Great Wheel developer proposes Seattle gondola line

by: Henry Rosoff Updated:

Loading
SEATTLE —

The family behind the Great Wheel unveiled plans for an even bigger project Tuesday.

Developer Kyle Griffith is proposing a downtown Seattle gondola line that would carry tourists and commuters east-west on elevated cable cars between downtown Seattle and the waterfront.

The goal is to have the gondola ready to build when the Alaskan Way Viaduct is torn down and replaced by a tunnel.  Developers said the electric gondola would help keep the waterfront accessible during years of heavy construction, bring more people into downtown and increase pedestrian activity for businesses.

A fact sheet for the project said the Union Street Gondola would  move 1,800 people an hour on the half-mile 5-minute (each way) trip.  There would be three stations and eight passenger cars that depart every 16 seconds.  The project would be funded solely by private investment.

The gondola would connect to the Convention Center, downtown transit tunnel, Pike Place Market, Seattle Art Museum and the new waterfront park.

But the Griffith family has not even begun the formal permitting process yet according to a spokesman for the Seattle Department of Transportation.  Griffith said they have made only initial inquiries.

Some cities who own condos along Union Street also showed up to Tuesday’s announcement, to raise concerns about the gondolas passing close to their windows, allowing tourists to looking directly into their homes.

KIRO checked on the safety records of gondolas.  There is a newer gondola system in Portland that appears to be working well.  However, urban gondolas are a relatively new concept so there is not a lot of history to examine.

The Griffiths estimate the project will cost “tens of millions of dollars,” and do not yet know how much it would cost to ride in a gondola.

Want to talk about the news of the day? Watch free streaming video on the KIRO 7 mobile app and iPad app, and join us here on Facebook.