Build A Frelard Canal Underpass

Seattle has a smorgasbord of transportation issues, but living in Fremont, one of the most immediate is bridge congestion. During rush hour any route is going to be backed up. Plus the drawbridge going up will cause an additional 5 to 10 minute delay. Three bridges serve the Fremont/Ballard area. Building drawbridges is expensive and still wouldn’t solve the fundamental problem of delays when the bridge is up. Building another suspension bridge like Aurora’s is even pricier and extremely disruptive. That’s why a different solution is needed. The ever-tinkering engineers in the Netherlands have devised a solution: digging an underpass under the canal. It’s really a very elegant solution.

The Dutch are always pushing the envelope. This underpass is at the Ringvaar canal in North Holland. Building a Fremont Cut underpass would allow a north south connection without the inevitable drawbridge up delay. Most likely it would also be less expensive than a movable bridge.

The Dutch are always pushing the envelope. This underpass transverses the Ringvaart canal in North Holland. Building a Fremont Cut underpass would allow a north south connection without the inevitable drawbridge up delay. Most likely it would also be less expensive than a new movable bridge.

I came across the solution thanks to the comments section on a SeattleTransitBlog post about ship canal crossings. The Fremont Cut canal is only 30 feet deep and 100 feet wide, so we really wouldn’t need to dig a particularly deep or long tunnel. The traffic layout floated in the article was funneling car traffic to the new tunnel underpass and converting the Fremont Avenue Bridge to transit/bicycle/pedestrian only. That would certainly help downtown Lower Fremont from being such a congested car sewer.

The obvious choice for a new crossing is at 3rd Ave West since it’s an arterial on both sides and is situated about halfway between the Fremont Bridge and the Ballard Bridge. A few commentators argue the Fremont Siphon sewer project would block the potential the new underpass. However, I don’t think the siphon presents an insurmountable obstacle. You could simply dig the underpass deeper or perhaps skirt around it. We should at least study the feasibility.

Doing nothing seems continually less tenable as North Seattle grows and more and more stress is put on the limited canal crossings we have. Seattle needs to think big as it addresses its mounting mobility issues throughout the city. There are costs to rapid population growth—and a big one is the need for a rapid expansion of transit and transportation network capacity.

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