On March 11, 2011, Japan was hit by one of the largest earthquakes ever recorded. The magnitude 9.0 quake spawned a deadly Tsunami that slammed into the nation’s East coast leaving a huge swath of devastation in its wake. Thousands of people are dead and many more are missing or injured.
Seattle Mayor McGinn, a vocal critic of the deep tunnel replacement of the Alaskan Way Viaduct, is now calling for the viaduct structure torn down by 2012, four (4) years ahead of the 2016 schedule. McGinn, after observing the devastation in Japan says he wants Seattle City Council to speed up the Viaduct teardown by next year. McGinn, in an interview with KUOW radio on Monday, March 14th said “maybe we need to go back to the original commitment to have it [the Alaskan Way Viaduct] come down by 2012.”
Construction is now underway to tunnel beneath the Viaduct; the tunnel will ultimately route the surface traffic underground. There are emergency plans in place to halt traffic on the Viaduct should an earthquake hit. The emergency plans were put into effect during the Nisqually earthquake in 2001. Accelerating the teardown of the Viaduct will likely have significant cost impacts and lead to substantial traffic congestion. The Viaduct and the tunnel are hot political buttons, and some in the City Counsel are speculating whether the Mayor is using the horrific television images for political reasons.