By Matthew Daly
The Seattle Times
WASHINGTON, D.C. In what is becoming a familiar ritual,
Seattle Mayor Greg Nickels came to the other Washington this
week, seeking federal money to replace Seattle's earthquake-damaged
Alaskan Way Viaduct.
Nickels led a coalition of state and business leaders on
a whirlwind visit to the Capitol, where the local leaders
met with members of the Washington state delegation and congressional
leaders to press their case for as much as $1 billion for
the Seattle project.
The aging 2.2-mile elevated highway along the downtown waterfront
was damaged in the 2001 Nisqually earthquake.
"We all watched '10.5' on TV," Nickels said, referring
to a recent movie about an earthquake that destroyed much
of the West Coast. "Well, we experienced 6.8 (in the
2001 earthquake). A critical piece of our highway was damaged,
and we need to fix it before we have a real-life disaster."
Local leaders hope to see the viaduct included in a six-year
Preliminary estimates suggest replacing the viaduct would
cost between $2.5 billion and $4.1 billion, depending on which
option is chosen.
The state plans to announce its preferred alternative this
Even without a final plan, the project is certain to need
significant federal support, which is why Nickels and a dozen
others traveled here. Nickels came to the Capitol last year
on a similar mission.
Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., said she was optimistic the
project would receive federal support but declined to predict
what form that would take.
Whatever help the federal government can offer is crucial,
said Rep. Rick Larsen, D-Lake Stevens. Larsen and Cantwell
serve on transportation committees in the House and Senate,
The viaduct carries 110,000 vehicles a day and is the main
right of way for a natural-gas line, Larsen said. Two rail
lines run under it.
"This is the single biggest and most important project
for the entire state, when it comes to moving freight and
goods and people," Larsen said. "It is absolutely
critical to have it included in the federal (highway) bill."
The highway bill, the biggest public-works legislation of
the year, has been stalled for months by a battle between
congressional leaders from both parties, who want a generous
bill, and the White House, which is demanding that Congress
hold the line on spending.