Seattle selects firm to study feasibility of I-5 lid in downtown
The city selected WSP, “a global engineering firm with extensive local experience,” to determine the feasibility of lidding I-5 between Denny Way and Madison Street in downtown Seattle. “Lidding” would build a cover over I-5, similar to how freeway park and the Washington Convention Center covers part of the freeway now. In theory, it would create more real estate above I-5 in the highly-coveted downtown area.
A five-acre lid already exists between Union and Seneca Street — this project would extend that out.
In terms of WSP’s qualifications, the firm boasts an expertise in a variety of traffic projects related to urban design.
“We work on every aspect of a highway program including traffic analysis, urban design, environmental impact studies and statements, funding and feasibility analysis, preliminary engineering and final design, construction planning and public communications,” WSP’s official website reads.
The study will cost the city $1.2 million, pulled from an $83 million public benefit package for expanding the Washington State Convention Center.
“While we rely on Interstate 5 as a primary transportation spine for our city and region, it comes at a cost,” said Sam Assefa, Director of OPCD, one of a handful of city and state agencies also involved with the study. “The feasibility study is a key next step toward creating new lids across I-5 that can help reconnect our neighborhoods, reduce air and noise pollution impacts, and create new opportunities for public space, housing and other uses in the most built-out part of Seattle.”
Proponents imagine a space with parks, housing, community centers, and streets. When I-5 was originally built, entire neighborhoods were removed between downtown and Capitol Hill, an occurrence not at all uncommon in the region.
Skeptics cite the massive construction needs the lid would require, especially with the city coming fresh off of the recently finished, and significantly over-budget SR 99 tunnel project.