Tunnel vs. Viaduct, Part 2: Pioneer Square

Considers how the downtown neighborhood of Pioneer Square would be affected by the construction of a tunnel in place of the 99 viaduct.

The tunnel vs. viaduct debate is a multi-faceted transportation issue facing Seattle’s residents.  Because Feet First’s main concern is walkability, it is important to take into consideration all that walkability entails when designing new or replacement traffic systems.

Walkability considers green space, safety and civic engagement to be some of the most vital attributes to a healthy community.  Building a tunnel in place of the viaduct near Seattle’s waterfront would threaten all of these important aspects to community life in Pioneer Square.  First, Pioneer Square is already bombarded with traffic from special events like concerts, sports games, speakers and other happenings hosted by the two main arenas – Safeco Field and Qwest Field.  Pioneer Square also has to contend with the many bus routes that run through and near its boundaries in addition to the everyday use of the streets in that area.

Pioneer Square was built in 1852 as the original downtown Seattle.  It is a neighborhood that deserves to be preserved as it itself is a preservation of a piece of Seattle’s history.  It is also in a vulnerable location: between the hustle and bustle of the current downtown proper and the industry of the Sodo district, it is a transitional area of sorts. 

To construct our transportation systems without taking into consideration the sensitive and unique nature of the Pioneer Square neighborhood would be to say that we car more about cars than our own history and story as a city.  It would stunt Pioneer Square’s growth as a community and deprive it of the opportunity to develop safe, healthy habits of living as well as a strong community personality. 

Of course, the aspects of community life walkability helps to foster are not going to be addressed in the tunnel tussle. The discussion of Pioneer Square is simply an example of the kind of attitude Feet First holds and hopes to promote for all communities as we work towards building stronger, safer, more engaged communities through working towards walkability.

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