Digging In

| FROM THE PRINT EDITION |
 
 

McGinnOK, team. Decision time. I know I
got elected mayor of Seattle on a promise of not wanting to rock the boat on
the whole tunnel-to-replace-the-viaduct thing, but the voters are starting to
catch on, and since the cost overrun issue seems not to be taking hold, I
figure we have one shot to kill this once and for all. I’ve outlined a
preliminary plan  below, but I need
you all to come up with some ideas of your own before the meeting next week.
(And don’t worry about the governor. She thinks she’s got us tamed.)

The big problem seems to be this
perception that traffic will get worse if we take down the viaduct and don’t
replace it with anything. Since the public is not picking up on the inherent
wisdom of our view, we need to redirect this debate away from traffic and onto
something that can upstage it so that taking down the viaduct becomes a given:
a full-court “Don’t Think of the Traffic” press.

I suggest we take advantage of the
view afforded by removing the viaduct. Tunnels don’t have views. (Jenna: Be
sure to tweet that.) And the viaduct blocks the view of everyone from the
residents of the lower floors of the Harbor Steps to the dealers on Second
Avenue.

Here’s an added bonus: Waterfront
traffic will be slow anyway, with people staring out over the bay. Maybe we can
enhance the view with a little more eye candy. I’m thinking mimes. The only
drawback I can see is a few more accidents and maybe our anti-cruising
ordinance. We can absorb the one and drop the other. Just don’t tell Tom Carr.

Sound Appreciation (I dislike
“rubbernecking”) will inure us to the traffic, but we also have to turn the
public against the tunnel. We tried comparing it to Boston’s Big Dig, but that
didn’t work since … well, the Big Dig reduced congestion. (Although if our
drivers were less passive-aggressive and more insane as they are in Boston,
we’d be riding the monorail by now.)

Here’s the kicker: If we dig a
tunnel, we’re putting that roadway under sea level. And we’re putting cars down there (excuse my language). That’s where the BP
oil spill presents an opportunity. The last thing we need is 100,000 tanks full
of petroleum running under Elliott Bay at high speed. One little quake and
we’re eating blackened salmon for the next decade.

I’m thinking we get a photo of
that big tunnel-boring machine and intersperse it with Sarah Palin chanting,
“Drill, baby, drill.” That’ll get the yuppies to look up from their lattes. We
don’t need the borer for the light rail extension, do we?

The third step is to enhance the
moral authority of bicycling to work, to go shopping, to go to raves and to
deliver organic produce to our farmers markets. While I laud Critical Mass’s
approach to intimidating the carbon spewers—I like that name, by the way;
Jenna, add that to your to-tweet list—I think we need to take a positive
approach. Maybe we can offer rebate vouchers at medical marijuana dispensaries
to those who clock in 40 hours of pedal power per week. Or tickets to Phish.
Maybe once the Seattle Times editorial
board realizes the tunnel’s a no-go, we can get them to turn up the smarm
offensive, make us feel real good about ourselves for ditching the automobile.

Last, we’ll launch a campaign to
show that rain is not only not annoying, but is good for us. At least, for true
Seattleites. We’ve got to get people to stop being afraid of a little water.
I’m thinking we can start an annual meet-in-the-outdoors event in mid-February,
kind of like a Polar Bear Plunge for the business set. We can get behind a new
line of Gore-Tex business wear. I’ll personally be the example for this. Safety
orange is the new black.  

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