. A place where the biggest dreams are launched.
A city of possibilities and promise. It was the city that rebuilt itself after a huge fire. We were the proving grounds for commercial airplane production. The birthplace of the software industry. The home of the online shopping revolution. Along the way we had a World’s Fair whose signature structure became our visual identity and a beacon for a bright future.
Now we are facing enormous challenges financially, societally, governmentally and doing it all in the midst of the biggest health crisis in over a century.
It’s my belief that we need to express our faith in the future. We need to lay out a bold vision that is inclusive, affordable, very, very safe, durable and that solves multiple problems.
We must do both.
To that end I believe we must repair the current bridge, making any necessary changes to limit the load. But there’s no need to interrupt the flow of traffic again.
That’s the first reason a tunnel makes the most sense. We must solve the immediate problem and then build the replacement, long term solution concurrently. The length of time for permits, any remediation, or prep work would not matter. We’d have that time since the bridge would be functioning. The tunnel could solve the ongoing maintenance needs of the swing bridge, the high rise bridge and do it all with the highest seismic safety, greatest durability, and yes, even the lower cost. The estimates provided by SDOT for 10 years and much higher maintenance costs are, in my opinion, simply wrong.
Until we conduct a type, size and location study we can't be completely certain of course but since there are literally no notes on research that have been shared to back up SDOT's assertions we are left with what amounts to speculation.
While they are not exactly the same certainly, the George Massey tunnel in Vancouver BC took 2 years to build in 1959. It’s been functioning so well, and safely, that they are building another one. The chose it over another bridge and even got the endorsement of the First Nation tribes there.
A tunnel, and this is something Mr. Ortblad did not elucidate, could in fact incorporate newer technologies that are set to come on line in the next few years. Notably battery technology which could make lighting and ventilation costs drop to near zero. Solar collection panels could charge them easily. Advances in LED lighting, road surface technology and more could be incorporated.
Fixing the bridge solves the first problem. Building a tunnel fixes the future. It’s bold, visionary, includes light rail and feels to me like a Seattle I want to see.