Seattle’s I-5, 520, and I suspect 90

These are all poorly designed roads leading into the core of Seattle.  Why the United States indirectly gutted its cities is beyond me, I’m sure someone out there has their conspiracy theories.  I must say though, learning the history, effects, affects, and various permutations of the actions over the last 60 years has been disturbing.

Seattle has a lot of infrastructure changes to make, this is without doubt.  The largest problems with the city as I see it are the Alaskan Viaduct, I’ve smashing right through downtown, and the way 520 and 90 are only auto based, without priority for BRT, LRT, or other options.

The smartest infrastructure elements I’ve found in Seattle so far are elements that have nothing to do with modern Seattle, but were built by the previous generations.  As it seems in most cities, our planners, industrialists, capitalists, and other men of that nature thought out things far better than the modern politicians.

  • The Downtown Transit Tunnel, for one is genius, and I think it should be extended in more than one way.
  • The Link Light Rail, finally provides infrastructure that was destroyed about 50 years ago that should never have been.  Connecting the airport to the core of the city is smart.  I think that the University and other districts should have been connected first, but it is a start.  The best idea, going with the statement above, is to rebuild and reconnect what the previous generations built.
  • If played right, the Seattle Streetcar can play a HUGE part in adding a much needed human oriented element back to downtown.  The monorail is novel, and the shopping district downtown is great, but there is just a slightly missing human element after about 5 pm downtown.  But that leads me to the next points…
  • Fremont, Ballard, Wallingford, Greenlake, Capitol Hill, and the other neighborhood areas of Seattle are absolutely awesome.  The bus connectivity for a transit advocate as myself is excellent.  Of course, I can’t go without saying that it could and should be much better.  These neighborhoods all have great character, built by previous generations, and carried on today based on the people of the areas.  Absolutely awesome.
  • Belltown is moving forward.  There are some minor legislative changes that need to be made to clean up some of the violence, but otherwise the area is spot on for what should transpire from a business, infrastructure, and human perspective throughout more of downtown.
  • West Seattle & Alki Beach both need a significant transit right of way option.  Otherwise the area is also one of my favorites in the city.  The infrastructure that was destroyed to give auto users their free ride is fine in many ways, but with any primary arterial like the routes here there should be a dedicated transit option to complement it.  It would be good for west Seattle and it would be good for the rest of Seattle.

There are other areas I’ve yet to discover.  Any suggestions from some Seattlians?


  1. Go back and look at photos of what these downtown areas looked like 40-50 years ago, when these projects were undertaken. In most cases, very different topography.

    Federal gov’t paid for most of these projects, hence, the local political impact was much less than it would have been had the local taxes had to pay for it.

    As city residential areas expanded outward (‘suburbs’), the pressure on local roads was immense. If you want to get a feel for what life is like without major thoroughfares, try driving from Concord MA into Cambridge or Boston proper on the morning “rush hour.” There’s no “freeway” and no big arterials for that commute. It can take 1.5 hours to go 12 miles.




    1. I would like to see what the Federal Government did do 60+ years ago for city infrastructure. It looks like the biggest expenditure by far has been the Interstate System and that has mostly destabilized cities more than anything.

      But I digress, my conjecture is that cities, business, and people built these things, NOT the feds.


  2. The original Sound Move plan called for light rail to Northgate, but it became a matter of funding. Of course, we already had the Downtown Seattle Transit Tunnel (DSTT) so building to the Airport only required the tunnel through Beacon Hill. However, the UD + CH stations are entirely underground, thus got delayed.—The-Ten-Year-Regional-Transit-System-Plan/Electric-Light-Rail.xml

    The Seattle Transit Blog folks could fill you in better with the history of overruns and Sound Transit.


    1. I had heard that too Bryan. It is sometimes shocking the back-asswards way things actually get done. At least some is built, it will be pretty awesome for Seattlians when the north route gets finished. Just connecting University District is going to be a huge win for students and riders along that stretch. Besides the fact that it’ll be the fastest way to get between those points without bing airborne.

      btw – dig the site. That is cool.


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