Sunday, October 25, 2009

A Tale Of Two Cities: Fort Worth and Seattle's Public Works Projects

That is the Alaskan Way Viaduct you're looking at in the picture, looking south to the Seahawk's football stadium and the Mariner's ballpark, both of which were built without booting anyone out of their home.

I have blogged about the Alaskan Way Viaduct previously while comparing the way things are done in Seattle with how stuff happens in Fort Worth.

When I make a comparison between Seattle and Fort Worth I invariably get a comment from the ubiquitous "Anonymous," a very thin-skinned Anonymous, saying "we get it, Seattle good, Fort Worth bad," not getting that what I'm actually doing is comparing 2 large cities with which I am very familiar, but which have very stark differences.

Both towns have large projects in the works. One absolutely needed, the other not. The needed one being the Alaskan Way Viaduct which needs to be replaced before it is torn down by an earthquake. The not needed project being Fort Worth's Trinity River Vision. That vision being destroying the confluence of the West and Clear Forks of the Trinity River to build a very little lake, an unneeded flood diversion channel and some wetlands restoration.

If I remember right the canals have been dropped from the Trinity River Vision along with the signature bridges, as the price tag nears $1 billion.

In Fort Worth this public works project was foisted on the public with very little input from the public.

Contrast that with what the Governor of Washington, Christine Gregoire said at the recent document signing ceremony that started the Viaduct replacement project, "We've had nearly 10 years of public meetings, town halls, interest group briefings, thousands of public comments. We have ended the debate, we have made the decision, we have selected the option that will forever change the face of downtown Seattle. This will make a huge difference in the face of the city. It is one of the most beautiful cities in the world. In six years we will able to stand on or near this spot and look across and be able to see the waters of Elliott Bay, you'll be reconnecting Pioneer Square with the water, downtown with the water, we'll have a great place for our public to come."

I've been following the debate about Viaduct solutions since shortly after I moved to Texas. I've always found the way issues get debated, in Washington, interesting to follow. The lack of any real debate, here in Fort Worth, with the public pretty much used to things being done the Fort Worth way, as in run like a Company Town, has been real interesting to me.

In the end, Seattle, Washington and King County decided on the $4.2 billion tunnel option. When the viaduct was built, 56 years ago, Seattle was not the tourist mecca it is now, no cruise ships docked in town, the waterfront was a working waterfront, not a tourist attraction. The Alaskan Way Viaduct has long been an eyesore, a real noisy eyesore. I'm thinking when this project is completed in 2015, or thereabouts, it is going to cause some major good things to happen on Seattle's waterfront.

So, that's how a Seattle public works project happens, it being a much more ambitious and expensive project than Fort Worth's little lake and flood diversion channel, that won't be finished, if it does get finished, til sometime a decade or more in the future.

In Seattle there is a lot of debate, a lot of arguing, a lot of input, and in the end, something good happens.

In Fort Worth the public is pretty much left out of it, there is no real debate.

And there really is no actual problem that is being solved, as in Fort Worth is already protected from bad flooding by huge levees that were built after a bad flood in the 1950s. Did Federal dollars help build those levees? Are Federal dollars being used to build the unneeded flood diversion channel that will, supposedly, replace the levees which are already doing their job, which were likely built with the help of taxpayer money?

If the Fort Worth and Tarrant County public got to have input there would likely be a consensus that no money should be spent on the Trinity River Vision Boondoggle until money is spent to fix the deadly flash flooding creeks of Haltom City.


Steve A said...

Interesting perspective. As a Seattle native, I'd take almost the opposite POV. Sure, tear the viaduct down. Period. End of story.

In my view, Seattle is different from FW more in the surplus of sanctimonious PC than in any substantive way. The Mariner's Stadium was built with no evictions - AFTER taxpayers rejected it. Mainly it replaced the Kingdome, another white elephant built thanks to their Long-suffering taxpayers.

Cheap Tricks and Costly Truths said...

Do you think that the Trinity Project was a diversion to keep your efforts and attention off something else that needs watching?

Durango said...

Steve---The Seahawks stadium replaced the Kingdome. The Mariners stadium was still standing to the north of where baseball was being played when the Kingdome came down.

I've not noticed that surplus of sanctimonious PC of which you speak. Too much.

I remember the voters passing the Mariners stadium without a problem. It seems like it took more than one try to get the Seahawks stadium. But, it's been a lotta years, my memory can fail me.

The Kingdome lasted for 25 years or so. It seems very bizarre now that it cost only $40 million, if I remember right, seeming very expensive at the time. And then several years later with the roof failed and it looked like a mildew covered mess and tiles fell from the ceiling it cost several hundred million to fix it. And then after that money was wasted the thing was imploded just a few years later.

I've never said Fort Worth has a monopoly on boondoggles. What I have said is other places get to have more say in the boondoggles.

CB said...

Still paying for the Kingdome...btw. And the two professional sport stadiums are used in aggregate less than 150 days a year. Huge expenses with little payback to the citizens who don't go to either baseball or football games...both good entertainment, not necessarily in the hundreds of millions of public dollars worthy. But I am off point.

The process in Seattle is bogged down by political correctness, meeting after meeting and, when a decision is finally made - sour grapes by those who didn't win.

An example of which I have demonstrated in my opening remarks. I should just shut up now.

Steve A said...

Check the record. The Kingdome stood in the precise location that Safeco Field does today. The Seahawks Stadium was built later, across the street. To Paul Allen's eternal credit, at least he sucked the taxpayers dry AFTER they approved - unlike the Mariners. The Mariners Stadium vote was close - 50.1 against to 49.9 for, but the voters said "NO" to funding a baseball park. They built it anyway - using taxpayer money.

FWIW, the Kingdome cost $60 mil. The $40 mil is what they promised in the original election.

After the Mariners, I think the notion that other places have more say than FW voters is shaky. I'm not saying the final Mariners outcome was wrong, but FW is far from unique in trampling on the voice of the people.

As for sanctimonious PC. You've been away too long. Though there are now 50 states, the quote about there being "47 States of the Union and the Soviet of Washington" is not too far off base. It's what you get with a one-party system which is truly a lesson for the OTHER PARTY in Texas.

Durango said...

Steve & CB----
I seem to be the only one who lived through all that brought about the 2 new Seattle ballparks. The Mariners miracle season came after the voters rejected the Mariners demands for a new ballpark, with the Kingdome being packed, game after game, with more people outside, there was a HUGE public outcry that something had to be done. And it was.

Go here for the facts about how Safeco Field came to be... Safeco Field

Safeco Field was under construction when I moved to Texas in 1998. The Mariners were still playing in the Kingdome when I moved. My first visit back, 4 months after moving, I watched the Safeco Field roof being built. With the Kingdome still standing.

I was in Texas when the Kingdome came down. It did not come down til the Mariners were playing in their new ballpark.

My sisters watched the implosion from my little sister's office in a Seattle skyscraper. They called me in Texas while they watched it come down.

I remember seeing the Kingdome remains when I drove north for my mom and dad's 50th in 2001. A big pile of rubble with the north parking lot, rubble-free. The north Kingdome parking is used by the new stadium. And the Mariners Ballpark had long been completed, south of the site of the Kingdome.

Click below for the facts about the Kingdome.

Qwest Field, where the
Seahawks play on the Kingdome graveyard.

Durango said...

Geez. I hate it when I get north and south mixed up. In an above comment I said....

"The Mariners stadium was still standing to the north of where baseball was being played when the Kingdome came down."

I meant to say the Mariners stadium, well, ballpark was still standing to the SOUTH when the Kingdome came down.

Anonymous said...

You dang Yankees should learn and live "the Fort Worth Way"--from your compassionate mayor, Boss Hogg.