Both Seattle mayoral candidates want to study covering I-5
The conversation of covering over I-5 — referred to as an I-5 lid — came up again on Monday during a Seattle mayoral candidate forum with Jenny Durkan and Cary Moon.
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Among the questions was this about an I-5 lid:
The community effort to lid I-5 is gaining momentum. Do you believe that creating this new land with the lid could effectively and economically contribute to key issues facing the city such as the need for affordable housing and park space? Would you actively support and promote this project during your term as mayor?
Both Durkan and Moon said, during the forum hosted by KEXP, they favor conducting a feasibility study to determine how such an I-5 lid project would pan out. But that’s where similarities between the two ended.
I think it’s a really intriguing and a great idea. I support the feasibility study and I think we have to look at the work. But I can remember when they did the convention center and the park there, and nobody thought we could do it over the freeway — and maybe we shouldn’t have; different story — but we really can.
If it works we could have new acres right in the core of our city that could be devoted to open space, to housing, to the public realm. I think that once we get done with the feasibility study, we have to see if we can really do it based on the other immediate needs that we have. Most of our energies in the short term have to go to solving affordability, and getting more affordability, and solving the homeless problem and transportation.
But as we do that, we also can’t lose sight of opportunities, whether it’s the waterfront, the possibility for this lid, and be thinking about what the public realm looks like in the next decade and the next generation. I’m absolutely intrigued by it.
I think we need to do the feasibility study and understand structurally what it would take and how much it would cost. Because to create new land over a highway is probably really expensive and we need to understand if it is worth the investment. Absolutely, I would support everything we can do to create better pedestrian and bike routes between downtown and Capitol Hill so I would focus the feasibility, on how we can lid maybe a block or two at a time so we have a much better Pike / Pine corridor.
… but I have to remember that this could be a lot of bandwidth and a lot of money and we’ve got to look with a racial equity lens on if we are creating amenities equally. Are we looking at the south end, which we have disinvested in for decades, in how we allocate resources? If we can improve the parks in the south end, if we can make access to public space a priority in the south end, and great healthy environments, I would prioritize that over creating new land in the heart of our city at great expense.
But we need to look at the numbers, we need to look at the feasibility first.
An I-5 Lid
Proponents argue that I-5 is essentially a gash through the center of the city; a canyon dividing its vibrant core. They propose placing “lids” over parts of the freeway. These new expanses would create open space which could be turned into parks or land for development, which is where the ideas for affordable housing come in.
It’s been done before. Drivers on I-5 currently pass underneath the convention center, which is partially built over the freeway with parks covering the rest. Proponents have pointed to areas around Pike and Pine streets as one place to put lids. Also around 45th and 55th streets near the University District.
Lids have also been placed over I-90 on Mercer Island with parks constructed above. Another lid was placed over the SR 520 bridge near Medina.