Seattle Times: Unacceptable Delay is Unacceptable

The Alaskan Way Viaduct (from Smith Tower) (Photo: MvB)

“One thing is certain,” writes the Seattle Times editorial board, “the battle […] has raged too long.”

They are tired of “adding long months of delay to a critical project that some think already is a decade or so overdue.” Considering that “the freeway is almost at capacity at peak periods,” delay is too “costly in terms of in terms of time lost, higher construction costs and inconvenience to the public.”

Seattle needs to build the R.H. Thomson Freeway through the Arboretum. And probably another floating bridge from Sand Point to Kirkland.

The logic is fairly merciless, and if it was true in 1967, then imagine how true it is today, 44 years later, with the Expressway still incomplete. We knew we needed that new highway “as early as 1954.” It’s insane, and I for one applaud the Seattle Times for sticking to their guns on this one.

Seattle Times editorial, June 21, 1967

Win or lose, it’s a matter of principle. You cannot afford to shilly-shally on matters like these. And you see an admirable consistency in the Seattle (Daily) Times editorial board, because a full two years later, in 1969, they’re back with an other editorial titled “An Unacceptable Delay.” In fact, this time it’s “wholly unacceptable.”

We are not going to get a fourth bridge across Lake Washington without a Thomson Expressway. WSDOT says the bridge “would serve no useful purpose” without the Expressway.

Now, it is true that the “Times is among those hopeful that means can be found to spare the city the construction of a full-blown Thomson freeway.”

Seattle Times editorial, May 2, 1969

Let’s not get bogged down in minutiae…the point is that delays are unacceptable. Yes, we may in time change our minds totally about what’s necessary, but we can afford to lose no time in springing into action. After all, if we had simply built a six-lane expressway through the Arboretum in the first place, you can see how much easier would it have been to spare the city the construction of a six-lane freeway.

Again, it’s a merciless logic. Geometric, really. That’s why–and I apologize for getting today’s editorial mixed up with one from 1967, but they’re all of a piece, as you can see–that’s why, and here I do differ slightly from the Times, but by god it’s been 44 years: We’ve got to build the R.H. Thomson Expressway and a fourth bridge across Lake Washington first, before we move on to the tunnel. Or, failing that, build them all at once.

It’s like the Times says, “For many decades, the city has needed additional north-south capacity to move people around. […] There is no way Seattle could be better off without four lanes of the tunnel.”

But if this is true–and what reason do any of us have to doubt the editorial board’s grasp of transportation necessity?–then it must also be true that there is no way Seattle could be better off without the six-lane Expressway sending cars zipping through the Arboretum. Let’s “move commuters, freight and a nettlesome community dialogue forward,” because there’s simply nothing worse than delay when it comes to transportation megaprojects. History demonstrates it.