Seattle Voters Reject Viaduct Options

Staff | September 28, 2010

Seattle— Seattle voters have rejected both options presented to them for replacing the earthquake-prone Alaskan Way viaduct on the city's downtown waterfront.

The results of a non-binding advisory vote held March 13 showed widespread opposition to a new elevated highway favored by state officials, with more than 55 percent rejecting it. Voters were even more negative on a more expensive four-lane tunnel proposal, with nearly 70 percent opposed. The outcome of the vote could add momentum to a third choice that wasn't on the ballot: the so-called surface option that would tear down the viaduct and route U.S. 99 traffic onto downtown streets along with beefed-up transit.

A day after the vote, Gov. Chris Gregoire and local leaders announced a drop-back position of $900 million worth of work on the waterfront and renewed negotiations over the next two years. The governor set a deadline of January 2009 to have an agreement on what to do with the waterfront section, but reiterated that whatever solution is reached, the state's contribution will be capped at $2.8 billion.

While their transportation departments are trying to forge consensus, Gregoire said it makes sense for the Legislature to proceed with financing for the parts of the project that are common to all plans — the south end of the viaduct that will come down and improvements north of the main viaduct, including the Battery Street Tunnel.

That will cost $900 million, money that lawmakers already have set aside.