Saturday, September 5, 2020

Tale Of Two Cities: Seattle Boon & Fort Worth Boondoggle

Last week a Fort Worth local emailed me asking what I knew about the current status of that town's three simple little bridges which have been stuck in slow motion construction mode for six years, trying to build bridges over dry land to connect the Fort Worth mainland to an imaginary island.

I replied that I had not been to the DFW zone in about a year, so have had no eye witnessing of the mess which has become such an embarrassing Boondoggle. I do not know if the Trinity River Central City Uptown Panther Island District Vision still sends out quarterly slick propaganda brochures detailing the imaginary progress of a public works project the public did not vote for, which has been limping along for most of this century, with little to show for the millions of dollars wasted.

Those who foisted this Vision on Fort Worth tried to claim it is a vitally needed flood control and economic development project. Where there has been no flooding for 70 years, due to flood control already in place. Vitally needed, and yet not vitally needed enough to convince the locals to support a bond issue to pay for it. Instead begging for federal dollars, unsuccessfully. And giving a local congresswoman's son a job for which it is now totally clear he was not qualified, in order to, hopefully, get the mother to somehow secure those federal funds.

Also, last week, a fellow former Washingtonian asked me what I knew about the current status of the rebuild of the Seattle waterfront.

I replied that I had not read anything about the waterfront rebuild since the Alaskan Way Viaduct was removed. And so I Google searched and found a lot of info about the Seattle Waterfront rebuild. More on that later in this post.

For someone who might be wondering why we are looking at a public works project in Fort Worth, and one in Seattle. Well, these are the two big cities with which I am most familiar, and whose stark differences have been of interest ever since seeing Fort Worth up close and wondering how an American city can be so different from another American city.

The town's two public works projects both had their beginnings back near the start of the century. Seattle's was sparked by an act of Mother Nature known as the Nisqually Earthquake. This earthquake serious damaged a structure known as the Alaskan Way Viaduct, a double decker state highway built between the Seattle downtown and the Seattle waterfront. This viaduct was of a similar sort to the Embarcadero Viaduct which collapsed in San Francisco during the Loma Prieta Earthquake.

Also near the start of the new century a group of Fort Worth insiders foisting on the public a public works project the public did not vote for. At the time it was foisted it was known as the Trinity Uptown Project, later the Trinity River Vision, before many name additions, in total, the Trinity River Central City Uptown Panther Island District Vision. The Fort Worth project claimed to be about vitally needed flood control and an economic development scheme.

After the Nisqually Earthquake it was quickly realized the Alaskan Viaduct needed to be replaced. Temporary fixes were installed, along with quake activated gates to stop traffic entering the Viaduct if a quake was detected. A long debate began as to how to replace the Alaskan Way Viaduct.

Meanwhile, in Fort Worth, after the Trinity Uptown Vision project was announced not much of anything happened. Some earth was moved around near Gateway Park. A quick to fail wakeboard park was built. A lot of signs were installed touting the wonders of the still not seen vision.

And then in 2014, with a TNT exploding ceremony, construction began on three simple little bridges, to be built over dry land to connect the Fort Worth mainland to an imaginary island.

Around the same time, up north, in Seattle, the solution to the Alaskan Way Viaduct began in the form of the world's biggest (at the time) tunnel boring machine, digging a transit tunnel under downtown Seattle.

Both Fort Worth's bridge building and Seattle's tunnel digging soon ground to a halt. No one has ever explained the long stall to the Fort Worth bridge building. The Seattle tunnel boring machine, known as Bertha, ground to a halt when Bertha hit a big steel pipe, stalling the project for a year.

When Bertha began boring again the tunnel project moved full steam ahead, was completed, with traffic flowing under downtown Seattle via a double deck highway tunnel. With the tunnel now handling the Alaskan Way traffic, the Viaduct could come down. Which quickly happened, so now Seattle is in the rebuilding of the Seattle Waterfront phase of the multi billion dollar project.

Meanwhile, in Fort Worth

Six years after that TNT exploding ceremony Fort Worth still has three simple little bridges under construction over dry land, which had been projected to be completed two years ago, and now are projected to maybe possibly be completed sometime this current decade.

So, how does one town successfully manage a multi-billion dollar, complex public works project, fully funded, whilst another American town can not even manage to get three bridges built, along with other "promises" which the Trinity River Vision purported to see?

I have asked, more than once, is the Trinity River Vision still mailing those slick full color brochures quarterly? Detailing all the imaginary progress and wonders to come?

Now, in 2020, Seattle is in the midst of the final third part of its HUGE public works project. Phase One, the tunnel which began construction the same time Fort Worth started trying to build three bridges has long been completed. Phase Two, the removal of the Alaskan Way Viaduct has long been accomplished.

And now Phase Three, the rebuild of the Seattle Waterfront is well underway.

In addition to the Seattle project being fully funded, whilst the Fort Worth project relies on federal handouts hopefully secured by a local congresswoman motivated to do so due to the project hiring her son to do a job for which it is now obvious he was not qualified, the Seattle project, unlike the Fort Worth project, seems to operate with absolute transparency.

When Bertha ground to a halt a 24/7 camera was aimed at the fix-it operation, with constant website updates detailing the progress. For a short time Fort Worth aimed a 24/7 camera at one of its bridges under construction, but that has long been disabled due to the fact there was not much activity to see.

Just check out this Seattle Alaskan Way Waterfront Projects website ( screen cap at the top) and see the timeline of the waterfront rebuild part of this project, and you in the Trinity River Vision zone ask yourself why you never see anything this detailed regarding the Trinity River Central City Uptown Panther Island District Vision?

How much longer are the people of Fort Worth going to put up with this bizarre Boondoggle mess which was foisted upon them without a vote? Taking property via abusing eminent domain, disrupting traffic flow for years, causing multiple businesses multiple woes.

Why is no one held accountable for this embarrassing mess? Are the voters actually going to re-elect Kay Granger again, after her part in this mess?

Well, if so, I guess Fort Worth gets what it deserves.

Ineptitude, incompetence and civic embarrassment...

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