Our Senior Editor Ryan Packer recently visited KING 5’s morning talkshow New Day Northwest to talk about the opportunities and pitfalls of Seattle’s future waterfront. Margaret Larson, host of the show, quizzed Packer on several aspects of the waterfront rebuild, including the new Alaskan Way and park spaces like the Overlook Walk and aquarium expansion. Packer emphasized the challenges that a wide street on Alaskan Way will invariably create for access to the waterfront.

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Stephen is an urban planner with a passion for sustainable, livable, and diverse cities. He is especially interested in how policies, regulations, and programs can promote positive outcomes for communities. Stephen lives in Kenmore and primarily covers land use and transportation issues for The Urbanist.

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Calling it a highway is ridiculous. Some areas of Mercer are 8 lanes. Do we call Mercer a highway? [Off-topic.]

Brian Patterson

The Champs Elysee, Paris’ much loved boulevard, is 10 lanes across for pretty much its entire length. With no median. The Paseo de la Reforma, in Mexico City, is 8 lanes across, with median. Michigan Ave, in Chicago–the “Miracle Mile” is 7 lanes across.

These streets are all packed with pedestrians all day long. They all have transit lanes, and the Paseo and the Champs Elysee have vast sidewalks, similar to what Alaskan Way will have.

It’s true that around the ferry terminal Alaskan Way will have extra lanes for cars in line to get on the ferry. I’ve never read a single suggestion on how those essential waiting queues could have been handled differently. And yes, we do need bus lanes on Alaskan Way.

For much of its length, however, Alaskan Way will be 4 lanes wide–at intersections–expanding to 6 lanes for parking. It will have wide sidewalks on both sides, and a two-way bike path, along with lushly planted medians.

The plan for the waterfront is not perfect. But, a “highway”? That’s simply inaccurate. Cars won’t be racing along Alaskan Way. Intersections at every block are designed to put pedestrians first, and crowds of them will rule the space, as they should.