Checking in With Peter Steinbrueck on The Viaduct


When Peter Steinbrueck decided not to seek re-election to his City Council seat in 2007, he cited his desire to devote himself fully to pursuing the surface/transit viaduct solution. Since then, Seattle voters said no to the elevated and tunnel options in a non-binding advisory vote, and Steinbrueck's gone on to private consulting on sustainable urban development.

But with the viaduct process heating up and Steinbrueck dropping hints about a run for mayor, it's easy to wonder, where's he been on the viaduct?

"Circumstances have changed quite a bit since [I resigned my seat]," says Steinbrueck. "That was prior to the referendum, and part of my goal was to impact that referendum, to defeat both alternatives."

He adds that the subsequent evaluation process has relied heavily on his urban mobility plan (pdf), which focuses on overall mobility rather than car capacity, i.e. on finding ways to move more people without expanding roads.

"I'm sort of standing on the sidelines," he says, noting that he wasn't asked to be a part of the stakeholders committee. "I've been talking to these people informally. I'm a private citizen not paid to do these things, and I've got to pay the bills and be realistic about what I can do as a volunteer."

As for the options on the table, he says he's not opposed to the deep bore tunnel in which the Governor is reportedly interested--he sees it as more predictable and less risky than the previous Nickels-proposed cut-and-cover--though he thinks the emphasis with any plan needs to be on multi-modal solutions and reducing greenhouse gases. He favors immediate transit expansions as a means of dealing with the viaduct's removal in 2012, and as a trial to see whether people then feel a tunnel is necessary.

His harshest words were reserved for Frank Chopp: "He has not been a part of the process, but has commandeered WashDOT around his ridiculous Wall of China solution. It will never be funded or built, and even if it were, it would result in massive lawsuits from property owners. Elevated is elevated is elevated--to think you're gonna make it better by dressing up with a green top, filling it in, and providing more elegant arches and supports is to be completely oblivious."

"I will be very happy not to have to jump into it more fully," he says of the debate. "But if it goes the wrong way, if Speaker Chopp's Wall of China gains momentum, I may have to."

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