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Instead of a tunnel, let’s buy every person in our state a bike

As the City Council gets ready to sign agreements for the deep bore tunnel, I feel compelled to yet again put the outrageous cost of this project in perspective. Nicholas Arndt from Tacoma pointed out that for the cost of the deep bore tunnel ($2,000,000,000), you could buy every single Tacoma resident ten $1,000 bicycles each.

In fact, the state could buy every single resident in the state a $300 bicycle (and given the bulk discount you must get when buying 6,724,540 bicycles in one order, it would probably be an okay bike).

The only argument I have heard in support of building this tunnel that even sort of almost makes sense is that it will keep 47,000 vehicles off downtown streets (vs a plan that would not make improvements to transit or I-5, which the alternative surface/transit plan would).

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Well, for the cost of the tunnel, the state could buy every single resident in King County an Orca pass for a year (in fact, considering senior citizen and youth discounts, they could buy everyone a year pass and have tons of money left over). I guarantee you that would take at least 47,000 cars off downtown streets permanently.

Instead, our city is ready to give their okay to a monumental investment in cars, buying each tunnel user a Lexus ($2 billion/47,000=$42,553 per daily tunnel user) and letting them pay it off in $4 increments (tolls).

Both the free bicycle and bus pass ideas are clearly ridiculous ideas. But what’s really ridiculous is that they make more sense than the deep bore tunnel. The City Council is proving they don’t actually care about lowering greenhouse gas emissions or improving road safety. They just like saying they do.

The tunnel will also increase injuries and death to cyclists and pedestrians downtown. Due to the increase in motor vehicles (and no money to help mitigate problems), collisions with vulnerable users will almost certainly go up. From Publicola:

According to Nelson/Nygaard’s findings, “Between 16,000 and 18,000 additional daily trips will divert onto Downtown Seattle surface streets; 14,000 to 15,000 will choose I-5; and 10,000 to 12,000 will use Seattle surface streets east of I-5.”

Additionally, the new tunnel will increase “conflicts” (AKA collisions) between cyclists and pedestrians and cars, and “increase demand for driving and increase vehicle miles traveled, and therefore, greenhouse gas emissions—even as improved fuel economy and low emission technology is widely employed.”

So the state is about to spend $300 per state resident to build a tunnel that would only help 47,000 car drivers while causing injury or death to an unknown number of people walking or bicycling in downtown Seattle. And the City Council appears to be okay with all this (or they are ignoring it).

I will reissue the challenge. Somebody please give me one good argument in support of building the deep bore tunnel.

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8 responses to “Instead of a tunnel, let’s buy every person in our state a bike”

  1. Freight mobility. That’s the only good argument I’ve heard, and a big reason why the port and other business leaders are so vested in the tunnel idea.

  2. Lisa Picard

    Freight was a mentioned issue, but the truth is the freight workers don’t want to shift their hours of ops unlike all the major west coast ports. We don’t have a capacity problem, we have a peak hour problem. Just spread the traffic to be outside the peak and there is SO much capacity. Then I can get my 1000 bike.

    1. mike archambault

      Do you have more information about this (freight workers not wanting to shift their hours of ops), Lisa? It is an interesting point and one I hadn’t heard of before. I would love if you could point me to an article or something.

  3. Nancy V. Bryant

    A bike for everyone? Mayor McGinn would love it.

  4. ken

    I can’t believe Seattle, where I used to reside, is going ahead with this project. The most rational thing to do is to get rid of the viaduct completely and not replace it. Many other cities have done away with similar pieces of infrastructure (San Francisco, Portland to name just two) and despite predictions of transportation chaos, just the opposite happened. Water front areas were opened to greater public use, attracting positive development and cleaner, safer and more attractive down towns. Trucks and auto traffic, freight, commuters etc.; all will adapt and find new routes with the help of improved West Seattle connections to I-5. Seattle will truly be shooting itself in the foot, wasting billions of dollars and passing up a once in a lifetime opportunity at a landmark waterfront if it goes ahead with this horrible plan.

  5. Daniel Ronan

    Hello! This is my first time commenting on this blog, but as a fellow Northwesterner and from Portland, where we’ve successfully done away with highways and stopped some highway projects, I can only hope that readers of this blog get involved in the signature drive that is happening right now.

    I got a hold of one of the signature sheets and am hoping to get some signatures when I pass through Seattle on the Amtrak Cascades this week. Seattle is a place I hope to call home someday, so please, let’s protect what we’ve got and work to get this on the ballot! Call up every Seattlite you know!

  6. […] Instead of a tunnel, let’s buy every person in our state a bike | Seattle Bike Blog. […]

  7. Thank you! This is the kind of math we need to publicize!

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