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Seattle To Vote On Initiative To Build A Mile-Long Elevated Park On Viaduct Site

Supporters of Seattle Initiative 123 say they want to preserve views like this one seen from the viaduct.

Once-in-a-generation opportunity or harebrained scheme? Both have been used to describe Initiative 123 on the city of Seattle primary ballot. At first, Seattle Initiative 123 sponsors wanted to save a section of the Alaskan Way Viaduct and turn it into a park, similar to elevated walkways in New York and Chicago.  But, they found out it wouldn’t work because the structure could come down in an earthquake.

So, instead they’re proposing building a brand new structure 55 feet in the air. I-123 sponsor Kate Martin says it would go for a mile from Pike Place Market to Century Link Field. She says it would preserve those amazing views you now see from the viaduct. 

“You’re connected to the majesty of the Pacific Northwest when you’re up there, you see the mountains and  Elliott Bay," she said.

But opponents of I-123, and there are lots of them, including architects, people with waterfront businesses and newspaper editorial boards, say putting up a structure that would again separate downtown from the waterfront makes no sense.  No on I-123 spokesman Sandeep Kaushik calls the proposal "irresponsible."

“We’ve got an existing waterfront plan, one that’s been put together over years of effort.” Kaushik says.

He says the initiative would throw a monkey wrench in the carefully crafted plans.

But, supporters of I-123 say, with the tunnel and seawall projects still a ways off, now is the time to rethink that plan. Kate Martin points out the waterfront plan was produced several years ago, before the urban elevated parks movement had really taken.

Paula is a former host, reporter and producer who retired from KNKX in 2021. She joined the station in 1989 as All Things Considered host and covered the Law and Justice beat for 15 years. Paula grew up in Idaho and, prior to KNKX, worked in public radio and television in Boise, San Francisco and upstate New York.