Building Support for Viaduct Tunnel Option


The Nisqually earthquake in 2001 left the Alaskan Way Viaduct standing, yet vulnerable to collapse. What to do about the structure became an immediate top priority when Mayor Greg Nickels took office in January 2002. A diversity of opinions clouded the debate of what was the best approach. Mayor Nickels was a strong advocate for tearing the viaduct down, replacing it with a tunnel in order to open up the city's waterfront - a once in a lifetime opportunity.The goal was to build support around that approach.


The strategy was to utilize and build upon the support of citizens, business leaders, elected officials, editorial writers and other opinion leaders. Bichsel helped build a multi-media, social networking, public education campaign showing the immediate public safety need to tear down the aging Alaskan Way Viaduct and benefits of opening up the city's waterfront. The effort involved using economic and transportation data, results from Viaduct safety inspections, media events, op-eds, community events, humorous videos posed on YouTube and ballot initiatives.


The growing support for the tunnel option by elected officials, citizens, businesses, labor organizations and others over several years ultimately led to a 2011 public vote overwhelmingly supporting the tunnel option by nearly 60 percent.

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