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Stakeholders: “Disturbed” not to have been shown WSDOT video

Five members of the Stakeholder Advisory Committee sent a letter yesterday in response to WSDOT’s publicized release (a TV exclusive, YouTube, and a spot on the Department website) of a graphic rendering of a worst-case scenario viaduct collapse.

We asked yesterday why the video was produced and then concealed from the SAC, whose job was to work with traffic engineers to produce a practical viaduct replacement plan. The video, which cost taxpayers $80,000, was released neither to the stakeholders nor the public because, as Ron Paanenen puts it, the members of the Department who had seen the video “believe it sensationalizes a serious safety issue.” The desire to avoid sensationalizing a serious safety issue did not, apparently, interfere with WSDOT’s wide public release (promotion, even) of the video. The Department received a Public Disclosure Request, which, Paanenen explains (on TV and in the newspaper), necessitated this pre-emptive release.

None of which explains why we spent $80,000 on a disturbing video that was kept hidden to avoid scaring the public, only to be released to the media a week before a local election.

The Stakeholders’ response:


SEATTLE, WA — Oct. 26, 2009

Yesterday the Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) released a dramatization showing the potential damage to the viaduct in the case of an earthquake. The probability of an earthquake strong enough to close the viaduct happening was stated as a 10% chance in the next ten years.

As citizens who served for a year in 2008 on the Viaduct Stakeholder Advisory Committee, we are disturbed that WSDOT did not share this video with us during the stakeholder process, even though it appears that they had paid Parsons Brinkerhoff to prepare it in 2007.

“From the beginning of the process, we had always operated under the assumption that the Governor meant what she said when she insisted that the Viaduct was coming down in 2012,” said Mike O’Brien.

“The deep bore tunnel was the only scenario that did not meet this strict deadline of removal of the viaduct by 2012,” commented Chuck Ayres. “All of the other scenarios we studied, including the two recommendations made by WSDOT, would have allowed for removal by 2012.”

“After watching the video, we are even more convinced that taking down the viaduct by 2012 should be a non-negotiable public safety priority of all parties involved,” said Mary McCumber.

“Would you sign a ten year lease on a building if you knew there was a 10% chance of it collapsing on you in those ten years?” asked Cary Moon. “By delaying the closure of the viaduct, that is in essence what we are asking the citizens of Seattle to do.”

Viaduct Stakeholder Advisory Committee members:

Chuck Ayres 206.851.4312
Rob Johnson 206.920.9578
Mary McCumber 206.284.0605
Cary Moon 206.624.1061
Mike O’Brien 206.200.2980


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Tunnel quotes

“It's coming down in 2012. I'm taking it down--the middle. That's the timeline. I'm not going to fudge on it. And if we don't have some alternative by then, boy are we going to have a mess on our hands because it's coming down.”
said Governor Christine Gregoire [who now plans to leave the viaduct in place until 2015] (in Seattle Post-Inelligencer)