The mayor's comedic viaduct video has gotten the ethics commission's howling approval , but it may be his opponents having a chuckle now. Greg Nickels' taxpayer-funded video spoof

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City Hall's No-Tunnel Plan

Surface replacement works, officials quietly conclude.

The mayor's comedic viaduct video has gotten the ethics commission's howling approval, but it may be his opponents having a chuckle now. Greg Nickels' taxpayer-funded video spoof belittles efforts by no-tunnel opponents such as the People's Waterfront Coalition, who'd like to see the viaduct razed and not replaced, other than expanding and improving transit services and surface routes. Yet City Hall, it turns out, has quietly studied a similar theory and found it workable. Aware traffic will have to be rerouted for up to four years or more if a tunnel is built, the city has incorporated a coalitionlike plan into its tunnel blueprint. The unreleased city planning details, obtained by the coalition through a public records request, note that the surface alternative can provide short- and long-term "viable alternatives to automobile travel ... with the potential to maintain the movement of people and goods in the construction corridor even during the most disruptive construction stages." That's the coalition's plan in a nutshell, but without a costly tunnel. The price tag for just viaduct destruction, utility relocation, seawall repair, and surface improvements would be roughly $1.5 billion, the coalition figures by extrapolating city estimates. "Making just these improvements, which are virtually the same as what our group is proposing," says coalition leader Cary Moon, "would save taxpayers upwards of $2 to $3 billion [in tunnel costs], shift through-traffic away from the waterfront, and take a big step toward reducing green house gas production." That City Hall has quietly devised a surface-traffic plan as part of viaduct removal "casts some doubt on the politicians' claim that we can't live without [the viaduct]," Moon adds. So far, it appears only City Council member Peter Steinbrueck would like to try a surface replacement. "Since the viaduct is a threat to public safety, why wait?" he says in a statement. Tear down that crumbling wall now, test this plan, and "after a year, if people don't like how it's working, we can always decide to build a new highway then."

 
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