Final Analysis: Tunnel Visions


It would appear that the splendid boondoggle officially 
known as the Alaskan Way Viaduct replacement tunnel has become the latest shining example of a city and state outkicking their coverage.

In December, after officials said the tunnel probably wouldn’t be completed until August 2017, a story at inadvertently reported the year as 2107. While that date may actually turn out to be more prophetic than erroneous, some are now suggesting that the repair issues with Broken-down Bertha, the idled tunnel-boring machine, ought to be put to rest and that this hoo-hah is simply a sign that Seattle should back away from the tunnel idea once and for all.

In that spirit, we offer some suggestions for uses of the tunnel as we now know it. Basically, we have a fairly narrow, gently sloping, dead-end cave that’s 1,000 feet long. We’ll gloss over the obvious possible uses — organic mushroom farm, Tom Douglas restaurant location, parking lot for visitors to waterfront businesses that are still open — so we can devote our time to more substantive, but not immediately obvious, ideas.

For example, everyone is talking about Seattle as a capital of big data but no one seems willing to step up and say where we should store all that data. Would you rather store it in some nondescript cloud or in a place where you can easily find it? Well, ta and da! Call it the Big Data Cave and take a bow.

Another possibility is using the cave as an extension of Bill Speidel’s Underground Tour. Since the tour takes tourists along the forgotten roads and pathways of Seattle, how appropriate it would be to take them along another abandoned underground thoroughfare. Isn’t history fun?

Of course, Amazon may want to weigh in here. Imagine how many delivery drones — or employees — it could stash inside a cave that’s longer than three football fields. (Don’t kid yourself. Jeff Bezos knows exactly how many.)

Speaking of athletic fields, Sounders FC is rumored to be looking for a new home because it doesn’t like the artificial turf at CenturyLink Field. Granted, a soccer pitch inside a 57-foot-wide cigar tube would be a tad skinny by Major League Soccer guidelines, which stipulate that a field should be at least 150 feet wide, but surely there’s room for compromise. Spectators could be suspended from the cave’s ceiling, giving rise to a new Sounders support group: the Emerald City Stalactites.

Since the cave has a slope, the Sounders might not be able to promise opponents a level playing field. But a slight grade might be perfect for testing out all manner of gear — boots, skis, bikes, etc. — from an REI store. REI could even install a towrope to make it easier for spelunking customers to get back to the cave entrance.

To be sure, no assessment of options would be complete without considering Boeing’s needs. Or should I say demands? We’ve all seen those wingless 737 fuselages that travel by train from Wichita to Renton. If Boeing could use some extra fuselage storage, I know a place. And I’m sure the city and state would guarantee a rent-free deal in perpetuity. 

The point here is that there’s lemonade to be made from the enormous citrus crop the state Department of Transportation has dumped on the citizens of Seattle. With a little creativity and a lot of chutzpah, we can stop the handwringing and prove to the rest of the world that we actually do know the difference between a hole in the ground and a certain part of our anatomy. 

John Levesque is the managing editor of Seattle Business magazine.

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