Viaduct for Dummies: Tunnel Clears Hurdle; Environmental Impact Statement Signed

Alaskan Way Viaduct

From the mixed-metaphors department here at Seattle mag comes this update on the ever-updating saga that is the future of our waterfront: City officials are celebrating this week’s signing of the final Alaskan Way Viaduct environmental impact statement, which effectively removes one more hurdle on the replacement project’s road to realization.

Like most viaduct/tunnel updates, this one leaves the average Seattlite feeling vaguely dissatisfied, in the same way light ice cream can (it should feel more filling, and people are sure to make it sound like it’s sweeter than it is). But hey, it’s really something. Imagine if the EIS were rejected! If you’re feeling wonky, you can download the EIS for your summer reading pleasure—but not until July 7–here: http://www.wsdot.wa.gov/projects/viaduct.

For those who wonder what this actually means; what’s next: The tunnel project is now cleared for federal approval. We can expect that to happen via the Federal Highway Administration in mid-August; that will clear WSDOT to give the contractor notice to proceed with construction.

Also in August, Seattle primary voters will get to decide the fate of Referendum 1, which will have no bearing on whether the tunnel project will proceed. It’s just a chance for voters to weigh in on contract verbiage between the city council and the state. Confused? Let’s let WSDOT’s Chad Schuster explain: “The judge said that the vote would not affect whether a tunnel is built. It concerns only the process the Seattle City Council will use to confirm city-state agreements once the environmental process is completed.”

When it comes to all things viaduct, confusion reigns. Hence “Viaduct for Dummies,” a semi-regular bloggy update for Seattleites who don't have time to keep score. Up next: a look at a few basics: Who’s paying for this? Didn’t I already vote on this? And what’s next—if anything—for tunnel opponents? And if you have a question you want me to ask the state department of transportation (keep it clean, people!), be sure to comment here.