Cascade Bicycle Club endorses the “Reject” position on Seattle Referendum 1 regarding the deep-bore tunnel. Over the past several years, Cascade has advocated for an Alaskan Way Viaduct replacement that will improve all modes of transportation, including bicycling, in Seattle’s downtown core. The recent release of the Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) by WSDOT leaves the Club with serious concerns about the project as it relates to our mission of Creating a better community through bicycling. Cascade Bicycle Club believes we should spend taxpayer dollars strategically and wisely on a complete transportation network that connects great places to live, work and play. We believe that a viaduct replacement should cost less, create more jobs and move more people by bicycle, by transit and on foot.
The Club has taken the position that any chosen alternative should improve bicycle access to and around the Seattle waterfront. Either a surface/transit/I-5 or tunnel alternative could have achieved this goal. However, when WSDOT changed the purpose of the project from moving “people and goods[i]” in a variety of ways, to providing “essential vehicle capacity[ii]”, we saw a move away from improving bicycle, pedestrian and transit access in favor of improving car capacity.
Since elected officials chose the deep-bore tunnel as the preferred choice, study of how improvements to surface streets, transit and I-5 can accommodate transportation demands has been inadequate. The state’s own traffic model shows that the project would divert thousands of additional vehicles per day directly onto adjacent streets. This produces significant new traffic from SODO, downtown and the waterfront to South Lake Union and does not create bicycle-friendly streets. If the deep-bore tunnel moves forward under the current plan, we question whether there will be funding available to make critical complementary investments that make the areas impacted by the project safe for bicycling and walking.
How did Cascade reach this conclusion after remaining neutral for so long? After the release of the FEIS this month, Cascade sought the opinions of both campaigns on this issue. Cascade board and staff members listened to a presentation and debate by representatives of those campaigns. Cascade Bicycle Club’s legislative committee then discussed whether it was appropriate and necessary for the Club to take a position, and which position to take. Made up of board members as well as policy and planning staff, this committee recommended that the board of directors endorse the “Reject” or “no” position. After much deliberation, Cascade’s board voted to endorse rejecting Seattle Referendum 1.
We believe that the high cost of this project threatens our region’s ability to meet its priorities, whether they are education, human services or transportation. The state’s analysis should better address the real costs and benefits for the people of the Puget Sound region. Cascade will continue to advocate for transportation plans and projects that detail how they will accommodate bicycling as well as other modes of transportation.
The Club appreciates that both members and the general public are torn between their desire to “just build it already”, and their right to express important concerns about how a deep-bore tunnel would affect the future of the Puget Sound region. We also do not diminish the challenge before our elected officials in finding a workable compromise, or the work that professional planners and engineers are doing to solve the challenges with this project. We urge our members to express their vision for a bicycle-friendly future on Election Day and every day. Now may be the final chance for Seattle citizens to have a voice.
[i] RCW 47.01.402: Alaskan Way viaduct replacement project — Deep bore tunnel option — Funding, accountability, and responsibility.
[ii] Alaskan Way Viaduct Guiding Principles, February 2008
[iii] Alaskan Way Viaduct Replacement Project, Final Environmental Impact Statement, July 2011. Page 1, Summary, item 4.