• City Council vote will lead to filling in Battery Street Tunnel

    By: Graham Johnson


    SEATTLE - A 7-2 vote by the Seattle City Council Monday effectively brought an end to the dream of artists and Belltown activists hoping to give the Battery Street Tunnel a creative second life.

    The council voted to enter into an agreement with the state that calls for filling in the old tunnel as part of the project to demolish the Alaskan Way Viaduct.

    A new State Route 99 tunnel, replacing the viaduct, will open later this year.

    The effort to "Recharge the Battery" encouraged people to re-imagine the public space.

    Ideas ranged from a skateboard park or mushroom farm to a stormwater treatment facility.

    "We feel that recharging the Battery Street Tunnel holds an important moment for future generations," sculptor and environmental artist Buster Simpson told the council.

    Advocates for saving the tunnel suggested that for under $10 million, it could be reinforced and saved for some creative future use.

    Government cost estimates for reusing the tunnel have been much higher.

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    King County Metro says it studied retrofitting the tunnel as a layover spot for buses and concluded that would cost $80 million.

    Mike O'Brien, who chairs the City Council's transportation committee, said he looked and couldn't find a viable option for preserving the tunnel.

    "It's just really expensive to go in there and do all the seismic upgrades if it's not going to be filled in," O'Brien told KIRO 7.

    Councilmember Sally Bagshaw cast what she described as a symbolic no vote against the agreement with the state.

    "There are some opportunities here," Bagshaw said. "I think, unfortunately, that we're a little too late."

    Plans to decommission the tunnel have been in place for years as part of the long-delayed viaduct replacement project.

    O'Brien said that delaying an agreement would have jeopardized the schedules for other key transportation projects.

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