• Group proposes 2nd Seattle transit tunnel instead of new light rail routes

    By: Alison Grande

    Updated:

    SEATTLE - A grass-roots group in Seattle is pushing to build a second downtown transit tunnel to speed up bus routes.

    The idea was revealed by Seattle Subway, a grass-roots group dedicated to promoting high quality transit. It says the second bus tunnel would cost more than 1 billion dollars.

    Jonathan Hopkins of Seattle Subway explained the plan on Tuesday. “You can build something in the center of the city first that improves service as soon as it’s built -- to North Seattle and West Seattle and South Seattle,” said Hopkins. He said the current bus tunnel will kick out buses in 2019 or 2020 because the tunnel will be filled with new light rail lines from Bellevue. He said those buses and buses currently running on 3rd Avenue could use the new tunnel and cut bus routes by 7-12 minutes through downtown. The second tunnel would also house light rail. “It sets up for future rail expansion to Ballard and sets you up for future rail expansion to West Seattle,” added Hopkins.  He said the tunnel would also be a huge help with the viaduct shutdowns forcing 30,000 to 70,000 more cars onto downtown streets each day.

    Transit riders were open to the idea. “It would be beneficial for people driving cars and people taking the bus. Buses are going to go faster, less traffic for cars. It seems like a ‘win-win’ in that situation,” said Melanie Voytovich after she got off a bus at 3rd and Pine.

    Will the recent problems with Bertha on the Waterfront tunneling project make it hard to “sell” Seattle on another tunnel? Jonathan Hopkins’ response: “Sound Transit’s built eight of them. They’re all on time or under time. They’re all on budget or under budget.” He compared the Bertha project to building a skyscraper, a second bus tunnel to a house.

    Sound Transit wasn’t ready to comment on the plan. It will consider the proposal along with others as it studies what to include on a ballot measure in 2016.

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