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The Overcast: Looking back at the politics of the viaduct

The tunnel to replace the Alaskan Way Viaduct in Seattle has been a long time coming. Replacement discussions have been underway since the 2001 Nisqually earthquake, and several options were studied before the Legislature approved funds for a deep-bore tunnel in 2009. Voters approved it two years later.

In the nearly two decades that officials and Seattleites have been talking about replacing the viaduct, the city has changed dramatically. But as Seattle Times Traffic Lab reporter David Gutman reports, all the old debates and divisions have seemed to remain.

Specifically, then-Gov. Christine Gregoire and then-Mayor Mike McGinn, who were rivals on this issue, think the changes that have overtaken the city proves that the other one was wrong.

"I think there is a case to be made that they're both right," Gutman told his colleagues Jim Brunner and Dan Beekman in this week's episode of The Overcast, the Seattle Times news and politics podcast recorded at KNKX.

McGinn still thinks the city could have forgone a new highway altogether and spent a lot less investing in transit and other mobility improvements. Gutman points out that transit use in Seattle has indeed exploded well beyond what planners were predicting during the tunnel debates.

But there are just more people in the region. Gregoire says moving that many people on a surface street, as McGinn and others proposed, would be disastrous.

To hear more about lessons from the past, including what we can learn from a nine-day closure of the viaduct in 2016, listen above.