The Hank, The Bertha or Fast Eddie: Naming the new Seattle tunnel
Hooray! Bertha is done digging under downtown Seattle! We’re just a few years away from the grand opening of the new Seattle tunnel that will replace the beleaguered Alaskan Way Viaduct.
Before Bertha: The mysteries of Battery Street
But what are we going to call the new roadway?
As many people know, we’re big on naming bridges and tunnels around here, but we’re not too big on actually using those names. Interstate 90 crosses Lake Washington eastbound on the Lacey V. Murrow Bridge. The westbound lanes are carried by the Homer M. Hadley Bridge. The State Route 520 “Evergreen Point Floating Bridge” is also named for former Governor Albert Rosellini. State Route 99 crosses high above Lake Union on the George Washington Memorial Bridge (better known as the Aurora Bridge).
For the new tunnel, there are plenty of obvious choices for tongue-in-cheek namesakes. As Danny Westneat of The Seattle Times pointed out, we’ve had four Seattle mayors and three Washington governors in office since it became clear in 2001 that the viaduct had to be replaced.
Here, then, in roughly chronological order, are some less obvious choices. Just keep in mind that no matter who it’s eventually named for, we’ll all still probably just call it “the tunnel.”
If you have other suggestions, please share in the comments.
The Suquamish Tunnel or Duwamish Tunnel
Seattle’s namesake Chief Seattle was a leader of the Suquamish and Duwamish tribes. The Suquamish Tribe is recognized by the federal government, while the Duwamish Tribe is still seeking recognition. Natives, of course, were here for thousands of years before settlers arrived. Washington State Ferries are already named for tribes, but maybe it’s time to think even bigger.
The Yesler Tunnel
Henry Yesler invented the Seattle waterfront as an economic and cultural force when he built his mill complex at the foot of what’s now Yesler Way, and he also served as mayor. And for a cute nickname, radio and TV traffic reporters could call it “The Hank.”
The Phelps Tunnel
U.S. Navy Lieutenant Thomas Phelps was the first person to sketch the Seattle waterfront during the “Indian War” of 1855-1856. Since the tunnel opens up the waterfront again, maybe we should honor the guy who created the original lasting image of Seattle’s maritime front porch.
The Thomson Tunnel
Reginald H. Thomson was the City Engineer for the City of Seattle for decades and is one of our most prolific designers and builders of infrastructure. He already was almost honored by an expressway (remember those “ramps to nowhere” along 520? I mean, along the Rosellini?), so maybe this engineering marvel gives us another chance to properly honor R.H. Thomson.
The Moran Tunnel
Robert Moran was one of the proprietors of the waterfront-changing Moran Brothers Shipyard and was mayor during the Great Seattle Fire of June 6, 1889. He’s credited with helping get the city quickly back on its feet.
The Okada Tunnel
Seattle author John Okada was swept up by President Roosevelt’s Executive Order 9066 and later wrote the classic novel of wartime Japanese-American incarceration, No-No Boy The Seattle waterfront was scene of some of the most heartbreaking moments of Japanese-Americans being shipped away to internment camps.
The Thiry Tunnel
Architect Paul Thiry (pronounced like “theory”) has his fingerprints all over so many great Northwest projects, including Key Arena. Also, back in the late 1940s, Thiry was way ahead of his time when he proposed scrapping plans for the viaduct and building a tunnel instead. If only we’d listened to him 70 years ago!
The Carlson Tunnel
Eddie Carlson’s role in the success of the 1962 Seattle World’s Fair — arguably the single most positive event in the city’s history — has never been properly and visibly honored. The tunnel’s north portal is so close and convenient to Seattle Center, why not name if for Carlson? If the route ends up being a time-saver, it could be nicknamed the “Fast Eddie.”
The Meany Tunnel
Edmond Meany is a giant among Pacific Northwest historians and civic boosters. How cool would that be to have a huge piece of local infrastructure named for a historian? Come on, Tacoma already did it for Murray Morgan.
The Brainerd Tunnel
Seattle Chamber of Commerce marketing genius Erastus Brainerd did more than just about anybody to make the Klondike Gold Rush pay off for Seattle merchants (who sold gear to all those aspiring miners — a much surer way to strike it rich). And it all began when the S.S. Portland docked, you guessed it, along the waterfront.
The Bertha Tunnel
Long-ago Seattle Mayor Bertha Knight Landes already had the unglamorous “boring machine” named in her honor. Why not keep the “Bertha” moniker around for the tunnel, too?