What should the city do with the Battery Street Tunnel, when SR 99 tunnel is completed?
SEATTLE - A committee of the Seattle City Council is sticking with a plan to fill-in the Battery Street Tunnel once the SR 99 tunnel opens up this fall, but advocates of an alternative say it’s not a done deal.
Over the last year, Recharge the Battery, a group of Belltown neighbors and downtown organizations, has been cultivating alternatives to filling in the 65-year-old tunnel with debris from a demolished Alaskan Way Viaduct.
The seven block long tunnel is no longer needed for traffic.
The City of Seattle and the Washington State Department of Transportation plan to decommission the tunnel as soon as the SR 99 tunnel is operational.
Jon Kiehnau of Recharge the Battery said his group estimates the land value of the tunnel is $200 million, considerably more than when talk of filling-in the tunnel began a decade ago.
“In the last couple months we've completed a feasibility study on a five-part solution that can take place and it's modular," said Kiehnau.
The group received 44 alternative ideas for the tunnel from the community over the last several months.
Some ideas where far-fetched such as making it a public pool, an exotic mushroom farm, a worm farm, or installing a beach and a wave machine for surfing.
But there are some ideas that have some merit, according to Kiehnau.
“One of the ideas that's getting a lot of traction would be to create a wine cave or a wine enoteca, which is an Italian word for where you buy wine,” said Kiehnau
He said the tunnel can be broken into sections such as portal parks, a skateboard park, a ravine with open space and above ground walkways.
"People have a lot of ideas, which alone should say hang on here, take a look at this tunnel before we fill it up with rubble,” said Pete Widowitz, a tunnel alternative advocate, told the Sustainability and Transportation Committee on Thursday.
He was one of several public speakers that told council members to wait on issuing a contract for filling the tunnel with dirt and concrete.
The city said it would take $100 million for seismic upgrades to the tunnel, to prevent Battery Street above from collapsing.
The full city council will vote later this month to continue the plan to fill-in the tunnel.
Widowitz told council members, there’s no rush to make a decision right away.
“Take the time to really consider some alternatives rather than a landfill in the heart of the city," he said.