Could the viaduct become a park? City says probably not

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by ALLEN SCHAUFFLER / KING 5 News

KING5.com

Posted on October 24, 2011 at 5:54 PM

Updated Monday, Oct 24 at 6:01 PM

SEATTLE -- With the Alaskan Way Viaduct finally coming down, piece by piece, it is time to solidify plans for what Seattle's new front yard is going to look like.

The city has been asking people what they'd like to see in a redesigned waterfront. One of recurring themes in the submissions is wistfulness. People love the rolling view of the water, the mountains, the cityscape and they feel nostalgia for it.

"What people talk about time and time again is being on the viaduct and looking out over Elliott Bay," said City Planning Director Marshall Foster.

That emotional connection produced a minor movement to save a chunk of the viaduct and create an elevated pedestrian-only park. Seattle Times columnist Danny Westneat floated the idea in his column. In the last few weeks, a Facebook page popped up dedicated to the concept. There's even an online petition for anyone who likes the idea of remaking the viaduct into a park-in-the-sky.

Response has been slow. Joe Krumbach who set up both pages admits they haven't gotten much traction yet but he says it's still early.

"Every wave starts with a ripple," Krumbach said.

At this point it seems unlikely that any large piece of the viaduct will be saved from the wrecking ball. The main reason it's coming down is that it's unsafe. Saving it, stabilizing it, strengthening it to the point where it could be a pedestrian structure would cost a lot of money. So would creating stairways and ramps to get people to the upper deck 60-feet off the ground.

City officials love the idea and have seen it work in other cities, notably New York, where an abandoned expressway became a meandering elevated walking park though midtown Manhattan. But Foster says it probably won’t happen here.

"The cost issue and the public safety issue make it very challenging to say we could ever save a piece of that," he said. Foster also acknowledged the interest in saving the view itself and says current plans include three different areas on the waterfront which would include elevated viewing and strolling areas.

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